Norman Kemp Smith.

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

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The Critique of Pure Reason is more obscure and difficult
than even a metaphysical treatise has any right to be. The
difficulties are not merely due to defects of exposition ; they
multiply rather than diminish upon detailed study ; and, as I
shall endeavour to show in this Commentary, are traceable to
two main causes, the composite nature of the text, written at
various dates throughout the period 1772- 1780, and the con-
flicting tendencies of Kant's own thinking.

The Commentary is both expository and critical ; and in
exposition no less than in criticism I have sought to subordinate
the treatment of textual questions and of minor issues to the
systematic discussion of the central problems. Full use is
made of the various selections from Kant's private papers
that have appeared, at intervals, since the publication of his
Lectures on Metaphysics in 1821. Their significance has not
hitherto been generally recognised in English books upon
Kant. They seem to me to be of capital importance for the
right understanding of the Critique.

Some apology is perhaps required for publishing a work
of this character at the present moment. It was completed,
and arrangements made for its publication, shortly before the
outbreak of war. The printers have, I understand, found in
it a useful stop-gap to occupy them in the intervals of more
pressing work ; and now that the type must be released, I
trust that in spite of, or even because of, the overwhelming
preoccupations of the war, there may be some few readers to
whom the volume may be not unwelcome. That even amidst
the distractions of actual campaigning metaphysical specula-
tion can serve as a refuge and a solace is shown by the
memorable example of General Smuts. He has himself told


us that on his raid into Cape Colony in the South African
War he carried with him for evening reading the Critique of
Pure Reason. Is it surprising that our British generals, pitted
against so unconventional an opponent, should have been
worsted in the battle of wits ?

The Critique of Pure Reason is a philosophical classic that
marks a turning-point in the history of philosophy, and no
interpretation, even though now attempted after the lapse of
a hundred years, can hope to be adequate or final. Some
things are clearer to us than they were to Kant's con-
temporaries ; in other essential ways our point of view has
receded from his, and the historical record, that should
determine our judgments, is far from complete. But there is
a further difficulty of an even more serious character. The
Critique deals with issues that are still controversial, and
their interpretation is possible only from a definite stand-
point. The limitations of this standpoint and of the philo-
sophical milieu in which it has been acquired unavoidably
intervene to distort or obscure our apprehension of the text.
Arbitrary and merely personal judgments I have, however,
endeavoured to avoid. My sole aim has been to reach, as
far as may prove feasible, an unbiassed understanding of
Kant's great work.

Among German commentators I owe most to Vaihinger,
Adickes, B. Erdmann, Cohen, and Riehl, especially to the first
named. The chief English writers upon Kant are Green,
Caird, and Adamson. In so far as Green and Caird treat the
Critical philosophy as a half-way stage to the Hegelian stand-
point I find myself frequently in disagreement with them ;
but my indebtedness to their writings is much greater than
my occasional' criticisms of their views may seem to imply.
With Robert Adamson I enjoyed the privilege of personal
discussions at a time when his earlier view of Kant's teaching
was undergoing revision in a more radical manner than is
apparent even in his posthumously published University
lectures. To the stimulus of his suggestions the writing of
this Commentary is largely due.

My first study of the Critique was under the genial and
inspiring guidance of Sir Henry Jones. With characteristic
kindliness he has read through my manuscript and has


disclosed to me many defects of exposition and argument.
The same service has been rendered me by Professor
G. Dawes Hicks, whose criticisms have been very valuable,
particularly since they come from a student of Kant who on
many fundamental points takes an opposite view from my own.

I have also to thank my colleague, Professor Oswald
Veblen, for much helpful discussion of Kant's doctrines of
space and time, and of mathematical reasoning.

Mr. H. H. Joachim has read the entire proofs, and I have
made frequent modifications to meet his very searching
criticisms. I have also gratefully adopted his revisions of my
translations from the Critique. Similar acknowledgments
are due to my colleague, Professor A. A. Bowman, and to my
friend Dr. C. W. Hendel.

I have in preparation a translation of the Critique of Pure
Reason, and am responsible for the translations of all passages
given in the present work. In quoting from Kant's other
writings, I have made use of the renderings of Abbott,
Bernard, and Mahaffy ; but have occasionally allowed myself
the liberty of introducing alterations.

