Norman Kemp Smith.

A commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' online

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are set, contains only relations of succession, coexistence, and
duration. This time (which as consisting only of relations can
be nothing but a form x ) is itself, in turn, a mere relation. It
is only the manner in which through its own activity the mind
is affected by itself. But in order to be affected by itself it
must have receptivity, in other words, sensibility. Time,
consequently, must be regarded as the form of this inner sense.

That everything represented in time, like that which is
represented in space, consists solely of relations, Kant does
not, however, attempt to prove. He is satisfied with repeating
the conclusion reached in the first edition of the Aesthetic,
that, as time is the object of a sense, it must of necessity be
appearance. This, like everything which Kant wrote upon
inner sense, is profoundly unsatisfactory. The obscurities of
his argument are not to be excused on the ground that " the
difficulty, how a subject can have an internal intuition of
itself, is common to every theory." For no great thinker, 2
except Locke, has attempted to interpret inner consciousness
on the analogy of the senses. Discussion of the doctrine must
meantime be deferred. 3

III. B 69. Kant here formulates the important distinc-
tion between appearance (Erscheinung) and illusion {Schein).
The main text is clear so far as it goes ; but the appended
note is thoroughly confused. Together they contain no less
than three distinct and conflicting views of illusion. 4 Accord-
ing to the main text, Schein signifies a representation, such
as may occur in a dream, to which nothing real corresponds.
Erscheinung, on the other hand, is always the appearance of
a given object ; but since the qualities of that object depend
solely on our mode of intuition, we have to distinguish the
object as appearance from the object as thing in itself.

" [Every appearance] has two sides, the one by which the object
is viewed in and by itself, . . . the other by which the form of the
intuition of the object is taken into account. . . ." 5

Obviously, when illusion is defined in the above manner,

1 An assertion, it may be noted, which conflicts with Kant's view of it as a
pure manifold.

2 Kant was probably influenced by Tetens. Cp. below, p. 294.

3 Cf. below, p. 291 ff. b together with B 152-8 is a more explicit statement of
the doctrine of inner sense than Kant had given in the first edition.

4 Vaihinger (ii. p. 486 ff.), who has done more than any other commentator to
clear up the an.l iguities of this passage, distinguishes only two views.

5 A 38 = 655.


the assertion that objects in space are mere appearances can-
not be taken as meaning that they are illusory.

But this view of illusion is peculiar to the passage
before us and to A 38 = B 55. It occurs nowhere else, either
in the Critique or in the Prolegomena ; and it is not, as Kant
has himself admitted, 1 really relevant to the purposes of
the Critique. The issues are more adequately faced in
the appended note, which, however, at the same time,
shows very clearly that Kant has not yet properly dis-
entangled their various strands. The above definition of
appearance is too wide. It covers illusory sense perception
as well as appearance proper. The further qualification
must be added, that the predicates of appearance are
constant and are inseparable from its representation. Thus
the space predicates can be asserted of any external object.
Redness and scent can be ascribed to the rose. All of these
are genuine appearances. If, on the other hand, the two
handles, as observed by Galileo, are attributed to Saturn,
roundness to a distant square tower, bentness to a straight
stick inserted in water, the result is mere illusion. The pre-
dicates, in such cases, do not stand the test of further observa-
tion or of the employment of other senses. Only in a certain
position of its rings, relatively to the observer, does Saturn
seem (scheinf] to have two handles. The distant tower only
seems to be round. The stick only seems to be bent. But
the rose is extended and is red. Obviously Kant is no
longer viewing Schein as equivalent' to a merely mental image.
It now receives a second meaning. It is illusion in the modern,
psychological sense. It signifies an abnormal perception of an
actually present object. The distinction between appearance
and illusion is now reduced to a merely relative difference in
constancy and universality of appearance. Saturn necessarily
appears to Galileo as possessing two handles. A square tower
viewed from the distance cannot appear to the human eye
otherwise than round. A stick inserted in water must appear
bent If, however, Saturn be viewed under more favourable
conditions, if the distance from the tower be diminished, if the
stick be removed from the water, the empirical object will
appear in a manner more in harmony with the possible or
actual experiences of touch. The distinction is practical,
rather than theoretical, in its justification. It says only that
certain sets of conditions may be expected to remain uniform ;

