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Norman Kemp Smith.

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

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to argue that it can never be explained from a strictly
materialist standpoint, since nothing that is real in space is
ever simple. Points are merely limits, and are not therefore
themselves anything that can form part of space. The
passage as a whole would seem to be directed against the
Leibnizian teaching of Ulrichs. 3

B 426-7. Kant makes a remark to which nothing in his
argument yields any real support, namely, that the dialectical
illusion in rational psychology is due to the substitution of an
Idea of reason for the quite indeterminate concept of a thinking
being in general. As is argued below, 4 the assumption which
he is here making that the concept of the self is an a priori
and ultimate Idea of pure Reason, cannot be regarded as a
genuine part of his Critical teaching.

B 427-8 touches quite briefly upon questions more fully
and adequately treated in the first edition. The scanty treat-
ment here accorded to them would seem to indicate, as Benno
Erdmann remarks, 5 that the problem of the interaction of
mind and body which so occupied Kant's mind from 1747
to 1770 has meantime almost entirely lost interest for him.
The problem of immortality remains central, but it is now
approached from the ethical side.

1 Regarding the value of the hypotheses propounded by Kant in his note to
B 415, cf. below, p. 543 flf. 2 P. 321 ff.

3 Cf. above, p. 467. 4 Pp. 473-7. 5 Kriticismus, p. 226.



472 THE TRANSCENDENTAL DIALECTIC

In B 421 and B 423-6 Kant draws from his criticism of the
Paralogisms the final conclusion that the metaphysical problems
as to the nature and destiny of the self are essentially practical
problems. When approached from a theoretical standpoint,
as curious questions to be settled by logical dialectic, their
speculative proof

"... so stands upon the point of a hair, that even the schools preserve
it from falling only so long as they keep it unceasingly spinning round
like a top ; even in their own eyes it yields no abiding foundation
upon which anything could be built." 1 " Rational psychology exists
not as doctrine^ . . . but only as discipline. It sets impassable limits
to speculative reason in this field, and thus keeps us, on the one
hand, from throwing ourselves into the arms of soulless materialism,
or, on the other hand, from losing ourselves in an unsubstantial
spiritualism which can have no real meaning for us in this present
life. But though it furnishes no positive doctrine, it reminds us that
we should regard this refusal of Reason to give satisfying response
to our inquisitive probings into what is beyond the limits of this
present life as a hint from Reason to divert our self-knowledge from
fruitless and extravagant speculation to its fruitful practical employ-
ment." 2 "The proofs which are serviceable for the world at large
preserve their entire value undiminished, and indeed, upon the
surrender of these dogmatic pretensions, gain in clearness and in
natural force. For Reason is then located in its own peculiar sphere,
namely the order of ends, which is also at the same time an order of
nature ; and since it is in itself a practical faculty which is not bound
down to natural conditions, it is justified in extending the order of
ends, and therewith our own existence, beyond the limits of experience
and of life." 8

Then follows brief indication of the central teaching of the
Metaphysics of Ethics and of the two later Critiques. Through
moral values that outweigh all considerations of utility and
happiness, we become conscious of an inner vocation which
inspires feelings of sublimity similar to those which are aroused
by contemplation of the starry firmament ; and to the verities
thus disclosed we can add the less certain but none the less
valuable confirmation yielded by natural beauty and design,
and by the conformity of nature to our intellectual demands.

"Man's natural endowments not merely his talents and the
impulses to employ them, but above all else the Moral Law within
him go so far beyond all utility and advantage which he may derive
from them in this present life, that he learns thereby to prize the
mere consciousness of a righteous will as being, apart from all
advantageous consequences, apart even from the shadowy reward of

1 B 424. 2 B 421. 3 B 424-5.



THE IDEA OF THE SELF 473

posthumous fame, supreme over all other values ; and so feels an
inner call to fit himself, by his conduct in this world, and by the
sacrifice of many of its advantages, for being a citizen of a better
world upon which he lays hold in Idea. This powerful and incon-
trovertible proof is reinforced by our ever-increasing knowledge of
purposiveness in all that we see around us, and by a glimpse of the
immensity of creation, and therefore also by the consciousness of a
certain illimitableness in the possible extension of our knowledge
and of a striving commensurate therewith. All this still remains
to us, though we must renounce the hope of ever comprehending,
from the mere theoretical knowledge of ourselves, the necessary
continuance of our existence." 1



IS THE NOTION OF THE SELF A NECESSARY
IDEA OF REASON?

