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Norman Kemp Smith.

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

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2 A 375-

3 The remaining passages in the fourth Paralogism, together with the
corresponding passages in B 274 ff., in Kant's note to B xxxix, and in B 291-3,
are separately dealt with below, pp. 308 ff., 322 ff., 462-3.



KANT'S REFUTATIONS OF IDEALISM 305

position of Berkeley. Outer objects, Kant argues, are im-
mediately known because they are ideas merely. There is
no need for inference, because there is no transcendence of
the domain of our inner consciousness. In other words, Kant
refutes the problematic idealism of Descartes by means of
the more subjective idealism of Berkeley. The "dogmatic"
idealism of Berkeley in the form in which Kant here defines
it, 1 namely, as consisting in the assertion that the notion of
an independent spatial object involves inherent contradictions,
is part of his own position. For that reason he was bound
to fail in his promise 2 to refute such dogmatic idealism.
Fortunately he never even attempts to do so. In the second
place, Kant ignores the fact that he has himself adopted an
"idealist" view of inner experience. Inner experience is not
for him, as it was for Descartes, the immediate apprehension
of genuine reality. As it is only appearance, the incorpora-
tion of outer experience within it, so far from establishing the
reality of the objects of outer sense, must rather prove the
direct contrary. No more is really established than Descartes
himself invariably assumes, namely, the actual existence
of mental representations of a corporeal world in space.
Descartes' further assertion that the world of things in them-
selves can be inferred to be material and spatial, Kant, of
course, refuses to accept. On this latter point Kant is in
essential agreement with Berkeley.

It is by no means surprising that Kant's first critics, 3
puzzled and bewildered by the obscurer and more difficult
portions of the Critique, should have based their interpretation
of Kant's general position largely upon the above passages ;
and that in combining the extreme subjective idealism which
Kant there advocates with his doctrine that the inner life of
ever-changing experiences is itself merely ideal, should have
come to the conclusion that Kant's position is an extension of
that of Berkeley. Pistorius objected that in making outer
appearances relative to an inner consciousness which is itself
appearance, Kant is reducing everything to mere illusion.
Hamann came to the somewhat similar conclusion, that Kant,
notwithstanding his very different methods of argument, is " a
Prussian Hume," in substantial agreement with his Scotch
predecessor.

II. "Prolegomena," Section 13, Notes II. and III. In the

Prolegomena Kant replies to the criticism which the first
edition of the Critique had called forth, that his position is an

1 A 377. 2 Loc. cit. 3 E.g. Garve.

X



3 o6 THE ANALYTIC OF CONCEPTS

extension of the idealism of Descartes, and even more
thoroughgoing than that of Berkeley. Idealism he redefines
in a much narrower sense, which makes it applicable only to
Berkeley

"... as consisting in the assertion that there are none but thinking
beings, and that all other things which we suppose ourselves to
perceive in intuition are nothing but representations in the thinking
beings, to which no object external to them corresponds in fact." 1

In reply Kant affirms his unwavering belief in the reality
of Dinge an sich

"... which though quite unknown to us as to what they are in
themselves, we yet know by the representations which their influence
on our sensibility procures us. ... Can this be termed idealism?
It is the very contrary." 2

Kant adds that his position is akin to that of Locke, differing
only in his assertion of the subjectivity of the primary as
well as of the secondary qualities.

"I should be glad to know what my assertions ought to have
been in order to avoid all idealism. I suppose I ought to have said,
not only that the representation of space is perfectly conformable to
the relation which our sensibility has to objects (for that I have said),
but also that it is completely similar to them an assertion in which
I can find as little meaning as if I said that the sensation of red has
a similarity to the property of cinnabar which excites this sensation
in me." 3

Kant is here very evidently using the term idealism in the
narrowest possible meaning, as representing only the position
of Berkeley, and as excluding that of Descartes and Leibniz.
Such employment of the term is at variance with his own
previous usage. Though idealism here corresponds to the
" dogmatic idealism " of A 377, it is now made to concern the
assertion or denial of things in themselves, not as previously
the problem of the reality of material objects and of space.
Kant is also ignoring the fact, which he more than once points
out in the Critique ', that his philosophy cannot prove that the
cause of our sensations is without and not within us. His
use of "body" 4 as a name for the thing in itself is likewise
without justification. This passage is mainly polemical ; it is
hardly more helpful than the criticism to which it was designed
to reply.

