Dr. Bob Zunjic
Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics
The Prolegomena were published in 1783,
two years after the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant's groundbreaking
work. They were conceived both as an answer to the first objections
and as a second attempt to present "critical philosophy"
in a less "diffuse" and "obscure" manner.
Apart from providing a better overview of the whole project, the
Prolegomena sketchily indicate the ultimate objective of
Kant's philosophy: to establish a metaphysical system of a
priori principles that by its rigor would match the stringency
of scientific knowledge. In contrast to the Critique of Pure
Reason, the Prolegomena start from the existing forms
of knowledge and then analytically sift through them until the
very principles of Metaphysics are reached. After highlighting
the historical and the systematic context of his enterprise, Kant
expounds his new doctrine of synthetic a priori judgments
which are supposed to produce objectively valid knowledge for
any future Metaphysics (First Philosophy). He first demonstrates how pure theoretical sciences
make use of these judgments, then discusses the ideas of reason
and finally, in the conclusion, he answers the question how Metaphysics
can become a science.
What is the meaning of the full title: Prolegomena to Any
Future Metaphysics (that will be able to present itself
as a science)?
The keyword in the title is the Greek term prolegomenon (singular)
which denotes a prefatory essay or a foreword to something that
is supposed to follow. Accordingly, the prolegomena (plural)
are a kind of introductory examinations designed for "preparatory
exercises". By spelling out what "we have to do to make
a science actual if it is possible" these exercises should
prepare the emergence of the only viable Metaphysics - the "scientific" one .
In view of this ambition, the Prolegomena are not
just "a more readable version" of the Critique of
Pure Reason, as they are commonly characterized.
More than that - they offer both probably the best introduction to Critical
(Kantian) Philosophy and develop some new points. In fact, very
few books formulate so many complex ideas within such a limited
space - the circumstance that should excuse the size of this outline as well.
A comparison with Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy
reveals a structural parallel:
Cartesian Meditative Initiation into First Philosophy = Kantian
Preliminary Exercises into any Future Metaphysics
(First Philosophy = Metaphysics).
Both works are more exploratory then doctrinal and both proceed analytically. They also share a very strong foundational drive based on the promise of a reliable method.
The Meditations lay ground for the existing metaphysical and scientific knowledge. The Prolegomena are more radical in their preparatory stance as they clear the ground for an absolutely new science of Metaphysics.
Anatomists of Reason
In order to avoid possible misunderstandings
Kant explicitly states that the Prolegomena are not written
(a) for "the use of mere learners" or (b) for those
"scholarly men" who identify philosophy with the history
(a) The Prolegomena do not offer a "ready made science". Instead
of propounding well rounded doctrines the book provides a method
for the "discovery" of the metaphysical science. One learns doctrines, not the method. Consequently,
it is designed for future teachers who will develop the content by applying the method rather than for present apprentices.
But even teachers cannot expect a fully "systematic exposition"
of the long searched science.
There is no discrepancy between
being designed only for teachers and being a "preliminary exercise".
Teachers in philosophy do not teach doctrines (what to think) but the way how
to think. Strictly speaking, one cannot teach philosophy, because
there is none which could be accepted as an established science.
Consequently, the Prolegomena cannot be the subject of
any mechanical, scholastic exposition. Yet in making use of this
"introduction", we can teach to philosophize, which
is perhaps an even greater achievement than a "finished philosophy",
although at this stage the whole process does not go beyond a
(b) The historians of philosophy tend
to track down new views to the old tenets in accordance with the rule
that "nothing could be said which… has not been said before".
Since philosophy has a very long history, no wonder that it provides
an abundance of possible similarities, echoes and points of comparison
for any new position. But the content of the Prolegomena is
not a piece of historical knowledge. It is something new. The time for the historians
of philosophy will come in due course after those who "draw
from the fountain of reason" (anatomists and critics) finish
their work. But right now Kant strenuously affirms the legitimacy of the
new against the analogies which may dissolve it into "the
old sayings of the past". In contrast to the historical approach,
he requires openness for fresh insights, not their reduction
to something previously known.
This plea for novelty is very
indicative for the spirit of the Enlightenment and Modernity in
general. Kant is aware that he himself belongs to the Modern Age
and he fully understands the nature of the Modern Age (striving
for the new, scientific rigor and critically secured foundations).
It is no accident, therefore, that the word "modern"
occurs self-reflectively in the Prolegomena (here, for
instance, Kant makes a distinction between "Ancient"
and "Modern" philosophy). The ironical remarks about
historical analogies are probably directed toward J.G.H. Feder,
an eclectic contemporary of Kant, who had compiled a review of
the Critique garnered with many artful historical labels.
All this could be as well an allusion to Eberhard,
another contemporary, who has regarded the new philosophy of Kant
just as a reformulation of Leibniz's views.
In order to
be able to proceed without prejudices, Kant suggests to "pause
a moment" and consider "all that has been done as though
undone". (Descartes similarly decided to withhold assent
to all existing beliefs as if they were false.) By taking a fresh
look at the things we can clearly grasp the current state of affairs
and ask the very first question, the question of possibility,
which otherwise would not find receptive minds.
This strategy is reminiscent
of the first Meditation: To start anew, let us go back
to the foundations while suspending our assent to everything derived
from them. Kant wants us to disregard the whole previous history
of Metaphysics and to reexamine its very idea and principles
before we can reach the verdict about its fate.
"such a thing as metaphysics… possible at all"?
Cartesian parallels to this question would be: "Is indubitability
possible at all? And what are its conditions of possibility?" But Descartes could have raised these questions only rhetorically.
Despite all his doubts, he did not have any dilemmas about the
possibility of Metaphysics. After all, it has gone through a very
long development from Aristotle up to the time of Rationalism.
Kant himself points to this rich tradition stretching "since the origin
of Metaphysics so far as we know its history". Is not his
own question about the possibility then very odd and superfluous? Does it make sense
to ask whether something "be possible" when that
something already exists? All the more so as Kant admits that
Metaphysics is not only a past historical reality, but something
which possesses present "actuality".
can Kant then ask a question which plainly casts doubt on the
existence of Metaphysics? He himself acknowledges that "the
question whether metaphysics be possible presupposes a doubt as
to its actuality". The solution to this apparent contradiction
is that Kant is not speaking about the Metaphysics as it has been and as it is. This
Metaphysics is possible by virtue of the fact that it exists.
But this Metaphysics is the realm of "illusionary knowledge" and thus not viable.
In raising the question of possibility, Kant had in mind another
Metaphysics, a new, "future Metaphysics". This new Metaphysics
is currently just an idea, but to make it reality is very desirable
given the present state of the discipline. It is therefore possible
to confront in a non-contradictory manner the factually existing
Metaphysics with the norm what Metaphysics should be. What should
it be? A science ("if it be science"). Thus the
true meaning of the preliminary question could be rendered as:
"Whether Metaphysics is possible as a science"?
||Science serves as the model for the future Metaphysics because of its impressive advances and universal validity.
|Standards of Knowledge
||Discrimination of Ignorance
This matching with
science is a novelty even for Kant who has always valued scientific
rigor. Truly, he claimed to have been "in love with Metaphysics"
since his early years (under influence of the Wolffian
Metaphysics), but in the Critique he seemed resigned over
the idea that Metaphysics could ever be raised to the level of
the sciences. Obviously, in the Prolegomena he changed his stance on Metaphysics .