One point of great importance must be dwelt upon before
we pass from the Paralogisms. Though the negative con-
sequences which follow from the teaching of the objective
deduction are here developed in the most explicit manner,
Kant does not within the limits of this chapter, in either
edition, make any further reference to the doctrine expounded
in the introductory sections of the Dialectic? viz. that the
notion of the self as an immortal being is a necessary Idea of
human Reason. The reader is therefore left under the im-
pression that that doctrine is unaffected by the destructive
criticism passed upon rational psychology, and that it still
survives as an essential tenet of the Critical philosophy. And
he is confirmed in this view when he finds the doctrine re-
appearing in the Appendix to the Dialectic and in the Method-
ology. The Idea of the self is there represented as performing
a quite indispensable, regulative function in the development
of the empirical science of psychology. Now it is one thing
to maintain the existence of Ideal demands of Reason for unity,
system and unconditionedness, and to assert that it is in
virtue of these demands that we are led, in the face of immense
discouragement and seeming contradictions, to reduce the
chance collocations and bewildering complexities of ordinary
experience to something more nearly approximating to what
Reason prescribes. But it is a very different matter when
Kant claims that in any one sphere, such as that of psychology,
the unity and the unconditionedness must necessarily be of
one predetermined type. He is then injecting into the Ideals
that specific guidance which only the detail of experience is

1 B 425-6. Cf. above, pp. Ivi-lxi ; below, p. 570 ff.
2 The only approach to such a reference is in B 426-7, noted above, p. 471.



474 THE TRANSCENDENTAL DIALECTIC

really capable of supplying. He is proving false to his own
Critical empiricism, in which no function is ascribed to Reason
that need in any way conflict with the autonomy of specialist
research ; and he is also violating his fundamental principle
that the a priori can never be other than purely formal.
Indeed, when Kant discloses somewhat more in detail what
he means by the regulative function of the Idea of the self,
the ambiguity of his statements reveals the unconsidered
character of this part of his teaching. It is the expression
only of a preconception, and has eluded the scrutiny of his
Critical method largely because of the protective colouring
which its admirable adaptation to the needs of his archi-
tectonic confers upon it. If, for instance, we compare the three
passages in which it is expounded in the Appendix to the
Dialectic, we find that Kant himself alternates between the
authoritative prescription to psychology of a spiritualist hypo-
thesis and what in ultimate analysis, when ambiguities of
language are discounted, amounts simply to the demand for
the greatest possible simplification of its complex phenomena.
The passages are as follows.

"In conformity with these Ideas as principles we shall first,
in psychology, connect in inner experience all appearances, all
actions and receptivity of our mind, as if (ah ob] the mind were a
simple substance which persists with personal identity (in this life
at least), while its states, to which those of the body belong only
as outer conditions, are in continual change." *

"... in the human mind we have sensation, consciousness, ima-
gination, memory, wit, power of discrimination, pleasure, desire, etc.
Now, to begin with, a logical maxim requires that we should reduce,
so far as may be possible, this seeming diversity, by comparing
these with one another and detecting their hidden identity. We
have to enquire whether imagination combined with consciousness
may not be the same thing as memory, wit, power of discrimination,
and perhaps even identical with understanding and Reason. Though
logic is not capable of deciding whether a fundamental power actually
exists, the Idea of such a power is the problem involved in a
systematic representation of the multiplicity of powers. The logical
principle of Reason calls upon us to bring about such unity as
completely as possible; and the more appearances of this or that
power are found to be identical with one another, the more probable
it becomes that they are simply different manifestations of one and
the same power, which may be entitled, relatively speaking, their
fundamental power. The same is done with the other powers. The
relatively fundamental powers must in turn be compared with one
another, with a view to discovering their harmony, and so bringing

1 A 672 -B 700. Cf. below, p. 554.



THE IDEA OF THE SELF 475

them nearer to a single radical, i.e. absolutely fundamental, power.
But this unity of Reason is purely hypothetical. We do not assert
that such a power must necessarily be met with, but that we must
seek it in the interest of Reason, that is, of establishing certain
principles for the manifold rules which experience may supply to
us. We must endeavour, wherever possible, to bring in this way
systematic unity into our knowledge." l

In the third of the Appendix passages these two views are
confusedly combined. Kant is insisting that an Idea never
asserts, even as an hypothesis, the existence of a real thing.

