Norman Kemp Smith.

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

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which the important conclusions arrived at in the Dialectic
may have in regard to it. Like so many of the most important
and fruitful of his tenets, these consequences are suggested
merely by implication ; or rather remain to be discovered by
the reader's own independent efforts, in proportion as he

1 Cf. above, p. 404 ff., especially pp. 409-10 ; also above, p. 331.


thinks himself into the distinctions upon which, in other con-
nections, Kant has himself insisted. They are never actually
formulated in and by themselves.

In seeking, therefore, to decide upon what basis the dis-
tinction between appearance and reality ought to be regarded
as resting, we are attempting to determine how the argument
of this chapter would have proceeded had it been located
at the close of the Dialectic. The task is by no means easy,
but the difficulties are hardly as formidable as may at first sight
appear. The general outlines of the argument are fairly defi-
nitely prescribed by Kant's treatment of kindred questions,
and may perhaps, with reasonable correctness, be hypothetic-
ally constructed in view of the following considerations.

Just as Kant started from the natural assumption that
reference of representations to objects must be their reference
to things in themselves, so he similarly adopted the current
Cartesian view that it is by an inference, in terms of the
category of causality, that we advance from a representation
to its external ground. It was very gradually, in the process
of developing his own Critical teaching, and especially his
phenomenalist view of the empirical world in space, that he
came to realise the very different position to which he stood
committed. 1 When the doctrine of the transcendental object
is eliminated from his teaching, and when the categories,
including that of causality, are pre-empted for the empirical
object, and that object is regarded as directly apprehended,
the function of mediating the reference of phenomenal nature
to a noumenal basis falls to the Ideas of Reason. For the
distinction is no longer between representations and their
noumenal causes, but between the limited and relative char-
acter of the entire world in space and time, and the uncon-

1 In order to form an adequate judgment upon Kant's justification for dis-
tinguishing between appearance and reality the reader must bear in mind (i) the
results obtained in the Transcendental Deduction (above, p. 270 ff. ) ; (2) the dis-
cussions developed in the Paralogisms (below, p. 457 ff. ); (3) the treatment of
noumenal causality, that is of freedom, in the Third and Fourth Antinomies ; (4)
the many connected issues raised in the Ideal (below, pp. 534-7, 541-2), and in the
Appendix to the Dialectic (below, p. 543 ff- ) Professor Dawes Hicks is justified
in maintaining in his book, die Begriffe Phdnomenon und Noumenon in ihrem Ver-
hdltniss zu einander bei Kant (Leipzig, 1897, p. 167) a work which unfortunately
is not accessible to the English reader that " the thing in itself is by no means
a mere excrescence or addendum of the Kantian system, but forms a thoroughly
necessary completion to the doctrine of appearances. At every turn in Kant's
thought the doctrine of the noumenon, in one form or another, plays an essential
part." Indeed it may be said that to state Kant's reasons for asserting the
existence of things in themselves, is to expound his philosophy as a whole. Upon
this question there appears in Kant the same alternation of view as in regard to
his other main tenets. On Kant's discussion of the applicability of the category
of existence to things in themselves, cf. above, p. .322 ff. Also, on Kant's extension
of the concepts possibility and actuality to noumena, cf. above, pp. 391 ff., 401-3.


ditioned reality which Reason demands for its own satisfaction.
To regard the world in space as merely phenomenal, because
failing to satisfy our standards of genuine reality, is to adopt
an entirely different attitude from any to be found in Descartes
or Locke. The position may be outlined in the following
manner, in anticipation of its more adequate statement in
connection with the problems of the Dialectic.