1 Cf. Prolegomena, W. iv. p. 376 ., Eng. trans, p. 149: "The reviewer often
rights his own shadow. When I oppose the truth of experience to dreaming, he
never suspects that I am only concerned with the somnium objective sunitum of
Wolff's philosophy, which is merely formal, and has nothing to do with the distinction
of dreaming and waking, which indeed has no place in any transcendental philosophy."


those, for instance, physical, physiological, and psychical,
which cause a rose to appear red. Other sets of conditions,
such as those which cause the stick to appear bent, are excep-
tional, and for that reason the bentness may be discounted as
illusion. Among the relatively constant are the space and
time properties of bodies. To employ the terms of the main
text, it is not only by illusion that bodies seem to exist out-
side me ; they actually are there.

So long as we keep to the sphere of ordinary experience,
and require no greater exactitude than practical life demands,
this distinction is, of course, both important and valid. But
Kant, by his references to Saturn, raises considerations which,
if faced, must complicate the problem and place it upon an
entirely different plane. If, in view of scientific requirements,
the conditions of observation are more rigorously formulated,
and if by artificial instruments of scientific precision we modify
the perceptions of our human senses, what before was ranked
as appearance becomes illusion ; and no limit can be set to
the transformations which even our most normal human
experiences may thus be made to undergo. Even the most
constant perceptions then yield to variation. The most that
can be asserted is that throughout all change in the con-
ditions of observation objects still continue to possess, in
however new and revolutionary a fashion, some kind of space
and time predicates. The application of this more rigorous
scientific standard of appearance thus leads to a fourfold dis-
tinction between ultimate reality, scientific appearances, the
appearances of ordinary consciousness, and the illusions of
ordinary consciousness. The appearances of practical life are
the illusions of science, and the appearances of science would
similarly be illusions to any being who through 'intuitive
understanding ' could apprehend things in themselves.

But if the distinction between appearance and illusion is
thus merely relative to the varying nature of the conditions
under which observation takes place, it can afford no sufficient
answer to the criticisms which Kant is here professing
to meet. Kant has in view those critics (such as Lambert,
Mendelssohn, and Garve) who had objected that if bodies in
space are representations existing, as he so often asserts,
only " within us," their appearing to exist " outside us " is a
complete illusion. These critics have, indeed, found a vulner-
able point in Kant's teaching. The only way in which he
can effectively meet it is by frank recognition and develop-
ment of the phenomenalism with which his subjectivism
comes into so frequent conflict. 1 That certain perceptions are

1 Cf. below, p. 270 ff.


more constant than others does not prove that all alike may
not be classed as illusory. The criticism concerns only the
reality of extended objects. From Kant's own extreme sub-
jectivist position they are illusions of the most thoroughgoing
kind. If, as Kant so frequently maintains, objects are repre-
sentations and exist only " within us," their existence " outside
us " must be denied. The criticism can be met only if Kant
is prepared consistently to formulate and defend his own
alternative teaching, that sensations arise through the action
of external objects upon the sense-organs, and that the world
of physical science has consequently a reality not reducible to
mere representations in the individual mind.

It may be objected that Kant has in the main text cited
one essential difference between his position and that which
is being ascribed to him. Extended objects, though mere
representations, are yet due to, and conditioned by, things in
themselves. They are illusory only in regard to their pro-
perties, not in regard to their existence. But this distinction
is not really relevant. The criticism, as just stated, is directed
only against Kant's view of space. The fact that the spatial
world is a grounded and necessary illusion is not strictly
relevant to the matter in dispute. Kant has, indeed, else-
where, himself admitted the justice of the criticism. In
A 780 = B 808 he cites as a possible hypothesis, entirely in
harmony with his main results, though not in any degree
established by them, the view

"that this life is an appearance only, that is, a sensuous representa-
tion of purely spiritual life, and that the whole sensible world is a
mere image (ein blosses Bild] which hovers before our present
mode of knowledge, and like a dream has in itself no objective

