Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

The appearance depends on the senses but the judgment

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Unformatted text preview: f the senses into pure illusion’ - it is easy to foresee that this complaint will be levelled, and easy to show, from what I have said, that it is futile. At first all philosophical insight into the nature of knowledge through the senses was tainted by taking sensibility to be a mode of representation which, though confused, lets us know things as they are without our being able to get the whole content of this representation clear in our minds. ·Replacing that disastrous mistake·, I showed Ÿthat sensibility has to be understood in terms not of this logical clear/obscure distinction but of something genetic, having to do with where knowledge comes from - sense-perception represents things not as they are but only the mode in which they affect our senses - and consequently Ÿthat what sense-perception provides for the understanding to think about are a ppearances o nly, not things themselves. Now that I have given this necessary corrective, it would be an unpardonable misunderstanding - almost a deliberate one - to say that my doctrine turns all the contents of the world of the senses into pure illusion. When an Ÿappearance is given to us, it is up to us to choose how to Ÿjudge the matter. The Ÿappearance depends on the senses, but the Ÿjudgment depends on the understanding, and the only question is whether a given judgment is true or not. But the difference between truth and dreaming is not ascertained by Ÿ the nature of the representations in question (for they are the same whether or not one is dreaming), but by Ÿtheir inter-connections according to those rules that bring representations together under the concept of an object and settle whether or not they can co-exist in a single experience. And it is not the appearances’ doing if our mind takes illusion for truth, that is, if it takes the intuition through which an object is given us to be a concept of the thing or even to be the thing itself - these being items that the understanding can think ·but the senses cannot present·. The senses represent the planets to us as moving backwards and forwards, and in this there is neither falsehood nor truth, because as long as we take this ·planetary· path to be nothing but appearance, we make no judgment about the objective nature of the planets’ movements. But when the understanding is not on its guard against this subjective representation’s being taken to be objective, a false judgment can easily arise - ‘They seem to be moving backward’, we may say. The illusion must not be charged to Ÿthe senses, however, but to Ÿthe understanding, whose job it is to render an objective judgment on the basis of the appearances. Thus, even if we gave no thought to where our representations come from, when we connect our sensory intuitions (whatever their content) in space and in time, according to the rules governing the way all knowledge hangs together in experience, we will encounter illusion or truth according as we are negligent or careful. The difference between illusion and truth turns on how sensory representations are handled in the understanding, not on where they come from. In the same way, if I 25 Ÿtake all the representations of the senses to be nothing but appearances, Ÿtake space and time also to be appearances and as a mere form of sensibility that is not to be met with outside its borders, and Ÿuse these representations only in relation to possible experience, then my regarding them as appearances will not involve me in the slightest temptation to think in terms of error or illusion; for appearances can hang together according to rules of truth in experience. ·Whether they do so hang together is something I can determine without bringing in their ultimate status, that is, the question of whether space and its contents are appearances·. That is how all the propositions of geometry hold good for space as well as for all the objects of the senses and consequently of all possible experience, whether I Ÿtake space to be a mere form of the sensibility or Ÿregard it as something that clings the things themselves; though it is only in the former case that I can grasp how I can know a priori that these propositions are true of all the objects of external intuition. Apart from that one matter of knowing how geometry can be known a priori, all my dealings with space and its contents are just what they would have been if I had not departed from the common view. But there is a way in which an error could arise. If I pass off space and time as qualities inherent in things in themselves, there will be nothing to stop me from thinking that those two concepts would hold good for the same things that they now apply to even if my senses were different and could not present those things to me; and so I shall be led to venture to carry my notions of space and time out beyond all possible experience; and then I can fall victim to an illusion that would generate a grave error, namely that of passing off as valid for everything something that is merely a subjective condition of the intuition of things and valid only for all objects of sense, that is, for all possible experience. I would be led into this error by thinking of space and time as containing Ÿthings in themselve...
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This note was uploaded on 03/12/2013 for the course PHIL 105 taught by Professor Mendetta during the Spring '13 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

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