Norman Kemp Smith.

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

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Almost all the other Reflexionen would seem to have
originated in the period of the second stage of the deduction ;
but they still betray a strong spiritualist bias.

"Impressions are not yet representations, for they must be
related to something else which is an action. Now the reaction of
the mind is an action which relates to the impression, and which if
taken alone 5 may in its special forms receive the title categories." 6
" We can know the connection of things in the world only if we
produce it through a universal action, and so out of a principle of
inner power (aus einem Prinzip der inner en Potestas] : substance,
ground, combination." 7

These Reflexionen recognise only the categories of relation, 8
and must therefore be prior to the twelvefold classification.
There is not the least trace of the characteristic doctrines
of the third and fourth stages of the deduction, viz. of the
transcendental function of the imagination or of a threefold
transcendental synthesis. The nature of apprehension is also
most obscure. It is frequently equated with apperception.

(3) The Lose Blatter aus Kants Nachlass (Heft I.) contains
fragments which also belong to the second stage of the
deduction, but which would seem to be of somewhat earlier

1 No. 947. 2 No. 948. 3 No. 949. 4 No. 952.

6 This is Erdmann's reading. Vaihinger substitutes allgemcin for allcin, but
without reason given.

6 No. 935. The translation is literal. Kant in the last sentence changes
from singular to plural.

7 No. 964.

8 Cf. also Nos. 957, 961. The latter shows how Kant already connected the
categories of relation with the logical functions of judgment.


date than the above Reflexionen. 1 They have interesting points
of contact with the first stage. Thus though the phrase
transcendental object does not occur in them, the object of
knowledge is equated with x, and is regarded in the manner
of the first stage as the opposite counterpart of the unity of
the self. 2 These fragments belong, however, to the second
stage in virtue of their recognition of the a priori categories
of relation. There is also here, as is in the Reflexionen^
great lack of clearness regarding the nature of apprehension ;
and there is still no mention of the transcendental faculty
of imagination. Fragment 8 is definitely datable. It
covers the free spaces of a letter of invitation dated May 20,
I 77S- 3 Fragment B 12 4 belongs to a different period from the
above. This is sufficiently evident from its contents ; but
fortunately the paper upon which it is written an official
document in the handwriting of the Rector of the Philosophical
Faculty of Konigsberg enables us to decide the exact year of
its origin. It is dated January 20, 1780. The fragment must
therefore be subsequent to that date. Now in it transcendental
imagination appears as a third faculty alongside sensibility and
understanding, and a distinction is definitely drawn between
its empirical and its transcendental employment. The former
conditions the synthesis of apprehension ; the latter conditions
the synthetic unity of apperception. It further distinguishes
between reproductive and productive imagination, and ascribes
the former exclusively to the empirical imagination. In all
these respects it stands in complete agreement with the
teaching of the third stage of the deduction. The fact that
this fragment is subsequent to January 1780 would seem to
prove that even at that late date Kant was struggling with
his deduction. 5 But the most interesting of all Vaihinger's
conclusions has still to be mentioned. He points out that at
the time when this fragment was composed Kant had not yet
developed the doctrine characteristic of the fourth stage,
namely, of a threefold transcendental synthesis. Moreover,
as he observes, the statement which it explicitly contains, that
reproductive imagination is always empirical, is inconsistent
with any such doctrine. The teaching of the fourth stage
must consequently be ascribed to an even later date. 6

1 Reicke, Nos. 7, 8, 10-18 (pp. 16-26, 29-49).

2 The chief relevant passages have been quoted above, p. 209.

3 The letter is given in W. x. p. 173. 4 Reicke, pp. 113-16.

5 According to Adickes the Critique was " brought to completion " in the first
half of 1780; in Vaihinger's view, on the other hand, Kant was occupied with
it from April to September. Cf. above, p. xx.

