Norman Kemp Smith.

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

. (page 32 of 72)
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and clear the full significance of the conclusions to which the
objective enquiry has led. 1

One last point remains for consideration. Experience is
a highly ambiguous term, and to fulfil the role assigned to it
by Kant's transcendental method that of establishing the
reality of the conditions of its own possibility its actuality
must lie beyond the sphere of all possible controversy. It
must be itself a datum, calling indeed for explanation, but
not itself making claims that are in any degree subject to
possible challenge. Now if we abstract from all those par-
ticularising factors which are irrelevant in this connection,
we are left with only three forms of experience experience of
self, experience of objects, and experience of time. The two
former are open to question. They may be illusory, as Hume
has argued. And as their validity, or rather actuality, calls
for establishment, they cannot fulfil the demands which the
transcendental method exacts from the experience whose
possibility is to yield proof of its discoverable conditions.
Consciousness of time, on the other hand, is a fact whose
actuality, however problematic in its conditions, and however
mysterious in its intrinsic nature, cannot, even by the most
metaphysical of subtleties, be in any manner or degree
challenged. It is an unquestioned possession of the human
mind. Whether time itself is real we are not metaphysically
certain, but that, whatever be its reality or unreality, we are
conscious of it in the form of change, is beyond all
manner of doubt. Consciousness of time is the factual
experience, as conditions of whose possibility the a priori
factors are transcendentally proved. In so far as they can be

1 Kant's failure either to distinguish or to connect the two deductions in any
really clear and consistent manner is a defect which is accentuated rather than
diminished in the second edition. Though the sections devoted to the subjective
enquiry are omitted, and the argument of the objective deduction is so recast as
to increase the emphasis laid upon its more strictly logical aspects, the teaching
of the subjective deduction is retained and influences the argument at every point.
For the new deduction, no less than that of the first edition, rests throughout
upon the initial assumption that though connection or synthesis can never be
given, it is yet the generative source of all consciousness of order and relation.



shown to be its indispensable conditions, its mere existence
proves their reality. And such in effect is the ultimate
character of Kant's proof of the objective validity of the
categories. They are proved in that it is shown that only in
and through them is consciousness of time possible.

The argument gains immeasurably in clearness when
this is recognised ; l and the deduction of the first edition of
the Critique, in spite of its contorted character, remains in
my view superior to that of the second edition owing to this
more explicit recognition of the temporal aspect of conscious-
ness and to employment of it as the initial starting-point.
Analysis at once reveals that though consciousness of time
is undeniably actual, it is conditioned in complex ways,
and that among the conditions indispensably necessary to
its possibility are both consciousness of self and consciousness
of an objective order of existence. Starting from the
undeniable we are thus brought to the problematic ; but
owing to the factual character of the starting-point we can
substantiate what would otherwise remain open to question.

As this method of formulating Kant's argument gives
greater prominence to the temporal factor than Kant himself
does in his statement of the deductions, the reader may very
rightly demand further evidence that I am not, by this
procedure, setting the deductions in a false or arbitrary
perspective. Any statement of Kant's position in other than
his own ipsissima verba is necessarily, in large part, a matter
of interpretation, and proof of its correctness must ultimately
consist in the success with which it can be applied in unravel-
ling the manifold strands that compose his tortuous and many-
sided argument ; but the following special considerations may
be cited in advance. Those parts of the Critique, such as the
chief paragraphs of the subjective deduction and the chapter
on Schematism, which are demonstrably late in date of writing,
agree in assigning greater prominence to the temporal aspect
of experience. This is also true of those numerous passages
added in the second edition which deal with inner sense. All
of these show an increasing appreciation of the central role
which time must play in the Critical enquiries. Secondly,
proof of the validity of specific categories is given, as we shall
find, 2 not in the objective deduction of the Analytic of Concepts,
but only in the Analytic of Principles. What Kant gives in
the former is only the quite general demonstration that forms
of unity, such as are involved in all judgment, are demanded

1 It appears most clearly in Kant's proof of the category of causality in the
second Analogy. Cf. below, p. 364 ff.

2 Cf. below, pp. 252-3, 258, 287, 333, 343.


for the possibility of experience. Now when proof of the
specific categories does come, in the Analytic of Principles, it
is manifestly based on the analysis of time-experience. In
the three Analogies, for example, Kant's demonstration of the
objective validity of the categories of relation consists in the
proof that they are necessary conditions of the possibility of
our time-consciousness. That is to say, the transcendental
method of proof, when developed in full detail, in reference
to some specific category, agrees with the formulation which
I have given of the subjective and objective deductions. In
the third place, Kant started from a spiritualist standpoint,
akin to that of Leibniz, 1 and only very gradually broke away
from the many illegitimate assumptions which it involves.
But this original starting-point reveals its persisting influence
in the excessive emphasis which Kant continued to lay upon
the unity of apperception. He frequently speaks 2 as if it were
an ultimate self-justifying principle, by reference to which the
validity of all presupposed conditions can be established.
But that, as I have already argued, is a legitimate method of
procedure only if it has previously been established that self-
consciousness is involved in all consciousness, that is, involved
even in consciousness of sequence and duration. And as just
stated, the deductions of specific categories, given in the Ana-
lytic of Principles, fulfil these requirements of complete proof.
They start from the time-consciousness, not from apperception.

