Norman Kemp Smith.

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

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of spatially ordered substances.

This argument has a twofold bearing. Its most obvious
consequence is that all things apprehended as coexistent must
be conceived as standing in relations of reciprocal interaction ;
but by implication this involves the further consequence that
the conceptual principle of reciprocity is an integral factor in
all apprehension of space. Space, though intuitive in char-
acter, has a meaning that demands this concept for its articula-
tion. Just as consciousness of temporal sequence is only
possible in terms of causation, so consciousness of spatial

1 A 2i3-i4 = B 260-1. 2 B 257.


coexistence is only possible through application of the category
of reciprocity. And since, on Kant's view, awareness of space
conditions awareness of time, these conclusions carry the
Critical analysis of our consciousness of time a stage further.
In confirmation of the more general argument of the objective
deduction, reciprocity is added to the already large sum-total
of the indispensable conditions of our time - consciousness ;
while in regard to time itself it is shown that, owing to its
space-reference, coexistence may be counted among its possible

I have made occasional reference to the positions adopted
by Stout in his Manual of Psychology ', and may here indicate
their relation to the present argument. Stout cites four
" categories " or ultimate principles of unity which " belong
even to rudimentary perceptual consciousness as a condition
of its further development," x namely, spatial unity, temporal
unity, causal unity, and the unity of different attributes as
belonging to the same thing. The criticism which, from the
standpoint of the Analogies ', has to be passed upon this list, 2
is that it ignores the category of reciprocity, i.e. of systematic
interconnection, and that it fails to recognise the close relation
in which the various principles stand to one another. The
temporal unity must not be isolated from causal unity, nor
either of them from the spatial unity, with which the category
of reciprocity is inseparably bound up. Further, Kant main-
tains that these principles are demanded, not merely for the
development of perceptual consciousness, but for its very

But Kant's argument suggests many difficulties which we
have not yet considered, and we may again employ Schopen-
hauer's criticisms to define the issues involved.

"The conception of reciprocity ought to be banished from meta-
physics. For I now intend, quite seriously, to prove that there is no
reciprocity in the strict sense, and this conception, which people are
so fond of using, just on account of the indefiniteness of the thought,
is seen, if more closely considered, to be empty, false, and invalid.
... It implies that both the states A and B are cause and that both
are effect of each other ; but this really amounts to saying that each
of the two is the earlier and also the later ; thus it is an absurdity." 3

This criticism proceeds on the assumption that the category
of reciprocity reduces to a dual application of the category of
causality. If that were the case, there would, of course, be no

1 Third edition, p. 438.

- Stout does not himself offer it as complete.

3 World as Will and Idea, W. ii. pp. 544-5: Eng. trans, ii. pp. 61-3.


separate category of reciprocity, 1 and further it would, as
Schopenhauer maintains, be impossible to regard A and B as
being at one and the same time both cause and effect of one
another. Causality determines the order of the states of
substances in the time series ; reciprocity must be distinct
from causality if it is to be capable of defining the order of
their coexistent states in space. A deduction from the dual
application of the conception of causality has, therefore, no
bearing upon the question of the possibility of this further
category. Kant has laid himself open to this criticism by a
passage which occurs in the first proof, and which shows that
he was not quite clear in his own mind as to how reciprocity
ought to be conceived.

" That alone can determine the position of anything else in time,
which is its cause or the cause of its determinations. Every substance
(inasmuch as only in its determinations can it be an effect) must
therefore contain in itself the causality of certain determinations in
the other substance, and at the same time the effects of the causality
of that other, i.e. they must stand in dynamical communion (immedi-
ately or mediately), if their coexistence is to be known in any possible
experience." 2

It should be noted that in the new proof 3 in the second
edition Kant is careful to employ the terms ground and
influence in place of the terms cause and causality.

