Norman Kemp Smith.

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

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without question in all further enquiries. Analytic thinking
is scientifically treated in general logic ; the Critique is con-
cerned only with the possibility and conditions of synthetic
judgment. The table of analytic judgments therefore supplies
a complete and absolutely guaranteed list of the possible
categories of the understanding. But the perverseness of this
whole procedure is shown by the manner in which, as we
shall find, Kant recasts, extends, or alters, to suit his own
purposes, the actual teaching of the traditional logic.

As noted above, 1 the asserted parallelism of analytic and
synthetic judgment rests upon the further assumption that
discursive thinking and synthetic interpretation are the out-
come of one and the same faculty of understanding. It is
implied, in accordance with the attitude of the pre-Critical
Dissertation, that understanding, viewed as the faculty to
which all thought processes are due, has certain laws in accord-
ance with which it necessarily acts in all its operations, and
that these must therefore be discoverable from analytic no less
than from synthetic thinking. The mingling of truth and
falsity in this assumption has already been indicated. Such
truth as it contains is due to the fact that analytic thinking is
not co-ordinate with, but is dependent upon, and determined
by, the forms of synthetic thinking. Its falsity consists in
its ignoring of what thus gives it partial truth. The results
of the transcendental deduction call for a complete recast-
ing of the entire argument of the metaphysical deduction.
And when this is done, there is no longer any ground for the
contention that the number of the categories is determinable

1 P. 176 ff.


on a priori grounds. On Kant's own fundamental doctrine
of the synthetic, and therefore merely de facto, character of all
a priori principles, the necessity of the categories is only
demonstrable by reference to the contingent fact of actual
experience. The possible conceptual forms are relative to
actual and ultimate differences in the contingent sensuous
material ; and being thus relative, they cannot possibly be
systematised on purely a priori grounds. This Kant has
himself admitted in a passage added in the second edition, 1
though apparently without full consciousness of the important
consequences which must follow.

" This peculiarity of our understanding that it can produce a priori
unity of apperception solely by means of the categories, and only
by such and so many, is as little capable of further explanation as
why we have just these and no other functions of judgment, or why
space and time are the only forms of our possible intuition."


The character of the metaphysical deduction will be placed
in a clearer light if we briefly trace the stages, so far as they
can be reconstructed, through which it passed in Kant's mind.
We may start from the Dissertation of 1770. Kant there
modifies his earlier Wolffian standpoint, developing it, probably
under the direct influence of the recently published Nouveaux
Essais, on more genuinely Leibnizian lines.

"The use of the intellect ... is twofold. By the one use
concepts, both of things and of relations, are themselves given.
This is the real use. By the other use concepts, whencesoever
given, are merely subordinated to each other, the lower to the
higher (the common attributes), and compared with one an-
other according to the principle of contradiction. This is called
the logical use. . . . Empirical concepts, therefore, do not become
intellectual in the real sense by reduction to greater universality,
and do not pass beyond the type of sensuous cognition. However
high the abstraction be carried, they must always remain sen-
suous. But in dealing with things strictly intellectual, in regard
to which the use of the intellect is real, intellectual concepts (of
objects as well as of relations), are given by the very nature
of the intellect. They are not abstracted from any use of the
senses, and do not contain any form of sensuous knowledge as
such. We must here note the extreme ambiguity of the word
abstract. . . . An intellectual concept abstracts from everything sensu-
ous ; it is not abstracted from things sensuous. It would perhaps

1 B 145-6. Cf. above, pp. xxxv-vi, xliv, 57, 142 ; below, pp. 257, 291.


be more correctly named abstracting than abstract. It is therefore
preferable to call the intellectual concepts pure ideas, and those
which are given only empirically abstract ideas' '* "I fear, however,
that Wolff, by this distinction between the sensuous and the intel-
lectual, which for him is merely logical, has checked, perhaps wholly (to
the great detriment of philosophy), that noblest enterprise of antiquity,
the investigation of the nature of phenomena and noumena, turning
men's minds from such enquiries to what are very frequently only
logical subtleties. Philosophy, in so far as it contains the first prin-
ciples of the use of \hepure intellect, is metaphysics. ... As empirical
principles are not to be found in metaphysics, the concepts to be met
with in it are not to be sought in the senses but in the very nature
of the pure intellect. They are not connate concepts, but are abstracted
from laws inherent in the mind (legibus menti insitis}, and are therefore
acquired. Such are the concepts of possibility, existence, necessity,
substance, cause, etc. with their opposites or correlates. They never
enter as parts into any sensuous representation, and therefore cannot
in any fashion be abstracted from such representations." 2