I shall now summarise these introductory discussions in a
brief tabulated outline of the main steps in the argument of
the two deductions, and shall add a concluding note upon
their interconnection.

Subjective Deduction. i. Consciousness of time is an
experience whose actuality cannot be questioned ; by its
actuality it will therefore establish the reality of everything
that can be proved to be its indispensable condition.

2. Among the conditions indispensably necessary to all
consciousness of time are synthetic processes whereby the
contents of consciousness, occurring in successive moments,
are combined and unified. These processes are processes of
apprehension, reproduction, and recognition.

3. Recognition, in turn, is conditioned by self-consciousness.

4. As no consciousness is possible without self-conscious-
ness, the synthetic processes must have completed themselves
before such self-consciousness is possible, and consequently
are not verifiable by introspection but only by hypothetical

1 Cf. above, p. 208 ff.
a Cf. above, pp. 1-ii, 207-12; below, pp. 260-3, 2 72-3> 327-8, 473-7, $*$-


[i, 2, 3, and 4 are steps which can be stated inde-
pendently of the argument of the objective deduction.]

5. Self-consciousness presupposes consciousness of objects,
and consciousness of objects presupposes the synthetic
activities of productive imagination whereby the matter of
sense is organised in accordance with the categories. These
productive activities also are verifiable only by conjectural
inference, and only upon their completion can consciousness
of any kind make its appearance.

6. Consciousness of self and consciousness of objects thus
alike rest upon a complexity of non-phenomenal conditions.
For anything that critical analysis can prove to the contrary,
consciousness and personality may not be ultimates. They
may be resultants due to realities fundamentally different
from themselves.

[5 is a conclusion obtained only by means of the argument
of the objective deduction. 6 is a further conclusion, first
explicitly drawn by Kant in the Dialectic.}

Objective Deduction. i. The starting-point coincides with
that of the subjective deduction. Consciousness of time is an
experience by whose actuality we can establish the reality of
its indispensable conditions.

2. Among the conditions necessary to all consciousness of
time is self-consciousness.

3. Self-consciousness, in turn, is itself conditioned by
consciousness of objects.

4. Consciousness of objects is possible only if the cate-
gories have validity within the sphere of sense-experience.

5. Conclusion. The empirical validity of the categories,
and consequently the empirical validity of our consciousness
alike of the self and of objects, must be granted as a conditio
sine qua non of our consciousness of time. They are the
indispensable conditions of that fundamental experience.

As above stated, 1 the preliminary stages of the subjective
deduction prepare the way for the argument of the objective
deduction, while the results obtained by the latter render
possible the concluding steps of the former. That is to say,
the objective deduction has to be intercalated midway between
the opening and the concluding stages of the subjective
deduction. It may also be observed that whereas the
objective deduction embodies the main positive teaching of
the Analytic^ in that it establishes the possibility of natural
science and of a metaphysics of experience, the subjective
deduction is more directly concerned with the subject-matter
of the Dialectic^ reinforcing, as it does, the more negative

1 P. 239.


consequences which follow from the teaching of the objective
deduction the impossibility of transcendent speculation. It
stands in peculiarly close connection with the teaching of the
section on the Paralogisms. We may now proceed to a
detailed statement of the argument of the two deductions.


In the opening of the subjective deduction Kant is careful
to give due prominence to the temporal aspect of our human

"... all the contents of our knowledge are ultimately subject
to the formal condition of inner sense, that is, to time, as that wherein
they must all be ordered, connected, and brought into relation to
one another. This is a general remark which the reader must
bear in mind as being a fundamental presupposition of my entire
argument." 1

Consciousness of time is thus the starting-point of the
deduction. Analysis reveals it as highly complex ; and the
purpose of the deduction is to discover, and, as far as may be
possible, to define its various conditions. The argument can
best be expounded by reference to a single concrete example
say, our experience of a series of contents, a, b> c, d, e, f,
as in succession to one another and as together making up
the total six. In order that such an experience may be
possible the successive members of the series must be held
together simultaneously before the mind. Obviously, if the
earlier members dropped out of consciousness before the mind
reached /, / could not be apprehended as having followed
upon them. There must be a synthesis of apprehension of
the successive items.