The origins of the identification between philosophy and science
hark back to the time of Aristotle, but the Ancient concept of
science was much broader (episteme as the knowledge of
truth in general) than the Modern idea of science (methodical
and experimentally verifiable knowledge). In the Modern Age these
attributes of science started to be regarded as the conditions and factors of
its advancement. After Kant, philosophy has been constantly subjected
to the demands to demonstrate the same level of objectivity and
methodological solidity as "exact sciences". This pressure
accounts for the prevailing tendency (from the 19th century onward)
to define philosophy as a science. At the same time, this tendency
reveals that the relationship between philosophy and science has
become precarious. Having lost the status of the "queen of
sciences" philosophy now must decide whether it wants to
demarcate itself definitely from the sciences or is it rather
inclined to be their "foundational discipline" - an
ambition which arises from the Kantian project. It is noteworthy
that in Kant's eyes Newton replaces Galileo as the scientific
role model (the time of Descartes has definitely gone).
II A NEW PLAN
Kant begins with a blunt assertion that Metaphysics
does not exist as a science. It is
now only a "so called science", a science by name,
a "supposed jewel". What really exists under the name
of Metaphysics is just a caricature of wisdom and science. Being
a non-science or phony treasure is tantamount to virtual nonexistence
in terms of valid knowledge, which accounts for an evidently counterfactual
statement: "There is as yet no such thing as metaphysics."
This circumstance both justifies and renders meaningful the question
of possibility. Were Metaphysics as a science already "in
existence", the question whether it be possible at all would
be superfluous ("useless"). One would be able then simply
to refer people to it and ask them to study it as the truth. "Here
is metaphysics; learn it and it will convince you irresistibly
and irrevocably of its truth." The only questions that would
then make sense would be "How is it possible?" and "How
does reason come to attain it?" But as of yet, there is no
book of Metaphysics which in philosophy enjoys the status comparable
to Euclid's Elements in Geometry. Hence we cannot
point to any present work and say: "This is metaphysics,
here you may find the noblest objects of this science, the knowledge
of a highest being and of a future existence, proved from pure
This sentence could be a direct reference to the Meditations
whose subtitle promises a demonstration of "the existence
of God and the immortality of soul".
What we encounter in current metaphysical books
are very "doubtful assertions" that directly undermine
each other ("in all ages one metaphysics contradicted another,
either in their assertions or their proofs"). Viewed from
the vantage-point of its history, Metaphysics appears as "the
battlefield of perpetual controversies". The constant clashing
of its systems has entirely compromised the ambition of Metaphysics
to attain "lasting acceptance". Hence the history of
Metaphysics does not offer much support for its admittance into
the ranks of respected disciplines. Traditional Metaphysics has
been giving promises of furnishing profound insights ("wisdom
incarnate"), but has never fulfilled its announcements. Nonetheless,
it continues to keep the audience in perpetual suspense by repeatedly
nourishing hopes that the most "noble" questions would
be eventually answered. Time and again, however, these hopes were
dashed with the emergence of every new system. New systems resemble
desert mirages that vanish once we approach them. "So metaphysics,
floated to the surfaces, like foam, which dissolved the moment
it is scooped off." Repeated failures to receive viable answers
to metaphysical questions have finally destroyed human trust into
Metaphysics ("its votaries having melted away"). Moreover,
the perpetual succession of dogmatic metaphysical systems has
contributed immensely to the "appearance of skepticism",
which is a "mental attitude" of utter cognitive desperation.
Note: Even though Kant has been receptive for skeptical arguments,
he was not less opposed to skepticism than Descartes - on the
contrary, his style of philosophy is clearly constructive. The ultimate goal is clearly to build (erect) new "towers" of Metaphysics (this is Kant's equivalent for the Cartesian metaphor of "edifice").
with the sciences Metaphysics suffers from the following shortcomings:
|(1) Does not possess universal
validity ("universal and lasting recognition").
This is not meant only as an external approval of the public
but as an internal consensus of the scientific community.
|(2) Does not show results
and progress ("moving around the same spot
without gaining a single step"). In terms of advancement
Metaphysics is still where it was in the days of Aristotle.
|(3) Does not have criteria
to distinguish "sound knowledge" from mere ignorance
("shallow talk"). This is the most severe defect. It accounts for the fact that in Metaphysics
everyone can pass judgments with authority, which means that
there is no real expertise in matters of metaphysical knowledge.
all these shortcomings "Metaphysics" cannot satisfy any
critical mind. The current situation is untenable and Metaphysics
"cannot possibly remain on its present footing". We need
to resolve one basic dilemma pertaining to the status of Metaphysics:
(1) If it is a science, why it does not "obtain universal and
lasting recognition"? (2) If it is not, "how can it maintain
its pretensions"? In general (3), how can it "keep the
human mind in suspense with hopes never ceasing, yet never fulfilled"?
As to (1) and (2) Kant admits that Metaphysics is not a science
(yet), which explains its current failures. But he stresses that
Metaphysics raises important and meaningful questions of human existence,
which explains its sustained attractiveness (3). Therefore, it is
both unlikely and difficult to give up metaphysical strivings, although
we cannot expect that Metaphysics satisfies them, at least not the Metaphysics as we know it.
This is an unbearable discrepancy that cannot stand any longer.
to do? Kant recognizes that
Metaphysics "can never cease to be in demand", but the
most he is ready to allow
it at this point is just a conditional acceptance pending the outcome
of a very rigorous scrutiny of its cognitive potentials. Metaphysics
finally needs to be measured by scientific standards and its status has to be made clear. "We must
come once for all to a definite conclusion respecting the nature
of this so called science": whether "everybody, however
ignorant" can judge gratuitously in this area or certain preconditions
should be met first if we want to save Metaphysics as science. If
Metaphysics cannot abide by these norms, it should be dismantled
and suppressed regardless of the fact that it tackles some lasting human
Kant is deeply dissatisfied with the present state of Metaphysics,
but he does not want to abolish it entirely. In the Prolegomena
he recognizes not only the legitimacy of Metaphysics as a "natural
disposition", but goes a step further and envisions its upcoming
scientific renovation. To be able to subsist Metaphysics only
needs to be articulated in a manner befitting to a science.
