Norman Kemp Smith.

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

. (page 34 of 72)
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synthesis. It is no sufficient proof that those forms of relation
coincide with the categories. As we shall find in consider-
ing the deduction of the second edition, Kant to some
extent came to recognise the existence of this gap in his
argument and sought to supply the missing steps. But his
method of so doing still ultimately consists in an appeal to
the results of the metaphysical deduction, and therefore rests
upon his untenable belief in the adequacy of formal logic. It
fails to obviate the objection in any satisfactory manner.

As regards the negative aspect of the conclusion reached
that the validity of the categories is established only for
appearances Kant maintains that this is a necessary corollary
of their validity being a priori. That things in themselves
must conform to the conditions demanded by the nature of
our self-consciousness is altogether impossible of proof. Even
granting, what is indeed quite possible, that things in them-
selves embody the pure forms of understanding, we still
cannot have any ground for maintaining that they must do
so of necessity and will be found to. do so universally. For
even if we could directly experience things in themselves,
and apprehend them as conforming to the categories, such
conformity would still be known only as contingent. But
when it is recognised that nature consists for us of nothing
but appearances, existing only in the mode in which they are
experienced, and therefore as necessarily conforming to the
conditions under which experience is alone possible, the
paradoxical aspect of the apriority ascribed to the categories
at once vanishes. Proof of their a priori validity presupposes
the phenomenal character of the objects to which they apply.
They can be proved to be universal and necessarily valid of
objects only in so far as it can be shown that they have

1 Cf. A 128. On this whole question cf. above, p. 242 ; below, pp. 287-8.


antecedently conditioned and constituted them. The sole
sufficient reason for asserting them to be universally valid
throughout experience is that they are indispensably necessary
for rendering it possible. 1 The transcendental method of
proof, i.e. proof by reference to the very possibility of experi-
ence, is for this reason, as Kant so justly emphasises, the sole
type of argument capable of fulfilling the demands which
have to be met. It presupposes, and itself enforces, the
truth of the fundamental Critical distinction between appear-
ances and things in themselves.

Kant entitles the unity of apperception original
(urspriinglicfi) ; 2 and we may now consider how far and in what
sense this title is applicable. 3 From the point of view of
method there is the same justification for employing the term
* original ' as for entitling the unity of apperception transcend-
ental. 4 Self-consciousness is more fundamental or original
than consciousness of objects, in so far as 5 it is only from the
subjective standpoint which it represents that the objective
deduction can demonstrate the necessity of synthesis, and
the empirical validity of the pure forms of understanding.
It is as a condition of the possibility of self-consciousness
that the objective employment of the categories is proved to
be legitimate. In the development of the deduction self-
consciousness is, therefore, more original than consciousness
of objects. Kant's employment of the term is, however,
extremely misleading. For it would seem to imply that
the self has been proved to be original or ultimate in an
ontological sense, as if it preceded experience, and through
its antecedent reality rendered objective experience possible
of achievement. Such a view is undoubtedly reinforced by
Kant's transformation of apperception into a faculty das
Radicalvermbgen alter unsrer Erkenntniss* and his conse-
quent identification of it with the understanding. 7 It then
seems as if he were maintaining that the transcendental ego
is ultimate and is independent of all conditions, and that to
its synthetic activities the various forms of objective conscious-
ness are due. 8

This unfortunate phraseology is directly traceable to the
spiritualistic or Leibnizian character of Kant's earlier stand-
point. In the Dissertation the self is viewed as an ultimate

1 Cf. A 113, 125-9. 2 A 107, in.

3 The explanation given in the second edition (B 132) is artificial, and does
not reveal Kant's real reasons. It is also obscure owing to its employment of
dynamical terms to denote the relation of apperception to self-consciousness.