In Section 13, Note iii., Kant meets the still more

1 1 3, W. iv. pp. 288-9 : Eng. trans, p. 42. 2 Loc. cit.

3 Op. cit. pp. 289-90 : Eng. trans, pp. 43-4. 4 In Note II.



KANT'S REFUTATIONS OF IDEALISM 307

extreme criticism (made by Pistorius), that his system turns
all the things of the world into mere illusion (Scheiri). He
distinguishes transcendental idealism from " the mystical and
visionary idealism of Berkeley " on the one hand, and on the
other from the Cartesian idealism which would convert mere
representations into things in themselves. To obviate the
ambiguities of the term transcendental, he declares that his
own idealism may perhaps more fitly be entitled Critical. This
distinction between mystical and Critical idealism connects
with the contents of the second part of the Appendix, treated
below.

III. "Prolegomena," Section 49. This is simply a repetition
of the argument of the fourth Paralogism. The Cartesian
idealism, now (as in B 274) named material idealism, is alone
referred to. The Cartesian idealism does nothing, Kant says,
but distinguish external experience from dreaming. . There is
here again the same confusing use of the term "corresponds."

"That something actual without us not only corresponds but
must correspond to our external perceptions can likewise be
proved. . . . " 1

IV. " Prolegomena," Second Part of the Appendix. Kant here
returns to the distinction, drawn in Section 13, Note iii.,
between what he now calls " idealism proper (eigent ticker)" 2
i.e. visionary or mystical idealism, and his own.

" The position of all genuine idealists from the Eleatics to Bishop
Berkeley is contained in this formula: 'All cognition through the
senses and experience is nothing but mere illusion, and only in the
ideas of pure understanding and Reason is there truth.' The
fundamental principle ruling all my idealism, on the contrary, is
this : ' All cognition of things solely from pure understanding or
pure Reason is nothing but mere illusion and only in experience is
there truth.' " 3

This mode of defining idealism can, in this connection,
cause nothing but confusion. Its inapplicability to Berkeley
would seem to prove that Kant had no first-hand knowledge
of Berkeley's writings. 4 As Kant's Note to the Appendix to
the Prolegomena 5 shows, he also had Plato in mind. But the
definition given of " the fundamental principle " of his own
idealism is almost equally misleading. It omits the all-
essential point, that for Kant experience itself yields truth
only by conforming to a priori concepts. As it is, he proceeds

1 49> W. iv - 336 ' Eng. trans, p. 99. 2 Anhang, W. iv. p. 375 .

8 W. iv. p. 374: Eng. trans, p. 147. 4 Cf. above, p. 155 ff.

5 W. iv. p. 375.



3 o8 THE ANALYTIC OF CONCEPTS

to criticise Berkeley for failure to supply a sufficient criterion
of distinction between truth and illusion. Such criterion, he
insists, is necessarily a priori. The Critical idealism differs
from that of Berkeley in maintaining that space and time,
though sensuous, are a priori, and that in combination with
the pure concepts of understanding they

". . . prescribe a priori its law to all possible experience: the law
which at the same time yields the sure criterion for distinguishing
within experience truth from illusion. My so-called idealism which
properly speaking is Critical idealism is thus quite peculiar in that
it overthrows ordinary idealism, and that through it all a priori
cognition, even that of geometry, now attains objective reality, a
thing which even the keenest realist could not assert till I had
proved the ideality of space and time." l