We cannot any longer tolerate
the schizoid stretch between "the importance of the knowledge
so much needed" and the growing suspicions regarding "all
knowledge which we believe we possess". Something needs
to be done to get out of this deadlock. In heeding this call Kant
wants to avoid both the uncritical dogmatism which overestimates
the abilities of human reason and the hypercritical skepticism
in which "reason treats itself with a such violence"
(i.e., denies its own capacities). The former, despite great promises,
"teaches us nothing", the latter "does not even
promise us anything" and ultimately leaves everyone with
||Dissastisfied with both, Kant takes the intermediate way between the "weary" belief of dogmatism and the "disquieting" suspicion of skepticism. The only promising venue emerges from the "preliminary" question: "Is metaphysics at all possible?" This question cannot be anymore dogmatically resolved nor can it be directly dismissed "by skeptical objections to the asseverations of some actual systems of metaphysics". The dogmatic perseverance would only prolong the downfall of Metaphysics. The skeptical rejection of Metaphysics, on the other hand, short-circuits the problem by presupposing that the question of its nature has been already negatively answered whereas it has first to be asked. The only appropriate approach is to deal with this question in a principled manner, that is to say "from the conception" of a such Metaphysics. It is a very difficult task, because we do not possess any other reliable data about Metaphysics "except reason itself". But it is the only hope for those who still believe that Metaphysics is worthy of studying.
Examining the Foundations:
Prior to the
"final verdict" about the fate of Metaphysics Kant wants
to see whether traditional Metaphysics
could be perhaps renovated ("a new birth") according
to "a new plan".
The problem of Metaphysics cannot be resolved without rebuilding.
This means Metaphysics has to transform itself into a science.
To accomplish this it needs to begin anew. Piecemeal patching
does not help much. On the other hand, a radical renewal
cannot start properly without laying down good foundations for
human constructive drive pushes anyway into the same direction
of clearing the ground even if that requires some demolition:
"Human reason so delights building that it has several times
built up a tower and then razed it to see how the foundation was
laid." This inspection is more important (critical) than destruction or construction. The examination of the foundations is beneficial in
a twofold sense: it can inform us about the current state of the
structure or it can teach us how to perform a better construction.
As to the first, Kant contends that in the process of science
building we need at one point to ask whether the current status
of a particular science is in accord with the conditions of its possibility.
As to the latter, the preliminary question whether Metaphysics
is possible, could be viewed as preliminary to another beginning.
Once it is answered positively with regard to a more constructive
work, the renovation of Metaphysics can be safely kicked off.
The renovation plan
should be executed as early as possible: the more delayed the
realization of the need for change, the more difficult would it
be to carry out the reform. Regretfully, the awareness
that Metaphysics needs reconstruction
comes pretty late in the history of
Kant agrees (with Epicure) that "it is never too late to
become reasonable and wise", but
he disagrees that it does not matter when we gain this insight.
Had it come centuries ago it would have been easier to correct
many mistakes and avoid resistance.
Spreading doubts about old and accustomed
views is embarrassing and cannot count on favorable reception.
Doubts about Metaphysics offend those who identify with the present
Metaphysics. On the other hand, the rising doubt will ran into
the wall of intellectual dogmatism: the traditionalists will look
at the doubter condescendingly ("in the proud consciousness
of their ancient possessions") whereas the contemporaries
will overlook the novelty and ignore the whole project as "something
(already) seen before".
|Appeal to Readers:
||Given this situation Kant turns to those whom he calls "independent", intelligent", "critical" and "resolute" readers. The "independent reader" is the impartial and objective reader who thinks for himself and can detach himself from the present ("common") Metaphysics. Such a reader will not only exert doubt in the current science of Metaphysics (a reference to Descartes?) but will unite intelligence with resolution in pursuing the renovation project further. The "intelligent reader" is the one capable of realizing that there is no other way for Metaphysics to survive save to accept certain demands "on which its possibility depends". The "critical reader" is the one who will be able to understand the conditions for that transformation: "he must confess that a radical reform, or rather a new birth of the science, after a new plan, is inevitable". The "resolute reader" is the one who will be ready to foster the reform for the benefit both of Metaphysics and general human interests. Thus, despite all obstacles and resistance coming from the philosophical establishment, the realization of the reform blueprint becomes "unavoidable", one that will unite the aforementioned aspects of the ideal reader.
the Greek prolegomenon = something said in advance; in
plural, the word
denotes introductory discourses.
from the Greek meta ta physika = after (the books of) physics;
1. the title given to
the collection of Aristotle's lecture notes on First
(dealing with the first principles of being and with being as
such); 2. traditionally, the study of the most general and abstract
principles, the study of the universe in its entirety, the study
of the ultimate reality, the study of the supernatural (occult,
mystical, spiritual, immaterial). 3. Along with Descartes, Kant
envisions a different task for Metaphysics: to become the study
of the first principles of human knowledge. He uses the word in
three different ways though: (a) Metaphysics is the realm of (illusionary)
knowledge beyond any possible experience - traditional Metaphysics;
(b) Metaphysics denotes all a priori knowledge and its
exposition, thus including both the traditional and the reformed
Metaphysics = in this sense Metaphysics is synonymous with
Philosophy in general; (c) Metaphysics is the system of a priori
principles which rests on a thorough analysis of human cognitive
faculties = in this narrow sense, conceived as a science, Metaphysics
is almost indistinguishable from Transcendental Philosophy.
Preliminary, from the Latin prae + limen
= coming before the threshold; prefatory, introductory,
preparatory examination preceding the main exposition.
from the Greek dogma
= opinion, belief, tenet; a philosophical position ascribed
by Kant to the traditional Metaphysics which goes beyond possible
experience; dogmatism rushes to explain the universe by deducing
inferences from a set of starting principles without previously
defining the limits of human knowledge.
III HUME'S PROBLEM
"Since the Essays of Locke and Leibniz, or rather
since the origin of metaphysics…nothing has ever happened which
could have been more decisive to its fate than the attack made
upon it by David Hume."
In the first part of this statement
Kant refers to the following writings:
Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)
Wilhelm Leibniz, New Essays on Human Understanding
(written 1704/ published 1765)
Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748)
All three works deal with human
reason ("understanding" was used then promiscuously
with the term reason) as the source of metaphysical knowledge.
But they reach different conclusions about the resourcefulness and
validity of reason.
For Locke, reason was "a closet" with very "small
holes" open to light. He claimed that nothing enters these
holes which has not been previously in the senses (nihil est
in intellectu quod non fuerit
in sensu). In other words,
sensory experience of the external world is the sole source of knowledge
which is basically a collection
of imprints on the "blank slate" of our mind.
Leibniz tried to outmaneuver this empiricist conclusion by exempting
reason itself from Locke's restriction. He retorted that Locke has
overlooked a screen in that closet whose folds represent the "innate
knowledge" that precedes empirical knowledge. Thus reason regains
the primacy as the source of knowledge and becomes exempt from empirical
filters (nisi intellectus ipse).
In the penultimate stage of this discussion Hume raised doubts about
the status of all rational knowledge insofar as it pertains to experience.
Reason is on the safe ground in mathematics but everywhere else
its position is utterly precarious. Hume dealt a final blow to the
high esteem of reason by denying it any role in the construction
of metaphysical and abstract concepts purporting to articulate experience.
Hume's target was mainly rationalism but he unintentionally, precisely by pursuing his critique too far, undermined empiricism as well (the
principle of induction).
Kant both follows and changes the traditional use of the terms
"reason" and "understanding". In ancient philosophy
reason was conceived as the faculty of direct intuitive knowledge
of principles (nous) whereas the understanding was credited
with deductive calculative reasoning (dianoia). Early modern
philosophers forget this distinction and use both terms synonymously.