Secondly, Schopenhauer argues that if the two states
necessarily belong to each other and exist at one and the
same time, they will not be simultaneous, but will constitute
only one state. 4 Schopenhauer is again refusing to recognise
the conditions under which alone a special category of
reciprocity is called for. We can speak of simultaneity
only if a multiplicity be given ; and if it be given, its nature
as simultaneous plurality cannot be comprehended through
a causal law, which, as such, applies only to sequent order.

Lastly, Schopenhauer endeavours to confirm his position
by examination of the supposed instances of reciprocity.

" [In the continuous burning of a fire] the combination of oxygen
with the combustible body is the cause of heat, and heat, again, is
the cause of the renewed occurrence of the chemical combination.
But this is nothing more than a chain of causes and effects, the
links of which have alternately the same name. . . . We see before
us only an application of the single and simple law of causality
which gives the rule to the sequence of states, but never anything

1 Cf. above, p. 197. 2 A 212-13 = 6 259.

3 B 258. 4 Op. cit. pp. 545-6 : Eng. trans, p. 63.


which must be comprehended by means of a new and special function
of the understanding." 1

Schopenhauer is again misled by his equating of reciprocity
with causal action. Combustion is quite obviously a case of
sequent processes. Instead of proving that coexistence does
not involve reciprocity, Schopenhauer is only showing that
cause and effect may sometimes, as Kant himself observes, 2
seem to be simultaneous. 3 Action followed by reaction is not
equivalent to what Kant means by reciprocal determination.
Schopenhauer also cites the instance of a pair of scales
brought to rest by equal weights.

" Here there is no effect produced, for there is no change ; it is a
state of rest; gravity acts, equally divided, as in every body which
is supported at its centre of gravity, but it cannot show its force by
any effect." 4

This example is more in line with what Kant would seem
to have in view, but is still defined in reference to the problem
of causation, and not in reference to that of coexistence.
Kant is not enquiring whether coexistent bodies are related
as causes and effects, though, as we have already observed,
his language betrays considerable lack of clearness on this
very point. He is endeavouring to define the conditions
under which we are enabled to recognise that bodies, external
to one another in space and apprehensible only through
sequent perceptions, are none the less coexistent. And the
answer which he gives is that coexistence can only be
determined by reference of each existence to the totality of
systematic relations within which it is found, its particular
spatial location being one of the factors which condition this
reference. Causal explanation in the most usual meaning of
that highly ambiguous phrase, namely, as explanation of an
artificially isolated event by reference to antecedents similarly
isolated from their context, may partially account for this
event being of one kind rather than another, but will not
explain why it is to be found at this particular time in this
particular place. That is to say, it will not answer the
question which is asked when we are enquiring as to what
events are coexistent with it.

But the considerations which thus enable us to dispose of
Schopenhauer's criticisms have the effect of involving us in
new, and much more formidable, difficulties. Indeed they
disclose the incomplete, and quite inadequate, character of

1 Op. cit. pp. 546-7 : Eng. trans, pp. 63-5.

2 Cf. above, p. 379. 3 Cf. Stadler, Grundsiitze, p. 124.

4 Op. cit. p. 546 : Eng. trans, p. 63.


Kant's proof of the third Analogy. For must not spatial co-
existence be independently known if it is to serve as one of
the factors determinant of reciprocity ? Can the apprehension
of extended bodies wait upon a prior knowledge of the
system of nature to which they belong ?

The mere propounding of these questions does not, how-
ever, suffice to overthrow Kant's contention. For he is
prepared that is indeed the reason why the Critique came
to be written to answer them in a manner that had never
before been suggested, save perhaps in the philosophies
of Plato and Aristotle. This answer first emerges in the
Dialectic, in the course of its treatment of the wider problem,
of which the above difficulties are only special instances, how
if conditioned parts can only be known in terms of an un-
conditioned whole, any knowledge whatsoever can be ac-
quired by us. But though Kant in the Dialectic gives due
prominence to this fundamental problem, the hard and fast
divisions of his architectonic and doubtless other influences
which would be difficult to define intervene to prevent him
from recognising its full implications. For the problem is
viewed in the Dialectic as involving considerations altogether
different from those dwelt upon in the Analogies, and as
being without application to the matters of which they

