Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

There is something especially attractive about the

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Unformatted text preview: to reason. And so, ·putting the two together·, experience is indirectly subject to the legislation of reason. The question of whether this is where the agreement comes from may be pondered by those who want to trace the nature of reason even beyond its use in metaphysics, into the general principles for making general natural history systematic. In the Critique I represented this task as important, but I didn’t try there to carry it out. And thus I conclude the analytic solution of my own chief question: How is metaphysics in general possible? by starting with the actual doing of metaphysics (or at least with the consequences of that) and climbing from there to the grounds of its possibility. [See the explanation of ‘analytic’ on page 7.] SOLUTION OF THE GENERAL QUESTION OF THE PRELIMINARIES: How is metaphysics possible as a science? Metaphysics as a natural tendency of reason is real, but by itself it is dialectical and deceitful (as the analytic solution of the third principal question showed). If we set ourselves to take principles from it, and in using them to follow the natural (but nonetheless false) illusion, we can never produce science, but only a pointless dialectical art in which one school may outdo another but none can ever get, and be entitled to, lasting approval. For metaphysics as a science to be entitled to claim not mere fallacious plausibility but insight and conviction, a critique of reason itself must exhibit Ÿthe whole stock of a priori concepts, Ÿthe classification of them according to their different sources (sensibility, understanding, and reason), Ÿa complete list of these concepts, and Ÿthe analysis of each of them together with all the consequences of that analysis; but above all the critique must show Ÿthe possibility of synthetic a priori knowledge (doing this through a deduction of these concepts), Ÿthe principles governing the use of the a priori concepts, and finally Ÿthe boundaries of that use; and all of this is to be presented in a complete system! Thus criticism, and that alone, contains in itself the whole well-tested and verified plan for achieving metaphysics as a science - the plan and indeed all the means for carrying it out. By any other ways or means the task is impossible. [Here and below, ‘criticism’ translates Kritik, which is usually rendered as ‘critique’.] So the question here is not so much Ÿhow the task is possible as 76 Ÿhow to get it under way, inducing good minds to quit their mistaken and fruitless cultivation in favour of one that won’t deceive, and Ÿhow such an alliance for the common end may best be directed. This much is certain, that someone who has sampled criticism will for ever after be disgusted with all the dogmatic twaddle that he used to endure - he had to endure it because his reason was in need of something and could find nothing better ·than the twaddle· for its nourishment. Criticism relates to ordinary academic metaphysics exactly as chemistry does to alchemy, or as astronomy does to the astrology of the fortune-teller. I guarantee that when you have thought through and grasped the principles of criticism, even if only in these preliminaries, you will never return to that old and sophistical pseudo-science ·of dogmatic academic metaphysics·; rather, you will look forward with a certain delight to a metaphysics that is now surely in your power, that requires no more preparatory discoveries, and, above all, that can provide reason with permanent satisfaction. For here is an excellence that metaphysics can confidently count on and that no other possible science can: it can be completed and put into a permanent state where there are no more changes to be made, and no additions through new discoveries. That is because in metaphysics reason has the sources of its knowledge in itself, not in objects and the intuition of them (reason has nothing to learn from intuition); and when it has presented the fundamental laws of its own capacities completely, and so definitely as to prevent any misunderstanding, there is nothing left for pure reason to know a priori - indeed, there is not even any basis left for it to ask any further questions. There is something especially attractive about the sure prospect of knowledge that is so definite and so completed - even apart from all its advantages (of which more later). All false art, all empty ‘wisdom’, lasts its time out but eventually destroys itself, and its cultural high-point comes at the moment of ·the onrush of· its decay. That this time has come for metaphysics is shown by the condition into which it has fallen in all the learned nations, in contrast with all the zeal with which other sciences of every kind are pursued. The old organization of university studies still preserves its shadow; and now and then a solitary academy of science, by offering prizes, tempts someone or other to have a shot at it; but it is no longer counted among the solid sciences. You can judge for yourself how a gifted man would take it if he were called ‘a great metaphysician’! It might be meant as a compliment, but hardly anyone would want to be so labelled. Yet, though Ÿthe time of the collapse of all dogmatic metaphysics has undoubtedly arrived, we are s...
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