The concept, whereby Reason limits sensibility, is not
properly describable as being that of the thing in itself; it is
the unique concept of the unconditioned. Our awareness of the
conditioned as being conditioned presupposes, over and above
the categories, an antecedent awareness of Ideal 1 standards;
and to that latter more fundamental form of consciousness all
our criteria of truth and reality are ultimately due. The criteria
by means of which we empirically distinguish sense-appearance
from sense-illusion, when rigorously applied, lead us to detect
deficiencies in the empirical as such. We have then no alterna-
tive save to conceive absolute reality in terms of the rational
Ideals, of which the empirical criteria are merely specialised

There are thus two distinct, but none the less inter-
dependent, elements involved in Kant's more mature teaching,
phenomenalism, and what may be called the Idealist, or
absolutist, interpretation of the function of Reason. Each
demands the other for its own establishment. There must
be a genuinely objective world, by reflection upon which we
may come to consciousness of the standards which are involved
in our judgments upon it ; and we must possess a faculty
through which our consciousness of these standards may be
accounted for. The standards of judgment cannot be ac-
quired by means of judgments which do not already pre-
suppose them ; the processes by which they are brought to
clear consciousness cannot be the processes in which they
originate. They must be part of the a priori conditions of
experience and combine with space, time and the categories
to render experience of the kind which we possess self-
transcending and self-limiting actually possible.

From this point of view the distinction between appearance
and reality is not a contrast between experience and the
non-experienced, but a distinguishing of factors, which are
essential to all experience, and through which we come to
consciousness of an irresolvable conflict between the Ideals
which inspire us in the acquisition of experience, and the

1 ' Ideal ' and ' Idealist ' are printed with capitals, to mark the very special
sense in which these terms are being used. As already noted (above, p. 3), the
same remark applies to the term ' Reason.'



imiting conditions under which alone experience is attainable
by us. In the higher field of Reason, as in the lower field of
understanding, it is not through the given, but only through
the given as interpreted by conditioning forms of an Ideal
nature, that a meaningful reality can disclose itself to the
mind. The ultimate meaning of experience lies in its signifi-
cance when tested by the standards which are indispensably
involved in its own possibility. That meaning is essentially
metaphysical ; more is implied in experience than the ex-
perienced can ever itself be found to be. 1

Such is the central thesis of the Critical philosophy, when
the teaching of the Analytic is supplemented by that of the
Dialectic. Though the Critique is, indeed, the record of the
manifold ways in which Kant diverged from this position,
not a systematic exposition of its implications and conse-
quences, the above thesis represents the goal upon which his
various lines of thought tend to converge. It is the guiding
motive of his devious and complex argument in the three
main divisions of the Dialectic. On no other interpretation
can the detail of his exposition be satisfactorily explained.

There are two chief reasons why Kant failed to draw the
above conclusions in any quite explicit manner. One reason
has already been sufficiently emphasised, namely, that the
thesis, which I have just formulated, rests upon a phenomen-
alist view of the natural world, whereas the Dialectic is inspired
by the earlier, subjectivist doctrine of the transcendental object.
Upon the other main reason I shall have frequent occasion to
insist. As ,we shall find, Kant was unable to arrive at any
quite definitive decision as to the nature of the Ideals of
Reason. He alternates between the sceptical and the abso-
lutist view of their origin and function, and in the process of
seeking a comprehensive mid-way position which would do
justice to all that is valid in the opposing arguments, the
further question as to the bearing of his conclusions upon the
problem of the distinction between appearance and reality was
driven into the background. But we are anticipating matters
the discussion of which must meantime be deferred.

1 Cf. above, pp. xli-ii, xliv, liii-v, 331.

2 E



IN this appendix Kant gives a criticism of the Leibnizh
rationalism a criticism already partially stated in the sectior
on the Postulates and he does this in a manner which ver>
clearly reveals the influence which that rationalism continuec
to exercise upon his own thinking. Thus Kant speaks of the
" mere concept," 2 and in doing so evidently means to imply thai
it exists in its own right, with a nature determined solely by
intrinsic factors of a strictly a priori character, in complete
independence of the specific material of sense -experience
He denies, it is true, the objective validity of such concepts
and maintains that in their empirical employment they are
completely transformed through the addition of new factors
None the less he allows to the concepts an intrinsic nature
and practically maintains that from the point of view of the
pure concept, and therefore from the point of view of a logic
based upon it, the Leibnizian rationalism is the one true
system of metaphysics. For pure thought, Leibniz's systerr
is the ultimate and only possible philosophy ; and were
thought capable of determining the nature of things in them-
selves, we should be constrained to adopt it as metaphysically
valid. This is the standpoint which underlies much of Kant'.'
argument in the Dialectic. It leads him to maintain that the
self must necessarily, in virtue of an unavoidable transcend-
ental illusion, believe in its own independent substantia
reality, that the mind is constrained to conceive reality as ar
unconditioned unity, and that the notions of God, freedom
and immortality are Ideas necessarily involved in the very
constitution of human thought.