6 In two respects, however, fragment B 12 anticipates the teaching of the fourth
stage : (a) in suggesting (p. 114) the necessity of a pure synthesis of pure intuition,
and (b) in equating (p. 115) synthesis of apprehension with synthesis of imagination.


(4) The Lose Blatter (Heft II.), though almost exclusively
devoted to moral and legal questions, contain in E 67 x a
relevant passage which Reicke regards as belonging to the
'eighties, but which Adickes and Vaihinger agree in dating
" shortly before 1781." On Vaihinger's view it is a preliminary
study for the passages of the fourth stage of the deduction.
But such exact dating is not essential to Vaihinger's argument.
It is undoubtedly quite late, and contains the following
sentence :

"All representations, whatever their origin, are yet ultimately as
representations modifications of inner sense, and their unity must be
viewed from this point of view. A spontaneity of synthesis corre-
sponds to their receptivity : either of apprehension as sensations or
of reproduction as images (Einbildungen) or of recognition as

This is the doctrine from which the deduction of the first
edition starts ; it was, it would seem, the last to be developed?
That we find no trace of it in the Prolegomena, and that it is
not only eliminated from the second edition, but is expressly
disavowed, 3 would seem to indicate that it had been hastily
adopted on the very eve of publication, and that upon
reflection Kant had felt constrained definitively to discard it.
The threefold synthesis can be verified on the empirical level,
but there is no evidence that there exist corresponding tran-
scendental activities.

IV. Connected Statement and Discussion of Kant's Subjective
and Objective Deductions in the First Edition

Such are the varying and conflicting forms in which
Kant has presented his deduction of the categories. We
may now apply our results to obtain a connected statement
of the essentials of his argument. The following exposition,
which endeavours to emphasise its main broad features, to
distinguish its various steps, and to disentangle its complex
and conflicting tendencies, will, I trust, yield to the reader such
steady orientation as is necessary in so bewildering a labyrinth.

1 Pp. 231-3. 2 Cf. below, pp. 268-9.

3 In B 1 60 Kant states that the synthesis of apprehension is only empirical ;
and in B 152 we find the following emphatic sentence : " In so far as the faculty
of imagination is spontaneously active I sometimes also name it \_i.e. in addition to
entitling it transcendental and figurative] productive, and thereby distinguish it
from the reproductive imagination whose synthesis is subject only to empirical
laws, i.e. those of association, and which therefore contributes nothing in explana-
tion of the possibility of a priori knowledge. Hence it belongs, not to tran-
scendental philosophy, but to psychology." Cf. the directly counter statement in
A 102 : " The reproductive synthesis of the faculty of imagination must be counted
among the transcendental actions of the mind."


In the meantime I shall take account only of the deductions
of the first edition, 1 and from them shall strive to construct
the ideal statement to which they severally approximate.
Any single relatively consistent and complete deduction that
is thus to serve as a standard exposition must, like the root-
languages of philology, be typical or archetypal, representing
the argument at which Kant aimed ; it cannot be one of the
alternative expositions which he himself gives. Such recon-
struction of an argument which Kant has failed to express
in a final and genuinely adequate form must, of course, lie
open to all the dangers of arbitrary and personal interpreta-
tion. It is an extremely adventurous undertaking, and will
have to be carefully guarded by constant reference to Kant's
ipsissima verba. Proof of its historical validity will consist in
its capacity to render intelligible Kant's own departures from it,
and in its power of explaining the reasons of his so doing. Its
expository value will be in proportion to the assistance which
it may afford to the reader in deciphering the actual texts.

Our first task is to make clear the nature of the distinc-
tion which Kant draws between the "subjective" and the
"objective" deductions. This is a distinction of great im-
portance, and raises issues of a fundamental character. In
regard to it students of Kant take widely different views.
For it brings to a definite issue many of the chief contro-
versies regarding Critical teaching. Kant has made some
very definite statements in regard to it ; and one of the
opposing schools of interpretation finds its chief and strongest
arguments in the words which he employs. But for reasons
which will appear in due course, adherence to the letter of the
Critique would in this case involve the commentator in great
difficulties. We have no option except to adopt the invidious
position of maintaining that we may now, after the interval of
a hundred years and the labours of so many devoted students,
profess to understand Kant better than he understood himself.
For such procedure we may indeed cite his own authority.