In accord with this practice Kant had initially defined both reason
and understanding as "the capacity to judge". However,
later on he started to distinguish between the two by describing
only the understanding as the faculty of mediate judgment (i.e.
the faculty of concepts). Reason, on the other hand, became the
faculty of inferences and ideas transcending experience. Thus
reason turned out to be a higher faculty in charge for the unification
of thought. However, in the historical part of the Prolegomena
Kant still uses reason and pure understanding interchangeably
as general terms for the faculty of concepts.
In the second
part of the above quoted statement on his predecessors Kant makes
a very flattering appraisal of Hume's work: nothing was more "decisive"
for the fate of Metaphysics than Hume's critical remarks. With
regard to the recognized Hume's influence on Kant, this evaluation
is understandable, but in
this particular context it sounds pretty odd. How an
outright (and devastating) rebuttal of Metaphysics could be regarded
as the most important event in the history of Metaphysics since
its inception? Is this just an ironical remark from somebody who
in fact rejects Metaphysics himself (the best contribution to Metaphysics is to do away with it) or a more profound insight
into the nature of Hume's
position than anything standard textbooks say about the matter? This
question is all the more
in order since Kant right after this line qualifies his evaluation
of Hume by saying that the "acute man", with the exception
of some "sparks", did not throw "any light on this
species of knowledge" ( a typical backhand compliment). How was it then possible to achieve
such a decisive impact on Metaphysics without even clarifying
its notion? Obviously Kant sees the relevance of Hume's work in
its "negative use", that is, in the attack on Metaphysics. Hume did not contribute to Metaphysics
directly and constructively, but he "challenged (metaphysical)
reason" in a way that had an immediate bearing on the status
Challenge to Reason:
did Hume pose that challenge? By disputing that reason
(is the "birthplace") to the concept of cause and
effect (and its physical counterpart: force and action).
Hume 'pressured' the reason to answer "by what right she* thinks
anything could be so constituted that if that thing be posited
something else also must be necessarily posited." In other
words, what is the basis for the belief that if A is the cause
of B, then B necessarily follows whenever A occurs. The answer
was: none whatsoever. (The fact that the streets are wet does not necessarilly mean that it rained; the fact that it rained does not necessarilly entail the consequence that the streets are wet - something could have prevented that outcome, trivial or extraordinary.)
In the Paul Carus translation as revised
by Lewis White Black "reason" is referred to as "she"
both to avoid potential
confusion with the word "cause" and because it is feminine
in German (die Vernunft).
that reason was altogether deluded with reference to this concept."
Both the necessary and a priori character of causality disappeared upon examination. What does this have to do with Metaphysics? By denying any role
of reason in the formation of the concept of causation
Hume has undermined Metaphysics in two ways:
(a) Since reason
is the main organ of metaphysical thinking (speculation),
Metaphysics is automatically
rendered impossible if the categories of reason
are denounced void.
(b) Ever since
Aristotle Metaphysics has been the study of the causes. Deprived of
the concept of causation, Metaphysics cannot derive anything from
the first principles nor can it speculatively track back the existing
effects to their first causes (thus, for instance, no cosmological
proof of God's existence would be possible). The whole edifice
of reality becomes loose while metaphysical systems get reduced
to "the castles in sand". "In plain language, this
means that there is not and cannot be such thing as metaphysics
it is not possible to establish any rational linkage between objects
that could be conceptually articulated or accounted for. Strictly
speaking, we can make then only judgments about our individual
impressions or recite tautologies like A = A. Everything else
would belong to the realm of arbitrary and illusionary knowledge
(the "play of words").
Despite his mistrust toward rational Metaphysics, Hume retained
the title "Metaphysics" and even went so far to attach
to it "great value". Obviously, he could not help looking
at his "destructive science of metaphysics" as a kind
of Metaphysics - after all he was aware that his own statements
on Metaphysics were not mere impressions or relations of ideas.
But the admissible Metaphysics consisted, for him, only in "the
negative side" of his enterprise, which was bent toward "moderation
of extravagant claims of speculative reason, and the complete
settlement of the many endless and troublesome controversies that
mislead mankind". Kant approves this aspect of Hume's work,
but he reproaches that Hume has entirely overlooked "the
positive injury" which is inflicted on human knowledge "if
reason be deprived of its most important prospects". (The
"injury" affects not only metaphysics but the sciences
and even common sense, although Hume explicitly targeted only
metaphysical assumption that everything happens by reason and
things are causally connected.)
interested in finding out whether there is any necessary connectedness
between different events and objects in the world. That is to
say, whether things are causally connected.
By using Kantian language one can elucidate Hume's concerns by
means of the following questions:
the connection between cause and effect be discovered "by
reason a priori"?
In other words, is the principle of causation a rational,
and an a priori
|2. Does the concept
of causation possess an "inner truth independent of all
that is to say, whether it is an objective and intrinsically
|3. Could the concept
of causation be applied beyond the objects of experience,
to objects like the world as a whole or God ("extended use")?
answered all three questions with an unambiguous "No".
|1. Reason cannot
know a priori that, because A occurs, B will follow
Kant: "We cannot at all see why, in consequence of the
existence of one thing,
another must necessarily exist or how the concept of such
a combination can arise a priori."
|2. The concept of
causality does not have any validation beyond habitual
experience. There is no other
basis that would justify our expectation that
if A is posited then B must be posited too as the effect of
|3. It is not justified
to claim that everything which occurs, must have a cause.
Such a claim purports to embrace all experience, but it is
an unjustified extrapolation.
Hume was not
satisfied with the empiricist assumption that causal relation
is empirically observable for he realized that necessity, as an
essential component of the relation, could not be detected experientially.
On the other hand, he was not able to find any rational justification
for it since it does not follow from any logical principle either.
This was an impasse that required explanation. In response, Hume contended that the connection between cause and effect is
not a priori, is not objective, is not necessary and is not universal. "He demonstrated irrefutably
that it was perfectly impossible for reason to think a priori
and by means of concepts such a combination, for it implies necessity."
This necessity is not included in the concept. On the other hand,
we do not see any necessity when observing events in the actual
world. All "the pretended a priori combinations"
are "nothing but common experiences" of successive events.
What we find there is just a physical proximity of two events
in space and a close sequence in time.
From the above
considerations Hume drew the following conclusions:
|(a) The only necessity contained in the concept
of causation is the subjective necessity we create based on
|(b) As we cannot observe the concept of cause on
the objects (there is no impression of the concept of cause
or effect), it is not possible to have an objective idea of
|(c) Any use of the concept of causation and especially
the one going beyond immediate impressions is simply illegitimate.
This is to
say, the metaphysical supposition that there is a principle
connecting different things and events in the world is absolutely
unfounded. Hence, the connection
of cause and effect is not conceptual at all. Consequently,
Metaphysics is an illusion; as a futile endeavor it is at best
just an "agreeable pastime".
is neither conceptual nor (entirely) empirical, what is then the origin (status)
of the concept of causation? According
to Hume, the concept of causation is derived from experience by
virtue of associations based
solely on the sequence or contiguity of representations. Causal
connection is a product of imagination on the basis of repeated
experiences. As Kant summarizes, "in reality" it is "nothing
but a bastard of imagination, impregnated with experience, which
subsumed certain representations under the law of association".
