Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

That is we must look for nature itself as a system

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Unformatted text preview: ness; ·for different items to be held in a single consciousness, they must be related to one another in certain ways, and these relations are imposed upon them by the understanding. And so all the representations that we are discussing must fall within the scope of our understanding. And the answer to our question is that there can be a rule-governed nature (in the formal sense) because· our understanding demands that items that are thought about be brought under rules. This rule-governedness is what makes experience possible; don’t mistake this for an insight into the objects in themselves! This answer is given in the Critique itself in the Transcendental Logic, and in these Preliminaries in the course of the solution of the second main problem. Why is our sensibility like that? Why is our understanding like that? We cannot address these questions, because we have to use our sensibility and our understanding in all the questions we ask and all the thinking we do in looking for answers. There are many laws of nature that we can know only through experience; but experience can’t teach us the general truth that appearances are connected in conformity with laws, because the application of such laws is what makes experience possible in the first place. So the possibility of experience - of any experience - is at the same time the universal law of nature, and the principles of the experience are themselves the laws of nature. For we know nature only as the sum-total of appearances, that is, of representations in us, and hence we can only derive the laws governing how nature’s parts are inter-connected from the principles governing Ÿhow they are connected in us, that is, from Ÿthe conditions that have to be satisfied if they are to be united in a single consciousness. (If they weren’t united into one consciousness there couldn’t be any experience. The main thesis of this part of the Preliminaries, namely that universal laws of nature can be known a priori, leads all by itself to this conclusion: The source of the highest laws of nature lies in ourselves, i.e. in our understanding. Rather than using experience to find the universal laws of nature in nature, we 43 must go in the opposite direction. That is, we must look for nature itself - as a system that universally conforms to laws - in the features of our sensibility and understanding that make experience possible. How else could the laws of nature be known a priori, given that they are not analytic but synthetic? Why must the principles of possible experience agree with the laws that govern what is possible in nature? We have a choice of two answers: either (a) these laws are drawn from nature by means of experience, or conversely (b) nature is deduced from the conditions that make experience possible. But (a) is self-contradictory, for the universal laws of nature must be known independently of all experience, because all empirical use of the understanding is based on them; so only (b) remains.7 Empirical laws of nature always rely on particular perceptions. We must distinguish such laws from the pure or universal laws of nature, which are not based on particular perceptions and simply lay down the conditions that enable perceptions to be unified so as to constitute experience. So far as the laws are concerned, nature and possible experience are one and the same. ŸThe law-abidingness of possible experience - ·that is, the holding of laws that are valid not just for actual but for all possible experience· - depends on Ÿthe necessary connection of appearances in experience (a connection without which ·there would no unified consciousness, and so· we wouldn’t be able to know any object whatever in the sensible world), and so it depends on Ÿthe original laws of the understanding. Because of this, we can say - though it sounds strange at first - that The understanding does not draw its laws from nature, but prescribes them to nature. Section 37 I shall illustrate this seemingly bold proposition by an example that is meant to show that laws that we discover in objects of sensory intuition (especially laws that we know to be necessary) are already held by us to have been placed there by the Ÿunderstanding, even though they are otherwise just like the laws of nature that we ascribe to Ÿexperience. ·Actually, I shall do rather more than that. I shall show that laws that we are already willing to ascribe to our understanding (namely, those of geometry) lead to one of the laws (namely, the inverse-square law of gravitation) that wouldn’t think of as contributed by our understanding unless we had been introduced to my critical philosophy·. Section 38 If we consider the properties of the circle, through which this figure provides a unity for ever so many arbitrary spatial configurations, all under a single universal rule, we can’t help crediting this geometrical thing with having a constitution. (·Analogously, when we think about the properties of iron, through which it enters into countless law-governed interactions with all sorts of other kinds of stuff, we can’t help crediting it with a -----------------------------------7 Crusius was...
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