Norman Kemp Smith.

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

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the scope of the inferences which can be drawn from the
presence of the formal, relational factors. But this is a point
which we are not yet in a position to discuss. 1

Fortunately, if Vaihinger's theory be accepted, 2 section
A 98-104 enables us to follow the movement of Kant's mind
in the interval between the formulating of the doctrine of
productive imagination and the publication of the Critique.
He himself would seem to have recognised the unsatisfactori-
ness of dividing up the total conditions of experience into
transcendental activities that issue in schemata, and supple-
mentary empirical processes which transform them into
concrete, specific consciousness. The alternative theory
which he proceeds to propound is at first sight much more
satisfactory. It consists in duplicating each of the various
empirical processes with a transcendental faculty. There are,
he now declares, three transcendental powers a transcend-
ental faculty of apprehension, a transcendental faculty of
reproduction ( = imagination), and a transcendental faculty of
recognition. Thus Kant's previous view that transcendental
imagination has a special and unique activity, namely, the
productive, altogether different in type from any of its
empirical processes, is now allowed to drop ; in place of it
Kant develops the view that the transcendental functions run
exactly parallel with the empirical processes. 3 But though
such a position may at first seem more promising than that
which it displaces, it soon reveals its unsatisfactoriness. The
two types of mental activity, transcendental and empirical, no
longer, indeed, fall apart ; but the difficulty now arises of
distinguishing in apprehension, reproduction, and recognition

1 Cf. below, pp. 367, 371-2.

2 Cf. above, pp. 211, 227, 233-4.

3 In direct contradiction of his previous view of transcendental imagination as
purely productive, it is now stated that it is reproductive. Cf. A 102.


any genuinely transcendental aspect. 1 Apprehension, repro-
duction, and recognition are so essentially conscious processes
that to view them as also transcendental does not seem
helpful. They contain elements that are transcendental in
the logical sense, but cannot be shown to presuppose in any
analogous fashion mental powers that are transcendental in
the dynamical sense. This is especially evident in regard to
recognition, which is described as being " the consciousness
that what we are thinking is the same as what we thought a
moment before." In dealing with apprehension and reproduc-
tion the only real difference which Kant is able to suggest, as
existing between their transcendental and their empirical activi-
ties, is that the former synthesise the pure a priori manifolds of
space and time, and the latter the contingent manifold of sense.
But even this unsatisfactory distinction he does not attempt to
apply in the case of recognition. Nor can we hold that by the
transcendental synthesis of recognition Kant means transcend-
ental apperception. That is, of course, the suggestion which -
at once occurs to the reader. But however possible it might
be to inject such a meaning into kindred passages elsewhere, it
cannot be made to fit the context of this particular section.

Vaihinger's theory seems to be the only thread which
will guide us through this labyrinth. Kant, on the eve of
the publication of the Critique, recognising the unsatisfactori-
ness of his hard and fast separation of transcendental from
empirical processes, adopted the view that some form of
transcendental activity corresponds to every fundamental
form of empirical activity and vice versa. Hastily developing
this theory, he incorporated it into the Critique alongside
his older doctrine. It does not, however, reappear in the
Prolegomena^ and its teaching is explicitly withdrawn in the
second edition of the Critique. Its plausibility had entrapped
him into its temporary adoption, but the defects which it very
soon revealed speedily led him to reject it.

One feature of great significance calls for special notice.
The breakdown of this doctrine of a threefold transcendental
synthesis did not, as might naturally have been expected
from what is stated in the prefaces to the Critique regarding
the unessential and seemingly conjectural character of the
subjective deduction, lead Kant to despair of developing a
transcendental psychology. Though in the second edition
he cuts away the sections containing the earlier stages of the
subjective deduction, 2 and in recasting the other sections

1 Cf. above, pp. 225 ff., 264.

2 It must be remembered that this was also rendered necessary by the archaic
character of their teaching in regard to the transcendental object and the function
of empirical concepts.