The etcetera, with which in that last passage Kant con-
cludes his list of pure intellectual concepts, indicates a pro-
blem that must very soon have made itself felt. That it did
so, appears from his letter to Herz (February 21, 1772). He
there informs his correspondent, that, in developing his Tran-
scendentalphilosophie (the first occurrence of that title in Kant's
writings), he has

"... sought to reduce all concepts of completely pure reason to a
fixed number of categories [this term also appearing for the first time],
not in the manner of Aristotle, who in his ten predicaments merely
set them side by side in a sort of order, just as he might happen
upon them, but as they distribute themselves of themselves accord-
ing to some few principles of the understanding." 3

Though in this same letter Kant professes to have solved
his problems, and to be in a position to publish his Critique
of Pure Reason (this title is already employed) "within some
three months," the phrase "some few principles" clearly
shows that he has not yet developed the teaching embodied
in the metaphysical deduction. For its keynote is insistence
upon the necessity of a single principle, sufficient to reduce
them not merely to classes but to system. The difficulty of
discovering such a principle must have been one of the causes
which delayed completion of the Critique. The only data
at our disposal for reconstructing the various stages through
which Kant's views may have passed in the period between

1 5-6. 2 " 7-8. Cf. above, pp. 144-5.

3 W. x. p. 126. Italics not in Kant.


February 1772 and 1781 are the Reflexionen, but they are
sufficiently ample to allow of our doing so with considerable
definiteness. 1

In the Dissertation Kant had traced the concepts of space
and time, no less than the concepts of understanding, to
mental activities.

"Both concepts [space and time] are undoubtedly acquired.
They are not, however, abstracted from the sensing of objects (for
sensation gives the matter, not the form of human cognition). As
immutable types they are intuitively apprehended from the activity
whereby the mind co-ordinates its sensuous data in accordance with
perpetual laws." 2

Now the Dissertation is quite vague as to how the
" mind " (a.nimus\ active in accordance with laws generative
of the intuitions space and time, differs from " understanding "
(intellectus], active in accordance with laws generative of pure
concepts. Kant's reasons, apart from the intuitive character
of space and time, for contrasting the former with the latter,
as the sensuous with the intellectual, were the existence of the
antinomies and his belief that through pure concepts the
absolutely real can be known. When, however, that belief
was questioned by him, and he had come to regard the
categories as no less subjective than the intuitional forms, the
antinomies ceased to afford any ground for thus distinguish-
ing between them. The intuitional nature of space and time,
while certainly peculiar to them, is in itself no proof that they
belong to the sensuous side of the mind. 3

A difficulty which immediately faced Kant, from the new
Critical standpoint, was that of distinguishing between space
and time, on the one hand, and the categories on the other.
This is borne out by the Reflexionen and by the following
passage in the Prolegomena. 1 ^

" Only after long reflection, expended in the investigation of the
pure non-empirical elements of human knowledge, did I at last
succeed in distinguishing and separating with certainty the pure
elementary concepts of sensibility (space and time) from those of the

The first stage in the development of the metaphysical

1 The relevant Reflexionen have been carefully discussed by Adickes (Kanfs
Systematik, p. 21 ff.). In what follows I have made extensive use of his results,
though not always arriving at quite the same conclusions.

2 15, Coroll.

3 In his later writings Kant recognises that the representations of space and
time involve an Idea of Reason. Cf. above, pp. 97-8 ; below, pp. 390-1.