We have a natural propensity to link different events which are
in fact separated. In other words, starting from an empirical observation
according to which one event follows another event, our associative
imagination promotes this contingent habitual sequence (subjective
necessity) into an objective connection ("mistook a subjective
necessity (habit) for an objective necessity arising from insight").
But this promotion of a subjective connection into a quasi objective
necessity does not alter the truth that the concept of causation
is just a "fictitious" extrapolation of a habit. And even
though reason accepts this "common experience" as a would
be a priori and necessary concept of our mind, in carrying
out this operation of "false stamps", it only commits
the fallacy known as post hoc, ergo propter hoc
= after this, therefore because of this.
CAUSALITY ACCORDING TO HUME
||Association by similarity and proximity
||Habit mistaken for objective necessity
IV COMMON SENSE
and disquieting, Hume's contentions are extremely important
and, consequently, needed to be taken seriously into account ("deserved
the concentrated attention of the brighter spirits of the
day"). However, Hume's "valuable" critique of Metaphysics
was "misconstrued" and finally rejected by his "opponents".
Who were they? The staunchest defenders of Metaphysics? Surprisingly,
not. They were the Scottish philosophers of common sense
(Reid, Oswald, Beattie, Priestley). Why would common sense philosophers
criticize an attack on Metaphysics? Certainly not because they
were lovers of Metaphysical sallies. Why, then? Out of common interest
with it ("interests intimately interwoven"). Common sense assumes the applicability of the principle of causation to account for everyday events. It is a
common sense belief that when I turn a glass of water upside down
I "cause" its content to spill out, that is to say, common sense operates under the assumption that causation articulates our experience.
In addition, one can suppose that these philosophers might have
been appalled by skeptical and atheistic implications of Hume's
critique and so reacted out of the commonsense allegiance to the
current religious beliefs.
Note: Kant had in mind
the following works of the Scottish philosophers: Thomas Reid,
An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common
Sense, 1764; James Oswald, An Appeal to Common Sense in
behalf of Religion, 1766; James Beattie, An Essay on the
Nature and Immutability of Truth in opposition to Sophistry and
Skepticism, 1770; Joseph Pristley (the famous scientist),
Letters to a philosophical Unbeliever, 1780.
Basis of Rationality
Although appreciative of the plain (right)
reason's achievements (it is a 'good sense'), Kant vehemently combats demands for
popularity and appeal to common sense in matters of metaphysical
investigations. He views this appeal as a convenient way to avoid
the consequences of Hume's analysis. For Kant, common sense is
not a correction of Hume's extremes, but a slippage below the level of Hume's
insights. Therefore he occasions a brief but penetrating excursus
on common sense. In it Kant singles out both the qualities and
the limitations of commonsense approach to philosophical issues.
1. Common sense is a "great gift of God" (natural aspect). Endowed
with "plain common
sense" humans have secured a realm of rationality between
brutality and insanity.
2. Common sense is one "of the
subtile discoveries of modern times" (social aspect).
The appeal to common sense is a modern democratic right
which establishes equality among all normal disputants regardless
of their real rank. If it comes only to common sense then "the
most superficial ranter can safely enter the lists with the most
thorough thinker and hold his own" (which is a great political
1. An appeal to common sense should
be backed by "some well considered and reasonable thoughts
and words". It should not be performed in an "oracular"
way as if common sense provided a solution to all philosophical
problems before they are even posed. (In philosophy we are not
permitted to invoke common sense as a "magical wand"
or simply assume that everything is self-evident when there are
many lingering questions.)
2. A reference to common sense is sometimes
everything that is available. It is in order to invoke common
sense when we do not possess scientific knowledge or other insights
("when insight and science fail"). (However, if some
insight is still available the appeal to common sense turns into
an inappropriate or premature extension of its use.)
the authority of common sense is based on "the opinion of
the multitude". Philosophers should be very reserved toward
it ("ashamed") because its credentials are utterly suspect
("depends merely upon rumor"). To invoke common sense
indiscriminately means therefore to take a recourse to something
that lacks any critical rigor.
appeal to common sense could be just a "subterfuge"
to avoid an open-minded discussion. Sometimes disputants cling
slavishly to common sense because of habit or inability to consider
alternative solutions. In that case the use of common sense comes
down to a renouncement of "all pure speculative knowledge"
(theoretical cognition) for some mundane purposes of "practical
(1) Common sense is in its true element "in judgments which
apply immediately to experience" (trivial, plain situations),
but should not be permitted "to speculate or to make decisions
in maters of speculation" ("when we judge universally
from mere concepts"). Common
sense observations cannot sustain universal and necessary knowledge.
(2) When common sense transgresses
into the realm of "pure concepts" and
wants to judge there, it ceases to be the "right", "plain"
or "sound sense" and becomes "sick". Instead
of securing a safe ground for reasoning it transforms something
more complex into something overly simplified. This is the reason
why it needs to be constantly
kept "in check" and restrained from damaging incursions
into the matters of philosophy.
(3) Therefore an appeal
to common sense is absurd
whenever we need knowledge of rules in abstracto, independent
of experience. "Chisels and hammers may suffice to work a
piece of wood, but for etching we require an etcher's needle."
does this comparison with
etcher's needle purport to say? Basically: "Cobbler
(common sense), do not go beyond shoes (four walls)!" Or to
put it in a more admonishing way: Common sense is a very good servant
when used in conformity with concrete rules, but could be a much
worse master if it obtains command over the rules in their generality.
To illustrate this point from another angle: It suffices to have
common sense to be able
to understand the meaning of the statement "a glass was broken",
but common sense encounters
serious difficulties in understanding the a priori nature
of causation and the rule that every event is determined by a certain
cause. It simply cannot deal with the complexity of conceptual synthesis
which requires a speculative analysis. No surprise, for it "cannot
satisfy itself concerning
its own premises" that there is a cause for the broken glass.
common sense is in the final analysis at odds with Metaphysics no
less than empiricism. The tactical alliance with the metaphysical critics of Hume should not deceive
anyone about the outcome.
From now on reason and common sense must go separate ways.
case with common sense, the Scottish philosophers were "taking
for granted that what Hume doubted, and demonstrating with zeal
and often with impudence that what he never thought of doubting".
Not surprisingly, their unexpected defense of Metaphysics proved
to be useless simply because it has entirely "missed the
main point" of Hume's problem. The Scottish philosophers
mistook the "question of origin" for the "question
of need". In other words, they have confounded the issue
of status with that of potential usefulness. But Hume did not
deny that the concept of causation is or might be very useful
("indispensable need of using it"); he only questioned
its usual cognitive justification. In that sense, of course, the
question of origin became the question of validity.
Kant points that the major failure of the Scottish common sense
philosophers was that they have not "penetrated very deeply
into the nature of reason, so far as it is concerned with pure
thinking". (Indicatively, Kant reproaches the same failure
to Hume.) They simply resorted to common sense (causation is "evident")
without realizing that for a viable rebuttal of Hume (who certainly
possessed an abundance of common sense) they would have needed
more than that: "a critical reason". Kant therefore
demands a more scrupulous and more dialectical approach in assessing
Hume's findings than what common sense can accomplish.