"Not infrequently, upon comparing the thoughts which an
author has expressed in regard to his subject, whether in ordinary
conversation or in writing, we find that we can understand him
better than he understood himself. As he has not sufficiently
determined his concept, he has sometimes spoken, or even thought,
in opposition to his own intention." 2

Let us, then, consider first the distinction between the two
types of deduction in the form in which it is drawn by Kant.

1 Though, as we shall find, the deduction of the second edition is in certain
respects more mature, it is in other respects less complete. ~ A 314 = 6 370.


In the Preface to the first edition, 1 Kant states that his
transcendental deduction of the categories has two sides, and
assigns to them the titles subjective and objective.

"This enquiry, which is somewhat deeply grounded, has two
sides. The one refers to the objects of pure understanding, and is
intended to expound and render intelligible the objective validity of
its a priori concepts. It is therefore essential to my purposes.
The other seeks to investigate the pure understanding itself, its
possibility and the cognitive faculties upon which it rests. Although
this latter exposition is of great importance for my chief purpose,
it does not form an essential part of it. For the chief question is
always simply this, what and how much can the understanding
and Reason know apart from all experience ? not how is the
faculty of thought itself possible ? The latter is as it were a
search for the cause of a given effect; and therefore is of the
nature of an hypothesis (though, as I shall show elsewhere, this
is not really so) ; and I would appear to be taking the liberty
simply of expressing an opinion, in which case the reader would be
free to express a different opinion. 2 For this reason I must forestall
the reader's criticism by pointing out that the objective deduction,
with which I am here chiefly concerned, retains its full force even
if my subjective deduction should fail to produce that complete
conviction for which I hope. ..."

The subjective deduction seeks to determine the subjective
conditions which are required to render knowledge possible,
or to use less ambiguous terms the generative processes to
whose agency human knowledge is due. It is consequently
psychological in character. The objective deduction, on the
other hand, is so named because it deals not with psycho-
logical processes but with questions of objective validity. It
enquires how concepts which are a priori, and which as a
priori must be taken to originate in pure reason, can yet be
valid of objects. In other words, the objective deduction is
logical, or, to use a post-Kantian term, epistemological in

It is indeed true, as Kant here insists, that the subjective
deduction does not concern itself in any quite direct fashion
with the Critical problem how a priori ideas can relate to
objects. " Although of great importance for my chief
purpose, it does not form an essential part of it." This, no
doubt, is one reason why Kant omitted it when he revised
the Critique for the second edition. 3 None the less it is, as

1 A x-xi. Cf. above, pp. 50-1.

2 Cf. below, pp. 543 ff., 576-7.

3 Whether it was the chief reason is decidedly open to question. The un-
Critical character of its teaching as regards the function of empirical concepts and
of the transcendental object, and the unsatisfactoriness of its doctrine of a three-


he here says, important ; and what exactly that importance
amounts to, and whether it is really true that it has such
minor importance as to be rightly describable as unessential,
is what we have to decide.