But we must not regard Kant's doctrine of the pure
concept merely as a survival from a standpoint which the
Critical teaching is destined to displace and supersede. Foi

1 A 260 ff. = B 316 ff. 2 Cf. above, pp. 38-9, 119, 131-3, 338-9, 394-



is not led through inconsistency, or through any mere
of thoroughness in the development of his Critical
iples, to retain this rationalistic doctrine. To under-
stand the really operative grounds of Kant's argumentation,
and so to place the contents of this section in proper focus,
vve must recall the fundamental antithesis, developed in my
introduction, 1 between the alternative positions, which are
represented for Kant by the philosophies of Hume and
Leibniz. Kant, as already observed, is profoundly convinced
}f the essential truth of the Leibnizian position. He holds to
;he Leibnizian view of reason. Human reason is essentially
netaphysical ; its ultimate function is to emancipate us from
;he limiting conditions of animal existence ; it reveals its
lature in those Ideas of the unconditioned, the discussion of

! vhich Kant reserves for the Dialectic.

The chief defect in Kant's criticism of Leibniz, as de-

I /eloped in this section, is that the deeper issues, which
determine the extent of his agreement with Leibniz, are not

\ -aised or even indicated. Consequently, his references to

\ 3ure thought, and his assertion * that from the point of view
)f pure thought Leibniz is entirely justified in his teaching,
Bewilder the reader, who has been made to adopt a Critical
standpoint, and therefore to believe that thought can function
>nly in connection with the data of sense-experience. Kant
vould seem, indeed, to have lapsed into the dogmatic stand-
point of the Dissertation, distinguishing between a sensible
ind an intelligible world, and maintaining that pure thought
s capable of determining the nature of the latter. The only
lifference between his teaching here and in the Dissertation
xmsists in the admission that all knowledge is limited to
iense-experience, and that we are therefore unable to deter-
nine whether this intelligible world which we must think, and
hink in the precise manner defined by Leibniz, does or does
lot exist.

This section is, indeed, like the chapter on Phenomena and
Voumena, wrongly located. Giving, as it does, Kant's criti-
:ism of the Leibnizian ontology, it discusses problems of
netaphysics ; and ought therefore to have found its place in
he Dialectic, in natural connection with the corresponding
:xamination of the metaphysical sciences of rational psycho-
ogy, cosmology, and theology. Architectonic, that ever-
>resent source of so many of Kant's idiosyncrasies, has again
nterposed its despotic mandate. As there are only three
orms of syllogism, only three main divisions can be recognised
n the Dialectic', and the criticism of ontology, to its great

1 Above, p. xxx ff., and below, p. 601 ff. 2 Cf. A 267 = 6 323.


detriment, must therefore be located, where it does not i
the least belong, in the concluding section of the Analytic^

But we must follow Kant's argument as here giver
Leibniz views thought as capable of prescribing, antecedent!
to all experience, the fundamental conditions to which realit
must conform. The possible is prior to, and independent o
the actual ; and can be adequately determined by pure reaso
from its own inherent resources. Kant does not here questio
this assertion of the independence and priority of pure though
He is content to maintain that what is valid for thought nee
not hold of those appearances which are the only possibl
objects of human knowledge, since in sense-experience cond
tions, unforeseen by pure thought, partly limitative and parti
extensive of its concepts, intervene to modify the conclusion
which from its own point of view are logically valid. Leibni;
through failure to realise the dual character of thought an
sense, overlooked this all-important fact ; and, in assertin
that what is true for pure thought is valid of the sensuousl
real, fell victim to the fallacy which Kant entitles transcend
ental amphiboly.