gives greater prominence to the more purely logical analyses,
the older doctrine of productive imagination is reinstated in
full force, 1 and is again developed in 2 connection with the
doctrine of pure a priori manifolds. Evidently, therefore,
Kant was not disheartened by the various difficulties which
lie in the path of a transcendental psychology, and it seems
reasonable to conclude that there were powerful reasons
inclining him to its retention. I shall now attempt, to the
best of my powers, to explain the task is a delicate and
difficult one what we may believe these reasons to have
been. 3


A wider set of considerations than we have yet taken into
account must be borne in mind if certain broader and really
vital implications of Kant's enquiry are to be properly viewed.
The self has a twofold aspect. It is at once animal in its
conditions and potentially universal in its powers of appre-
hension. Though man's natural existence is that of an
animal organism, he can have consciousness of the spatial
world out of which his organism has arisen, and of the wider
periods within which his transitory existence falls. Ultimately
such consciousness would seem to connect man cognitively
with reality as a whole. Now it is to this universal or
absolutist aspect of our consciousness, to its transcendence of
the embodied and separate self, that Kant is seeking to do
justice in his transcendental deductions, especially in his
doctrine of the transcendental unity of apperception. For he
views that apperception as conditioned by, and the correlate
of, the consciousness of objectivity. It involves the conscious-
ness of a single cosmical time and of a single cosmical space
within which all events fall and within which they form a
whole of causally interdependent existences. That is why
he names it the objective unity of apperception. It is that
aspect in which the self correlates with a wider reality, and
through which it stands in fundamental contrast to the
merely subjective states and to the individual conditions of
its animal existence. The transcendental self, so far from
being identical with the empirical self, would seem to be of
directly opposite nature. The one would seem to point

1 Cf. B 151-2. There is no mention, however, of objective affinity.

2 B 160-1. Cf. above, pp. 226-9.

3 In what follows I make use of an article, entitled " The Problem of Know-
ledge," which I have contributed to the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology , and
Scientific Methods (1912), vol. ix. pp. 113-28.


beyond the realm of appearance, the other to be in its existence
merely natural. The fact that they are inextricably bound
up with one another, and co-operate in rendering experience
possible, only makes the more indispensable the duty of
recognising their differing characters. Even should they
prove to be inseparable aspects of sense-experience, without
metaphysical implications, that would not obviate the necessity
of clearly distinguishing them. The distinction remains, what-
ever explanation may be adopted of its speculative or other

Now obviously in so fundamental an enquiry, dealing as
it does with the most complicated and difficult problem in
the entire field of metaphysics, no brief and compendious
answer can cover all the various considerations which are
relevant and determining. The problem of the deduction
being what it is, the section dealing with it can hardly fail
to be the most difficult portion of the whole Critique.
The conclusions at which it arrives rest not merely upon
the argument which it contains but also upon the results
more or less independently reached in the other sections.
The doctrine of the empirical object as appearance requires
for its development the various discussions contained in the
Aesthetic , in the sections on Inner Sense and on the Refuta-
tion of Idealism, in the chapters on Phenomena and Noumena
and on the Antinomies. The metaphysical consequences
and implications of Kant's teaching in regard to the tran-
scendental unity of apperception are first revealed in the
chapter on the Paralogisms. The view taken of productive
imagination is expanded in the section on Schematism. In a
word, the whole antecedent teaching of the Critique is focussed,
and the entire subsequent development of the Critical doctrine
is anticipated, in this brief chapter.

But there are, of course, additional causes of the difficulty
and obscurity of the argument. One such cause has already
been noted, namely, that ,the Critique is not a unitary work,
developed from a previously thought-out standpoint, but in
large part consists of manuscripts of very various dates,
artificially pieced together by the addition of connecting
links. In no part of the Critique is this so obvious as in the
Analytic of Concepts. Until this is recognised all attempts
to interpret the text in any impersonal fashion are doomed to
failure. For this reason I have prefaced our discussion by a
statement of Vaihinger's analysis. No one who can accept it
is any longer in danger of underestimating this particular
cause of the obscurity of Kant's deduction.