Sense, from the Latin sensus communis = the sense shared by all people who
possess normal perceptual and
intellectual abilities; everyday, ordinary understanding; beliefs
or conclusions which would be accepted by all normal individuals.
from the Latin speculum
= mirror; 1. traditionally, the way of theoretical thinking
which causally relates visible, immediately present effects to
their directly invisible, but in these effects indirectly "reflected"
(mirrored) ultimate causes;
2. for Kant, speculation
is the type of knowledge dealing with the most universal and abstract
principles that are furthest away from sensory knowledge ("judgments
based on pure concepts"); synonymous with philosophy in general,
= pure thinking, pure reason, speculative understanding. 3. popular
meaning of speculation: an action (with stocks or finances) which
is very uncertain but aimed at quick gains.
the Latin causa = thing, that which is responsible for
something; 1. the idea
that when A occurs and B invariably follows, then A represents
the cause of B, whereas B, being produced or changed, is the effect
of A; 2. in general, the belief that any change or event is produced
by something else, without which that thing would not have happened.
from the Latin a priori (parte) = from the
preceding (side); originally, a priori was an adverb denoting
the way of cognitive approach; 1. the expression was
initially used to denote the reasoning leading from ground to
consequence or from the earlier part of the cause-effect relation;
2. after Descartes the term is used mostly adjectivally for
a type of knowledge independent of experience; thus it started
to designate everything we know as universal and necessary truth
prior to or independent of experience (concepts, propositions,
knowledge in general); of course, some experience may be
necessary to acquire the concepts that formulate an a priori
from the Latin a posteriori (parte) = from the posterior
(side); 1. in contradistinction
to a priori, a posteriori originally denoted any reasoning
from consequence to ground; 2. later it came in use for all knowledge
based on experience, i.e., for all knowledge contingent upon empirical
and probable facts.
Understanding, (German: Verstand) as the etymology
of the word suggests, it is the faculty
of recognizing that what "stands among" (under); in
Kant, a spontaneous faculty of judging which transforms immediate
intuitions into objects of thought by means of representations
of representations (concepts); it is the faculty which secures
the unity of immediate representations (appearances) according
to rules; these rules are a priori categories stemming
from pure understanding.
(German: Vernunft) the faculty
of inferences and universal principles; it pursues
the unity of the rules of understanding under principles; beyond
that, it strives toward
"absolute totality" in the synthesis of conditions for
all possible experience thereby transcending every given experience
(transcendent ideas are pure concepts of reason).
V KANT'S REJOINDER
Hume should be given a credit for the discovery that causal connections
do not reside in the objects but are produced in and by
the observers of the objects. Even though he ascribed their production
to imagination, he was the first to realize that so many concepts
we have been taking for granted actually stem from subjective
principles that surpass the immediacy of impressions. His particular
merit lies in raising the question of the origin and
validity of the problem of causation. Hume asked which faculty is responsible for the concept of causation (senses, imagination or reason) and, after pointing to the collaboration of the first two, he raised the question of its objective valididity. Prior to Hume
"no one had hesitated to use the concepts without investigating
the basis of their objective validity." Everybody just
assumed that future (conclusions) will be like the past (conclusions)
simply because future always has been like the past. But Hume
has shown that this assumption begs the question which is precisely
how do we know that the same effects will follow in the future
(An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sec. 4). By
posing the unasked question of validity and by unveiling the
subjective origin of causal nexus Hume has awakened Kant from
his "dogmatic slumber".
Note: The phrase
"the recollection of Hume" (that "interrupted"
Kant's "dogmatic slumber") should not be understood
literally, as if it suddenly occurred to Kant that he had read
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding 12 years
or so earlier and then (many years later) in a fit of a surprising
illumination realized its relevance (as is suggested by the translator's
footnote). There is in fact nothing about this passage that suggests
that Kant is referring to a "recollection" at all. The word "recollection"
is a translational error. Here Kant simply uses the German word
"recollection" (Erinnerung) in its archaic meaning
of admonition or warning (Ermahnung, Warnung). Several
translators have mistaken it for the commoner modern meaning "recollection".
The issue was thoroughly clarified by Michael Scarpitti (see http://www.hkbu.edu.hk/~ppp/texts/VERSCH.html).
In terms of chronology, this means that Kant is not referring
to 1783 as the year when the "awakening" occurred, but
much earlier, possibly to the years around 1770 when he in fact
had effectively started to revise his previous uncritical views under
the influence of Hume's skepticism (the process that led to his
"Copernican revolution"). Scarpitti believes that the
reference could be pushed back even further (to the 1760s or even
earlier) based on Kant's "Dreams of a Spirit-Seer".[There
is independent support for this hypothesis among some Kant scholars.]
A. If some Scottish philosophers have missed the main point in Hume's
reasoning this does not
mean that his reasoning was correct in itself. Hume did not solve
his own problem. He regarded rational principles and concepts
as idiosyncratic patterns of our nature, that is, as only psychologically
conditioned. By accepting such a reductionist view he accounted
at best only for the experiential side of the problem of causation.
fault was twofold: he did not address the question of causation
in its entirety and did not examine pure reason (no
more than his opponents). In order to answer properly Hume's questions
one needs to focus on "the whole of his problem" (the
faculty of pure reason) of which causation is only "a part"
(there are some other categories of reason as well). As
Hume failed to do that, his conclusions about the impossibility
of a priori knowledge turned out to be "hasty and
mistaken". Before examining the role of reason in the whole
process he jumped to the
conclusion that the principle of causation is just a "custom-bred
habit" thus delivering both the objective validity and experience
to sheer habitual associations. His conclusions proved therefore
premature, unwarranted and harmful.
C. In general, Hume's would be solution was not felicitous at
all because it led to a depreciation of rational knowledge. Instead
of ending in an outright dismissal of the metaphysical science,
"a happier solution" could have "resulted in a
complete reform of the science". That is to say, instead
of relegated Metaphysics to a non-binding "past-time",
Hume could and should have tried to secure its foundations by
recognizing the real impact of reason on our metaphysical concepts.
"Thus the acute man would have been led into considerations
which must needs be similar to those that now occupy us…"
Kant agrees with empiricism
that we can identify particular causes only through repeated perceptions.
But he rejects the surmise that the concept of cause is derived
from observation in the same way as our knowledge of what is the
cause of some particular event. He agrees with Hume that the concept
of causation is not empirical. But he contends that the concept
of causation was not derived indirectly from experience by virtue
of imagination, as Hume conjectured. For Kant, the concept of
causation as other a priori concepts originated from reason
itself ("pure understanding"). Yes, causal connection
is subjective by its origin, but no less objectively
valid for that matter. Judgments of causation are rendered
possible and objectively valid when the objects of experience
are "subsumed under those pure concepts of the understanding"
(categories). Complex synthesis, not mere association
is the fundamental principle of our knowledge. Once we determine
correctly the synthetical origin of causation, we can easily ("as
a matter course") define "the conditions of the use
and the sphere of its valid application".
||The issue of causation
was not for Kant just a minor matter of dispute with
one particular philosopher on one very special and isolated topic
("a particular case").