"[An Idea] is only the schema of the regulative principle by
which Reason, so far as lies in its power, extends systematic unity
over the whole field of experience. The first object of such an Idea
is the ' I ' itself, viewed simply as thinking nature or soul. If I am
to investigate the properties with which a thinking being exists in
itself, I must interrogate experience. I cannot even apply any one
of the categories to this object, except in so far as its schema is given
in sense intuition. But I never thereby attain to a systematic unity
of all appearances of inner sense. Instead, then, of the empirical
concept (of that which the soul actually is), which cannot carry us
far, Reason takes the concept of the empirical unity of all thought ;
and by thinking this unity as unconditioned and original, it forms
from it a concept of Reason, i.e. the Idea of a simple substance,
which, unchangeable in itself (personally identical), stands in associa-
tion with other real things outside it ; in a word, the Idea of a simple
self-subsisting intelligence. Yet in so doing it has nothing in view
save principles of systematic unity in the explanation of the appear-
ances of the soul. It is endeavouring to represent all determina-
tions as existing in a single subject, all powers, so far as possible,
as derived from a single fundamental power, all change as belonging
to the states of one and the same permanent being, and all appear-
ances in space as completely different from the actions of thought.
The simplicity and other properties of substance are intended to be
only the schema of this regulative principle, and are not presupposed
as the real ground of the properties of the soul. For these may rest
on altogether different grounds of which we can know nothing. The
soul in itself could not be known through these assumed predicates,
not even if we regarded them as absolutely valid in regard to it.
For they constitute a mere Idea which cannot be represented in
concrete. Nothing but advantage can result from the psychological
Idea thus conceived, if only we take heed that it is not viewed as
more than a mere Idea, and that it is therefore taken as valid only

1 A 649 = B 677-8. Tetens in his Philosophische Versuche (1777) had devoted
an entire chapter to this question. His term Grundkraft is that which Kant
here employs. Cf. Philosophische Versttche, Bd. i., Elfter Versuch : "Concerning
the fundamental power of the human soul." Incidentally Tetens discusses
Rousseau's suggestion that this fundamental power consists in man's capacity for
perfecting himself. Cf. Kant's Lectures on Metaphysics (Politz, 1821, p. 192 if.).



476 THE TRANSCENDENTAL DIALECTIC

in its bearing on the systematic employment of Reason in determin-
ing the appearances of our soul. For no empirical laws of bodily
appearances, which are of a totally different kind, will then inter-
vene in the explanation of what belongs exclusively to inner sense.
No windy hypotheses of generation, extinction, and palingenesis of
souls will be permitted. The consideration of this object of inner
sense will thus be kept completely pure and unmixed, without employ-
ing heterogeneous properties. Also, Reason's investigations will be
directed to reducing the grounds of explanation in this field, so far
as may be possible, to a single principle. All this will be best
obtained (indeed is obtainable in no other way) through such a
schema, viewed as if (ah ob} it were a real being. The psychological
Idea, moreover, can signify nothing but the schema of a regulative
principle. For were I to enquire whether the soul in itself is of
spiritual nature, the question would have no meaning. In employing
such a concept I not only abstract from corporeal nature, but from
nature in general, i.e. from all predicates of a possible experience,
and therefore from all conditions for thinking an object for such
a concept : yet only as related to an object can it be said to have a
meaning." x