But the chief reason is one to which I have thus far made


only passing reference, and to which we may now give the
attention which its importance demands, namely, the tenta-
tive and experimental character of Kant's own final solutions.
The arguments of the deduction are only intelligible if viewed
as an expression of the conflicting tendencies to which Kant's
thought remained subject. He sought to allow due weight
to each of the divergent aspects of the experience which he
was analysing, and in so doing proceeded, as it would seem,
simultaneously along the parallel lines of what appeared to
be the possible, alternative methods of explanation. And
to the end tnese opposing tendencies continued side by
side, to the confusion of those readers who seek for a single
unified teaching, but to the great illumination of those who
are looking to Kant, not for clear-cut or final solutions,
but for helpful analysis and for partial disentanglement of
the complicated issues which go to constitute these baffling

The two chief tendencies which thus conflicted in Kant's
mind may be named the subjectivist and the phenomenalist
respectively. This conflict remained, so to speak, under-
ground, influencing the argument at every point, but seldom
itself becoming the subject of direct discussion. As we shall
find, it caused Kant to develop a twofold view of inner sense,
of causality, of the object of knowledge, and of the unity of
apperception. One of the few sections in the Critique where
it seems on the point of emerging into clear consciousness is
the section, added in the second edition, on the Refutation of
Idealism. But this section owes its origin to polemical causes.
It represents a position peculiar to the maturer portions of the
Analytic ; the rest of the Critique is not rewritten so as to
harmonise with it, or to develop the consequences which con-
sistent holding to it must involve.

I shall use the term subjectivism (and its equivalent sub-
jective idealism] in the wide sense * which makes it applicable
to the teaching of Descartes and Locke, of Leibniz and
Wolff, no less than to that of Berkeley and Hume. A
common element in all these philosophies is the belief that
subjective or mental states, " ideas " in the Lockean sense, are
the objects of consciousness, and further are the sole possible
objects of which it can have any direct or immediate aware-
ness. Knowledge is viewed as a process entirely internal to
the individual mind, and as carrying us further only in virtue
of some additional supervening process, inferential, conjectural,
or instinctive. This subjectivism also tends to combine with
a view of consciousness as an ultimate self-revealing property

1 The same wide sense in which Kant employs " empirical idealism."


of a merely individual existence. 1 For Descartes con-
sciousness is the very essence, both of the mind and of the
self. It is indeed asserted to be exhaustive of the nature of
both. Though the self is described as possessing a faculty
of will as well as a power of thinking, all its activities are
taken as being disclosed to the mind through the revealing
power of its fundamental attribute. The individual mind is
thus viewed as an existence in which everything takes place
in the open light of an all-pervasive consciousness. Leibniz,
it is true, taught the existence of subconscious perceptions,
and so far may seem to have anticipated Kant's recognition
of non - conscious processes ; but as formulated by Leibniz
that doctrine has the defect which frequently vitiates its
modern counterpart, namely that it represents the subcon-
scious as analogous in nature to the conscious, and as
differing from it only in the accidental features of intensity
and clearness, or through temporary lack of control
over the machinery of reproductive association. The sub-
conscious, as thus represented, merely enlarges the private
content of the individual mind ; it in no respect tran-
scends it.

The genuinely Critical view of the generative conditions
of experience is radically different from this Leibnizian
doctrine of petit es perceptions. It connects rather with
Leibniz's mode of conceiving the origin of a priori concepts.
But even that teaching it restates in such fashion as to free it
from subjectivist implications. Leibniz's contention that the
mind is conscious of its fundamental activities, and that it is
by reflection upon them that it gains all ultimate a priori
concepts, is no longer tenable in view of the conclusions
established in the objective 'deduction. Mental processes, in
so far as they are generative of experience, must fall out-
side the field of consciousness, and as activities dynamic-
ally creative cannot be of the nature of ideas or contents.
They are not subconscious ideas but non-conscious processes.
They are not the submerged content of experience, but its
conditioning grounds. Their most significant characteristic
has still, however, to be mentioned. They must no longer
be interpreted in subjectivist terms, as originating in the
separate existence of an individual self. In conditioning
experience they generate the only self for which experience
can vouch, and consequently, in the absence of full and inde-
pendent proof, must not be conceived as individually circum-

