Norman Kemp Smith.

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

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between the subjective and the objective in a manner which
places the problem of knowledge in an entirely new light.
The subjective is not to be regarded as opposite in nature to
the objective, but as a subspecies within it. It does not pro-
ceed parallel with the sequence of natural existences, but is
itself part of the natural system which consciousness reveals.
Sensations, in the form in which they are consciously appre-
hended by us, do not constitute our consciousness of nature,

1 A 370.

2 B 275. These two sentences are cited in this connection by Vaihinger :
Strassburger Abhandhmgen zur Philosophic (1884), p. 131.

3 Above, pp. xlv-vii, 279 ff.


but are themselves events which are possible only under tl
conditions which the natural world itself supplies. 1 Tl
Cartesian dualism of the subjective and the objective is thi
subordinated to the Critical distinction between appearance an<
reality. Kant's phenomenalism is a genuine alternative to tl
Berkeleian teaching, and not, as Schopenhauer and so
others have sought to maintain, merely a variant upon it.

The striking contradiction between Kant's various refuta-
tions of idealism has led some of Kant's most competent
critics to give a different interpretation of the argument of the
second edition from that given above. These critics take the
independent and permanent objects which are distinguished
from our subjective representations to be things in themselves.
That is to say, they interpret this refutation as based upon
Kant's semi-Critical doctrine of the transcendental object (in
the form in which it is employed for the solution of the
Antinomies)^ and so as agreeing with the refutation given in
the Prolegomena? Kant is taken as rejecting idealism because
of his belief in things in themselves. This is the view adopted
by Benno Erdmann, 3 Sidgwick, 4 A. J. Balfour. 5

As Vaihinger, 6 Caird, 7 and Adamson 8 have shown, such
an interpretation is at complete variance with the actual
text. This is, indeed, so obvious upon unbiassed examina-
tion that the only point which repays discussion is the
question, why Benno Erdmann and those who follow him
should have felt constrained to place so unnatural an inter-
pretation upon Kant's words. The explanation seems to lie
in Erdmann's convinced belief, plainly shown in all his writings
upon Kant, that the Critique expounds a single consistent and
uniform standpoint. 9 If such belief be justified, there is no
alternative save to interpret Kant's refutation of idealism in
the manner which Erdmann adopts. For as the subjectivism
of much of Kant's teaching is beyond question, consistency
can be obtained only by sacrifice of all that conflicts with it.
Thus, and thus alone, can Erdmann's rendering of the refuta-
tion of the second edition be sustained ; the actual wording,

1 Cf. also above, pp. 275-7. 2 13, Anmerknng II.

3 Kriticisimis, p. 197 ft.

4 Mt'nd(i&79), iv - P- 4 8 ff - ; (1880), v. p. ill.

5 A Defence of Philosophic Doubt (1879), p. 107 ff. ; Mind (\fy%\ iii. p. 481 ;
iv. p. 115 ; vi. p. 260. 6 Op. cit. p. 128 ff.

7 Critical Philosophy, i. 632 ff. ; Mind (1879), iv. pp. 112, 560-1 ; v. p. 115.

8 The Philosophy of Kant, p. 249 ff.

9 The one fundamental question to which Erdmann would seem to allow that
Kant gives conflicting answers is as to whether or not categories can be tran-
scendently employed. The assumption of a uniform teaching is especially
obvious in Sidgwick's comments; cf. Mind (1880), v. p. 113; Lectures on
the Philosophy of Kant (1905), p. 28.