It touched upon a much more fundamental problem - the objectivity
of our knowledge of objects.
How the concepts that express the connection
of things a priori acquire objective validity? How
can we go from that in us we call "representations" to
what is "represented"? If the origin of our concepts is
undeniably subjective, how they become validated, i.e., how can
they gain an objective status? These questions require to place
the Humean problem into a broader perspective of the "whole
faculty of pure reason", which is exactly what Kant did: "I
therefore first tried whether Hume's objection could not be put
into a general form and soon found that the concept of the connection
of cause and effect was by no means the only concept by which the
understanding thinks the connection of things a priori…"
CAUSALITY ACCORDING TO KANT
||A priori Subsumption
VI METAPHYSICS AND
operates with a priori categories that organize
and structure our experience of the world. They perform this job
by subsuming experience under certain concepts. "Metaphysics
consists altogether of such concepts." They need to be identified,
explained and ordered into a new scientifically established system.
This task was accomplished
in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781). This book is the work
in which Kant for the first time discussed "the pure faculty
of reason in its whole compass and bounds". Consequently,
the inquiry had a double objective:
|(1) "To determine the whole
sphere of pure reason completely and from universal
principles" in its contents (elements) and its boundaries.
|(2) To elucidate
the conditions under which it is possible to secure objective
validity of knowledge.
By including the concept of causation in the context of other a priori
forms of understanding Kant offered not only a solution to that
particular problem but also "a pilot and safe principles
of navigation" in the whole realm of pure reason ("with
respect to the whole faculty of pure reason"). This achievement
definitely separated Kant from Hume who did not envision such
a "formal science" ending instead in skepticism (he
"ran his ship ashore, for safety's sake"). Safety was
common concern for both Hume and Kant, but the latter responded
to the need of securing our knowledge constructively by providing
a system of navigation (concepts and catgories) along with the pilot (pure reason).
The metaphor of seafaring generally illustrates the difference between
dogmatism and skepticism. While dogmatism impatiently sails to the deep
sea without proper preparation, skepticism does not venture to leave
the harbor. Now Kant shows that it is possible to sail safely thanks
to the discovery of proper navigational instruments and maps. Hume
was not able to figure out how it would be possible to sail of the shore. Related to this, Kant also suspected
in Hume a certain aversion toward systematic philosophy in general that probably contributed to his reluctance to leave the harbor. In other
places, however, he indicates that Hume might have been prevented
to "envision" the possibility of a systematic science
of cognitive "navigation" by his strong literary inclinations.
||What was the gist of Kant's solution for safe navigation?
A very elaborate conceptual net explicated by "the transcendental deduction". In response to
Hume's conceptual skepticism
Kant introduced a new conceptual framework consisting of categories
which guide our understanding and provide the objectivity of our
knowledge (= see the table of the pure concepts of understanding
in § 21). With this table
Kant has attempted not only to demonstrate that there is one set
of basic and ultimate categories which determine all human understanding
and experiencing but he also put an enormous effort to deduce and
order these concepts systematically. "I sought to ascertain
their number; and when I had satisfactorily succeeded in this by
starting from a single principle, I proceeded to the deduction of
other concepts." The deduction should have made it clear that
"we can only be conscious of objects constituted by our synthesizing
activity" (Rorty). This demonstration was "the most difficult
task which ever could have been undertaken in the service of Metaphysics"
if for no other reason then because there were no real predecessors
(Aristotle's list of categories was rhapsodic). But it was
a necessary precondition to accomplish the project of reform. In
fact, "this deduction alone can render metaphysics possible."
While Metaphysics could not provide any assistance in the deduction,
the deduction itself provided the decisive assistance in rebuilding
of pure reason had to be mapped in its entirety before any part
of it could have been broached. The plan for a general critique
of pure reason clearly presupposes the priority of the whole.
Here Kant makes an analogy with the constitution of an organism:
the whole consists of particular parts, but "the end of each
member can only be deduced from the full conception of the whole"
(otherwise we'll be committing the fallacy of composition). Thus,
"we can do nothing without first determining the position
of each part and its relation to the rest."
make very little sense because the sphere of reason is "self-contained"
("pure reason" is freed from all empirical content). All
determinations must be therefore immanent and dependent on the whole.
"The validity and use of every part depends upon the relation
in which it stands to all the rest within the domain of reason."
||The intricate alliance
of the parts in the whole necessitates that one should "determine
and define either everything or nothing". Hence the critique
is "never trustworthy" if it is not complete. This circumstance
accounts for the chronological order of particular stages in the
execution of the general project:
= an inquiry into pure reason, its scope and boundaries in
order to define the conditions of validity for human knowledge
= a preliminary
exercise that gives a better overview and convincingly demonstrates
the possibility of Metaphysics (being finished).
= a system
of a priori judgments (to be carried out in the future).
The accomplished "general critique of pure reason" is the precondition
not only for a successful renovation of Metaphysics but also for
a preliminary exercise toward that goal. "Critique as a science
must first be established as complete and perfect before we can
think of letting Metaphysics appear on the scene or even have
the most distant hope of attaining it." Critique alone contains
the plan and the means to "establish Metaphysics as a science"
and it performs its role by exhibiting "the whole stock of
a priori concepts", deduced and proved in their position
and function. Once the critique is completed "down to the
most minute elements of pure reason", the ground rules for
new Metaphysics will be set. The "system of metaphysics"
could be built based on the principles formulated in the Critique.
Kant has masterfully
executed his Critique in the "widest extent"
and in the most extensive way. But the work came out "long-winded",
"dry" and "obscure"
- the fact which probably explains why Kant's solution did not
fare much better before the public than Hume's original challenge
(A Treatise on Human Nature). Kant
anticipates that the Critique will be misjudged because
it will be misunderstood, and it will be misunderstood
because it is not tailored to fit "ordinary notions".
Kant was aware of these defects and particularly that the Critique
of Pure Reason lacked the intuitive clarity. But he rejected
all reproaches about the "want of popularity, entertainment
and facility". He maintained that this last complaint was
unfounded simply because the possibility of "indispensable
knowledge" can be established only "by the strictest
rules of a scholastic precision".
This is again an allusion to Feder who had complained about
the "scholastic apparatus" of the Critique. In
responding to Feder's complaint Kant implicitly makes the following
distinction: 1. Scholastic precision = fitting the
scientific character of the subject; 2. Popular presentation
= serving the needs of those who want to understand the subject
in concrete images. For Kant, 1 is the condition of 2. But 2 is
not necessary at all; it "may follow", but it can precede
only in a "sketchy" manner.
||Many first readers of the Critique were convinced
that it does not bring anything new apart from terminology. This
preconceived expectation explains why they were looking for the
known doctrines behind this new scholastic language. It
would be a grave mistake, warns Kant, to misjudge this new system
by means of "alleged knowledge previously acquired". Similarities
are only superficial - if we lean only on the homonymy of expressions
(terms may be nominally the same) everything would appear senseless
||One can ask, of course, why Kant did not start the whole project of renovation
with a small work that would have sketched out a plan and then left
it to the big work for execution? This could have prepared the public
and directed readers toward the subsequent work. On the other hand,
it would also make a sense to produce a more popular exposition
after having presented an overly technical version of the project.