1 Cf. above, pp. xliii-v, 208 ; below, pp. 295-6, 298 ff. Hume and Spinoza
ire the only pre- Kantian thinkers of whose position the last statement is not
strictly descriptive, but even they failed to escape its entangling influence.



scribed. The problem of knowledge, properly conceived, is
no longer how consciousness, individually conditioned, can
lead us beyond its own bounds, but what a consciousness,
which is at once consciousness of objects and also conscious-
ness of a self, must imply for its possibility. Kant thus
obtains what is an almost invariable concomitant of scientific
and philosophical advance, namely a more correct and scientific
formulation of the problem to be solved. The older formula-
tion assumes the truth of the subjectivist standpoint ; the
Critical problem, when thus stated, is at least free from pre-
conceptions of that particular brand. Assumptions which
hitherto had been quite unconsciously held, or else, if reflected
upon, had been regarded as axiomatic and self-evident, are
now brought within the field of investigation. Kant thereby
achieves a veritable revolution ; and with it many of the
most far-reaching consequences of the Critical teaching are
closely bound up.

This new standpoint, in contrast to subjective idealism,
may be named Critical, or to employ the term which
Kant himself applies both to his transcendental deduc-
tion and to the unity of apperception, objective idealism.
But as the distinction between appearance and reality
is no less fundamental to the Critical attitude, we shall
perhaps be less likely to be misunderstood, or to seem to
be identifying Kant's standpoint with the very different
teaching of Hegel, if by preference we employ the title

In the transcendental deduction Kant, as above noted, is
seeking to do justice to the universal or absolutist aspect of
our consciousness, to its transcendence of the embodied and
separate self. The unity of apperception is entitled objective,
because it is regarded as the counterpart of a single cosmical
time and of a single cosmical space within which all events
fall. Its objects are not mental states peculiar to itself, nor
even ideal contents numerically distinct from those in other
minds. It looks out upon a common world of genuinely
independent existence. In developing this position Kant
is constrained to revise and indeed completely to recast
his previous views both as to the nature of the synthetic
processes, through which experience is constructed, and of
the given manifold, upon which they are supposed to act.
From the subjectivist point of view the synthetic activities
consist of the various cognitive processes of the individual
mind, and the given manifold consists of the sensations
aroused by material bodies acting upon the special senses.
From the objective or phenomenalist standpoint the syn-


thetic processes are of a noumenal character, and the given
manifold is similarly viewed as being due to noumenal
agencies acting, not upon the sense-organs, which as appear-
ances are themselves noumenally conditioned, but upon what
may be called " outer sense." These distinctions may first
be made clear.

Sensations, Kant holds, have a twofold origin, noumenal
and mechanical. They are due in the first place to the action
of things in themselves upon the noumenal conditions of the
self, and also in the second place to the action of material
bodies upon the sense-organs and brain. To take the latter
first. Light reflected from objects, and acting on the retina,
gives rise to sensations of colour. For such causal interrela-
tions there exists, Kant teaches, the same kind of empirical
evidence as for the causal interaction of material bodies. 1 Our
sensational experiences are as truly events in time as are
mechanical happenings in space. In this way, however, we
can account only for the existence of our sensations and for the
order in which they make their appearance in or to conscious-
ness, not for our awareness of them. To state the point by
means of an illustration. The impinging of one billiard ball
upon another accounts causally for the motion which then
appears in the second ball. But no one would dream of
asserting that by itself it accounts for our consciousness of
that second motion. We may contend that in an exactly
similar manner, to the same extent, no more and no less, the
action of an object upon the brain accounts only for the
occurrence of a visual sensation as an event in the empirical
time sequence. A sensation just as little as a motion can
carry its own consciousness with it. To regard that as ever
possible is ultimately to endow events in time with the
capacity of apprehending objects in space. In dealing with
causal connections in space and time we do not require to
discuss the problem of knowledge proper, namely, how it is
possible to have or acquire knowledge, whether of a motion in
space or of a sensation in time. When we raise that further
question we have to adopt a very different standpoint,
and to take into account a much greater complexity of

