Norman Kemp Smith.

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

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to be inner states, none the less recognises that appearances
in space are not representations in the same meaning of that
term as are subjective states. They are the objects of repre-
sentation, not representation itself. The latter alone is
correctly describable as a state of the mind. The former
may be conditioned by representation, and may therefore
be describable as appearances, but are not for that reason
to be equated with representation. But before the grounds
and nature of this distinction can be formulated in the proper
Critical terms, we must consider the reasons which induced
Kant to commit himself to this obscure and difficult doctrine
of inner sense. As I shall try to show, it is no mere excres-
cence upon his system ; on the contrary, it is inseparably
bound up with all his main tenets.

One of the chief influences which constrained Kant to
develop this doctrine is the conclusion, so essential to his
position, that knowledge must always involve an intuitional

1 A 33 = 649-50.. 2 A 34 = 650.




manifold in addition to a priori forms and concepts. Th
being so, he was bound to deny to the mind all power
gaining knowledge by mere reflection. If our mental acti
ties and states lay open to direct inspection, we should hav
to recognise in the mind a non-sensuous intuitional power.
Through self-consciousness or reflection we should acquire
knowledge independently of sense. Such apprehension, though
limited to the mind's own operations and states, would none
the less be knowledge, and yet would not conform to the con-
ditions which, as the transcendental deduction has shown, are
involved in all knowledge. In Kant's view the belief that we
possess self-consciousness of this type, a power of reflection
thus conceived, is wholly illusory. To assume any such
faculty would be to endow the mind with occult or mystical
powers, and would throw us back upon the Leibnizian
rationalism, which traces to such reflection our consciousness
of the categories, and which rears upon this foundation the
entire body of metaphysical science. 1

The complementary negative conclusion of the transcend-
ental deduction is a no less fundamental and constraining
influence in compelling Kant to develop a doctrine of inner
sense. If all knowledge is knowledge of appearances, or if,
as he states his position in the Analytic of Principles? our
knowledge can extend no further than sense experience and
inference from such experience, either knowledge of our inner
states must be mediated, like our knowledge of outer objects,
by sensation, or we can have no knowledge of them whatso-
ever. On Critical principles, consistently applied, there can
be no middle course between acceptance of an indirect
empirical knowledge of the mind and assertion of its unknow-
ableness. Mental activities may perhaps be thought in terms
of the pure forms of understanding, but in that case their
conception will remain as purely problematic and as inde-
terminate as the conception of the thing in itself. It is
impossible for Kant to admit immediate consciousness of
the -mind's real activities and states, and at the same time to
deny that we can have knowledge of things in themselves.
The Aesthetic, in proving that everything in space and time is
appearance, implicitly assumes the impossibility of direct self-
conscious reflection ; and the transcendental deduction in
showing that all knowledge involves as correlative factors
both sense and thought, has reinforced this conclusion, and

1 Cf. above, pp. 208-9, 2 5 r - 2 , 260-4 ; below, 311 n. 4. It may be observed
that Caird (i. pp. 625-7) interprets inner sense as equivalent to inner reflection.
This is one of the respects in which Caird's Hegelian standpoint has led him to
misrepresent even Kant's most central doctrines.

2 Cf. below, pp. 399-400, and A 277-8 = 6 333-4.



calls for its more explicit recognition, in reference to the
more inward aspect of experience.

As we have already noted, 1 Kant's doctrine of inner sense
was probably adopted in the early 'seventies, and though it
is not itself definitely formulated in the first edition, the chief
consequence that follows from it is clearly recognised. Thus
in the Aesthetic Kant draws the conclusion that, as time is
the form of inner sense, everything apprehended in time, and
consequently all inner states and activities, can be known
only as appearances. The mind (meaning thereby the ulti-
mate conditioning grounds of consciousness) is as indirectly
known as is any other mode of noumenal existence. In the
Analytic, whenever he is called upon to express himself upon
this and kindred points, he continues to hold to this position ;
and in the section on the Paralogisms all the main conse-
quences that follow from its acceptance are drawn in the
most explicit and unambiguous manner. It is argued that as
the inner world, the feelings, volitions and representations of
which we are conscious, is a world constructed out of a given
manifold yielded by inner sense, and is therefore known only
as the appearance of a deeper reality which we have no
power of apprehending, it possesses no superiority either of
certainty or of immediacy over the outer world of objects in
space. We have immediate consciousness of both alike, but
in both cases this immediate consciousness rests upon the
transcendental synthetic processes whereby such conscious-
ness is conditioned and generated. The transcendental activi-
ties fall outside the field of empirical consciousness and
therefore of knowledge.