4 S in


deduction would seem to have consisted in the attempt to
view the categories as acquired by reflection upon the activities
of the understanding in " comparing, combining, or separat-
ing " ; x and among the notiones rationales, notiones intellectus
puri, thus gained, the idea of space is specially noted. The
following list is also given :

" The concepts of existence (reality), possibility, necessity, ground,
unity and plurality, parts, all, none, composite and simple, space,
time, change, motion, substance and accident, power and action, and
everything that belongs to ontology proper." 2

In Reflexionen, ii. 507 and 509, the fundamental feature
of such rational concepts is found in their relational character.
,They all agree in being concepts of form. 3

Quite early, however, Kant seems to have developed the
view, which has created so many more- difficulties than it
resolves, that space and time are given to consciousness through
outer and inner sense. Though still frequently spoken of as
concepts, they are definitely referred to the receptive, non-
spontaneous, side of the mind. This is at once a return to
the Dissertation standpoint, and a decided modification of its
teaching. It holds to the point of view of the Dissertation
in so far as it regards them as sensuous, and departs from it
in tracing them to receptivity. 4

The passage quoted from the letter of 1772 to Herz may
perhaps be connected with the stage revealed in the Reflexionen
already cited. " Comparing, combining, and separating "
may be the " some few principles of the understanding " there
referred to. That, however, is doubtful, for the next stage
in the development likewise resulted in a threefold division.
This second stage finds varied expression in Reflexionen, ii. 483,
522, 528, 556-63. These, in so far as they agree, distinguish
three classes of categories of thesis, of analysis, and of
synthesis. The first covers the categories of quality and
modality, the second those of quantity, the third those of

Reflexionen, ii. 528 is as follows :

[Thesis = ] " The metaphysical concepts are, first, absolute :
possibility and existence ; secondly, relative :
(a) Unity and plurality : omnitudo 23\&particularitas.
[Analysis = ] (b) Limits : the first, the last : infinitum, finitum.
[Anticipates the later category of limitation.]

1 Reflexionen, ii. 513, cf. 502, 525-7. 2 Op. cit. ii. 513.

8 Cf. op. cit. ii. 537. 4 Cf. above, p. 90 ff.


(f) Connection : co-ordination : whole and part
[Synthesis = ] [anticipates the later category of reciprocity],

simple and compound ; subordination :

(1) Subject and predicate.

(2) Ground and consequence.

This, and the connected Reflexionen enumerated above,
are of interest as proving that Kant's table of categories was
in all essentials complete before the idea had occurred to him
of further systematising it or of guaranteeing its completeness
by reference to the logical classification of the forms of
judgment. They also justify us in the belief that when Kant
set himself to discover such a unifying principle the above
list of categories and the existing logical classifications must
have mutually influenced one another, each undergoing such
modification as seemed necessary to render the parallelism
complete. This, as we shall find, is what actually happened.
The logical table, for instance, induced Kant to distinguish the
categories of quality from those of modality, while numerous
changes were made in the logical table itself in order that it
might yield the categories required.

But the most important alteration, the introduction of the
threefold division of each sub-heading, is not thus explicable,
as exclusively due to one or other of the two factors. The
adoption of this threefold arrangement in place of the dicho-
tomous divisions of the logical classification and of the
haphazard enumerations of Kant's own previous lists, seems
to be due to the twofold circumstance that he had already
distinguished three categories of synthesis or relation (always
the most important for Kant), and that this sufficiently
harmonised with the logical distinction between categorical,
hypothetical, and disjunctive judgments. He then sought to
modify the logical divisions by. addition in each case of a
third, and finding that this helped him to obtain the cate-
gories required, the threefold division became for him (as it
remained for Hegel) an almost mystical dogma of transcend-
ental philosophy. 1 In so far as it involved recognition that
the hard and fast opposites of the traditional logic (such as
the universal and the particular, the affirmative and the
negative) are really aspects inseparably involved in every
judgment and in all existence, it constituted an advance
in the direction both of a deeper rationalism and of a more
genuine empiricism. But in so far as it was due to the desire

