Immanuel Kant – The Critique of Pure Reason; Part 19


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SECTION IV. Of the necessity imposed upon Pure Reason of
Presenting a Solution of its Transcendental Problems

To avow an ability to solve all problems and to answer all questions
Would be a profession certain to convict any philosopher of extravagant
Boasting and self-conceit, and at once to destroy the confidence that
Might otherwise have been reposed in him. There are, however, sciences
So constituted that every question arising within their sphere must
Necessarily be capable of receiving an answer from the knowledge already
Possessed, for the answer must be received from the same sources whence
The question arose. In such sciences it is not allowable to excuse
Ourselves on the plea of necessary and unavoidable ignorance; a solution
Is absolutely requisite. The rule of right and wrong must help us to the
Knowledge of what is right or wrong in all possible cases; otherwise
The idea of obligation or duty would be utterly null, for we cannot have
Any obligation to that which we cannot know. On the other hand, in our
Investigations of the phenomena of nature, much must remain uncertain
And many questions continue insoluble; because what we know of nature
Is far from being sufficient to explain all the phenomena that are
Presented to our observation. Now the question is: Whether there is in
Transcendental philosophy any question, relating to an object presented
To pure reason, which is unanswerable by this reason; and whether we
Must regard the subject of the question as quite uncertain, so far as
Our knowledge extends, and must give it a place among those subjects, of
Which we have just so much conception as is sufficient to enable us
To raise a question--faculty or materials failing us, however, when we
Attempt an answer

Now I maintain that, among all speculative cognition, the peculiarity of
Transcendental philosophy is that there is no question, relating to an
Object presented to pure reason, which is insoluble by this reason; and
That the profession of unavoidable ignorance--the problem being alleged
To be beyond the reach of our faculties--cannot free us from the
Obligation to present a complete and satisfactory answer. For the very
Conception which enables us to raise the question must give us the power
Of answering it; inasmuch as the object, as in the case of right and
Wrong, is not to be discovered out of the conception

But, in transcendental philosophy, it is only the cosmological questions
To which we can demand a satisfactory answer in relation to the
Constitution of their object; and the philosopher is not permitted to
Avail himself of the pretext of necessary ignorance and impenetrable
Obscurity. These questions relate solely to the cosmological ideas. For
The object must be given in experience, and the question relates to the
Adequateness of the object to an idea. If the object is transcendental
And therefore itself unknown; if the question, for example, is whether
The object--the something, the phenomenon of which (internal--in
Ourselves) is thought--that is to say, the soul, is in itself a simple
Being; or whether there is a cause of all things, which is absolutely
Necessary--in such cases we are seeking for our idea an object, of which
We may confess that it is unknown to us, though we must not on that
Account assert that it is impossible.* The cosmological ideas alone
Posses the peculiarity that we can presuppose the object of them and the
Empirical synthesis requisite for the conception of that object to be
Given; and the question, which arises from these ideas, relates merely
To the progress of this synthesis, in so far as it must contain absolute
Totality--which, however, is not empirical, as it cannot be given in any
Experience. Now, as the question here is solely in regard to a thing as
The object of a possible experience and not as a thing in itself, the
Answer to the transcendental cosmological question need not be sought
Out of the idea, for the question does not regard an object in itself
The question in relation to a possible experience is not, "What can be
Given in an experience in concreto" but "what is contained in the idea
To which the empirical synthesis must approximate." The question must
Therefore be capable of solution from the idea alone. For the idea is
A creation of reason itself, which therefore cannot disclaim the
Obligation to answer or refer us to the unknown object

It is not so extraordinary, as it at first sight appears, that a science
Should demand and expect satisfactory answers to all the questions that
May arise within its own sphere (questiones domesticae), although, up to
A certain time, these answers may not have been discovered. There are
In addition to transcendental philosophy, only two pure sciences
Of reason; the one with a speculative, the other with a practical
Content--pure mathematics and pure ethics. Has any one ever heard
It alleged that, from our complete and necessary ignorance of the
Conditions, it is uncertain what exact relation the diameter of a circle
Bears to the circle in rational or irrational numbers? By the former
The sum cannot be given exactly, by the latter only approximately; and
Therefore we decide that the impossibility of a solution of the question
Is evident. Lambert presented us with a demonstration of this. In the
General principles of morals there can be nothing uncertain, for the
Propositions are either utterly without meaning, or must originate
Solely in our rational conceptions. On the other hand, there must be
In physical science an infinite number of conjectures, which can never
Become certainties; because the phenomena of nature are not given as
Objects dependent on our conceptions. The key to the solution of such
Questions cannot, therefore, be found in our conceptions, or in pure
Thought, but must lie without us and for that reason is in many cases
Not to be discovered; and consequently a satisfactory explanation cannot
Be expected. The questions of transcendental analytic, which relate to
The deduction of our pure cognition, are not to be regarded as of the
Same kind as those mentioned above; for we are not at present treating
Of the certainty of judgements in relation to the origin of our
Conceptions, but only of that certainty in relation to objects