Kant's reply is thus really only verbal. He claims that
illusion, if constant, has earned the right to be called appear-
ance. He accepts the criticism, but restates it in his own
terms. The underlying phenomenalism which colours the
position in his own thoughts, and for which he has not been
able to find any quite satisfactory formulation, is the sole
possible justification, if any such exists, for his contention
that the criticism does not apply. Such phenomenalism crops
out in the sentence, already partially quoted :

"If I assert that the quality of space and time, according to
which, as a condition of their existence, I posit both external objects
and my own soul, lies in my mode of intuition and not in these
objects in themselves, I am not saying that only by illusion do


bodies seem to exist outside me or my soul to be given in my self-
consciousness." 1

But, so far, I have simplified Kant's argument by leaving
out of account a third and entirely different view of illusion
which is likewise formulated in the appended note. In the
middle of the second sentence, and in the last sentence,
illusion is defined as the attribution to the thing in itself of
what belongs to it only in its relation to the senses. Illusion
lies not in the object apprehended, but only in the judgment
which we pass upon it. It is due, not to sense, but to under-
standing. 2 Viewing illusion in this way, Kant is enabled
to maintain that his critics are guilty of " an unpardonable
and almost intentional misconception," 3 since this is the very
fallacy which he himself has been most concerned to attack.
As he has constantly insisted, appearance is appearance just
because it can never be a revelation of the thing in itself.

Now the introduction of this third view reduces the argu-
ment of the appended note to complete confusion. Its first
occurrence as a parenthesis in a sentence which is stating an
opposed view would seem to indicate that the note has been
carelessly recast. Originally containing only a statement of
the second view, Kant has connected therewith the view
which he had already formulated in the first edition and in
the Prolegomena. But the two views cannot be combined.
By the former definition, illusion is necessitated but abnormal
perception ; according to the latter, it is a preventable error of
our conscious judgment. The opposite of illusion is in the
one case appearance^ in the other truth. The retention of the
reference to Saturn, in the statement of the third view at
the end of the note, is further evidence of hasty recasting.
While the rose and the extended objects are there treated as
also things in themselves, Saturn is taken only in its pheno-
menal existence. In view of the general confusion, it is a
minor inconsistency that Kant should here maintain, in direct
opposition to A 28-9, that secondary qualities can be attributed
to the empirical object.

This passage from the second edition is a development of
Prolegomena^ 13, iii. Kant there employs the term appear-
ance in a quite indefinite manner. For the most part he
seems to mean by it any and every sense-experience, whether
normal or abnormal, and even to include under it dream images,

1 B 69. For explanation of the references to time and self-consciousness, cf.
below, pp. 308, 323.

2 This view of illusion likewise appears in A 293 = 6 349, A 377-8, A 396,
and Prolegomena^ 13, III., at the beginning.

3 Prolegomena, loc. cit.


But it is also employed in the second of the above meanings,
as signifying those sense-perceptions which harmonise with
general experience. Illusion is throughout employed in the
third of the above meanings. Kant's illustration, that of the
apparently retrograde movements of the planets, necessitates
a distinction between apparent and real motion in space, and
consequently leads to the fruitful distinction noted above.
Kant gives, however, no sign that he is conscious of the
complicated problems involved.

In the interval between the Prolegomena (1783) and the
second edition of the Critique (1787) Mendelssohn had
published (1785) his Morgenstunden. In its introduction,
entitled Vorerkenntniss von Wahrheit, Schein und Irrthum^
he very carefully distinguishes between illusion (Sinnenscheiri)
and error of judgment (Irrthuni). This introduction Kant
had read. In a letter to Schiitz 2 he cites it by title, and
praises it as " acute, original, and of exemplary clearness."
It is therefore the more inexcusable that he should again in
the second edition of the Critique have confused these two so
radically different meanings of the term Schein. Mendelssohn,
however, drew no distinction between Schein and Ersckeinung.
They were then used as practically synonymous, 3 though of
course Schein was the stronger term. Kant seems to have
been the first to distinguish them sharply and to attempt to
define the one in opposition to the other. But the very fact
that Erscheinung and Schein were currently employed as
equivalent terms, and that the distinction, though one of his
own drawing, had been mentioned only in the most cursory
manner in the first edition of the Critique? removes all
justification for his retort upon his critics of " unpardonable
misconception." His anger was really due, not to the
objection in itself, but to the implied comparison of his
position to that of Berkeley. Such comparison never failed
to arouse Kant's wrath. For however much this accusation
might be justified by his own frequent lapses into subjectivism
of the most extreme type, even its partial truth was more
than he was willing to admit. Berkeley represents in his eyes;
not merely a subjectivist interpretation of the outer world,
but the almost diametrical opposite of everything for which
he himself stood. Discussion of Kant's relation to Berkeley
had best, however, be introduced through consideration of