Kant's clearest statement of the fallacy is in A 280= B 33(
It reduces, formally stated, to the fallacy of denying th
antecedent. In accordance with the dictum de omni et null
we can validly assert that what belongs to or contradicts
universal concept, belongs to or contradicts the particulai
which fall under that concept. Leibniz employs the principj
in a negative and invalid form. He argues that what is m
contained in a universal concept is also not contained in th
particulars to which it applies. "The entire intellectual!;
system of Leibniz is reared upon this latter principle." An
as Kant points out, 2 the reason why so acute and powerful
thinker succumbed to this obvious fallacy is to be found i
his view of sense as merely confused thought ; or, to state th
same point in another way, in his interpretation of appea:
ances as being the confused representations of things i
themselves. 3 All differences between appearance and realit
are, on this view, due merely to lack of clearness in 01
apprehension of the given. Sense, when completely clarifie<
reduces without remainder to pure thought; and in tf
concepts, which thought develops from within itself, lie th
whole content alike of knowledge and of real existenc
Owing to a metaphysical theory of the nature of the rea
itself due to a false interpretation of the nature and functic
of pure thought, and ultimately traceable to an excessn

1 Cf. Adickes' Systematik, pp. 60, 70, 72, and 111-12.
2 A 27o = B 326. 3 Cf. A 264 = 6 319, and A 266 = B 322.


preoccupation with knowledge of the strictly mathematical
type, 1 Leibniz failed to do justice to the fundamental
characteristics of our human experience, and in especial to
the actual given nature of space, time, and dynamical
causality. His rationalistic metaphysics has its roots in the
Cartesian philosophy, 2 and is, in Kant's view, the perfected
product of philosophical thinking, when developed on dog-
matic, i.e. non-Critical, lines. It is the opposite counterpart
of the empirical or sceptical type of philosophy which in
modern times found its first great supporter in Locke, and
which, as Kant held, obtained its perfected expression in
the philosophy of Hume. While Descartes and Leibniz
intellectualise appearances, Locke and Hume regard the a
priori concepts of understanding as merely empirical products
of discursive reflection. Both commit the same fundamental
error of failing to recognise that understanding and sensibility
are two distinct sources of representations. 3 Both conse-
quently strive, in equally one-sided fashion, to reduce the
complexity of experience to one alone of its constituent
elements. This section of the Critique ought to have developed
the Critical teaching in its opposition to both these alterna-
tive attitudes ; Kant arbitrarily limits it to criticism of the
Leibnizian rationalism.

Kant's method of introducing and arranging his criticism
is artificial, and need be no more than mentioned. Critical
reflection upon the sources of our knowledge, which Kant, in
order to distinguish it from reflection of the ordinary type,
entitles transcendental reflection, is, he states, a duty imposed
upon all who would profess to pass a priori judgments upon
the real. It will trace the concepts employed to their
corresponding faculties, intellectual and sensuous, and will
reveal the independence and disparity of sensibility and
understanding, and so will effectually prevent that false
locating of concepts to which transcendental amphiboly is
due. Such reflection, he further argues, consists in a com-
parison of the representations with the faculty to which they
are due, and like ordinary comparison will determine the
relations of (i) identity and difference, (2) agreement and
opposition, (3) inner and outer, (4) determinate and determin-
ing (matter and form). In this arbitrary but ingenious
fashion Kant contrives to obtain the four main headings
required for his criticism of the Leibnizian ontology.

(i) Under the first heading he deals with the principle

1 Cf. below, pp. 563-5, 589 ff., 601 ff.

2 I have dwelt upon this at length in my Studies in the Cartesian Philosophy.
3 A 271 = 6 327.


of the identity of indiscernibles. It is, Kant maintains, a
typical example of the fallacy of transcendental amphiboly.
Leibniz argues that if no difference is discoverable in the concept
of things, there can be none in the things themselves ; thing;;
which are identical in conception must be identical in al
respects. But this, Kant replies, is true only so long as th(
concepts abstract from the sensuous conditions of existence
Thus no two cubic feet of space are alike. They are distin
guishable from one another by their spatial location ; and tha
is a difference which concerns the conditions of intuition ; it i
not to be discovered in the pure concept. 1 Spaces, alike fo
thought, are distinguishable for sense. To take another o
Kant's illustrations : two drops of water, if indistinguishable
in all their internal properties of quality or quantity, are con
ceptually identical. Through differences of location in space
irrelevant to their conception, they can none the less b<
intuited as numerically different. The principle of indis
cernibles is not a law of nature, but only an analytic rule fo:
the comparison of things through mere concepts. 2