It is quite possible that
at one point Kant conflated two previously different plans: to provide
an abstract of the Critique for experts and to publish a
more accessible (popular) presentation of the Critique.
But Kant dismisses both suggestions about the possible place and function of
the Prolegomena. A short presentation like the Prolegomena
would not have been much useful prior to the Critique of Pure
Reason because, as "a mere sketch", it could
hardly have been more than a proclamation of intent (something
that befits "boastful minds"). A subsequent popularization
was a possibility but Kant has never been interested in any digested
presentation of his work. What is then the true purpose of the
The task of the Prolegomena is to make sure that the absolute novelty
of the project ("perfectly new science") is duly acknowledged
and not misjudged as the old content just differently wrapped
("fancy pattern with new titles", "systematic garment"
for "antiquated knowledge"). Beyond this, the Prolegomena
should "enable us to grasp the whole" better and "to
examine in detail the chief points of importance in the science"
(of Metaphysics). With regard to the Critique of Pure Reason, the Prolegomena thus entertains
a twofold objective: (a) to improve the exposition of the content by explaining better
some murky points, and (b) to remove growing misunderstandings
and respond to accumulated objections. Thus it is very helpful
as a sequel despite the fact that it does not provide the final
proof for the correctness of the arguments. But its main ambition
is to tackle the same area from a different angle and to do that
by applying a different approach.
In terms of the content the central portion of the Prolegomena
stands in the following relation to the Critique: the first
part, dealing with the possibility of pure mathematics, corresponds
to the Transcendental Aesthetic, the second part, which discusses
the conditions of the possibility of pure natural Science, is
a counterpart of the Transcendental Analytic, whereas the third
part of the "main Question", on Metaphysics as a natural
disposition and the ideas of reason, follows the Transcendental
Dialectic of the Critique. The last main section, on the
conditions of the possibility of Metaphysics in general, corresponds
to the Transcendental Doctrine of Metaphysics.
||A parallel could be drawn between the position of the Prolegomena
in the realm of theoretical reason and that of the Groundwork
of the Metaphysic of Morals (1785) in the realm of practical
reason. To be sure, the latter work precedes chronologically both
the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and the Metaphysics
of Morals (1803), but it plays a corresponding preparatory role
for the whole of moral philosophy. If the right medium of analytic
method is the logic of discovery, the parallel receives an additional
support in the preface of the Groundwork where Kant states
its purpose as "to discover and justify, the supreme principle
of morality". That principle, once discovered, should serve
as the foundation for the metaphysics of morals the way the principle
of synthetic a priori cognition grounds metaphysical knowledge.
was carried out in the synthetical manner "in order that
the science may present all its articulations, as the structure
of a peculiar cognitive faculty". Everything was there deduced
and accordingly proved from starting elements as they have been
elaborated by critical reason. "In the Critique of Pure
Reason I have treated this question (= whether Metaphysics
is possible?) synthetically, by making inquiries into pure reason
itself and endeavoring in this source to determine the elements
as well as the laws of its pure use according to principles."
By contrast, the Prolegomena, being exempt from obligation
to furnish an extensive exposition, proceed analytically. "The
Prolegomena must therefore rest upon something already
known as trustworthy, from which we can set out with confidence
and ascend to sources as yet unknown, the discovery of which will
not only explain to us what we know but exhibit a sphere of many
cognitions which all spring from the same source. The method of
prolegomena, especially of those designed as preparation for future
metaphysics, is consequently analytical."
The first approach, going from the principles toward more complex
statements, is progressive, while the latter, moving backwards
from the givens toward the principles, is regressive ("this
signifies only that we start from what is sought, as if it were
given, and ascend to the only conditions under which it is possible").
Strictly speaking, Kant proceeds analytically only in paragraphs
6 through 23. After that, given the dialectical nature of ideas
of reason, he reverts to the synthetic method. The regressive
(analytic) method should not be confused with the analytic content
consisting of tautological statements. Kant acknowledges that
the former usage of the term 'analytical' departs from the notion
of analyticity (equal to a priori) as we are now accustomed
to. But the former usage is not Kant's
innovating. Prior to him, Christian Wolff already used the expression
in that sense. In fact, the origins of this
notion of analysis conceived as the succession backwards from
the agreed conclusion are ancient (cf. Aristotle and Pappus).
J.P. Sartre obviously borrowed this terminology from Kant while
discussing the progressive and the regressive method in his Critique
of Dialectical Reason.
all remaining reproaches regarding the lack of clarity.
Those who may find even the Prolegomena obscure are coldly
advised to "apply their talents to other subjects".
They may hopefully prosper in the fields of "exact"
(mathematical) and "deep sciences" (physics) which are
"more closely allied to the empirical". In view of this,
the residual obscurity (which is more often an excuse for the
lack of intellectual effort than a cover for incompetence) proves
even helpful because it could repel the aggressive ignorant (a
worse species for Kant than the indolent).
Those, on the other hand, who are capable of mastering "abstract
concepts", are faced with a very narrow choice: if they want
to construct "a system of metaphysics" they must satisfy
the demands made here, either by adopting Kant's solution or by
thoroughly refuting it and substituting with another. With a full
awareness of the discriminative nature of his work Kant says without
false modesty: "To evade it is impossible." Kant
himself was convinced that the suggested solution, given the difficulty
of the subject, was not at all so complicated and abstruse.
from the Latin deducere = lead from; a reasoning which
draws a valid inference from the (more general) premises;
Kant uses the term in the sense of old jurisprudence, according
to which a deduction establishes the legal, as opposed to the
factual grounds for action; by the same token, his deduction is
the justification of the application of the categories to objects,
i.e., an explanation of why these categories necessarily apply
to all possible experience.
Category, from the Greek kategoria = accusation,
i.e., attribution of certain properties, kind of predication;
1. Aristotle: a category designates the way in which a predicate
is attributed to the subject; he lists ten most general kinds
of predicates that exhaust all possible ways of attributing something
to something; 2. Kant: there are twelve fundamental concepts by
which intellect structures our understanding and experience
of the world; they are derived from the traditional division of
judgments according to four regards:
quantity, quality, relation and modality.
Critique, from the Greek krisis = discerning,
judging, deciding; 1. originally, neutral examination of
the subject in order to make necessary distinctions about the
nature of the subject; 2. in the popular usage, sorting out negative
characteristics of the subject (fault finding); 3. Kant revives
the original meaning but applies it to one privileged subject:
critique does not deal with persons, books and doctrines but with
the faculty of reason; it defines the conditions of possibility
and the legitimate use of reason insofar as it strives for knowledge
independent of experience in positing the conditions of sound
thinking critique establishes the standards and sets the boundaries
of knowledge; thus the critique of reason, far from being the
rejection of reason, provides in fact the enlightenment of reason;
at the same time it makes decision about the possibility of Metaphysics.