Thus Kant would seem to be maintaining that the radical
error committed by the subjective idealists, and with which
all the main defects of their teaching are inseparably bound
up, lies in their ascription to the mind of a power of direct
self-conscious reflection, and consequently in their confusion
of the transcendental activities which condition consciousness
with the inner states and processes which such consciousness
reveals. This has led them to ascribe priority and inde-
pendence to our inner states, and to regard outer objects as
known only by an inference from them. The Critical teaching
insists on the distinction between appearance and reality,
applies it to the inner life, and so restores to our consciousness
of the outer world the certainty and immediacy of which
subjective idealism would profess to deprive it. Such are the
important conclusions at which Kant arrives in his various
" refutations of idealism " ; and it will be advisable to consider
1 Above, p. 292.


these refutations in full detail before attempting to complete
our statement of his doctrine of inner sense.



Kant has in a number of different passages attempt
to define his Critical standpoint in its distinction from the
positions of Descartes and Berkeley. Consideration of these
will enable us to follow Kant in his gradual recognition of
the manifold consequences to which he is committed by his
substitution of inner sense for direct self-conscious intuition
or reflection, or rather of the various congenial tenets which
it gives him the right consistently to defend and maintain.
In Kant's Critical writings we find no less than seven different
statements of his refutation of idealism : (I.) in the fourth
Paralogism of the first edition of the Critique ; (II.) in section
13 (Anm. ii. and iii.) of the Prolegomena ; (III.) in section 49
of the Prolegomena ; (IV.) in the second appendix to the
Prolegomena ; (V.) in sections added in the second edition
at the conclusion of the Aesthetic (B 69 ff.) ; (VI.) in the
" refutation of idealism " (B 274-8), in the supplementary
section at the end of the section on the Postulates (B 291-4),
and in the note to the new preface (B xxxix-xl) ; (VII.) in
the " refutation of problematic idealism " given in the Seven
Small Papers which originated in Kant's conversations with
Kiesewetter. Consideration of these in the above order will
reveal Kant's gradual and somewhat vacillating recognition
of the new and revolutionary position which alone genuinely
harmonises with Critical principles. But first we must briefly
consider the various meanings which Kant at different periods
assigned to the term idealism. Even in the Critique itself
it is employed in a great variety of diverse connotations.

In the pre-Critical writings 1 the term idealism is usually
employed in what was its currently accepted meaning, namely,
as signifying any philosophy which denied the existence of an
independent world corresponding to our subjective representa-
tions. But even as thus used the term is ambiguous. 2 It
may signify either denial of a corporeal world independent
of our representations or denial of an immaterial world " corre-
sponding to " the represented material world, i.e. the denial of
Dinge an sick. For there are traceable in Leibniz's writings
two very different views as to the reality of the material
world. Sometimes the monads are viewed as purely intel-
ligible substances without materiality of any kind. The