4 Cf. above, pp. 251-3. 5 Cf. A 112, 113, 128.

8 A 114. 7 A 94, 115, 118. Cf. also end of note to B 134.

8 Cf. above, pp. lii, 207-12, 243 ; below, pp. 327-8, 473-7, 515.



nd unconditioned existence, antecedent to experience and
creatively generative of it. We have already noted that a
somewhat similar view is presented in the Critique in those
paragraphs which Vaihinger identifies as embodying the
earliest stage in the development of the argument of the
deduction. The self is there described as coming to con-
sciousness of its permanence through reflection upon the
constancy of its own synthetic activities. Our consciousness
of a transcendental object, and even the possibility of the
empirical concepts through which such consciousness is, in
these paragraphs, supposed to be mediated, are traced to this
same source. To the last this initial excess of emphasis upon
the unity of apperception remained characteristic of Kant's
Critical teaching ; and though in the later statements of his
theory, its powers and prerogatives were very greatly dimin-
ished, it still continued to play a somewhat exaggerated rdle.
The early spiritualistic views were embodied in a terminology
which he continued to employ ; and unless the altered meaning
of his terms is recognised and allowed for, misunderstanding
is bound to result. The terms, having been forged under the
influence of the older views, are but ill adapted to the newer
teaching which they are employed to formulate.

There was also a second influence at work. When Kant
was constrained in the light of his new and unexpected results
to recognise his older views as lacking in theoretical justifica-
tion, he still held to them in his own personal thinking.
For there is ample evidence that they continued to repre-
sent his Privatmeinungen?-

Only, therefore, when these misleading influences, verbal,
expository, and personal, are discounted, do the results of the
deduction appear in their true proportions. Kant's Critical
philosophy does not profess to prove that it is self-conscious-
ness, or apperception, or a transcendental ego, or anything
describable in kindred terms, which ultimately renders ex-
perience possible. The most that we can legitimately postu-
late, as noumenally conditioning experience, are " syntheses "
(themselves, in their generative character, not definable) 2 in
accordance with the categories. For only upon the completion
of such syntheses do consciousness of self and consciousness
of objects come to exist. Consciousness of objects does,
indeed, according to the argument of the deduction, involve
consciousness of self; self-consciousness is the form of all
consciousness. But, by the same argument, it is equally true

1 This is shown, not only by Kant's ethical writings, but also by his less
formal utterances, especially in his Lectures on Metaphysics and on Religion, in
his Reflexionen, and in his Lose Blatter. 2 Cf. below, pp. 277-8.


that only in and through consciousness of objects is any self-
consciousness possible at all. Consciousness of self and con-
sciousness of objects mutually condition one another. Only
through consciousness of both simultaneously can conscious-
ness of either be attained. Self-consciousness is not demon-
strably in itself any more ultimate or original than is con-
sciousness of objects. Both alike are forms of experience
which are conditioned in complex ways. Upon the question
as to whether or not there is any such thing as abiding
personality, the transcendental deduction casts no direct
light. Indeed consciousness of self, as the more inclusive
and complex form of awareness, may perhaps be regarded
as pointing to a greater variety of contributory and genera-
tive conditions.

Unfortunately Kant, for the reasons just stated, has not
sufficiently emphasised this more negative, or rather non-
committal, aspect of the results of the deduction. But when
later in the chapter on the Paralogisms he is brought face to
face with the issue, and has occasion to pronounce upon the
question, he speaks with no uncertain voice, In the theoretical
sphere there is, he declares, no sufficient proof of the spirituality,
or unitary and ultimate character, of the self. Like everything
else the unity of apperception must be noumenally conditioned,
but it cannot be shown that in itself, as self -consciousness or
apperception, it represents any noumenal reality. It may be
a resultant, resting upon, and due to, a complexity of genera-
tive conditions ; and these conditions may be fundamentally
different in character from itself. They may, for all that we
can prove to the contrary, be of a non-conscious and non-
personal nature. There is nothing in our cognitive experi-
ence, arid no result of the Critical analysis of it, which is
inconsistent with such a possibility. 1 Those commentators,
such as Cohen, Caird, and Watson, who more or less follow
Hegel in his criticism of Kant's procedure, give an interpreta-
tion of the transcendental deduction which makes it in-
consistent with the sceptical conclusions which the Critique
as a whole is made by its author to support. Unbiassed
study of the Analytic, even if taken by itself in independence
of the Dialectic, does not favour such a view. The argument
of the transcendental deduction itself justifies no more than
Kant is willing to allow in his discussion of the nature of
the self in the section on the Paralogisms. It may, indeed,
as Caird has so forcibly shown in his massive work upon the
Critical philosophy, be developed upon Hegelian lines, but
only through a process of essential reconstruction which
1 Cf. above, pp. 1-lii ; below, pp. 277 ff., 461-2, 473-7.