The situation thus created is very similar to that which is
occasioned by Kant's unfortunate separation of the problems
of space and time in the Aesthetic from the treatment of the
categories in the Analytic. In the Aesthetic space and time
are asserted to be intuitive, not conceptual, in nature ; and
yet in the Analytic we find Kant demonstrating that the
principles of causality and reciprocity are indispensably in-
volved in their apprehension. But even more misleading is
the separation of the problems of the Aesthetic and Analytic
from those of the Dialectic. Kant's primary and prevailing
interest is in the metaphysics, not in the mere methodology,
of experience ; and it is in the Dialectic that the meta-
physical principles which underlie and inspire all his other
tenets first find adequate statement. Since the third Analogy
defines the criterion of coexistence in entire independence
of all reference to the Ideas of Reason, Kant is thereby
precluded from even so much as indicating the true grounds
upon which his position, if it is to be really tenable, must
be made to rest. For as he ultimately came to recognise, the
intuition of space not only involves the conceptual category
of reciprocal determination, but likewise demands for its
possibility an Idea of Reason. In space the wider whole is


always prior in thought to the parts which go to constitute it.
But though Kant states 1 that this characteristic of space
justifies its being entitled an Idea of Reason, he nowhere
takes notice of the obvious and very important bearing which
this must have upon the problem, how we are to formulate
the criterion of coexistence.

The general character of time is analogous to that of
space, and our formulation of the criterion of causal sequence
is therefore similarly affected. The system of nature is not
the outcome of natural laws which are independently valid ;
natural laws are the expression of what this system pre-
scribes ; they are the modes in which it defines and embodies
its inherent necessities.

The situation which these considerations would seem to
disclose may, therefore, be stated as follows. If the empirical
criteria of truth are independent of the Ideas of Reason, the
Analytic may be adequate to their discussion, but will be
unable to justify the assertion that there is a category of
reciprocal or systematic connection distinct from that of
causality. . If, however, it should be found that these criteria
are merely special applications of standards metaphysical in
character and that would seem to be Kant's final conclusion,
only in the light of the wider considerations first broached
in the Dialectic, can we hope to define their nature and
implications with any approach to completeness.


First Postulate. That which agrees, in intuition and in
concepts, with the formal conditions of experience is possible.

Second Postulate. That which is connected with the material
conditions of experience (that is, with sensation] is actual. '

Third Postulate. That which is determined, in its connec-
tion with the actual, according to universal conditions of experi-
ence is (that is, exists as] necessary.

In this section Kant maintains that when the Critical
standpoint is accepted, possibility, actuality and necessity can
only be defined in terms of the conditions which render sense-
experience possible. In other words, the Critical position,
that all truth, even that of a priori principles, is merely de
facto, involves acceptance of the view that the actual reduces
to the experienced, and that only by reference to the actual
as thus given can possibility and necessity be defined. The
Leibnizian view that possibility is capable of being defined

1 Cf. above, pp. 97-8, 102 ., 165-6 ; below, pp. 429 ff. , 447 ff., 547 ff.


independently of the actual, and antecedently to all knowledge
of it, must be rejected.

An analysis of the text can be profitably made only after a
detailed examination of Kant's general argument ; and to
that task we may at once apply ourselves. The section
affords further illustration of the perverting influence of Kant's
architectonic, as well as of the insidious manner in which
the older rationalism continued to pervert his thinking in his
less watchful moments.