Though empirical psychology, in so far as it investigates
the temporal development of our experience, is, as Kant very
justly claims, entirely distinct in aim and method from the
Critical enquiry, the same cannot be said of a psychology
which, for convenience, and on the lines of Kant's own
employment of terms, may be named transcendental. 1 For
it will deal, not with the temporal development of the concrete
and varied aspects of consciousness, but with the more funda-
mental question of the generative conditions indispensably
necessary to consciousness as such, i.e. to consciousness in
each and every one of its possible embodiments. In the
definition above given of the objective deduction, I have
intentionally indicated Kant's unquestioning conviction that
the a priori originates independently of the objects to which
it is applied. This independent origin is only describable in
mental or psychological terms. The a priori originates from
within ; it is due to the specific conditions upon which human
thinking rests. Now this interpretation of the a priori
renders the teaching contained in the subjective deduction
much more essential than Kant is himself willing to recognise.
The conclusions arrived at may be highly schematic in
conception, and extremely conjectural in detail ; they are none
the less required to supplement the results of the more purely
logical analysis. For though in the second edition the sections
devoted to the subjective deduction are suppressed, their
teaching, and the distinctions which they draw between the
different mental processes, continue to be employed in the
exposition of the objective deduction, and indeed are pre-
supposed throughout the Critique as a whole. They are
indispensably necessary in order to render really definite
many of the contentions which the objective deduction itself
contains. To eliminate the subjective deduction is not to
cut away these presuppositions, but only to leave them in the
obscure region of the undefined. They will still continue to
influence our mode of formulating and of solving the Critical
problem, but will do so as untested and vaguely outlined
assumptions, acting as unconscious influences rather than as

fold synthesis, would of themselves account for the omission. The passage in the
chapter on phenomena and noumena (A 250 ff.) in which the doctrine of the
transcendental object is again developed was likewise omitted in the second

1 Cf. below, pp. 238, 263 ff.


established principles. For these reasons the omission of the
subjective deduction is to be deplored. The explicit state-
ment of the implied psychological conditions is preferable to
their employment without prior definition and analysis. The
deduction of the second edition rests throughout upon the
initial and indispensable assumption, that though connection
or synthesis can never be given, it is yet the generative source
of all consciousness of order and relation. Factors which are
transcendental in the strict or logical meaning of the term
rest upon processes that are transcendental in a psychological

This last phrase, 'transcendental in a psychological
sense,' calls for a word of justification. The synthetic pro-
cesses generative of experience are not, of course, transcend-
ental in the strict sense. For they are not a priori in the
manner of the categories. None the less they are discover-
able by the same transcendental method, namely, as being,
like the categories, indispensably necessary to the possi-
bility of experience. They differ from the categories in
that they are not immanent in experience, constituent of it,
and cannot therefore be known in their intrinsic nature. As
they fall outside the field of consciousness, they can only be
hypothetically postulated. None the less, formal categories
and generative processes, definable elements and problematic
postulates, alike agree in being conditions sine qua non of
experience. And further, in terms of Kant's presupposed
psychology, the latter are the source to which the former
are due. There would thus seem to be sufficient justification
for extending the term transcendental to cover both ; and
in so doing we are following the path which Kant himself
willingly travelled. For such would seem to have been his
unexpressed reasons for ascribing, as he does, the synthetic
generative processes to what he himself names transcendental

This disposes of Kant's chief reason for refusing to
recognise the subjective deduction as a genuine part of the
Critical enquiry, namely, the contention upon which he lays
such emphasis in the prefaces both of the first and of the second
edition, 1 that in transcendental philosophy nothing hypo-
thetical, nothing in any degree dependent upon general
reasoning from contingent fact, can have any place. That
contention proves untenable even within the domain of his
purely logical analyses. The very essence of his transcend-
ental method consists in the establishment of a priori
elements through proof of their connection with factual

1 Cf. also in Methodology, below, p. 543 ff.


experience. Kant is here revealing how greatly his mind is
still biased by the Leibnizian rationalism from which he
is breaking away. His a priori cannot establish itself save
in virtue of hypothetical reasoning. 1 His transcendental
method, rightly understood, does not differ in essential
nature from the hypothetical method of the natural sciences ;
it does so only in the nature of its starting - point, and
in the character of the analyses which that starting-point
prescribes. And if hypothetical reasoning may be allowed
in the establishment of the logical a priori, there is no
sufficient reason why it may not also be employed for the
determination of dynamical factors. The sole question is as
to whether the hypotheses conform to the logical require-
ments and so raise themselves to a different level from mere
opinion and conjecture. 2 As Kant himself says, 3 though his
conclusions in the subjective deduction may seem to be
hypothetical in the illegitimate sense, they are not really so.
From the experience in view of which they are postulated
they receive at once the proof of their actuality and the
material for their specification.