departs very far from many of Kant's most cherished tenets,
and which does so in a spirit that radically conflicts with that
which dominates the Critique as a whole.


The reader will have noted that several of the factors in
Kant's exposition have so far been entirely ignored. The
time has now come for reckoning with them. They consti-
tute, in my view, the later stages of the subjective deduction.
That is to say, they refer to the transcendental generative
powers which Kant, on the strength of the results obtained
in the more objective enquiry, feels justified in postulating.
Separate consideration of them tends to clearness of state-
ment. Kant's constant alternation between the logical and
the dynamical standpoints is one of the many causes of the
obscurity in his argument. In this connection we shall also
find opportunity to discuss the fundamental conflict, to which
I have already had occasion to refer, between the subjectivist
and the phenomenalist modes of developing the Critical

The conclusions arrived at in the objective deduction
compelled Kant to revise his previous psychological views.
Hitherto he had held to the Leibnizian theory that a priori
concepts are obtained by reflection upon the mind's native and
fundamental modes of action. In the Dissertation he carefully
distinguishes between the logical and the real employment of
the understanding. Through the former empirical concepts are
derived from concrete experience. Through the latter pure
concepts are creatively generated. Logical and real thinking
agree, however, Kant there argues, in being activities of the
conscious mind. Both can be apprehended and adequately
determined through the revealing power of reflective conscious-
ness. Such a standpoint is no longer tenable for Kant. Now
that he has shown that the consciousness of self and the con-
sciousness of objects mutually condition one another, and that
until both are attained neither is possible, he can no longer
regard the mind as even possibly conscious of the activities
whereby experience is brought about. The activities generative
of consciousness have to be recognised as themselves falling
outside it. Not even in its penumbra, through some vague
form of apprehension, can they be detected. Only the finished
products of such activities, not the activities themselves, can
be presented to consciousness ; and only by general reasoning,


inferential of agencies that lie outside the conscious field, can
we hope to determine them.

Now Kant appears to have been unwilling to regard
the * understanding ' as ever unconscious of its activities.
Why he was unwilling, it does not seem possible to explain ;
at most his rationalist leanings and Wolffian training may be
cited as contributing causes. To the end he continued to
speak of the understanding as the faculty whereby the a priori
is brought to consciousness. In order to develop the distinc-
tions demanded by the new Critical attitude, he had therefore
to introduce a new faculty, capable of taking over the activities
which have to be recognised as non-conscious. For this
purpose he selected the imagination, giving to it the special
title, productive imagination. The empirical reproductive
processes hitherto alone recognised by psychologists are not,
he declares, exhaustive of the nature of the imagination. It
is also capable of transcendental activity, and upon this the
"objective affinity" of appearances and the resulting possi-
bility of their empirical apprehension is made to rest. The
productive imagination is also viewed as rendering possible
the understanding, that is, the conscious apprehension of the
a priori as an element embedded in objective experience.
Such apprehension is possible because in the pre-conscious
elaboration of the given manifold the productive imagination
has conformed to those a priori principles which the under-
standing demands for the possibility of its own exercise in
conscious apprehension. Productive imagination acts in the
manner required to yield experiences which are capable of
relation to the unity of self-consciousness, i.e. of being found
to conform to the unity of the categories. Why it should act
in this manner cannot be explained ; but it is none the less,
on Critical principles, a legitimate assumption, since only in
so far as it does so can experience, which de facto exists, be
possible in any form. As a condition sine qua non of actual
and possible experience, the existence of such a faculty is,
-Kant argues, a legitimate inference from the results of the
transcendental deduction.