First Postulate. In the opening paragraphs Kant uses (as
it would seem without consciousness of so doing) the term
possibility in two very different senses. 1 When the possible
is distinguished from the actual and the necessary, it acquires
the meaning defined in this first Postulate ; it is " that which
agrees with the formal conditions of experience." But it is
also employed in a much narrower sense to signify that which
can have "objective reality, i.e. transcendental truth." 2 The
possibility of the objectively real rests upon fulfilment of a
threefold condition : (i) that it agree with the formal con-
ditions of experience ; (2) that it stand in connection with
the material of the sensuous conditions of experience ; and
(3) that it follow with necessity upon some preceding state in
accordance with the principle of causality, and so form part
of a necessitated order of nature. In other words, it must
be causally necessitated in order to be empirically actual ;
and only the empirically actual is genuinely possible. Such
is also the meaning that usually attaches to the term possible
in the other sections of the Critique. A ' possible experience '
is one that can become actual when the specific conditions,
all of which must themselves be possible, are fulfilled. An
experience which is not capable of being actual has no right
to be described even as possible. As a term applicable to
the objectively real, the possible is not wider than the actual,
but coextensive with it. As Kant himself remarks, those
terms refer exclusively to differences in the subjective atti-
tude of the apprehending mind.

This ambiguity in the term ' possibility ' has caused a
corresponding ambiguity in Kant's employment of the term
'actuality.' It leads him to endeavour to define the actual,
not in its connection with the conditions of possibility, but in
distinction from them. The possible having been defined (in
the first Postulate) solely in terms of the formal factors of
experience, he proceeds to characterise the actual in a
similarly one-sided fashion, exclusively in terms of the

1 Cf. Adickes, K. p. 233 .
2 A 222 = B 269. Cf. A 220= B 268.


material element of given sensation. Doubtless the element
of sensation must play a prominent part in enabling us to
decide what is or is not actually existent, but no definition
which omits to take account of relational factors can be an
adequate expression of Critical teaching. Indeed, we only
require to substitute the words ' sensuously given ' for c actual '
in Kant's definition of the third Postulate (i.e. of the necessary)
in order to obtain a correct statement of the true Critical
view of actual existence : it is " that which is determined in
its connection with the sensuously given according to universal
conditions of experience." For Kant the actual and the
necessary, objectively viewed, coincide. Necessity is for the
human mind always merely de facto ; and nothing can be
objectively actual that is not causally determined. As the
empirically possible cannot, in its objective reference, be
wider than the empirically necessary, one and the same
definition adequately covers all three terms alike. While the
distinctions between them will, of course, remain, they will
be applicable, not to objects, but only to the subjective con-
ditions of experience in so far as these may vary from one
ndividual to another. Experiences capable of being actual
for one individual may be merely possible for another. And
what is merely actual to one observer may by others be com-
prehended in its necessitating connections. The terms will
not denote differences in the real, but only variations in the
cognitive attitude of the individual.

Thus in professing to show that the three Postulates are
transcendental principles, Kant does less than justice to his
own teaching. For though both here and in the opening
sections of the chapter x he speaks of them in this manner,
i.e. as being conditions alike of ordinary and of scientific
experience, he has himself admitted in so many words the
inappropriateness of such a description.

" The principles of modality are nothing more than explanations
[not, it may be noted, proofs] of the concepts of possibility, actuality
and necessity, in their empirical use, and are therefore at the same
time restrictions of all the categories to this merely empirical use,
ruling out and forbidding their transcendental [ = transcendent]
employment." 2

That is to say, these so-called principles are not really prin-
ciples ; they merely embody explanatory statements designed
to render the preceding results more definite, and especially to
guard against the illegitimate meanings which the Leibnizian
metaphysics had attached to certain of the terms involved.