Should readers who are already well acquainted with the
Critique desire to use my Commentary for its systematic
discussions of Kant's teaching, rather than as an accompani-
ment to their study of the text, I may refer them to those
sections which receive italicised headings in the table of


London, January 1918.



I. Textual — PAGE

Kant's Method of composing the Critique of Pure Reason xix

II. Historical —

Kant's Relation to Hume and to Leibniz . . . xxv

III. General-

i. The Nature of the a priori ....

2. Kant's Contribution to the Science of Logic

3. The Nature of Consciousness

4. Phenomenalism, Kant's Substitute for Subjectivism

5. The Distinction between Human and Animal Intelli-

gence ......

6. The Nature and Conditions of Self-Consciousness

7. Kant's threefold Distinction between Sensibility, Under-

standing, and Reason ....

8. The place of the Critique of Pure Reason in Kant's

Philosophical System ....







Title ....
Motto ....
Dedication to Freiherr von Zedlitz

Preface to the First Edition

Comment 071 Preface
Dogmatism, Scepticism, Criticism

Preface to the Second Edition
The Copernican Hypothesis

1 Headings not in Kant's Table of Contents are printed in italics.





Introduction .

Comment upon the Argument of Kant's Introduction
How are Synthetic a priori Judgments possible f
The Analytic and Synthetic Methods
Purpose and Scope of the Critique .
Kant's Relation to Hume .
Meaning of the term Transcendental





The Transcendental Doctrine of Elements

Part I. The Transcendental Aesthetic . . 79-166

Definition of Terms , . ■ . -79

Kant's conflicting Views of Space . . . .88

Section I. SPACE . . . . . -99

Kanfs Attitude to the Problems of Modem Geometry . 117

Section II. Time . . . . . -123

Kant's Views regarding the Nature of Arithmetical Science 128

Kant's conflicting Views of Time . . . .134

General Observations on the Transcendental Aesthetic . 143

The Distinction betweeii Appearance and Illusion . .148
Kant's Relation to Berkeley . . . 1 5 5

The Paradox of Incongruous Counterparts . . .161

Part II. The Transcendental Logic . .167

Introduction . . . . • ■ .167

I. Logic in General . . . . .167

II. Transcendental Logic . . . .170

III. The Division of General Logic into Analytic and

Dialectic . . . . .172

Division I. The Transcendental Analytic . 1 74

Book I. The Analytic of Concepts . . 175

Chapter I. The Clue to the Discovery of all Pure

Concepts of the Understanding . 175

Section I. The Logical Use of the Understanding . 176
Comment on Kant's Argument . .176

Stages in the Development of Kant's Meta-
physical Deduction . . .186

Section II. The Logical Function of the Understanding

in Judgment . . . .192

Section III. The Categories on Pure Concepts of the

Understanding . . .194

Distinction between Logical Forms and
Categories . . . .195



Part II. The Transcendental Logic — Continued. _._„


Chapter II. Deduction of the Pure Concepts of

the Understanding . . . 202

Analysis of the Text : the Four Stages in the Develop-
ment of Kanfs Views . . . 202-234

I. Enumeration of the Four Stages . . 203

II. Detailed Analysis of the Four Stages . .204

Kanf 's Doctrine of the Transcendental Object 204

III. Evidence yielded by the " Reflexionen " and " Lose

Blatter'''' in Support of the Analysis of the
Text . . . . .231

IV. Connected Statement and Discussion of /Cant's

Subjective and Objective Deductions in the
First Edition . . . .234

Distinction between the Subjective and the Objective

Deductions . . . . -235

The Subjective Deduction in its initial empirical
Stages . . . . . .245

Objective Deduction as given i?i the First Edition . 248
The later Stages of the Subjective Deduction . 263

The Distinction between Phenomenalism and Sub-
jectivism . , . . .270
Transcendental Deduction of the Categories in the

Second Edition . . . . .284

The Doctrine of Inner Sense . . .291

Kant's Refutations of Idealism . . .298

Inner Sense and Apperception . . .321

Book II. The Analytic of Principles. . . 332

Chapter I. The Schematism of Pure Concepts of

the Understanding . . . 334

Chapter II. System of all Principles of Pure Under-
standing ..... 342

1. The Axioms of Intuition .... 347

2. The Anticipations of Perception . . . 349

3. The Analogies of Experience . . . 355

A. First Analogy . . . -358

B. Second Analogy .... 363

Schopenhauer's Criticism of Kant's Argument 365
Kant's Subjectivist and Phenomenalist Views

of the Causal Relation . . -373

Reply to Further Criticisms of Kant's Argu-
ment . . . . -377



Part II. The Transcendental Logic — Continued.

