Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

The pure concepts of the understanding are concepts

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Unformatted text preview: y are quite useless and only a miserable list of names, without any explanation or rule for their use. If the ancients had ever conceived such a notion, doubtless the whole study of pure rational knowledge, which under the name ‘metaphysics’ has through the centuries spoiled so many sound minds, would have reached us in quite another shape, and would have enlightened the human understanding instead of - as has actually happened - exhausting it in obscure and pointless speculations, making it useless for true science. This system of categories exhausts all the possible actions of the understanding, and so every other concept must fall under them. That puts all treatment of any object of pure reason on a systematic basis, and provides an absolutely reliable pointer or clue to how and through what points of enquiry every metaphysical endeavour must proceed if it is to be complete; for it exhausts all the workings of the understanding, under which every other concept must be brought. Similarly with the table of principles: we can know that it is complete only through relation to the system of the categories. And even in the classification of the concepts, if it is to get beyond ·the sort of classification that might be based on findings in· the empirical psychology of the understanding, it is always the very same guiding thread, which, as it must always be settled a priori by the same fixed points 47 of the human understanding, forms a closed circle every time, leaving no doubt that if we want a complete philosophical and a priori knowledge of the object of a pure conception either of the understanding or of reason, this is the way to get it. So I couldn’t neglect this clue with regard to one of the most abstract ontological divisions, namely all the differences that fall under the concepts of something and of nothing, and to construct accordingly a rule-governed and necessary table.8 And this system, like any true one based on a universal principle, shows its inestimable value in this, that it Ÿkeeps out all foreign concepts that might otherwise slink in among the pure concepts of the understanding, and Ÿaccords to every item of knowledge its proper place. ·Here is an example·. The concepts that I arranged in a table according to the clue of the categories, under the name ‘concepts of reflection’, turn up among the pure concepts of the understanding in ontology, without having any permission or right to be there. The pure concepts of the understanding are concepts of connection, and thereby of the objects themselves, whereas the concepts of reflection have to do only with the mere comparison of concepts already given; so the nature and uses of the two kinds of concept are quite different; and my systematic classification of the concepts of reflection keeps them out of company where they don’t belong. But the value of my putting the categories in a special table of their own will be still more obvious when we do - as I shortly shall - distinguish those concepts of the u nderstanding from the transcendental concepts of reason. The latter are of quite another nature and origin from the former, so they must have quite another form. This separation, necessary as it is, has never yet been made in any system of metaphysics, where the concepts of reason are jumbled together with the concepts of the understanding, as though they were siblings. This mix-up was inevitable in the absence of a separate system of categories. -----------------------------------8 On the table of the categories that I have presented, all sorts of nice observations can be made. For instance, (1) the third arises by combining the first and second into one concept; (2) in the tables for Quantity and Quality there is merely a progress from unity to totality or from something to nothing (for this purpose the categories of Quality must stand in the order reality, limitation, total negation ·and not in the order they were given in section 21·), whereas nothing like that holds for Relation and Modality; (3) just as in Logic categorical judgments are the basis of all others, so the category of Substance is the basis of all concepts of actual things; (4) just as Modality in a judgment is not a particular predicate, so the modal concepts do not serve to add anything to what is said about things, etc., etc. . . . 48 THIRD PART OF THE MAIN TRANSCENDENTAL PROBLEM: How is metaphysics possible in general? Section 40 I have now provided an explanatory justification for Ÿpure mathematics and for Ÿpure atural science. Neither of them needed this for the sake of its own security and certainty; for pure mathematics is supported by the self-evident truth of its propositions; and pure natural science, although its ultimate sources lie in the understanding, is thoroughly supported and confirmed by experience. (Certain as pure natural science is, it can never equal mathematics in that regard, which is why it can’t altogether refuse and dispense with the testimony of experience.) Both...
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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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