(2) A second principle of the Leibnizian metaphysics i;
that realities can never conflict with one another. This i.'
supposed to follow from the fact that in pure thought the onl}
form of opposition is logical negation. Realities, being pun
affirmations, must necessarily harmonise with one another
This principle ignores the altogether different conditions o
sense-existence. Space, time, and the resulting possibility o
dynamical causality supply the conditions for real opposition
Two existences, though equally real and positive, may annu
one another. Two forces acting upon a body may neutralise
one another. From the above logical principle Leibniz'.'
successors 3 profess to obtain the far-reaching metaphysica
conclusions, that all realities agree with one another, thai
evil is merely negative, consisting exclusively in limitation o:
existence, and that God, without detriment to the unity 01
his being, can be constituted of all possible realities.

(3) Viewing space and time, which condition externa
relation, as merely confused forms of apprehension, Leibnis
further concluded that the reality of substance is purely
internal. And ruling out position, shape, contact and motion
all of which involve external relations, he felt justified ir
endowing the monads with the sole remaining form of known
existence, namely consciousness. The assertion that the
monads are incapable of external relation leads to the further

1 The un- Critical character of Kant's doctrine of the pure concept has alread)
been noted (above, pp. 418-19), and need not be further discussed.

2 A 272 = 6 328. 3 A 273 = 6329.


conclusion that they are incapable of interaction, and stand
in systematic relation to one another, solely in virtue of a pre-
established harmony.

(4) From the point of view of pure thought matter must
precede form. The universal must precede the particular
which is a specification of it. 1 Unlimited reality is taken as
being the matter of all possibility, and its limitation or form
as being due to negation. Substances must antecedently
exist in order that external relations may have something
upon which to ground themselves. Space and time must be
interpreted as confused apprehensions of purely intellectual
orders, space representing a certain order in the reciprocal
(pre-established) correspondence of substances, and time the
dynamical sequence of their states. On the other hand, from
the standpoint of sense and its intuitional forms the reverse
holds. The world of appearance is conditioned by the forms
of space and time ; the objectively possible coincides with the
actual ; and the substantia phaenomenon has no independent
essence, but reduces without remainder to external relations.
For pure thought this world of given appearance is an
utterly paradoxical form of existence ; it is the direct
opposite of everything that genuine reality ought to be. In
this strange conclusion the problems of the Dialectic, in one
of their most suggestive forms, at once loom up before us.
As stated above, this entire discussion is an anticipation of
questions which cannot be adequately treated within the
limits of the Analytic.

The text of this section is highly composite. The entire
content of the Appendix is twice reintroduced and restated
at full length in the accompanying Note. These successive
expositions of one and the same argument were doubtless
independently written, and then later pieced together in this
external fashion. A 277-8 = 6 333-4, on the nature of the
substantia phaenomenon, would by its references to the tran-
scendental object seem to be of early origin. 2 It has already
been commented upon. 3 A 285-9 = 6 342-6, on the other
hand, which supplements the chapter on Phenomena and
Noumenaf would seem to be of late origin. It is so dated by
Adickes, 5 owing to the reference to schemata in its opening

1 This is Leibniz's mode of stating the absolutist view of thought (cf. above,
p. xxx ff.) to which, as we shall find, Kant gives much more adequate and
incomparably deeper formulation in the Dialectic. Cf. pp. 430, 547 ff. , 558 ff.

2 Adickes, K. p. 272 ., allows that the passage may be of earlier origin than
the passages which precede and follow it.

8 Pp. 214-15.

4 As such it is commented on above, p. 410 ff. 5 Loc. ctt.


A 289-91 = B 346-9. Table of the division of the conception of

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 51 of 72)