C. Third Analogy ....

Schopenhauer s Criticism of Kant 's Argument
4. The Postulates of Empirical Thought in General

Chapter III. On the Ground of the Distinction
of all Objects whatever into
Phenomena and Noumena .

Relevant Passages in the Section on Amphiboly
Alterations in the Second Edition
Comment on Kant's Argument
Appendix. The Amphiboly of the Concepts of Reflection

Division II. The Transcendental Dialectic

Introductory Comment upon the composite Origin and

conflicting Tendencies of the Dialectic
The History and Development of Kant's Views in
regard to the Problems of the Dialectic


I. Transcendental Illusion ....
*II. Pure Reason as the Seat of Transcendental Illusion

Book I. The Concepts of Pure Reason
Section I. Ideas in General .
Section II. The Transcendental Ideas
Section III. System of the Transcendental Ideas



4 10









Book II. The Dialectical Inferences of Pure Reason 455

Chapter I. The Paralogisms of Pure Reason . 455

First Paralogism : of Substantiality . 457

Second Paralogism : of Simplicity . -458

Third Paralogism ; of Personality . .461

Fourth Paralogism : of Ideality . . 462

Second Edition Statement of the Paralogisms . 466

Is the Notion of the Self a necessary Idea of Reason t 473

Chapter II. The Antinomy of Pure Reason . 478

Section I. System of the Cosmological Ideas . . 478

Section II. Antithetic of Pure Reason . . . 480

Comment on Kant's Method of Argument 481

First Antinomy . . . .483

Second Antinomy . . . . 488

Third Antinomy .... 492

Fourth Antinomy . . . -495


Part II. The Transcendental Logic — Continued.


Section III. The Interest of Reason in this Self-Conflict 498

Section IV. Of the Transcendental Problems of Pure
Reason in so far as they absolutely must
be capable of Solution . . . 499

Section V. Sceptical Representation of the Cosmological

Questions . . . .501

Section VI. Transcendental Idealism as the Key to the

Solution of the Cosmological Dialectic . 503

Section VII. Critical Decision of the Cosmological

Conflict of Reason with itself . .504

Section VIII. The Regulative Principle of Pure Reason

in regard to the Cosmological Ideas . 506

Section IX. The Empirical Employment of the Regu-
lative Principles of Reason in regard
to all Cosmological Ideas . . 508

Solution of the First and Second Antinomies 508
Remarks on the Distinction between the

Mathematical -Transcendental and the

Dynamical-Transcendental Ideas . . 510

Comment on Kanfs Method of Argu?nent 510
Solution of the Third Antinomy . .512

Possibility of harmonising Causality through

Freedom with the Universal Law of

Natural Necessity . . 513

Explanation of the Relation of Freedom to

Necessity of Nature . . .514

Comment on Kanfs Method of Argument . 517
Solution of the Fourth Antinomy . 5 1 8

Concluding Note on the whole Antinomy

of Pure Reason . . .519

Concluding Comment on Kanfs Doctrine

of the Antinomies . . .519

Chapter III. The Ideal of Pure Reason . . 522

Sections I. and II. The Transcendental Ideal. . 522

Comment on Kanfs Method of

Argument . . .524

Section III. The Speculative Arguments in Proof of the

Existence of a Supreme Being . -52 5

Section IV. The Impossibility of an Ontological Proof 527
Comment on Kanfs Method of Argument . 528




Part II. The Transcendental Logic — Continued. PAGE

Section V. The Impossibility of a Cosmological Proof

of the Existence of God . '. 531

Comment on Kanfs Method of Argument . 533
Discovery and Explanation of the Tran-
scendental Illusion in all Transcendental
Proof of the Existence of a necessary
Being ..... 534
Comment on Kanf s Method of Argument . 535

Section VI. The Impossibility of the Physico-Theological

Proof . . . . .538

Section VII. Criticism of all Theology based on specu-
lative Principles of Reason . .541
Concluding Comment . . .541

Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic . -543

The Regulative Employment of the Ideas of Pure Reason . 543
Hypotheses not permissible in Philosophy . . -543

On the Final Purpose of the Natural Dialectic of Human .
Reason . . . . . . • 5 5 2

Concluding Comment on the Dialectic . . 5 5 8

Appendix A.