Such a synthesis of apprehension is, however, only
possible through reproduction of the earlier experiences. If
when the mind has passed from a to f t f is apprehended as
having followed upon a, b, c, d> e } such consciousness is only
possible in so far as these earlier contents are reproduced in
image. Synthesis of apprehension is conditioned by synthesis
of reproduction in imagination.

" But if the preceding representations (the first parts of [a] line,
the earlier moments of time or the units represented in sequent
order) were always to drop out of my thought, and were not repro-
duced when I advance to those that follow, no complete representa-
tion, and none of all the aforementioned thoughts, not even the purest
and first basal representations of space and time, could ever arise." 2

1 A 99. 2 A 102.


In order, however, that the reproduced images may fulfil
their function, they must be recognised as standing for or
representing contents which the self has just experienced.

"Without the consciousness that what we are thinking is the
same as what we thought a moment before, all reproduction in the
series of representations would be in vain." l

Each reproduced image would in its present state be a
new experience, and would not help in the least towards
gaining consciousness of order or number in the succes-
sion of our experiences. Recognition is, therefore, a third
form of synthesis, indispensably necessary to consciousness
of time. But further, the recognition is recognition of a
succession as forming a unity or whole, and that unity is
always conceptual.

" The word concept (JBtgriff) might of itself have suggested this
remark. For it is this unitary consciousness which unites into a single
representation a manifold that has been successively intuited and then
subsequently reproduced." 2 " If in counting I forgot that the units
. . . have been added to one another in succession, I should never
recognise what the sum-total is that is being produced through the
successive addition of unit to unit ; and so would remain ignorant
of the number. For the concept of this number is nothing but the
consciousness of this unity of synthesis." 3

The synthesis of recognition is thus a synthesis which
takes place in and through empirical concepts. In the instance
which we have chosen, the empirical concept is that of the
number six.

The analysis, however, is not yet complete. Just as
reproduction conditions apprehension and both rest on recog-
nition, so in turn recognition presupposes a still further condi-
tion, namely, self-consciousness. For it is obvious, once the
fact is pointed out, that the recognition of reproduced images as
standing for past experiences can only be possible in so far as
there is an abiding self which is conscious of its identity
throughout the succession. Such an act of recognition is,
indeed, merely one particular form or concrete instance of
self-consciousness. The unity of the empirical concept in
and through which recognition takes place finds its indispens-
able correlate in the unity of an empirical self. Thus an
analysis of our consciousness, even though conducted wholly
on the empirical level, that is, without the least reference to
the a priori, leads by simple and cogent argument to the

1 A 103. 2 Loc. cit. 3 Loc. dt.


conclusion that it is conditioned by complex synthetic pro-
cesses, and that these syntheses in turn presuppose a unity
which finds twofold expression for itself, objectively through
a concept and subjectively in self-consciousness.

So far I have stated the argument solely in reference to
serial consciousness. Kant renders his argument needlessly
complex and diminishes its force by at once extending it so
as to cover the connected problem, how we become aware of
objects. This occurs in the section on the synthesis of repro-
duction. An analysis of our consciousness of objects, as
distinct from consciousness of the immediately successive,
forces us to postulate further empirical conditions. Since
the reproductive imagination, to whose agency the apprehen-
sion of complex unitary existences is psychologically due,
acts through the machinery of association, it presupposes
constancy in the apprehended manifold.

"If cinnabar were sometimes red, sometimes black, sometimes
light, sometimes heavy, if a man changed sometimes into this and
sometimes into that animal form, if the country on the longest day
were sometimes covered with fruits, sometimes with ice and snow,
my empirical imagination would never even have occasion when
representing red colour to bring to mind heavy cinnabar. . . ." l [

This passage may be compared with the one which occurs
in the section on the synthesis of recognition. Our repre-
sentations, in order to constitute knowledge, must have the
unity of some concept ; the manifold cannot be apprehended
save in so far as this is possible.

"All knowledge demands a concept, though that concept may
be quite imperfect or obscure. But a concept is always, as regards
its form, something general which serves as a rule. The concept
of body, for instance, as the unity of the manifold which is thought
through it, serves as a rule to our knowledge of outer appearances.
... It necessitates in the perception of something outside us the
representation of extension, and therewith the representations of
impenetrability, form, etc." 2

So far the deduction still moves on the empirical level.
When Kant, however, proceeds to insist 3 that this empirical
postulate itself rests upon a transcendental condition, the
argument is thrown into complete confusion, and the reader
is bewildered by the sudden anticipation of one of the most
difficult and subtle conclusions of the objective deduction.
The same confusion is also caused throughout these sections
as a whole by Kant's description of the various syntheses as

1 A 100-1. 2 A 106. 8 A 101.


being transcendental. 1 They cannot properly be so described.
The concepts referred to as unifying the syntheses, and the
self-consciousness which is proved to condition the syntheses,
are all empirical. They present themselves in concrete form,
and presuppose characteristics due to the special contingent
nature of the given manifold ; as Kant states in so many
words in the second edition.