The last passage would seem to indicate that Kant has
still another and only partially avowed reason for insisting
upon a special and spiritualist Idea, as regulative of empirical
psychology. It is necessary, he would seem to argue, in
order to mark off the peculiar nature of its subject matter, and
to warn us against attempting to explain its phenomena in
the mechanistic manner of physical science. But if that is
Kant's intention, he has failed to formulate the position in
any really tenable way. It is impossible to maintain, as he
here does, that " no empirical laws of bodily appearances [can]
intervene in the explanation of what belongs exclusively to
inner sense." 2 Indeed, in the immediately following sentences,
he very clearly indicates how completely such a position
conflicts with his own real teaching. To think away the
corporeal is to think away all experience. Experience is not
dualistically divided into separate worlds. It is one and
single, and the principle of causality rules universally through-
out, connecting inner experiences of sense, feeling, and desire,
with their outer conditions, organic and physical. 3 Thus
Kant's retention of the Idea of the self is chiefly of interest as
revealing the strength and tenacity of his spiritualist leanings.
We may judge of the disinterestedness and courage of his
thinking by the contrary character of his pre-conceptions.

1 A 682-4 = B 710-12. A 77 1-2 = B 799 in the Methodology is similarly am-
biguous, though tending to the spiritualist mode of formulation.

2 Cf. above, pp. 275-6, 279 ff., 312 ff., 384-5, 464-5.

3 Cf. end of B xxxix. n., quoted above, pp. 309-10.



THE IDEA OF THE SELF 477

For even when they have been shown to be theoretically
indemonstrable, they continue to retain by honorific title the
dignity from which they have been deposed. The full force
of the objections is none the less recognised.

"The simplicity of substance ... is not presupposed as the
real ground of the properties of the soul. For these may rest on
altogether different grounds of which we can know nothing."

That, however, is only Kant's unbiassed estimate of the
theoretical evidence ; it is not an expression of his own
personal belief.



CHAPTER II
THE ANTINOMY OF PURE REASON 1

This introduction summarises the preceding argument,
and distinguishes the new problems of Antinomy from those
of the Paralogisms. In rational psychology pure Reason
attains, as it were, euthanasia ; in the antinomies an entirely
different situation is disclosed. For though rational cos-
mology is able to expound itself in a series of demonstrated
theses, its teaching stands in irreconcilable conflict with the
actual nature of appearances, as expressed through a series
of antitheses which' are demonstrable in an equally cogent
manner.



SECTION I

SYSTEM OF THE COSMOLOGICAL IDEAS 2

The first eight paragraphs of this section are of great
textual interest. They must have been written at a time
when Kant still intended to expound his entire criticism of
metaphysical science in the form of a doctrine of antinomy.
For they define the Ideas of Reason as exclusively cosmo-
logical, 3 and give a very different explanation of their origin
from that which has been expounded in the preceding
chapters. Evidently, therefore, this part of the section must
have been written prior to Kant's formulation of the meta-
physical deduction from the three species of syllogism. This
is supported by the fact that the argument begins anew, just
as if the matter had not previously been discussed ; and that,
though a new view of the nature of Reason is propounded,
there is not the least mention of the more Idealist view which

1 A 405 = B 432. 2 A 408 = B 435-

a Cf. A 414 = B 441, where it is stated that there is no transcendental Idea of
the substantial.

478



THE COSMOLOGICAL IDEAS 479

it displaces. Reason, Kant here teaches, is not a faculty
separate from the understanding, and does not therefore pro-
duce any concept peculiar to itself/ Reason is simply a name
for the understanding in so far as it acts independently of
sensibility, and seeks, by means of its pure forms, in abstrac-
tion from all empirical limitations, to grasp the unconditioned.
"The transcendental Ideas are in reality nothing but cate-
gories extended to the unconditioned." The intelligible, as
thus conceived by the understanding, expresses itself, as he
later shows, in a series of theses ; while the sensuous expresses
its opposite and conflicting character in a series of antitheses.

Yet not all categories yield a concept of the unconditioned.
That is possible only to those which concern themselves with-
a> series of members conditioning and conditioned, and in
reference to which, therefore, the postulate of an unconditioned
would seem to be legitimate, viz. : (i) unconditioned quantity
in space and time ; (2) unconditioned quality (indivisibility
and simplicity) of reality in space (matter) ; (3) unconditioned
causality of appearances ; (4) unconditioned necessity of
appearances. As this arrangement is determined by the
needs of Kant's architectonic, no detailed comment is here
called for. Its consequences we shall have ample opportunity
to consider later. As already noted, Kant's statement in
A 414 = 6441, that "the category of substance and accident
does not lend itself to a transcendental Idea," shows very
clearly that, at the time when he composed this passage, he
had not yet bethought himself of placing a separate and inde-
pendent Idea at the basis of rational psychology. But as
Kant here strives to follow the fourfold arrangement of the
categories, the content of these paragraphs must either have
been later recast or have been composed in the interval
between his discovery of the metaphysical deduction of the
categories and his formulation of the corresponding deduc-
tion of the Ideas from the three forms of syllogism. It may
also be observed that the derivation of the cosmological Idea
from the hypothetical syllogism, which embodies only the
category of causality, clashes with the above specification of
it in terms of all four rubrics of category.