1 A i 4 8ff. = B 187 ff. 2 A 2I9 = B 266.


These considerations bring us to the real source of Kant's
perverse argumentation, namely, the artificial (but none the
less imperious) demands of his architectonic. He is con-
strained to provide a set of principles corresponding to the
categories of modality. The definitions of the modal cate-
gories have therefore to be called by that inappropriate name.
But that is not the end of the matter. In order to meet the
needs of his logical framework, Kant proceeds even further
than he had ventured to do in the sections on the Axioms of
Intuition and Anticipations of Perception. There he fell so
far short as to provide only a .single principle in each case.
In dealing, however, with the categories of relation he has
been able to define each of the three categories separately,
and to derive from each a separate principle. Many of the
defects in his argument are, indeed, traceable to this source.
The close interrelations of the three principles are, as we
have had occasion to note, seriously obscured. But still, in
the main, separate treatment of each has proved feasible.
Kant, encouraged, as we may believe, by this successful fulfil-
ment of architectonic requirements, now sets himself to develop,
in similar fashion, a separate principle for each modal category.
But for any such enterprise the conditions are less favourable
than in the case of the categories of relation. For, as just
indicated, no one of the three can, on Critical principles,
possess any genuine meaning save in its relation to the others.
Before following out this line of criticism, we must however
note some further points in Kant's argument.

In A 219 = 6 266, and again in A 225 = B 272, Kant makes
the statement that a concept can be complete prior to any
decision as to its possibility, actuality, or necessity. This
contention is capable of being interpreted in two quite inde-
pendent ways, and in only one of those ways is it tenable.
He may mean that the distinction between the possible, the
actual, and the necessary, does not concern the objectively
real, which as such is always both actual and necessary, but
only the subjective attitude of the individual towards the
objects of his thought and experience. From the Critical
standpoint, as we have been arguing, such a contention is
entirely just. But Kant would seem in the above statement
to be chiefly concerned to maintain that a conception may
be complete and determinate, even while we remain in doubt
whether the existence for which it stands is even possible. 1
Such a view is merely a relic of the Leibnizian rationalism

1 This, by Kant's own account (A 232-4 6 285-7), is what led him to adopt
the title postulates.' A geometrical postulate does not add anything to the
concept of its object but only defines the conditions of its production.


from which he is striving to break away. All existences have
their place in a systematic order of experience, and no con-
ception of them can be either complete or determinate which
fails to specify the causal context to which they belong. The
process of specifying the detail of a concept is the only
process whereby we can define its possibility, actuality, or
necessity. 1 Were it capable of complete statement without
determination of its modal character, it could never form
part of a unified experience. The examples of " fictitious "
concepts, which Kant cites, are either so determinate as to
be demonstrably inconsistent with experience, and therefore
empirically impossible, or so indeterminate as to afford no
sufficient means of deciding even as to their possibility.

There is a further objection to the definition given of
possibility in the first Postulate. After stating that the
possible is what agrees with the formal conditions of experi-
ence, Kant proceeds, on the one hand, to argue that the forms
of intuition and the categories of understanding may, in
accordance with this criterion, be viewed as possible, and, on
the other hand, to maintain that no other concepts can be
so regarded. 2 That is to say, the possible, as thus interpreted,
does not consist in something additional to, and in harmony
with, the conditions of experience, but reduces without
remainder to those very forms. Now Kant is not betrayed
merely by inadvertence into thus narrowing the sphere of the
possible ; such limitation is an almost inevitable consequence
of the one-sided manner in which he has treated the concept
of the possible in this first Postulate. He professes to be
proceeding in the light of the results obtained in the tran-
scendental deduction, and to be defining the possible in terms
of the conditions which make sense - experience possible.
But the deduction has shown that experience is possible
only in so far as the material factors co-operate with the
formal. And when this is recognised, it becomes obvious
that a definition of the possible in terms of sensation,
namely, as that which is capable of being presented in sense-
perception, is equally legitimate, and is indeed required in
order to correct the deficiencies of the definition which Kant
has himself given. As both factors are indispensable in all
possible experience, both must be reckoned with in defining
the possible.

Kant's argument in the fifth paragraph is somewhat
obscured by its context. He is contending that fictitious
(gedichtcte] concepts, elaborated from the contents presented

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 48 of 72)