1 Cf. in the 1863 edition, Bd. ii. 267 ff. The examples of illusion employed by
Mendelssohn are reflection in a mirror and the rainbow.

2 W. x. p. 405.

3 Schein is so used by Kant himself (W. x. p. 105) in a letter to Lambert
in 1770.

4 A 38.


the passage immediately following in which Kant refers to
Berkeley by name.

III. (Second Part) B 70. Kant urges that his doctrine of
the ideality of space and time, so far from reducing objects
to mere illusion, is the sole means of defending their genuine
reality. If space and time had an independent existence, they
would have to be regarded as more real than the bodies which
occupy them. For on this view space and time would con-
tinue to exist even if all their contents were removed ; they
would be antecedent necessary conditions of all other exist-
ences. But space and time thus interpreted are impossible
conceptions. 1 The reality of bodies is thereby made to
depend upon Undinge. If this were the sole alternative, " the
good Bishop Berkeley [could] not be blamed for degrading
bodies to mere illusion." We should, Kant maintains, have to
proceed still further, denying even our own existence. For
had Berkeley taken account of time as well as of space,
a similar argument, consistently developed in regard to time,
would have constrained him to reduce the self to the level of
mere illusion. Belief in the reality of things in themselves,
whether spiritual or material, is defensible only if space and
time be viewed as subjective. In other words, Berkeley's
idealism is an inevitable consequence of a realist view of
space. But it is also its reductio ad absurdum.

[" Berkeley in his dogmatic idealism] maintains that space, with
all the things of which it is the inseparable condition, is something
impossible in itself, and he therefore regards the things in space as
merely imaginary entities (Einbildungen), Dogmatic idealism is in-
evitable if space be interpreted as a property which belongs to things
in themselves. For, when so regarded, space, and everything to which
it serves as condition, is a non-entity ( Unding). The ground upon
which this idealism rests we have removed in the Transcendental

The term Schein is not employed throughout this passage
in either of the two meanings of the appended note, but in
that of the main text. It signifies a representation, to which
no existence corresponds.

1 Cf. above, A 39 = B 57. This is, however, merely asserted by implication ;
it is not proved. As already noted, Kant does not really show that space and
time, viewed as absolute realities, are " inconsistent with the principles of experi-
ence." Nor does Kant here supply sufficient grounds for his description of space
and time as Undinge. Kant, it must be observed, does not regard the conception
of the actual infinite as in itself self-contradictory. Cf. below, p. 486.

2 B 275.



By idealism 1 Kant means any and every system which
maintains that the sensible world does not exist in the form
in which it presents itself to us. The position is typified
in Kant's mind by the Eleatics, by Plato, and by Descartes,
all of whom are rationalists. With the denial of reality to
sense-appearances they combine a belief in the possibility of
rationally comprehending its supersensible basis. Failing to
appreciate the true nature of the sensible, they misunderstand
the character of geometrical science, and falsely ascribe to
pure understanding a power of intellectual intuition. Kant's
criticisms of Berkeley show very clearly that it is this more
general position which he has chiefly in view. To Berkeley
Kant objects that only in sense-experience is there truth, that
it is sensibility, not understanding, which possesses the power
of a priori intuition, and that through pure understanding,
acting in independence of sensibility, no knowledge of any
kind can be acquired. In other words, Kant classes Berkeley
with the rationalists. And, as we have already seen, he even
goes the length of regarding Berkeley's position as the
reductio ad absurdum of the realist view of space. Kant
does, indeed, recognise 2 that Berkeley differs from the other
idealists, in holding an empirical view of space, and conse-
quently of geometry, but this does not prevent Kant from
maintaining that Berkeley's thinking is influenced by certain
fundamental implications of the realist position. Berkeley's
insight such would seem to be Kant's line of argument is
perverted by the very view which he is attacking. Berkeley
appreciates only what is false in the Cartesian view of space ;
he is blind to the important element of truth which it contains.
Empiricist though he be, he has no wider conception of
the function and powers of sensibility than have the realists
from whom he separates himself off; and in order to compre-
hend those existences to which alone he is willing to allow
true reality, he has therefore, like the rationalists, to fall back
upon pure reason. 3