The remaining paragraphs (ninth to thirteenth) of this
section must be of later date, as they are developed in view of
the independent treatment of the theological Ideal. 1 (Adickes,
in dating the ninth and tenth paragraphs with the preceding
instead of with the concluding paragraphs, would seem to
have overlooked this fact.) In order to justify the treatment
of the Ideas of a first cause and of unconditioned necessity, as

1 Cf. above, p. 434 ff.



480 THE TRANSCENDENTAL DIALECTIC

cosmological) Kant now asserts that the antinomies concern
only appearances "our [cosmical] Ideas being directed only
to what is unconditioned among the appearances," 1 and not
to noumena? His explanation of the nature of transcendental
illusion, and of the antinomies in particular, as being due to
a failure to distinguish between appearance and things in
themselves, is thus ruthlessly sacrificed to considerations of
architectonic. Kant could not, of course, consistently hold
to the position here adopted ; but it causes him from time
to time, especially in dealing with the third and fourth
antinomies, to make statements which tend seriously to
obscure the argument and to bewilder the careful reader.

Kant is far from clear as to the relation in which the
concepts of the totality of conditions and of the unconditioned
stand to one another. 3 In A 322 = B 379 they would seem to
be taken as exactly equivalent concepts. In A 416-17 = B 443-5
they are apparently regarded as distinct, the former only
leading up to the latter. But discussion of this important
point must meantime be deferred. 4



SECTION II

ANTITHETIC OF PURE REASON 5

"[Antithetic] is the conflict between two apparently dogmatic
judgments \Erkenntnis se\ to neither of which can we ascribe any
superior claim to acceptance over the other, i.e. by Antithetic I
mean a thesis, together with an antithesis." " Transcendental Anti-
thetic is an investigation of the antinomy of pure Reason, its causes
and outcome."

The very existence of such antinomy presupposes a two-
fold condition : first, that it does not refer to a gratuitous but
to an inevitable problem of human Reason, " one which it must
necessarily encounter in its natural progress " ; and secondly,
that the thesis and the antithesis together generate a " natural
and inevitable illusion," which continues to persist even after
its deceptive power has been clearly disclosed. Such conflict
is caused by the fact that Reason seeks a unity which transcends



2 A 420 = 6 447.

3 A very curious sentence in Kant's letter to Schulze ( W. x. pp. 344-5, quoted
above, p. 199) seems to be traceable to this source.

4 Cf. below, pp. 529, 559-60, and above, pp. 199-200, 433-4, 451. For
A 410-1 1 = B 439-40 on the difference between the ascending and descending
series, cf. A 331-2 = 6 387-8 and A 336-7 = 6 393-4.

5 A 420 = 6448.



COMMENT ON KANT'S ARGUMENT 481

the understanding, and which nevertheless is meant to con-
form to the conditions of the understanding. If the unity
is adequate to the demands of Reason, it is too great for the
understanding ; if it is commensurate with the understanding,
it is too small for Reason. 1 The theses express the higher
unity at which Reason aims ; the antitheses are the judgments
to which the understanding is constrained by the nature of the
appearances with which both it and Reason profess to deal.
If we hold to Reason, we make assertions contradictory of
the appearances ; while if we place reliance on the under-
standing, Reason condemns our conclusions.

This conflict is limited to those few problems above
enumerated in which we are called upon to complete a given
series. 2 Since totality, whether in the form of a first beginning
of the series or as an actual infinity of the whole series, can
never itself be experienced, these are problems in regard to
which experience can be of no assistance to us. It can neither
confirm nor refute any particular solution. The only possible
method of deciding between the competing claims is to watch



Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 57 of 72)