1 Cf. above, p. 155.
2 Cf. Vaihinger in Strassburger Abhandlungen zur Philosophic (1884), p. 106 ff.


kingdom of the extended is set into the representing subjects ;
only the immaterial world of unextended purely spiritual
monads remains as independently real. At other times the
monads, though in themselves immaterial, are viewed as con-
stituting through their coexistence an independent material
world and a materially occupied space. Every monad has
a spatial sphere of activity. The material world is an
objective existence due to external relations between the
monads, not a merely subjective existence internal to each
of them. This alternation of standpoints enabled Leibniz's
successors to deny that they were idealists ; and as the more
daring and speculative aspects of Leibniz's teaching were
slurred over in the process of its popularisation, it was the
second, less consistent view, which gained the upper hand.
Wolff, especially in his later writings, denounces idealism ;
and in the current manuals, sections in refutation of
idealism became part of the recognised philosophical teach-
ing. Idealism still, however, continued to be used ambigu-
ously, as signifying indifferently either denial of material
bodies or denial of things in themselves. This is the dual
meaning which the term presents in Kant's pre- Critical
writings. In his Dilucidatio (I755) 1 he refutes idealism
by means of. the principle that a substance cannot undergo
changes unless it is a substance independent of other sub-
stances. Obviously this argument can at most prove the
existence of an independent world, not that it is spatial or
material. And as Vaihinger adds, it does not even rule out
the possibility that changes find their source in a Divine
Being. In the Dreams of a Vision seer ( 1 766) 2 Swedenborg
is described as an idealist, but without further specification of
the exact sense in which the term is employed. In the
inaugural Dissertation (i77o) 3 idealism is again rejected, on
the ground that sense-affection points to the presence of an
intelligible object or noumenon.

In Kant's class lectures on metaphysics, 4 which fall, in
part at least, between 1770 and 1781, the term idealism is
employed in a very different sense, which anticipates its use
in the Appendix to the Prolegomena? The teaching of the
Dissertation, that things in themselves are knowable, is now
described as dogmatic, Platonic, mystical (schwarmerischer}
idealism. He still rejects the idealism of Berkeley, and still
entitles it simply idealism, without limiting or descriptive
predicates. But now also he employs the phrase " problematic

1 Section III., Prop. XII Usus.

2 Theil II. Hauptstiick II. W. ii. p. 364. 3 11.

4 Politz's edition (1821), pp. 100-2. * 5 W. iv. p. 373 ff.


idealism " as descriptive of his own new position. This is, of
course, contrary to his invariable usage elsewhere, but is
interesting as showing that about this time his repugnance to
the term idealism begins to give way, and that he is willing to
recognise that the relation of the Critical teaching to idealism
is not one of simple opposition. He now begins to regard
idealism as a factor, though a radically transformed factor, in
his own philosophy.

Study of the Critique reinforces this conclusion. In the
Aesthetic Kant teaches the "transcendental ideality" of space
and time ; and in the Dialectic (in the fourth Paralogism]
describes his position as idealism, though with the qualifying
predicate transcendental. 1 But though this involves an exten-
sion of the previous connotation of the term idealism, and might
therefore have been expected to increase the existing confusion,
it has the fortunate effect of constraining Kant to recognise
and discriminate the various meanings in which it may be
employed. This is done somewhat clumsily, as if it were a
kind of afterthought. In the introductory syllogism of the
fourth Paralogism Descartes' position and his own are referred
to simply as idealism and dualism respectively. The various
possible sub-species of idealism as presented in the two
editions of the Critique and in the Prolegomena may be
tabulated as follows :

Material ^Sceptical r Problematic (the position of Descartes).

Idealisms I Sceptical in the stricter and more usual

sense (the position of Hume).

Dogmatic (the position of Berkeley).
I Formal or Critical or Transcendental (Kant's own position).

The distinction between problematic idealism and idealism
of the more strictly sceptical type is not clearly drawn by
Kant. 2 Very strangely Kant in this connection never mentions
Hume : the reference in B xxxix n. is probably not to Hume
but tp Jacobi. Transcendental idealism is taken as involving
an empirical realism and dualism, and is set in opposition
to transcendental realism which is represented as involving
empirical idealism. In B xxxix n. Kant speaks of " psycho-
logical idealism," meaning, as it would seem, material or non-
Critical idealism.

1 It may be noted that in the Aesthetic (A 38 = B 55) Kant employs the term
idealism, without descriptive epithet, in the same manner as in his pre-Critical
writings, as signifying a position that must be rejected.