1 Only in one passage, Rechtslehre, i., Anhang 3, 2, cited by Adickes, op. cit.
p. 13, does Kant so far depart from his own orthodoxy as to speak of the
possibility of an a priori tetrachotomy. But he never wavers in the view that
the completeness of a division cannot be guaranteed on empirical grounds.


to guarantee completeness on a priori grounds, and so was
inspired by a persistent overestimate of our a priori powers,
it has been decidedly harmful. Much of the useless
" architectonic " of the Critique is due to this scholastic

This fundamental alteration in the table of logical judg-
ments is introduced with the naive assertion that "varieties
of thought in judgments," unimportant in general logic, " may
be of importance in the field of its pure a priori knowledge."
In the Critique of Judgment 1 we find the following passage :

" It has been made a difficulty that my divisions in pure philosophy
have almost always been threefold. But this lies in the nature of
the case. If an a priori division is to be made, it must be either
analytic, according to the principle of contradiction, and then it is
always twofold (quodlibet ens est aut A aut non A) ; or else synthetic.
And if in this latter case it is derived from a priori concepts (not as
in mathematics from the a priori intuition corresponding to the
concept) the division must necessarily be a trichotomy. For
according to what is requisite for synthetic unity in general, there
must be (i) a condition, (2) a conditioned, and (3) the concept
which arises from the union of these two."

The last stage, as expressed in the Critique, was, as we
have already noted, merely an application of his earlier
position that all thinking is judging. This appreciation of the
inseparable connection of the categories with the act of
judging is sound in principle, and is pregnant with many of
the most valuable results of the Critical teaching. But these
fruitful consequences follow only upon the lines developed in
the transcendental deduction. They are bound up with Kant's
fundamental Copernican discovery that the categories are forms
of synthesis, and accordingly express functions or relations.
The categories can no longer be viewed, in the manner of
the Dissertation? as yielding concepts of objects. The view
of the concept which we find in the Dissertation is, indeed,
applied in the Critique to space and time they are taken as
in themselves intuitions, not as merely forms of intuition
but the categories are recognised as being of an altogether
relational character. Though a priori, they are not, in and
by themselves, complete objects of consciousness, and accord-
ingly can reveal no object. They are functions, not contents.
That, however, is to anticipate. We must first discharge, as
briefly as possible, the ungrateful task of dwelling further
upon the laboured, arbitrary, and self-contradictory character

1 Introduction, 9 n. Eng. trans, p. 41.
2 4-6, 9-


of the detailed working out of the metaphysical deduction.
The deduction is given in Sections II. and III.

Section II. The Logical Function of the Understanding in
Judgment. 1 Kant's introductory statement may here be noted.
If, he says, we leave out of consideration the content of any
judgment, and attend only to the mere form, we " find " that
the function of thought in a judgment "can" be brought
under four heads, each with three subdivisions. But Kant
himself, in this same section, recognises in the frankest and
most explicit manner, that the necessary distinctions are
only to be obtained by taking account of the matter as well
as of the form of judgments. And even after this contra-
diction is discounted, the term " find " may be allowed as legiti-
mate only if the word " can " is correspondingly emphasised.
The distinctions were not derived from any existing logic.
They were reached only by the freest possible handling of
the classifications currently employed. Examination of the
table of judgments, and comparison of it with the table
of categories, supply conclusive evidence that the former
has been rearranged, in highly artificial fashion, so as to
yield a more or less predetermined list of required cate-

1. Quantity. Kant here frankly departs from the classifica-
tion of judgments followed in formal logic ; and the reason
which he gives for so doing is in direct contradiction to his
demand that only the form of judgment must be taken into
account. The "quantity of knowledge" here referred to is
determinable, not from the form, but only from the content of
the judgment. Also, the statement that the singular judgment
stands to the universal as unity to infinity (Unendlichkeif] is
decidedly open to question. The universal is itself a form of
unity, as Kant virtually admits in deriving, as he does, the
category of unity from the universal judgment.