V. Sections added in Second Edition at the Conclusion of the
Aesthetic. (B 69 ff.) Kant here again replies to the criticism
of Pistorius that all existence has been reduced to the level
of illusion (Scheiri). His defence is twofold : first, that in
naming objects appearances he means to indicate that they are
independently grounded, or, as he states it, are " something
actually given." If we ^'.rinterpret them, the result is indeed
illusion, but the fault then lies with ourselves and not with the
appearances as presented. Secondly, he argues that the
doctrine of the ideality of space and time is the only secure
safeguard against scepticism. For otherwise the contradictions
which result from regarding space and time as independently
real will likewise hold of their contents, and everything,
including even our own existence, will be rendered illusory.
" The good Berkeley [observing these contradictions] cannot,
indeed, be blamed for reducing bodies to mere illusion." This
last sentence may perhaps be taken as supporting the view
that notwithstanding the increased popularity of Berkeley
in Germany and the appearance of new translations in these
very years, Kant has not been sufficiently interested to acquire
first-hand knowledge of Berkeley's writings. 2 The epithet
employed is characteristic of the rather depreciatory attitude
which Kant invariably adopts in speaking of Berkeley.

VI. "Refutation of Idealism" in Second Edition of the
"Critique." (B 274-9, supplemented by note to B xxxix.).
The refutation opens by equating idealism with material
idealism (so named in contradistinction to his own " formal
or rather Critical " teaching). Within material idealism Kant

1 W. iv. p. 375 : Eng. trans, p. 147-8. 2 Cf. above, p. 156.



KANT'S REFUTATIONS OF IDEALISM 309

distinguishes between the problematic idealism of Descartes,
and the dogmatic idealism of Berkeley. The latter has, he
says, been overthrown in the Aesthetic. The former alone is
dealt with in this refutation. This is the first occurrence in
the Critique of the expression " problematic idealism " : it is
nowhere employed in the first edition. 1 Problematic idealism
consists in the assertion that we are incapable of having
experience of any existence Save our own ; only our inner
states are immediately apprehended ; all other existences
are determined by inference from them. The refutation
consists in the proof that we have experience, and not mere
imagination of outer objects. This is proved by showing
that inner experience, unquestioned by Descartes, is possible
only on the assumption of outer experience, and that this
latter is as immediate and direct as is the former.

Thesis. The empirically determined consciousness of my
own existence proves the existence of objects in space
outside me. 2

Proof. I am conscious of my own existence as determined
in time. Time determination presupposes the perception of
something permanent. But nothing permanent is intuitable
in the empirical self. On the cognitive side (i.e. omitting
feelings, etc., which in this connection are irrelevant), it
consists solely of representations ; and these demand a per-
manent, distinct from ourselves, in relation to which their
changes, and so my own existence in the time wherein they
change, may be determined. 3 Thus perception of this per-
manent is only possible through a thing outside, and not through
the mere representation of a thing outside. And the same must
hold true of the determination of my existence in time, since
this also depends upon the apprehension of the permanent.
That is to say, the consciousness of my existence is at the
same time an immediate awareness of the existence of other
things outside me.

In the note to the Preface to the second edition 4 occurs
the following emphatic statement.

" Representation of something permanent in existence is not the
same as permanent representation. For though the representation
[of the permanent] may be very changing and variable like all our
other representations, not excepting those of matter, it yet refers to

1 As already noted above, p. 299, it is employed by Kant in his lectures on
Metaphysics.

2 Kant's phrase "in space outside me" is on Kant's principles really
pleonastic. Cf. Prolegomena, 49; Eng. trans, p. 101 : "the notion 'outside
me' only signifies existence in space." Cf. A 373.

3 Cf. text as altered by note to B xxxviii. 4 B xxxix.



310 THE ANALYTIC OF CONCEPTS

something permanent. This latter must therefore be an external
thing distinct from all my representations, and its existence must be
included in the determination of my own existence, constituting with
it but a single experience such as would not take place even
internally if it were not also at the same time, in part, external.
How this should be possible we are as little capable of explain-
ing further as we are of accounting for our being able to think
the abiding in time, the coexistence of which with the variable
generates the conception of change."

The argument of this note varies from that of B 274 ff.
only in its use of an ambiguous expression which is perhaps
capable of being taken as referring to things in themselves,
but which does not seem to have that meaning. " I am
just as certainly conscious that there are things outside me
which relate to my sense. . . ."

In B 277-8 Kant refers to the empirical fact that deter-
mination of time can be made only by relation to outer
happenings in space, such as the motion of the sun. This is
a point which is further developed in another passage which
Kant added in the second edition.