We cannot, therefore, escape the responsibility of at least a critical
Solution of the questions of reason, by complaints of the limited nature
Of our faculties, and the seemingly humble confession that it is beyond
The power of our reason to decide, whether the world has existed from
All eternity or had a beginning--whether it is infinitely extended, or
Enclosed within certain limits--whether anything in the world is simple
Or whether everything must be capable of infinite divisibility--whether
Freedom can originate phenomena, or whether everything is absolutely
Dependent on the laws and order of nature--and, finally, whether there
Exists a being that is completely unconditioned and necessary, or
Whether the existence of everything is conditioned and consequently
Dependent on something external to itself, and therefore in its own
Nature contingent. For all these questions relate to an object, which
Can be given nowhere else than in thought. This object is the absolutely
Unconditioned totality of the synthesis of phenomena. If the conceptions
In our minds do not assist us to some certain result in regard to these
Problems, we must not defend ourselves on the plea that the object
Itself remains hidden from and unknown to us. For no such thing or
Object can be given--it is not to be found out of the idea in our minds
We must seek the cause of our failure in our idea itself, which is an
Insoluble problem and in regard to which we obstinately assume that
There exists a real object corresponding and adequate to it. A clear
Explanation of the dialectic which lies in our conception, will very
Soon enable us to come to a satisfactory decision in regard to such a

The pretext that we are unable to arrive at certainty in regard to these
Problems may be met with this question, which requires at least a plain
Answer: "From what source do the ideas originate, the solution of which
Involves you in such difficulties? Are you seeking for an explanation
Of certain phenomena; and do you expect these ideas to give you the
Principles or the rules of this explanation?" Let it be granted, that
All nature was laid open before you; that nothing was hid from your
Senses and your consciousness. Still, you could not cognize in concreto
The object of your ideas in any experience. For what is demanded is not
Only this full and complete intuition, but also a complete synthesis and
The consciousness of its absolute totality; and this is not possible by
Means of any empirical cognition. It follows that your question--your
Idea--is by no means necessary for the explanation of any phenomenon;
And the idea cannot have been in any sense given by the object itself
For such an object can never be presented to us, because it cannot be
Given by any possible experience. Whatever perceptions you may attain
To, you are still surrounded by conditions--in space, or in time--and
You cannot discover anything unconditioned; nor can you decide whether
This unconditioned is to be placed in an absolute beginning of the
Synthesis, or in an absolute totality of the series without beginning
A whole, in the empirical signification of the term, is always merely
Comparative. The absolute whole of quantity (the universe), of division
Of derivation, of the condition of existence, with the question--whether
It is to be produced by finite or infinite synthesis, no possible
Experience can instruct us concerning. You will not, for example, be
Able to explain the phenomena of a body in the least degree better
Whether you believe it to consist of simple, or of composite parts;
For a simple phenomenon--and just as little an infinite series of
Composition--can never be presented to your perception. Phenomena
Require and admit of explanation, only in so far as the conditions of
That explanation are given in perception; but the sum total of that
Which is given in phenomena, considered as an absolute whole, is itself
A perception--and we cannot therefore seek for explanations of this
Whole beyond itself, in other perceptions. The explanation of this whole
Is the proper object of the transcendental problems of pure reason

Although, therefore, the solution of these problems is unattainable
Through experience, we must not permit ourselves to say that it is
Uncertain how the object of our inquiries is constituted. For the object
Is in our own mind and cannot be discovered in experience; and we have
Only to take care that our thoughts are consistent with each other
And to avoid falling into the amphiboly of regarding our idea as a
Representation of an object empirically given, and therefore to be
Cognized according to the laws of experience. A dogmatical solution is
Therefore not only unsatisfactory but impossible. The critical solution
Which may be a perfectly certain one, does not consider the question
Objectively, but proceeds by inquiring into the basis of the cognition
Upon which the question rests

SECTION V. Sceptical Exposition of the Cosmological Problems
Presented in the four Transcendental Ideas