taken in and by itself, does not support it. Kant here departs
from his own repeated assertion, in the second hardly less
than in the first edition of the Critique, of the subjectivity
of outer appearances. But, as Vaihinger justly contends,
Kant was never greater than in this violation of self-con-
sistency, "never more consistent than in this inconsistency."
Tendencies, previously active but hitherto inarticulate, are
at last liberated. If the chrysalis stage of the intense brooding
of the twelve years of Critical thinking was completed in the
writing of the first edition of the Critique, the philosophy
which then emerged only attains to mature stature in those
extensions of the Critique, scattered through it from Preface
to Paralogisms, which embody this realistic theory of the
independent existence of material nature. For this theory is
no mere external accretion, and no mere reversal of subordi-
nate tenets, but a ripening of germinal ideas to which, even
in their more embryonic form, the earlier Critical teaching
owed much of its inspiration, and which, when consciously
adopted and maturely formulated, constitute such a deepening
of its teaching as almost amounts to transformation. The
individual self is no longer viewed as being the bearer of
nature, but as its offspring and expression, and as being, like
nature, interpretable in its twofold aspect, as appearance
and as noumenally grounded. The bearer of appearance is
not the individual subject, but those transcendental creative
agencies upon which man and nature alike depend. Both
man and nature transcend the forms in which they are appre-
hended ; and nothing in experience justifies the giving of such
priority to the individual mind as must be involved in any
acceptance of subjectivist theory. Though man is cognisant
of space and time, comprehending them within the limits of
his consciousness, and though in all experience unities are
involved which cannot originate within or be explained by
experience, it is no less true that man is himself subject to the
conditions of space and time, and that the synthetic unities
which point beyond experience do not carry us to a merely
individual subject. If man is not a part or product of nature,
neither is nature the product of man. Kant's transcendent-
alism, in its maturest form, is genuinely phenomenalist in
character. That is the view which has already been developed
above, in the discussion of Kant's transcendental deduction. I
shall strive to confirm it by comparison of the teaching of the
two editions of the Critique in regard to the reality of outer

Schopenhauer, to whom this new development of the
Critical teaching was altogether anathema, the cloven hoof of


the Hegelian heresies, denounced it as a temporary and ill-
judged distortion of the true Critical position, maintaining
that it is incapable of combination with Kant's central teach-
ing, and that it finds no support in the tenets, pure and
unperverted, of the first edition. Kant, he holds, is here
untrue to himself, and temporarily, under the stress of
polemical discussion, lapses from the heights to which he
had successfully made his way, and upon which he had
securely established, in agreement with Plato and in extension
of Berkeley, the doctrine of all genuine philosophical thinking,
the doctrine of the Welt als Vorstellung.

We may agree with Schopenhauer in regarding those
sections of the first edition of the Critique which were omitted
in the second edition as being a permanently valuable expres-
sion of Kantian thought, and as containing much that finds
no equally adequate expression in the passages which were
substituted for them ; and yet may challenge his interpreta-
tion of both editions alike. If, as we have already been
arguing, we must regard Kant's thinking as in large degree
tentative, that is, as progressing by the experimental following
out of divergent tendencies, we may justly maintain that
among the most characteristic features of his teaching are the
readiness with which he makes changes to meet deeper
insight, and the persistency with which he strives to attain a
position in which there will be least sacrifice or blurring of
any helpful distinction, and fullest acknowledgment of the
manifold and diverse considerations that are really essential.
Recognising these features, we shall be prepared to question
the legitimacy of Schopenhauer's opposition between the
teaching of the two editions. We shall rather expect to find
that the two editions agree in the alternating statement and
retraction of conflicting positions, and that the later edition,
however defective in this or that aspect as compared with
the first edition, none the less expresses the maturer insight,
and represents a further stage in the development of ideas
that have been present from the start. It may perhaps for
this very reason be more contradictory in its teaching ; it
will at least yield clearer and more adequate formulation of
the diverse consequences and conflicting implications of the
earlier tenets. It will be richer in content, more open-eyed
in its adoption of mutually contradictory positions, freer
therefore from unconscious assumptions, and better fitted to
supply the data necessary for judgment upon its own defects.
Only those critics who are blind to the stupendous difficulties
of the tasks which Kant here sets himself, and credulous of
their speedy and final completion, can complain of the result.