2 Cf. below, p. 301 ff.


1 In the second appendix to the Prolegomena Kant draws a
further distinction, in line with that already noted in his
lectures on metaphysics. Tabulated it is as follows :

I Mystical, in the sense of belief in and reliance on a supposed
human power of intellectual intuition. It is described as
. idealism in the strict (eigentlich} sense the position of the
Eleatics, of Plato and Berkeley.
Formal or Critical Kant's own position.

This latter classification can cause nothing but confusion.
The objections that have to be made against it from Kant's
own critical standpoint are stated below. 1

Let us now consider, in the order of their presentation,
the various refutations of idealism which Kant has given in
his Critical writings.

I. Refutation of Idealism as given in First Edition of " Critique "

(A 366-80). This refutation is mainly directed against
Descartes, who is mentioned by name in A 367. Kant, as
Vaihinger suggests, was very probably led to recognise
Descartes' position as a species of idealism in the course of
a re-study of Descartes before writing the section on the
Paralogisms. As already pointed out, this involves the use
of the term idealism in a much wider sense than that which
was usually given to it in Kant's own day. In the develop-
ment of his argument Kant also wavers between two very
different definitions of this idealism, as being denial of
immediate certainty and as denial of all certainty. 2 The
second interpretation, which would make it apply to Hume
rather than to Descartes, is strengthened in the minds
of his readers by his further distinction 3 between dogmatic
and sceptical idealism, and the identification of j:he idealism
under consideration with the latter. The title problematic
which Kant in the second edition 4 applies to Descartes'
position suffers from this same ambiguity. As a matter of
fact, Kant's refutation applies equally well to either position.
The teaching of Berkeley, which coincides with dogmatic
idealism as here defined by Kant, namely, as consisting
in the contention that the conception of matter is inherently
contradictory, is not dwelt upon, and the appended promise
of refutation is not fulfilled.

Descartes' position is stated as follows : only our own
existence and inner states are immediately apprehended by
us ; all perceptions are modifications of inner sense ; and

1 Pp. 307-8. Cf. A 368-9 and 372.

3 A 377 : a passage which bears signs of being a later interpolation.

4 B 274.


the existence of external objects can therefore be asserted
only by an inference from the inner perceptions viewed as
effects. In criticism, Kant points out that since an effect
may result from more than one cause, this inference to a quite
determinate cause, viz. objects as bodies in space, is doubtfully
legitimate. The cause of our inner states may lie within and
not without us, and even if external, need not consist in
spatial objects. Further, leaving aside the question of a
possible alternative to the assumption of independent material
bodies, the assertion of the existence of such objects would,
on Descartes' view, be merely conjectural. It could never
have certainty in any degree equivalent to that possessed by
the experiences of inner sense.

"By an idealist, therefore, we must not understand one who
denies the existence of outer objects of the senses, but only one
who does not admit that their existence is known through immediate
perception, and who therefore concludes that we can never, by
way of any possible experience, be completely certain of their
reality." l

No sooner is the term idealist thus clearly defined than
Kant, in keeping with the confused character of the entire
section, proceeds to the assertion (a) that there are idealists
of another type, namely, transcendental idealists, 2 and (b}
that the non-transcendental idealists sometimes also adopt a
dogmatic position, not merely questioning the immediacy of
our knowledge of matter, but asserting it to be inherently
contradictory. All this points to the composite origin of the
contents of this section.

Transcendental idealism is opposed to empirical idealism.
It maintains that phenomena are representations merely, not
things in themselves. Space and time are the sensuous forms
of our intuitions. Empirical idealism, on the other hand,
goes together with transcendental realism. It maintains that
space and time are given as real in themselves, in independence
of our sensibility. (Transcendental here, as in the phrase
" transcendental ideality," 3 is exactly equivalent to transcend-
ent.) But such a contention is inconsistent with the other
main tenet of empirical idealism. For if our inner repre-
sentations have to be taken as entirely distinct from their
objects, they cannot yield assurance even of the existence
of these objects. To the transcendental idealist no such
difficulty is presented. His position naturally combines with
empirical realism, or, as it ma}r also be entitled, empirical

1 A 368-9. 2 A 369.

3 A 28 = B 44. Cf. above, pp. 76, 116-17.


dualism. Material bodies in space, being merely subjective
representations, are immediately apprehended. The existence
of matter can be established " without our requiring to issue
out beyond our bare self-consciousness or to assume anything
more than the certainty of the representations in us, i.e. of
the cogito ergo sum." 1 Though the objects thus apprehended
are outside one another in space, space itself exists only in us.