"... in order to understand the possibility of things in conformity
with the categories, and so to demonstrate the objective reality
of the latter, we need not merely intuitions, but intuitions that are
in all cases outer intuitions. When, for instance, we take the pure
concepts of relation, we find firstly that in order to obtain something
permanent in intuition corresponding to the concept of substance,
and so to demonstrate the objective reality of this concept, we
require an intuition in space (of matter). For space alone is deter-
mined as permanent, while time, and therefore everything that is in
inner sense, is in constant flux. Secondly, in order to exhibit change
as the intuition corresponding to the concept of causality, we must
take as our example motion, i.e. change in space. Only in this way
can we obtain the intuition of changes, the possibility of which can
never be comprehended through any pure understanding. For
change is combination of contradictorily opposed determinations in
the existence of one and the same thing. Now how it is possible
that from a given state of a thing an opposite state should follow,
not only cannot be conceived by any reason without an example,
but is actually incomprehensible to reason without intuition. The
intuition required is the intuition of the movement of a point in
space. The presence of the point in different spaces (as a sequence
of opposite determinations) is what first yields to us an intuition
of change. For in order that we may afterwards make inner
changes likewise thinkable, we must represent time (the form of
inner sense) figuratively as a line, and the inner change through
the drawing of this line (motion), and so in this manner by means
of outer intuition make comprehensible the successive existence of



KANT'S REFUTATIONS OF IDEALISM 311

ourselves in different states. The reason of this is that all change,
if it is indeed to be perceived as change, presupposes something per-
manent in intuition, and that in inner sense no permanent intuition
is to be met with. Lastly, the possibility of the category of com-
munity cannot be comprehended through mere reason alone. Its
objective reality is not to be understood without intuition and indeed
outer intuition in space." l

In this passage Kant is modifying the teaching of the first
edition in two very essential respects. In the first place, he is
now asserting that consciousness of both space and motion is
necessary to consciousness of time ; 2 and in the second place,
he is maintaining that the categories can acquire meaning
only by reference to outer appearances. Had Kant made all
the necessary alterations which these new positions involve,
he would, as we shall find, 3 have had entirely to recast the
chapters on Schematism and on the Principles of Under-
standing. Kant was not, however, prepared to make such
extensive alterations, and these chapters are therefore left
practically unmodified. This is one of the many important
points in which the reader is compelled to reinterpret passages
of earlier date in the light of Kant's later utterances. There
is also a further difficulty. Does Kant, in maintaining that
the categories can acquire significance only in reference to
outer perception, also mean to assert that their subsequent
employment is limited to the mechanical world of the material
sciences ? This is a point in regard to which Kant makes no
quite direct statement ; but indirectly he would seem to
indicate that that was not his intention. 4 He frequently
speaks of the states of inner sense as mechanically conditioned.
Sensations, 5 feelings, and desires, 6 are, he would seem to

1 B 291-2. The remaining points in B 274 ff. as well as in B xxxix n. are
separately dealt with below, p. 322 ff.

2 The nearest approach to such teaching in the first edition is in A 33 = B 50.
Cf. above, pp. 135-8.

3 Cf. below, pp. 333, 341, 360, 384-5.

4 Adamson (Development of Modern Philosophy, i. p. 241) takes the opposite
view as to what is Kant's intended teaching, but remarks upon its inconsistency
with Kant's own fundamental principles. "Now, in truth, Kant grievously
endangers his own doctrine by insisting on the absence of a priori elements from
our apprehension of the mental life ; for it follows from that, if taken rigorously,
that according to Kant sense and understanding are not so much sources which
unite in producing knowledge, as, severally, sources of distinct kinds of apprehen-
sion. If we admit at all, in respect to inner sense, that there is some kind of
apprehension without the work of understanding, then it has been acknowledged
that sense is per se adequate to furnish a kind of apprehension." As pointed out
above (p. 296), by the same line of reasoning Kant is disabled from viewing inner
consciousness as merely reflective. In other words it can neither be more im-
mediate nor less sensuous than outer perception. Cf. below, pp. 361, n. 3, 384-5.