The Transcendental Doctrine of Methods . 563

Chapter I. The Discipline of Pure Reason . 563

Section I. The Discipline of Pure Reason in its Dog-
matic Employment . . . 563

Section II. The Discipline of Pure Reason in its

Polemical Employment . .567

Section III. The Discipline of Pure Reason in regard

to Hypotheses . . . .568

Section IV. The Discipline of Pure Reason in regard

to its Proofs .... 568

Chapter II. The Canon of Pure Reason . . 569

Section I. The Ultimate End of the Pure Use of our

Reason . . . . .569

Section II. The Ideal of the Highest Good, as a De-
termining Ground of the Ultimate End of
Pure Reason . . . 570

Section III. Opining, Knowing, and Believing . 576

Chapter III. The Architectonic of Pure Reason . 579
Chapter IV. The History of Pure Reason . .582


Appendix B. page

A more detailed Statement of Kant's Relations to his Philo-
sophical Predecessors . . . . -583

Index ........ 607


In all references to the Kritik der Reinen Vernnnft I have given the original
pagings of both the first and second editions. References to Kant's other works
are, whenever possible, to the volumes thus far issued in the new Berlin edition.
As the Refiexionen Kants zur Kritik der reinen Vernunft had not been published
in this edition at the time when the Commentary was completed, the numbering
given is that of B. Erdmann's edition of 1884.


Berlin edition of Kant's works . . . ... . W

Pagings in the first edition of the Kritik der reinen Vernunft . . A

Pagings in the second edition ...... B

Adickes' edition of the Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1889) . . K




Seldom, in the history of literature, has a work been more
conscientiously and deliberately thought out, or more hastily
thrown together, than the Critique of Pure Reason. The
following is the account which Kant in a letter to Moses
Mendelssohn (August 16, 1783) has given of its composition :

" [Though the Critique is] the outcome of reflection which had
occupied me for a period of at least twelve years, I brought it to
completion in the greatest haste within some four to five months,
giving the closest attention to the content, but with little thought of
the exposition or of rendering it easy of comprehension by the
reader — a decision which I have never regretted, since otherwise, had
I any longer delayed, and sought to give it a more popular form,
the work would probably never have been completed at all. This
defect can, however, be gradually removed, now that the work exists
in a rough form." 1

These statements must be allowed the greater weight as
Kant, in another letter (to Garve, August 7, 1783), has given
them in almost the same words :

" I freely admit that I have not expected that my book should
meet with an immediate favourable reception. The exposition of
the materials which for more than twelve successive years I had
been carefully maturing, was not composed in a sufficiently suitable
manner for general comprehension. For the perfecting of its ex-
position several years would have been required, whereas I brought
it to completion in some four to five months, in the fear that, on
longer delay, so prolonged a labour might finally become burden-
some, and that my increasing years (I am already in my sixtieth
year) would perhaps incapacitate me, while I am still the sole pos-
sessor of my complete system." 2

1 W. x. p. 323. 2 W. x. p. 316.


The twelve years here referred to are 1769-1780; the
phrase " at least twelve years " indicates Kant's appreciation
of the continuity of his mental development. Hume's first
influence upon Kant is probably to be dated prior to 1760.
The choice, however, of the year 1769 is not arbitrary; it
is the year of Kant's adoption of the semi-Critical position
recorded in the Inaugural Dissertation (1770). 1 The "four
to five months" may be dated in the latter half of 1780.
The printing of the Critique was probably commenced in
December or January 1780-1781.

But the Critique is not merely defective in clearness or
popularity of exposition. That is a common failing of meta-
physical treatises, especially when they are in the German
language, and might pass without special remark. What is
much more serious, is that Kant flatly contradicts himself in
almost every chapter ; and that there is hardly a technical
term which is not employed by him in a variety of different
and conflicting senses. As a writer, he is the least exact of
all the great thinkers.