We should be quite willing to desist from the demand of a dogmatical
Answer to our questions, if we understood beforehand that, be the answer
What it may, it would only serve to increase our ignorance, to throw
Us from one incomprehensibility into another, from one obscurity
Into another still greater, and perhaps lead us into irreconcilable
Contradictions. If a dogmatical affirmative or negative answer is
Demanded, is it at all prudent to set aside the probable grounds of
A solution which lie before us and to take into consideration what
Advantage we shall gain, if the answer is to favour the one side or the
Other? If it happens that in both cases the answer is mere nonsense
We have in this an irresistible summons to institute a critical
Investigation of the question, for the purpose of discovering whether
It is based on a groundless presupposition and relates to an idea, the
Falsity of which would be more easily exposed in its application and
Consequences than in the mere representation of its content. This is the
Great utility of the sceptical mode of treating the questions addressed
By pure reason to itself. By this method we easily rid ourselves of
The confusions of dogmatism, and establish in its place a temperate
Criticism, which, as a genuine cathartic, will successfully remove
The presumptuous notions of philosophy and their consequence--the vain
Pretension to universal science

If, then, I could understand the nature of a cosmological idea and
Perceive, before I entered on the discussion of the subject at all
That, whatever side of the question regarding the unconditioned of the
Regressive synthesis of phenomena it favoured--it must either be too
Great or too small for every conception of the understanding--I would
Be able to comprehend how the idea, which relates to an object of
Experience--an experience which must be adequate to and in accordance
With a possible conception of the understanding--must be completely void
And without significance, inasmuch as its object is inadequate, consider
It as we may. And this is actually the case with all cosmological
Conceptions, which, for the reason above mentioned, involve reason, so
Long as it remains attached to them, in an unavoidable antinomy. For

First, that the world has no beginning--in this case it is too large
For our conception; for this conception, which consists in a successive
Regress, cannot overtake the whole eternity that has elapsed. Grant
That it has a beginning, it is then too small for the conception of
The understanding. For, as a beginning presupposes a time preceding, it
Cannot be unconditioned; and the law of the empirical employment of the
Understanding imposes the necessity of looking for a higher condition of
Time; and the world is, therefore, evidently too small for this law

The same is the case with the double answer to the question regarding
The extent, in space, of the world. For, if it is infinite and
Unlimited, it must be too large for every possible empirical conception
If it is finite and limited, we have a right to ask: "What determines
These limits?" Void space is not a self-subsistent correlate of things
And cannot be a final condition--and still less an empirical condition
Forming a part of a possible experience. For how can we have any
Experience or perception of an absolute void? But the absolute totality
Of the empirical synthesis requires that the unconditioned be an
Empirical conception. Consequently, a finite world is too small for our

Secondly, if every phenomenon (matter) in space consists of an infinite
Number of parts, the regress of the division is always too great for our
Conception; and if the division of space must cease with some member
Of the division (the simple), it is too small for the idea of the
Unconditioned. For the member at which we have discontinued our division
Still admits a regress to many more parts contained in the object

Thirdly, suppose that every event in the world happens in accordance
With the laws of nature; the causality of a cause must itself be
An event and necessitates a regress to a still higher cause, and
Consequently the unceasing prolongation of the series of conditions
A parte priori. Operative nature is therefore too large for every
Conception we can form in the synthesis of cosmical events

If we admit the existence of spontaneously produced events, that is, of
Free agency, we are driven, in our search for sufficient reasons, on an
Unavoidable law of nature and are compelled to appeal to the empirical
Law of causality, and we find that any such totality of connection in
Our synthesis is too small for our necessary empirical conception

Fourthly, if we assume the existence of an absolutely necessary
Being--whether it be the world or something in the world, or the cause
Of the world--we must place it in a time at an infinite distance from
Any given moment; for, otherwise, it must be dependent on some other and
Higher existence. Such an existence is, in this case, too large for our
Empirical conception, and unattainable by the continued regress of any

But if we believe that everything in the world--be it condition or
Conditioned--is contingent; every given existence is too small for our
Conception. For in this case we are compelled to seek for some other
Existence upon which the former depends

We have said that in all these cases the cosmological idea is either
Too great or too small for the empirical regress in a synthesis, and
Consequently for every possible conception of the understanding. Why did
We not express ourselves in a manner exactly the reverse of this and
Instead of accusing the cosmological idea of over stepping or of falling
Short of its true aim, possible experience, say that, in the first case
The empirical conception is always too small for the idea, and in the
Second too great, and thus attach the blame of these contradictions to
The empirical regress? The reason is this. Possible experience can alone
Give reality to our conceptions; without it a conception is merely an
Idea, without truth or relation to an object. Hence a possible empirical
Conception must be the standard by which we are to judge whether an
Idea is anything more than an idea and fiction of thought, or whether it
Relates to an object in the world. If we say of a thing that in
Relation to some other thing it is too large or too small, the former is
Considered as existing for the sake of the latter, and requiring to
Be adapted to it. Among the trivial subjects of discussion in the old
Schools of dialectics was this question: "If a ball cannot pass through
A hole, shall we say that the ball is too large or the hole too small?"
In this case it is indifferent what expression we employ; for we do
Not know which exists for the sake of the other. On the other hand, we
Cannot say: "The man is too long for his coat"; but: "The coat is too
Short for the man."