" Whether I can become empirically conscious cf the manifold
as simultaneous or as successive depends on circumstances or
empirical conditions. The empirical unity of consciousness, through
association of representations, therefore itself relates to an appear-
ance, and is wholly contingent." 2

The argument in these preliminary stages of the subjective
deduction, in so far as it is employed to yield proof that all
consciousness involves the unity of concepts and the unity of
self- consciousness, is independent of any reference to the
categories, and consequently to transcendental conditions.
In accordance with the plan of exposition above stated, we
may now pass to the objective deduction.


The transition from the preliminary stages of the subjective
deduction to the objective deduction may be made by further
analysis either of the objective unity of empirical concepts or
of the subjective unity of empirical self-consciousness. It is
the former line which the argument of the first edition follows.
Kant is asking what is meant by an object corresponding
to our representations, 3 and answers by his objective deduc-
tion. He substitutes the empirical for the transcendental
object, 4 and in so doing propounds one of the central and
most revolutionary tenets of the Critical philosophy. Exist-
ence takes a threefold, not a merely dual form. Besides
representations and things in themselves, there exist the
objects of our representations the extended world of ordinary

1 Such statements are in direct conflict with his own repeated assertions in
other passages that reproduction and recognition are always merely empirical.
Cf. above, pp. 227-31, and below, pp. 264, 268-9.

2 B 139-40.

3 In the first edition the subjective and objective deductions shade into one
another ; and this question is raised in the section on synthesis of recognition
(A 104), where, as above noted (p. 204 ft.), Kant's argument is largely pre-Critical,
empirical concepts exercising the functions which Kant later ascribed to the
categories. But as we have already considered the resulting doctrine of the
transcendental object both in its earlier and in its subsequent form, we may at
once pass to the more mature teaching of the other sections.

4 Cf. above, p. 204 ff.


experience and of science. Such a threefold distinction is
prefigured in the Leibnizian metaphysics, and is more or less
native to every philosophy that is genuinely speculative.
Kant himself claims Plato as his philosophical progenitor.
The originality is not in the bare thesis, but in the fruitful,
tenacious, and consistent manner in which it is developed
through detailed analysis of our actual experience.

In its first stages the argument largely coincides with the
argument of the paragraphs which deal with the transcendental
object. When we examine the objective, we find that the
primary characteristic distinguishing it from the subjective is
that it lays a compulsion upon our minds, constraining us to
think about it in a certain way. By an object -is meant some-
thing which will not allow us to think at haphazard. Cinnabar
is an object which constrains us to think it as heavy and red.
An object is thus the external source of a necessity to which
our thinking has to conform. The two arguments first begin
to diverge when Kant sets himself to demonstrate that our
consciousness of this external necessity is made possible by
categories which originate from within.

For this conclusion Kant prepares the way by an analysis
of the second main characteristic constitutive of an object, viz.
its unity. This unity is of a twofold nature, involving either
the category of substance and attribute or the category of
cause and effect. The two categories are ultimately insepar-
able, but lead us to conceive the object in two distinct modes.
When we interpret an object through the a priori concept of
substance and attribute, we assert that all the contents of our
perceptions of it are capable of being regarded as qualities of
one and the same identical substance. No one of its qualities
can be incongruent with any other, and all of them together,
in their unity, must be expressive of its substantial nature.

The causal interpretation of the object is, however, the
more important, and is that which is chiefly emphasised by
Kant. It is, indeed, simply a further and more adequate
mode of expressing the substantial unity of the object. All
the qualities must be causally bound up with one another in
such a way that the nature of each is determined by the
nature of all the others, and that if any one quality be
changed all the others must undergo corresponding alterations.
Viewed in this manner, in terms of the category of causality,
an object signifies a necessitated combination of interconnected
qualities or effects. But since no such form of necessita-
tion can be revealed in the manifold of sense, our conscious-
ness of compulsion cannot originate from without, and must
be due to those a priori forms which, though having their


source within, control and direct our interpretation of the
given. Though the objective compulsion is not itself due to
the mind, our consciousness of it has this mental a priori
source. The concept of an object consists in the thought of
a manifold so determined in its specific order and groupings
as to be interpretable in terms of the categories of substance
and causality.

But the problem of the deduction proper is not yet raised.
On the one hand, Kant has defined what the concept of
the objective must be taken as involving, and on the other,
has pointed out that since the given as given is an uncon-
nected manifold, any categories through which it may be
interpreted must be of independent origin ; but it still
remains to be proved that the above is a valid as well as a
possible mode of construing the given appearances. The
categories, as a priori concepts, originate from within. By
what right may we assert that they not only relate to

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 32 of 72)