Philosophical thinkers of the most diverse schools in Germany,
France, and England, have throughout the nineteenth century
received from the Critique much of their inspiration. The
profound influence which Kant has thus exercised upon suc-
ceeding thought must surely be reckoned a greater achieve-
ment than any that could have resulted from the constructing
of a system so consistent and unified, that the alternative
would lie only between its acceptance and its rejection. Ulti-
mately the value of a philosophy consists more in the richness
of its content and the comprehensiveness of its dialectic,
than in the logical perfection of its formal structure. The
latter quality is especially unfitted to a philosophy which
inaugurated a new era, and formulated the older problems in
an altogether novel manner. Under such conditions fertility
of suggestion and readiness to modify or even recast adopted
positions, openness to fuller insight acquired through the very
solutions that may at first have seemed to satisfy and close the
issues, are more to be valued than the power to remove
contradictions and attain consistency. This is the point of
view which I shall endeavour to justify in reference to the
matters now before us. In particular there are two points to be
settled : first, whether and how far the argument of the second
edition is prefigured in the first edition ; and secondly,
whether and to what extent it harmonises with, and gives
expression to, all that is most central and genuinely Critical
in both editions.

In the first place we must observe that the fourth Para-
logism occurs in a section which -bears all the signs of having
been independently written and incorporated later into the
main text. It is certainly of earlier origin than those sections
which represent the third and fourth layers of the deduction
of the first edition, and very possibly was composed in the
middle 'seventies. Indeed, apart from single paragraphs
which may have been added in the process of adapting it
to the main text, it could quite well, so far as its refutation
of idealism is concerned, be of even earlier date. The
question as to the consistency of the refutation of the second
edition with the teaching of the first edition must therefore
chiefly concern those parts of the Analytic which connect with
the later forms of the transcendental deduction, that is to
say, with the transcendental deduction itself, with the A nalogies
and Postulates, and with particular paragraphs that have been
added in other sections. We have already noted how Kant
from the very first uses terms which involve the drawing of
a distinction between representations and their objects. Pas-
sages in which this distinction occurs can be cited from both


the Aesthetic and the Analytic, and two such occur in the
fourth Paralogism itself. 1 Objects, he says, "correspond" to
their representations. A variation in expression is found in
such passages as the following :

"... the objects of outer perception also actually exist (auch
wirklick sind) in that very form in which they are intuited in
space. . . ." 2

Such language is meaningless, and could never have
been chosen, if Kant had not, even in the earlier stages of
his thinking, postulated a difference between the existence
of an object and the existence of its representation. He
must at least have distinguished between the representations
and their content. That, however, he could have done with-
out advancing to the further assertion of their independent
existence. Probably he was not at all clear in his own mind,
and was too preoccupied with the other complexities of his
problem, to have thought out his position to a definite decision.
When, however, as in the fourth Paralogism, he made any
attempt so to do, he would seem to have felt constrained to
adopt the extreme subjectivist position. Expressions to that
effect are certainly very much more common than those
above mentioned. This is what affords Schopenhauer such
justification, certainly very strong, as he can cite for regarding
subjectivism as the undoubted teaching of the first edition.

When, however, we also take account of the very different
teaching which is contained in the important section on the
Postulates of Empirical Thought, the balance of evidence is
decisively altered. The counter-teaching, which is suggested
by certain of the conflicting factors of the transcendental
deduction and of the Analogies, here again receives clear and
detailed expression. This is the more significant, as it is in
this section that Kant sets himself formally to define what is
to be understood by empirical reality. It thus contains his,
so to speak, official declaration as to the mode of exist-
ence possessed by outer appearances. The passage chiefly
relevant is as follows :

" If the existence of the thing is bound up with some percep-
tions according to the principles of their empirical connection (the
Analogies), we can determine its existence antecedently to the
perception of it, and consequently, to that extent, in an a priori
manner. For as the existence of the thing is bound up with our
perceptions in a possible experience, we are able in the series of
possible perceptions, and under the guidance of the Analogies, to
make the transition from our actual perception to the thing in