5 Above, pp. xlvi, 275-82; below, pp. 313-14, 384-5*

6 Above, pp. 276, 279-80; below, pp. 312, 384-5.



312 THE ANALYTIC OF CONCEPTS

assert, integral parts of the unitary system of phenomenal
existence. Such a view is not, indeed, easily reconcilable
with his equating of the principle of substance with the
principle of the conservation of matter. 1 There are here
two conflicting positions which Kant has failed to reconcile :
the traditional dualistic attitude of Cartesian physics and
the quite opposite implications of his Critical phenomenalism.
When the former is being held to, Kant has to maintain
that psychology can never become a science ; 2 but his Critical
teaching consistently developed seems rather to support the
view that psychology, despite special difficulties peculiar to
its subject matter, can be developed on lines strictly ana-
logous to those of the material sciences.

We may now return to Kant's main argument. This new
refutation of idealism in the second edition differs from that
given in the fourth Paralogism of the first edition, not only in
method of argument but also in the nature of the conclusion
which it seeks to establish. Indeed it proves the direct opposite
of what is asserted in the first edition. The earlier proof
sought to show that, as regards immediacy of apprehension
and subjectivity of existence, outer appearances stand on the
same level as do our inner experiences. The proof of the
second edition, on the other hand, argues that though outer
appearances are immediately apprehended they must be
existences distinct from the subjective states through which
the mind represents them. The two arguments agree, indeed,
in establishing immediacy, but as that which is taken as
immediately known is in the one case a subjective state and
in the other is an independent existence, the immediacy calls
in the two cases for entirely different methods of proof.
The first method consisted in viewing outer experiences as
a subdivision within our inner experiences. The new method
views their relation as not that of including and included,

1 Cf. below, p. 361.

2 Cf. Metaphysical First Principles of Natural Science (1786), W. iv. pp. 470-1.
It should be observed, however, that the reasons which Kant gives in this treatise
for denying that psychology can ever become more than a merely historical or
descriptive discipline are not that the objects of inner sense fall outside the realm
of mechanically determined existence. Kant makes no assertion that even
distantly implies any such view. His reasons are (i) that, as time has only one
dimension, the main body of mathematical science is not applicable to the
phenomena of inner sense and their laws ; (2) that such phenomena are capable
only of a merely ideal, not of an experimental, analysis ; (3) that, as the objects
of inner sense do not consist of parts outside each other, their parts are not
substances, and may therefore be conceived as diminishing in intensity or passing
out of existence without prejudice to the principle of the permanence of substance
(op. cit. p. 542, quoted below, p. 361, . 2) ; (4) that inner observation is limited
to the individual's own existence ; (5) that the very act of introspection alters the
state of the object observed.



KANT'S REFUTATIONS OF IDEALISM 313

but of conditioning and conditioned ; and it is now~ to outer
experience that the primary position is assigned. So far is
outer experience from being possible only as part of inner
experience, that on the contrary inner experience, conscious-
ness of the flux of inner states, is only possible in and through
experience of independent material bodies in space. A
sentence from each proof will show how completely their con-
clusions are opposed.

" 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." 1 " Perception of this permanent is possible only
through a thing outside me, and not through the mere representation
of a thing outside me." 2

The one sentence asserts that outer objects are represen-
tations ; the other argues that they must be existences distinct
from their representations. The one inculcates a subjec-
tivism of a very extreme type ; the other results in a realism,
which though ultimately phenomenalist, is none the less
genuinely objective in character. This difference is paral-
leled by the nature of the idealisms to which the two
proofs are opposed and which they profess to refute. The
argument of the Paralogism of the first edition is itself
Berkeleian, and refutes only the problematic idealism of
Descartes. The argument of the second edition, though
formally directed only against Descartes, constitutes a no
Jess complete refutation of the position of Berkeley. In its
realism it has kinship with the positions of Arnauld and of Reid,
while, in attempting to combine this realism with due recogni-
tion of the force and validity of Hume's sceptical philosophy,
it breaks through all previous classifications, formulates a pro-
foundly original substitute for the previously existing theories,
and inaugurates a new era in the theory of knowledge.

As already pointed out, 3 Kant restates the distinction



Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 39 of 72)