We may now return to the question of the nature of the
two deductions. The complex character of their interrelations
may be outlined as follows :

1. Though the subjective deduction is in its later stages
coextensive with its objective counterpart, in its earlier stages
it moves wholly on what may be called the empirical level.
The data which it analyses and the conditions which it
postulates are both alike empirical. The objective deduc-
tion, on the other hand, deals from start to finish with the
a priori.

2. The later stages of the subjective deduction are based
upon the results of the objective deduction. The existence
and validity of a priori factors having been demonstrated by
transcendental, i.e. logical, analysis, the subjective deduction
can be extended from the lower to the higher level, and
can proceed to establish for the a priori elements what in
its earlier stages it has determined for empirical conscious-
ness, namely, the nature of the generative processes which
require to be postulated as their ground and origin. When
the two deductions are properly distinguished the objective
deduction has, therefore, to be placed midway between the
initial and the final stages of the subjective deduction.

3. The two deductions concentrate upon different aspects
of experience. In the subjective deduction experience is

1 Cf. above, pp. xxxvi, xxxvii-viii. 36: below, pp. 241 - !.
*Cf. below, p. 5 43ff. 3 Axi


chiefly viewed as a temporal process in which the given falls
apart into successive events, which, in and by themselves,
are incapable of constituting a unified consciousness. The
fundamental characteristic of human experience, from this
point of view, is that it is serial in character. Though it is
an apprehension of time, it is itself also a process in time.
In the objective deduction, on the other hand, the time
element is much less prominent. Awareness of objects
is the subject-matter to which analysis is chiefly devoted.
This difference very naturally follows from the character of the
two deductions. The subjective enquiry is mainly interested
in the conditions generative of experience, and finds its
natural point of departure in the problem by what processes
a unified experience is constructed out of a succession of
distinct happenings. The objective deduction presents the
logical problem of validity in its most striking form, in our
awareness of objects ; the objective is contrasted with the
subjective as being that which is universally and necessarily
the same for all observers. Ultimately each of the two
deductions must yield an analysis of both types of conscious-
ness awareness of time and awareness of objects ; a priori
factors are involved in the former no less than in the
latter, and both are conditioned by generative processes.
Unfortunately the manner in which this is done in the
Critique causes very serious misunderstanding. The pro-
blem of the psychological conditions generative of conscious-
ness of objects is raised x before the logical analysis of
the objective deduction has established the data necessary
for its profitable discussion. The corresponding defect in the
objective deduction is of a directly opposite character, but is
even more unfortunate in its effects. The results obtained
from the analysis of our awareness of objects are not, within
the limits of the objective deduction, applied in further
analysis of our consciousness of time. That is first done, and
even then by implication rather than by explicit argument,
in the Analytic of Principles. This has the twofold evil
consequence, that the relations holding between the two
deductions are very greatly obscured, and that the reader is
not properly prepared for the important use to which the
results of the objective deduction are put in the Analytic
of Principles. For it is there assumed a quite legitimate
inference from the objective deduction, but one whose
legitimacy Kant has nowhere dwelt upon and explained
that to be conscious of time we must be conscious of it as
existing in two distinct orders, subjective and objective. To

1 A ioo-i.


be conscious of time we must be conscious of objects, and to
be conscious of objects we must be able to distinguish between
the order of our ideas and the order of the changes (if any)
in that which is known by their means.

Thus the two deductions, properly viewed in their full
scope, play into one another's hands. The objective deduc-
tion is necessary to complete the analysis of time-conscious-
ness given in the subjective deduction, and the extension of
the analysis of object - consciousness to the explanation of
time-consciousness is necessary in order to make quite definite

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 31 of 72)