1 Cf. A 28-9 ; also Lectures on Metaphysics (Politz's edition, 1821), p. 1 88 ff.
In Kant's posthumously published work, his Transition from the Metaphysical
First Principles of Natural Science to Physics, it is asserted in at least twenty-six
distinct passages that sensations are due to the action of " the moving forces of
matter" upon the sense-organs. Cf. below, p. 283 n. 2. In his Ueber das
Organ der Seele (1796) (Hartenstein, vi. p. 457 ff.), Kant agrees with Sommerring
in holding that the soul has virtual, i.e. dynamical, though not local, presence in
the fluid contained in the cavity of the brain.


Kant Applies this point of view no less rigorously to
feelings, emotions, and desires than to the sensations of the
special senses. All of them, he teaches, are 'animal' 1 in
character. They are one and all conditioned by, and explic-
able only in terms of, the particular constitution of the animal
organism. They one and all belong to the realm of appear-
ance. 2

The term * sensation ' may also, however, be applied in a
wider sense to signify the material of knowledge in so far as
it is noumenally conditioned. Thus viewed, sensations are
due, not to the action of physical stimuli upon the bodily
organs, but to the affection by things in themselves of those
factors in the noumenal conditions of the self which correspond
to "sensibility." Kant is culpably careless in failing to
distinguish those two very different meanings of the phrase
'given manifold.' The language which he employs is
thoroughly ambiguous. Just as he frequently speaks as if
the synthetic processes were conscious activities exerted by
the self, so also he frequently uses language which implies
that the manifold upon which these processes act is identical
with the sensations of the special senses. But the sensations
of the bodily senses, even if reducible to it, can at most form
only part of it. The synthetic processes, interpreting the
manifold in accordance with the fixed forms, space, time, and
the categories, generate the spatial world within which objects
are apprehended as causally interacting and as giving rise
through their action upon the sense-organs to the various
special sensations as events in time. Sensations, as mechanic-
ally caused, are thus on the same plane as other appearances.
They depend upon the same generating conditions as the
motions which produce them. As minor incidents within a
more comprehensive totality they cannot possibly represent
the material out of which the whole has been constructed.
To explain the phenomenal world as constructed out of the
sensations of the special senses is virtually to equate it with a
small selection of its constituent parts. Such professed ex-
planation also commits the further absurdity of attempting
to account for the origin of the phenomenal world by means
of events which can exist only under the conditions which it
itself supplies. The manifold of the special senses and the
primary manifold are radically distinct. The former is due
to material bodies acting upon the material sense-organs.
The latter is the product of noumenal agencies acting upon
" outer sense," i.e. upon those noumenal conditions of the self

1 Cf. Critique of Practical Reason, Bk. i. ch. i. iii.
2 Cf. below, pp. 279 ff., 293-6, 312 ff., 321, 361 n. 3, 384-5, 464-5, 476.


which constitute our " sensibility " ; it is much more com-
prehensive than the former ; it must contain the material for
all modes of objective existence, including many that are
usually regarded as purely mental. 1

To turn, now, to the other aspect of experience. What
are the factors which condition its form ? What must we
postulate in order to account for the existence of conscious-
ness and for the unitary form in which alone it can appear ?
Kant's answer is again ambiguous. He fails sufficiently to
insist upon distinctions which yet are absolutely vital to any .
genuine understanding of the new and revolutionary positions

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 35 of 72)