" Outer objects (bodies) are mere appearances, and are therefore
nothing but a species of my representations, the objects of which are
something only through these representations. Apart from them
they are nothing. Thus outer things exist as well as I myself, and
both, indeed, upon the immediate witness of my self- conscious-
ness. . . . " 2

The only difference is that the representation of the self
belongs only to inner, while extended bodies also belong to
outer sense. There is thus a dualism, but one that falls
entirely within the field of consciousness, and which is therefore
empirical, not transcendental. There is indeed a transcend-
ental object which "in the transcendental sense may be
outside us," 3 but <it is unknown and is not in question. It
ought not to be confused with our representations of matter
and corporeal things.

From this point 4 the argument becomes disjointed and
repeats itself, and there is much to be said in support of
the contention of Adickes that the remainder of the section
is made up of a number of separate interpolations. 5 First,
Kant applies the conclusion established in the Postulates of
Empirical Thought, viz. that reality is revealed only in sensa-
tion. As sensation is an element in all outer perception,
perception affords immediate certainty of real existence,
Kant next enters 6 upon a eulogy of sceptical idealism as "a
benefactor of human reason." It brings home to us the utter
impossibility of proving the existence of matter on the
assumption that spatial objects are things in themselves, and
so constrains us to justify the assertions which we are at
every moment making. And such justification is, Kant here
claims, only possible if we recognise that outer objects as
mere representations are immediately known. In the next
paragraph we find a sentence which, together with the above
eulogistic estimate of the merits of idealism, shows how very

1 A 370. z Loc. cit. 3 A 372.

4 A 373 : Weil indessen, etc.

5 Adickes regards them as later additions. To judge by their content (cf.
above, pp. 204 ff.,' 21 5-1 6, on Kant's Tloctrine of the transcendental object), they
are more probably of quite early origin.

6 A 377-8.


far Kant, at the time of writing, was from feeling the need of
differentiating his position from that of subjectivism. The
sentence is this :

"We cannot be sentient of what is outside ourselves, but only
of what is in ourselves, and the whole of our self-consciousness
therefore yields nothing save merely our own determinations."

It is probable, indeed, that the paragraph in which this
occurs is of very early origin, prior to the development of the
main body of the Analytic; for in the same paragraph we
also find the assertion, utterly at variance with the teaching
of the Analytic and with that of the first and third Paralogisms,
that " the thinking ego " is known phenomenally as substance^
We seem justified in concluding that the various manuscripts
which have gone to form this section on the fourth Paralogism
were written at an early date within the Critical period.

We may note, in passing, two sentences in which, as
in that quoted above, a distinction between representations
and their objects is recognised in wording if not in fact.

"All outer perception furnishes immediate proof of something
actual in space, or rather is the actual itself. To this extent empirical
realism is beyond question, i.e. there corresponds to our outer
perceptions something actual in space." 2

Again in A 377 the assertion occurs that "our outer
senses, as regards the data from which experience can arise,
have their actual corresponding objects in space." Certainly
these statements, when taken together with the other passages
in this section, form a sufficiently strange combination of
assertion and denial. Either there is a distinction between
representation and its object or there is not ; if the former,
then objects in space are not merely representations ; if the
latter, then the "correspondence" is merely that of a thing
with itself. 3

This refutation of idealism will not itself stand criticism.
For two separate reasons it entirely fails to attain its
professed end. In the first place, it refutes the position of
Descartes only by virtually accepting the still more extreme

1 Adickes argues that this paragraph is subsequent to the main body of the
Analytic, but that is in keeping with the tendency which he seems to show of
dating passages, which cannot belong to the M Brief Outline," later rather than

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 38 of 72)