1 Cf. below, p. 298 ff. , on Kant's Refutations of Idealism. This is also the
meaning in which Kant employs the term in his pre - Critical writings. Cf.
Dilucidatio (1755), prop. xii. usus ; Traume eines Geistersehers (1766), ii. 2, W.
ii. p. 364. These citations are given by Janitsch (Kant's Urtheile iiber Berkeley ',
1879, P- 2 )' wno also points out that the term is already used in this sense by
Klilffinger as early as 1725, Dilucidationes philos. This is also the meaning in
which the term is employed in B xxxiv. Cf. A 28 = B 44.

2 Prolegomena ; An hang. W. iv. pp. 374-5.

3 In his Itfeine Aufsdtze (3. Refutation of Problematic Idealism, Hartenstein,
v. p. 502) Kant would seem very inconsistently to accuse Berkeley of maintaining


That Kant's criticism of Berkeley should be extremely
external is not, therefore, surprising. He is interested in
Berkeley's positive teaching only in so far as it enables him
to illustrate the evil tendencies of a mistaken idealism, which
starts from a false view of the functions of sensibility and of
understanding, and of the nature of space and time. The
key to the true idealism lies, he claims, in the Critical
problem, how a priori synthetic judgments can be possible.
This is the fundamental problem of metaphysics, and until it
has been formulated and answered no advance can be made.

" My so-called (Critical) idealism is thus quite peculiar in that it
overthrows ordinary idealism, and that through it alone a priori
cognition, even that of geometry, attains objective reality, a thing
which even the keenest realist could not assert till I had proved
the ideality of space and time." 1

In order to make Kant's account of Berkeley's teaching
really comprehensible, we seem compelled to assume that
he had never himself actually read any of Berkeley's own
writings. Kant's acquaintance with the English language
was most imperfect, and we have no evidence that he had
ever read a single English book. 2 When he quotes Pope and
Addison, he does so from German translations. 3 Subsequent
to 1781 he could, indeed, have had access to Berkeley's
Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous^ in a German transla-
tion ; but in view of the account which he continues to give
of Berkeley's teaching, it does not seem likely 5 that he had
availed himself of this opportunity. As to what the indirect
sources of Kant's knowledge of Berkeley may have been, we
cannot decide with any certainty, but amongst them must
undoubtedly be reckoned Hume's statements in regard to
Berkeley in the Enquiry? and very probably also the
references to Berkeley in Beattie's Nature of Truth? From

a solipsistic position. "Berkeley denies the existence of all things save that of
the being who asserts them." This is probably, however, merely a careless
formulation of the statement that thinking beings alone exist. Cf. Prolegomena,
13, Anm. ii.

1 Prolegomena, W. iv. p. 375 ; Eng. trans, p. 148.

2 Borowski (Darstellung des Lebens und Charakters Immanuel Kant, in
Hoffman's ed. 1902, p. 248 ff.) gives a list of English writers with whom Kant
was acquainted. They were, according to Janitsch (loc. cit. p. 35), accessible in
translation. Cf. above, pp. xxviii n. 3, 63 n. I.

3 Cf. W. i. pp. 318, 322. When Kant cites Hume in the Prolegomena
(Introduction), the reference is to the German translation.

4 This was the first of Berkeley's writings to appear in German. The transla-
tion was published in Leipzig in 1781.

8 Cf. below, pp, 307-8. The opposite view has, however, been defended by

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 22 of 72)