2. Quality. Kant makes a similar modification in the
logical treatment of quality, by distinguishing between affirma-
tive and infinite judgments. The proposition, A is not-B,
is to be viewed as neither affirmative nor negative. As the
content of the predicate includes the infinite number of things
that are not-B, the judgment is infinite. Kant, in a very
artificial and somewhat arbitrary manner, contrives to define
it as limitative in character, and so as sharing simultaneously
in the nature both of affirmation and of negation. The
way is thus prepared for the "discovery" of the category
of limitation.

3. Relation. Wolff, Baumgarten, Meier, Baumeister,

1 A 70-6=3 95-101.


Reimarus, and Lambert, with very minor differences, agree
in the following division : l

f Simple = Categorical.

Tudo-mentsJ ^Copulative (i.e. categorical with more

j than one subject or more than one

[Complex^ predicate).

Kant omits the copulative judgment, and by ignoring the
distinction between simple and complex judgments (which in
Reimarus, and also less definitely in Wolff, is connected with
the distinction between conditional and unconditional judg-
ments) contrives to bring the remaining three types of judg-
ment under the new heading of " relation." They had never
before been thus co-ordinated, and had never before been
subsumed under this particular title. It is by no means
clear why such distinctions as those between simple and
complex, conditioned and unconditioned, should be ignored,
and why the copulative judgment should not be recognised
as well as the hypothetical. Kant's criterion of importance
and unimportance in the distinctions employed by the logicians
of his day was wholly personal to himself; and, though hard
to define, was certainly not dictated by any logic that is trace-
able to Aristotelian sources. His exposition is throughout
controlled by foreknowledge of the particular categories which
he desires to " discover."

4. Modality. Neither Wolff nor Reimarus gives any account
of modality. 2 Baumgarten classifies judgments as pure or
modal (existing in four forms, necessity, contingency, pos-
sibility, impossibility). Baumeister and Thomasius also
recognise four forms of modality. Meier distinguishes
between pure judgment (judicium purum} and impure judg-
ment {judicium modale, modification, complexum qua copulci),
but does not classify the forms of modality. Lambert alone 3
classifies judgments as " possible, actual (wirklick\ necessary,
and their opposite." But when Kant adopts this threefold
division, the inclusion of actuality renders the general title
"modality" inapplicable in its traditional sense. The ex-
pression of actuality in the assertoric judgment involves no
adverbial modification of the predicate. Also, in its " affirma-
tive " and " categorical " forms it has already been made to
yield two other categories.

1 Cf. Adickes, Kant's Systematik, p. 36 ff.

2 Cf. Adickes, op. cit. p. 89 ff.

3 Organon, 137. Cited by Adickes.


Kant speaks of the problematic, the assertoric, and the
apodictic forms of judgment as representing the stages through
which knowledge passes in the process of its development.

"These three functions of modality are so many momenta of
thought in general."

This statement has been eulogised by Caird, 1 as being an
anticipation of the Hegelian dialectic. As a matter of fact,
Kant's remark is irrelevant and misleading. The advance from
consciousness of the problematic, through determination of
it as actual to its explanation as necessary, represents only a
psychological order in the mind of the individual. Logically,
knowledge of the possible rests on and implies prior knowledge
of the actual and of the necessities that constitute the actual. 2

Section III. 3 The Categories or Pure Concepts of the Under-
standing. The first three pages of this section, beginning
" General logic abstracts," and concluding with the word
" rest on the understanding," would seem to be a later inter-
polation. Embodying, as they do, some of the fundamental
ideas of the transcendental deduction, they express Kant's
final method of distinguishing between general and transcend-
ental logic. But they are none the less out of harmony with
the other sections of the metaphysical deduction. They are
of the nature of an after-thought, even though that after-
thought represents a more mature and adequate standpoint.
In A 55-7, where Kant defines the distinction between
general and transcendental logic, the latter is formulated in
entire independence of all reference to pure intuition. 4 Kant,
indeed, argues 5 that just as there are both pure and empirical
intuitions, so there are both pure and empirical concepts.
But there is no indication that he has yet realised the close
interdependence of the two types of a priori elements. Even

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 26 of 72)