1 Cf. above, pp. 303-4. 2 A 491=6 520.


question. Thus we discover the existence of a magnetic matter
pervading all bodies from the perception of the attracted iron filings,
although the constitution of our organs cuts us off from all immediate
perception of that matter. For in accordance with the laws of
sensibility and the connection of our perceptions in a single experi-
ence, we should, were our senses more refined, actually experience
it in an immediate empirical intuition. The grossness of our senses
does not in any way decide the form of possible experience in
general." l

Now it cannot, of course, be argued that the above passage
is altogether unambiguous. We can, if we feel sufficiently
constrained thereto, place upon it an interpretation which
would harmonise it with Kant's more usual subjectivist teach-
ing, namely as meaning that in the progressive construction
of experience, or in the ideal completion which follows upon
assumption of more refined sense-organs, possible empirical
realities are made to become, or are assumed to become, real,
but that until the possible experiences are thus realised in fact
or in ideal hypothesis, they exist outwardly only in the form
of their noumenal conditions. And as a matter of fact, this
is how Kant himself interprets the teaching of this section in
the process of applying it in solution of the antinomies.

" Accordingly, if I represent to myself the aggregate of all objects
of the senses existing in all time and all places, I do not set them,
antecedently to experience, in space and time. The representation
is nothing but the thought of a possible experience in its absolute
completeness. Since the objects are mere representations, only in
such a possible experience are they given. To say that they exist
prior to all my experience, can only be taken as meaning that they
will be met with, if, starting from actual perception, I advance to that
part of experience to which they belong. The cause of the empirical
conditions of this advance (that which determines what members I
shall meet with, or how far I can meet with any such in my regress)
is transcendental, and is therefore necessarily unknown to me. We
are not, however, concerned with this transcendental cause, but
only with the rule of progression in that experience in which objects,
that is to say, appearances, are given. Moreover, in outcome it
is a matter of indifference whether I say that in the empirical progress
in space I can meet with stars a hundred times farther removed than
the outermost now perceptible to me, or whether I say that they are
perhaps to be met with in cosmical space even though no human
being has ever perceived or ever will perceive them. For though
they might be given as things in themselves, without relation to
possible experience, they are still nothing to me, and therefore are
not objects, save in so far as they are contained in the series of the
empirical regress." 2

1 A 225-6 = 6 273. 2 A 495-6 = B 523-4.


But though this is a possible interpretation of the teach-
ing of the Postulates, and though further it is Kant's own
interpretation in another portion of the Critique, it is not by
any means thereby decided that this is what the section itself
actually teaches. Unbiassed study of the section, in inde-
pendence of the use to which it is elsewhere put, can find
within it no such limitation to its assertion of the actual
independent existence of non-perceived bodies. We have
to remember that the doctrine and solution of the Antinomies
was completed prior to the writing of the central portions of
the Critique. The section treating of their solution seems,
indeed, in certain parts to be later * than the other main
portions of the chapter on the Antinomies, and must have
been at least recast after completion of the Postulates. But
the subjectivist solution is so much simpler in statement, so
much more fully worked out, and indeed so much more
capable of definite formulation, and also so much more at one
with the teaching developed in the preceding chapter on the
Paralogisms, that even granting the doctrine expounded in
the section on the Postulates to be genuinely phenomenalist,
it is not surprising that Kant should have been unwilling
to recast his older and simpler solution of the Antinomies.
In any case we are not concerned to argue that Kant, even
after formulating the phenomenalist view, yields to it an
unwavering adherence. As I have already insisted, his atti-
tude continues to the very last to be one of alternation
between two opposed standpoints.

But the most significant feature of Kant's treatment of
the argument of the Postulates still remains for consideration.
It was in immediate succession to the paragraph above quoted 2
that Kant, in the second edition, placed his " Refutation of
Idealism " with the emphatic statement that this (not as in
the first edition in connection with the Paralogisms] was its
"correct location." It is required, he says, as a reply to an
objection which the teaching of the Postulates must at once
suggest. The argument of the second edition in proof of the
independent reality of material bodies, and in disproof of
subjectivism, is thus given by Kant as a necessary extension
and natural supplement of the teaching of the first edition.