Though Kant's insistence upon the conscious character of
understanding compels him to distinguish between it and the
imagination, he has also to recognise their kinship. If
imagination can never act save in conformity with the a priori
forms of understanding, some reason must exist for their
harmony. This twofold necessity of at once distinguishing
and connecting them is the cause of the hesitating and
extremely variable account which in both editions of the
Critique is given of their relation. In several passages the


understanding is spoken of as simply imagination which has
attained to consciousness of its activities. 1 Elsewhere he
explicitly states that they are distinct and separate. From
this second point of view Kant regards imagination as
mediating between sense and understanding, and, though
reducible to neither, akin to both.

Only on one point is Kant clear and definite, namely, that
it is to productive imagination that the generation of unified
experience is primarily due. In it something of the fruitful
and inexhaustible character of noumenal reality is traceable.
Doubtless one chief reason for his choice of the title imagina-
tion is the creative character which in popular thought has
always been regarded as its essential feature. As Kant,
speaking of schematism, which is a process executed by the
imagination, states in A 141 : "This schematism ... is an
art \Kunsf] concealed in the depths of the human soul." 2
This description may perhaps be interpreted in the light of
Kant's account of the creative character of artistic genius
in the Critique of Judgment, for there also imagination figures
as the truly originative or creative faculty of the human
spirit. To its noumenal character we may also trace its
capacity of combining those factors of sense and understand-
ing which in the realm of appearance remain persistently
opposed. 3 Imagination differs from the understanding chiefly
in that it is at once more comprehensive and also more truly
creative. It supplements the functional forms with a sensuous
content, and applies them dynamically in the generation of

The schemata, which the productive imagination is sup-
posed to construct, are those generalised forms of temporal
and spatial existence in which alone the unity of experience
necessary to apperception can be realised. They are

" pure (without admixture of anything empirical), and yet are in one
aspect intellectual and in another sensuous." 4

Or as Kant describes the process in the chapter before us : 5

"We name the synthesis of the manifold in imagination
transcendental, if without distinction of intuitions it is directed
exclusively to the a priori combination of the manifold; and the
unity of this synthesis is entitled transcendental, if it is represented
as a priori necessary in relation to the original unity of apperception.

1 In note to B 162 they are indeed identified.

2 Kant's vacillating attitude appears in the added phrase "of whose activity
we are hardly ever conscious." Cf. A 78 : it is a " blind " power.

3 Cf. above, p. 225 ; below, p. 337.

4 A 138 = 6 177. 5 A 118.


As this unity of apperception conditions the possibility of all
knowledge, the transcendental unity of the synthesis of imagination
is the pure form of all possible knowledge. Hence, through it all
objects of possible experience must be represented a priori"

The schemata, thus transcendentally generated, are
represented by Kant as limiting and controlling the empirical
processes of apprehension, reproduction, and recognition. As
no experience is attainable save in terms of the schemata,
they enable us to determine, on a priori grounds, the degree
of constancy and regularity that can be securely counted
upon in all experience. This is Kant's psychological explana-
tion of what he has entitled " objective affinity." l The
empirical ground of reproduction is the association of ideas ;
its transcendental ground is an objective affinity which is " a
necessary consequence of a synthesis in imagination, grounded
a priori on rules." 2