So obvious are these inconsistencies that every commentator
has felt constrained to offer some explanation of their occur-
rence. Thus Caird has asserted that Kant opens his exposi-
tion from the non-Critical standpoint of ordinary consciousness,
and that he discloses the final position, towards which he has
all along been working, only through repeated modifications
of his preliminary statements. Such a view, however, cannot
account either for the specific manner of occurrence or for the
actual character of the contradictions of which the Critique
affords so many examples. These are by no means limited
to the opening sections of its main divisions ; and careful
examination of the text shows that they have no such merely
expository origin. The publication of Kant's Reflexionen
and Lose Blatter, and the devoted labours of Benno
Erdmann, Vaihinger, Adickes, Reicke and others, have,
indeed, placed the issue upon an entirely new plane. It
can now be proved that the Critique is not a unitary work,
and that in the five months in which, as Kant tells us, it
was " brought to completion " (zu Stande gebracht), it was
not actually written, but was pieced together by the combin-
ing of manuscripts written at various dates throughout the
period 1 772-1 780.

Kant's correspondence in these years contains the repeated
assertion that he expected to be able to complete the
work within some three or six months. This implies that
it was already, at least as early as 1777, in great part com-

1 Cf. Kant's letter to Lambert, September 2, 1770 : W. x. p. 93.


mitted to writing. In 1780 Kant must therefore have had
a large body of manuscript at his disposal. The recently-
published Lose Blatter are, indeed, part of it. And as we
shall have constant occasion to observe, the Critique affords
ample evidence of having been more or less mechanically
constructed through the piecing together of older manuscript,
supplemented, no doubt, by the insertion of connecting links,
and modified by occasional alterations to suit the new context.
Kant, it would almost seem, objected to nothing so much as
the sacrifice of an argument once consecrated by committal
to paper. If it could be inserted, no matter at what cost of
repetition, or even confusion, he insisted upon its insertion.
Thus the Subjective and Objective Deductions of the first
edition can, as we shall find, be broken up into at least four
distinct layers, which, like geological strata, remain to the
bewilderment of the reader who naturally expects a unified
system, but to the enlightenment of the student, once the
clues that serve to identify and to date them have been
detected. To cite another example : in the Second Analogy,
as given in the first edition, the main thesis is demonstrated
in no less than five distinct proofs, some of which are
repetitions ; and when Kant restated the argument in the
second edition, he allowed the five proofs to remain, but
superimposed still another upon them. Kant does, indeed,
in the second edition omit some few passages from various
parts of the Critique ; but this is in the main owing to his
desire to protect himself against serious misunderstanding to
which, as he found, he had very unguardedly laid himself
open. The alterations of the second edition are chiefly of
the nature of additions.

Adickes' theory * that Kant in the " four to five months "
composed a brief outline of his entire argument, and that it
was upon the framework of this outline that the Critique
was elaborated out of the older manuscript, may possibly be
correct. It has certainly enabled Adickes to cast much light
upon many textual problems. But his own supplementary
hypothesis in regard to the section on the Antinomies, namely,
that it formed an older and separate treatise, may very profit-
ably be further extended. Surely it is unlikely that with the
expectation, continued over many years, of completion within
a few months, Kant did not possess, at least for the Aesthetic,
Dialectic, and Methodology, a general outline, that dated
further back than 1780. And doubtless this outline was
itself altered, patched, and recast, in proportion as insight
into the problems of the Analytic, the problems, that is to say,

1 Embodied in his edition of the Kritik (18S9).


which caused publication to be so long deferred, deepened
and took final form.

The composite character of the Critique is largely concealed
by the highly elaborate, and extremely artificial, arrangement
of its parts. To the general plan, based upon professedly
logical principles, Kant has himself given the title, architec-
tonic ; and he carries it out with a thoroughness to which all
other considerations, and even at times those of sound reason-
ing, are made to give way. Indeed, he clings to it with the
unreasoning affection which not infrequently attaches to a
favourite hobby. He lovingly elaborates even its minor
detail, and is rewarded by a framework so extremely com-
plicated that the most heterogeneous contents can be tidily
arranged, side by side, in its many compartments. By its
uniformity and rigour it gives the appearance of systematic
order even when such order is wholly absent.

Online LibraryNorman Kemp SmithA commentary to Kant's 'Critique of pure reason,' → online text (page 1 of 72)