Unformatted text preview: given in section 14 above·) or is not an object of experience at all.
Section 39: Appendix to the pure science of nature: Of the system of the Categories
Nothing can be more desirable for a philosopher than to take the multitude of concepts or
principles that he has found himself applying in particular cases, and to derive them a
priori from a single principle, thus uniting them all into a single cognition. Before that, all
he had was the belief that he had gathered together all ·the concepts or principles· that
remained after a certain abstraction, and that seemed to resemble one another enough to
constitute a particular kind of knowledge; but what he had gathered was only an aggregate
- ·a disorderly heap·. Now, ·after his derivation from a single principle·, Ÿhe knows that
this kind of knowledge involves just these ·concepts or principles·, neither more nor less,
Ÿhe understands that his classification of them is necessary, and, at last, Ÿhe has a system.
You don’t need harder thought or more insight to
search out in our daily knowledge the concepts which, though they don’t rest on
any particular experience, occur in all experiential knowledge of which they are (as
it were) the mere form of connection,
than you do to
search out in a language the general rules of the actual use of words, and thus
collect elements for a grammar.
In fact the two researches are very closely related. Though ·a difference between them
arises from the following fact·: we cannot give a reason why each language has just this
and no other grammatical structure, let alone why its formal rules are just these, neither
more nor less.
Aristotle collected ten pure elementary concepts under the name of ‘categories’ and
also ‘predicaments’. He then found that he had to add to his list five ‘post-predicaments’
(though some of them were already contained in the first ten); but this random collection
should be applauded more as a hint for future enquirers than as an idea developed
according to a rule; which is why in philosophy’s present more advanced state it has been
rejected as quite useless.
In my research into the elements of human knowledge that are pure (contain nothing
empirical), my first success - achieved after long thought - was to distinguish and separate
the pure elementary concepts of s ensibility ( space and time) from those of the
understanding. Thus Aristotle’s categories of time, space, and place had to be excluded
·because they pertain to sensibility, not understanding, and so are not categories·. And the
others on his list were useless to me, because ·associated with them· there was no principle 46
on the basis of which the understanding could be surveyed in its entirety, making possible
a complete and precise account of all the things it can do from which arise its pure
concepts - ·its categories·.
Wanting to discover such a principle, I looked about for an act of the understanding
that contains all its other acts, and brings all the variety of representations into the unity of
thinking in general through their being versions or variants of that one kind of act. The
desired act of the understanding turned out to be: judging. Then I availed myself of the
work of the logicians, imperfect though it was. With its help I became able to present a
complete list of the pure functions of the understanding [= ‘basic kinds of thing the
understanding can do’], considered ·at first· without any reference to any object to which
they might be applied. The last step was to relate these functions of ·the understanding that is, these versions or variants of· - judging, to the conditions that determine whether a
given judgment is objectively valid. And so there arose the pure concepts of the
understanding, concerning which I could make certain that just exactly these ·on my list· neither more nor less - settle what knowledge of things we can have on the basis of pure
understanding. It was all right for me to call them by their old ·Aristotelian· name,
categories. . . .
What distinguishes this system of categories from the old unprincipled random
collection of concepts, and what alone entitles it to be considered as philosophy, is this
essential fact about it: By means of it the true significance of the pure concepts of the
understanding, and the condition of their use, could be precisely determined. For here it
became obvious that in themselves the categories are nothing but logical functions,
·corresponding to logical kinds of judgment, such as conditional, negative, universal, etc.;
which means that they don’t by themselves yield the slightest concept of an object - for
that they need some sensory intuition as a basis. Their only role, therefore, is to shape up
empirical judgments . . . . enabling them to become judgments of experience.
Such an insight into the nature of the categories, which limits them to merely
experiential use, never occurred to their first author [Aristotle] or to any of his successors;
but without this insight the...
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