" [The] subjective and empirical ground of reproduction according
to rules is named the association of representations. If this unity of
association did not also have an objective ground, which makes it
impossible that appearances should be apprehended by the imagina-
tion except under the condition of a possible synthetic unity of this
apprehension, it would be entirely accidental that appearances should
fit into a connected whole of human knowledge. . . . There might
exist a multitude of perceptions, and indeed an entire sensibility, in
which much empirical consciousness would arise in my mind, but
in a state of separation, and without belonging to one consciousness
of myself. That, however, is impossible." [As the subjective and
objective deductions have demonstrated, where there is no self-
consciousness there is no consciousness of any kind.] "There
must therefore be an objective ground (that is, one that can be
determined a priori^ antecedently to all empirical laws of the im-
agination) upon which may rest the possibility, nay, the necessity
of a law that extends to all appearances the law, namely, that all
appearances must be regarded as data of the senses which are
associable in themselves and subject to general rules of universal
connection in their reproduction. This objective ground of all
association of appearances I entitle their affinity. . . . The objective
unity of all empirical consciousness in one consciousness, that of
original apperception, is the necessary condition of all possible
perception ; and the affinity of all appearances, near or remote, is
a necessary consequence of a synthesis in imagination which is
grounded a priori on rules." 3

This part of Kant's teaching is apt to seem more obscure
than it is. For the reader is not unnaturally disinclined to

1 Cf. above, p. 253 ff. 2 A 123. 3 A 121-3.


accept it in the very literal sense in which it is stated. That
Kant means, however, exactly what he says, appears from
the further consequence which he himself not only recognises
as necessary, but insists upon as valid. The doctrine of
objective affinity culminates in the conclusion : that it is " we
ourselves who introduce into the appearances that order and
regularity which we name nature." The " we ourselves "
refers to the mind in the transcendental activities of the
productive imagination. The conscious processes of appre-
hension, reproduction, and recognition necessarily conform to
schemata, non - consciously generated, which express the
combined a priori conditions of intuition and understanding
required for unitary consciousness.

Many points in this strange doctrine call for consideration.
It rests, in the first place, upon the assumption of a hard and
fast distinction, very difficult of acceptance, between transcend-
ental and empirical activities of the mind. Secondly, Kant's
assertion, that the empirical manifolds can be relied upon to
supply a satisfactory content for the schemata, calls for more
adequate justification than he himself adduces. It is upon
independent reality that the fixity of empirical co-existences
and sequences depends. Is not Kant practically assuming
a pre-established harmony in asserting that as the mind
creates the form of nature it can legislate a priori for all
possible experience ?

As regards the first assumption Kant would seem to
have been influenced by the ambiguities of the term transcend-
ental. It means, as we have already noted, 2 either the
science of the a priori, or the a priori itself, or the conditions
which render experience possible. Even the two latter
meanings by no means coincide. The conditions of the
possibility of experience are not in all cases a priori. The
manifold of outer sense is as indispensable a precondition of
experience as are the forms of understanding, and yet is not
a priori in any valid sense of that term. It does not, therefore,
follow that because the activities of productive imagination
" transcendentally " condition experience, they must them-
selves be a priori, and must, as Kant also maintains, 3 deal
with a pure a priori manifold. Further, the separation
between transcendental and empirical activities of the mind
must defeat the very purpose for which the productive
imagination is postulated, namely, in order to account for the
generation of a complex consciousness in which no one
element can temporally precede any of the others. If the
productive imagination generates only schemata, it will not
1 A 125-6. 2 Above, pp. 74 ff., 238, 252. 3 Cf. above, pp. 96-7.


account for that complex experience in which consciousness
of self and consciousness of objects are indissolubly united.
The introduction of the productive imagination seems at first
sight to promise recognition of the dynamical aspect of our
temporally sequent experience, and of that aspect in which
as appearance it refers us beyond itself to non-experienced
conditions. As employed, however, in the doctrines of
schematism and of objective affinity, the imagination exhibits
a formalism hardly less extreme than that of the understand-
ing whose shortcomings it is supposed to make good.

In his second assumption Kant, as so often in the Critique ',
is allowing his old-time rationalistic leanings to influence him
in underestimating the large part which the purely empirical
must always occupy in human experience, and in exaggerating

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 34 of 72)