There is therefore reason for concluding that the same
preconception which has led to such radical misinterpretation
of Kant's Refutation of Idealism has been at work in inducing
a false reading of Kant's argument in the Postulates, namely
the belief that Kant's teaching proceeds on consistent lines,
and that it must at all costs be harmonised with itself.

1 Cf. below, p. 506. 2 Viz. A 225-6 = B 273.


Finding subjectivism to be emphatically and unambiguously
inculcated in all the main sections of the Critique, and the
phenomenalist views, on the other hand, to be stated in a
much less definite and somewhat elusive manner, commen-
tators have impoverished the Critical teaching by suppres-
sion of many of its most subtile and progressive doctrines.
Kant's experimental, tentative development of divergent
tendencies is surely preferable to this artificial product of
high-handed and unsympathetic emendation.


We are now in position to complete our treatment of
inner sense. When the inner world of feelings, volitions,
and representations is placed on the same empirical level
as the outer world of objects in space, when the two are
correlated and yet also at the same time sharply dis-
tinguished, when, further, it is maintained that objects in
space exist independently of their representations, and that
in this independence they are necessary for the possibility
of the latter, the whole aspect of the Critical teaching under-
goes a genial and welcome transformation. Instead of the
forbidding doctrine that the world in space is merely my
representation, we have the very different teaching that only
through consciousness of an independent world in space is
consciousness of the inner subjective life possible at all, and
that as each is " external " to the other, neither can be reduced
to, or be absorbed within, the other. The inner representa-
tions do not produce or generate the spatial objects, do not
even condition their existence, but are required only for the
individual's empirical consciousness of them. Indeed the
relations previously holding between them are now reversed.
It is the outer world which renders the subjective representa-
tions possible. The former is prior to the latter; the latter
exist in order to reveal the former. The outer world in space
must, indeed, be regarded as conditioned by, and relative to,
the noumenal conditions of its possibility ; but these, on
Kant's doctrine of outer and inner sense, are distinct from
all experienced contents and from all experienced mental
processes. This will at once be recognised as holding of the
noumenal conditions of the given manifold. But it is equally
true, Kant maintains, in regard to the noumenal conditions
of our mental life. We have no immediate knowledge of
the transcendental syntheses that condition all consciousness,
and in our complete ignorance of their specific nature they



cannot legitimately be equated with any individual or personal
agent. As the empirical self is only what it is known as,
namely, appearance, it cannot be the bearer of appearance.
This function falls to that which underlies both inner and
outer appearances equally, and which within experience gains
twofold expression for itself, in the conception of the thing
in itself =x on the one hand, and in the correlative conception
of a transcendental subject, likewise = x, on the other.

But with mention of the transcendental subject we are
brought to a problem which in the second edition invariably
accompanies Kant's discussion of inner sense. The ' I think '
of apperception can find expression only in an empirical
judgment, and yet, so far from being the outcome of inner
sense, preconditions its possibility. What then is its relation
to inner sense ? Does not its recognition conflict with Kant's
denial of the possibility of self-conscious reflection, of direct
intuitive apprehension by the self of itself? The pure apper-
ception, ' I think,' is equivalent, Kant declares, to the judg-
ment ' I am,' and therefore involves the assertion of the
subject's existence. 1 Does not this conflict on the one hand
with the Critical doctrine that knowledge of existence is only
possible in terms of sense, and on the other with the Critical
limitation of the categories to the realm of appearance?
How are such assertions as that the ' I think ' of pure apper-
ception refers to a non-empirical reality, and that it predicates
its existence, to be reconciled with the doctrine of inner sense,
as above stated ?

As we have already observed, 2 Kant's early doctrine of the
transcendental object was developed in a more or less close

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 40 of 72)