We are thus led to the well-founded suspicion that the cosmological
Ideas, and all the conflicting sophistical assertions connected with
Them, are based upon a false and fictitious conception of the mode in
Which the object of these ideas is presented to us; and this suspicion
Will probably direct us how to expose the illusion that has so long led
Us astray from the truth

SECTION VI. Transcendental Idealism as the Key to theSolution
Of Pure Cosmological Dialectic

In the transcendental aesthetic we proved that everything intuited in
Space and time, all objects of a possible experience, are nothing but
Phenomena, that is, mere representations; and that these, as
Presented to us--as extended bodies, or as series of changes--have no
Self-subsistent existence apart from human thought. This doctrine I
Call Transcendental Idealism.* The realist in the transcendental
Sense regards these modifications of our sensibility, these mere
Representations, as things subsisting in themselves

It would be unjust to accuse us of holding the long-decried theory of
Empirical idealism, which, while admitting the reality of space, denies
Or at least doubts, the existence of bodies extended in it, and thus
Leaves us without a sufficient criterion of reality and illusion. The
Supporters of this theory find no difficulty in admitting the reality of
The phenomena of the internal sense in time; nay, they go the length
Of maintaining that this internal experience is of itself a sufficient
Proof of the real existence of its object as a thing in itself

Transcendental idealism allows that the objects of external
Intuition--as intuited in space, and all changes in time--as represented
By the internal sense, are real. For, as space is the form of that
Intuition which we call external, and, without objects in space, no
Empirical representation could be given us, we can and ought to regard
Extended bodies in it as real. The case is the same with representations
In time. But time and space, with all phenomena therein, are not in
Themselves things. They are nothing but representations and cannot exist
Out of and apart from the mind. Nay, the sensuous internal intuition of
The mind (as the object of consciousness), the determination of which
Is represented by the succession of different states in time, is not
The real, proper self, as it exists in itself--not the transcendental
Subject--but only a phenomenon, which is presented to the sensibility of
This, to us, unknown being. This internal phenomenon cannot be admitted
To be a self-subsisting thing; for its condition is time, and time
Cannot be the condition of a thing in itself. But the empirical truth
Of phenomena in space and time is guaranteed beyond the possibility of
Doubt, and sufficiently distinguished from the illusion of dreams
Or fancy--although both have a proper and thorough connection in an
Experience according to empirical laws. The objects of experience then
Are not things in themselves, but are given only in experience, and have
No existence apart from and independently of experience. That there may
Be inhabitants in the moon, although no one has ever observed them, must
Certainly be admitted; but this assertion means only, that we may in the
Possible progress of experience discover them at some future time. For
That which stands in connection with a perception according to the
Laws of the progress of experience is real. They are therefore really
Existent, if they stand in empirical connection with my actual or real
Consciousness, although they are not in themselves real, that is, apart
From the progress of experience

There is nothing actually given--we can be conscious of nothing as
Real, except a perception and the empirical progression from it to other
Possible perceptions. For phenomena, as mere representations, are real
Only in perception; and perception is, in fact, nothing but the reality
Of an empirical representation, that is, a phenomenon. To call a
Phenomenon a real thing prior to perception means either that we must
Meet with this phenomenon in the progress of experience, or it means
Nothing at all. For I can say only of a thing in itself that it exists
Without relation to the senses and experience. But we are speaking here
Merely of phenomena in space and time, both of which are determinations
Of sensibility, and not of things in themselves. It follows that
Phenomena are not things in themselves, but are mere representations
Which if not given in us--in perception--are non-existent

The faculty of sensuous intuition is properly a receptivity--a capacity
Of being affected in a certain manner by representations, the relation
Of which to each other is a pure intuition of space and time--the pure
Forms of sensibility. These representations, in so far as they are
Connected and determinable in this relation (in space and time)
According to laws of the unity of experience, are called objects. The
Non-sensuous cause of these representations is completely unknown to us
And hence cannot be intuited as an object. For such an object could not
Be represented either in space or in time; and without these conditions
Intuition or representation is impossible. We may, at the same time
Term the non-sensuous cause of phenomena the transcendental object--but
Merely as a mental correlate to sensibility, considered as a
Receptivity. To this transcendental object we may attribute the whole
Connection and extent of our possible perceptions, and say that it is
Given and exists in itself prior to all experience. But the phenomena
Corresponding to it, are not given as things in themselves, but in
Experience alone. For they are mere representations, receiving from
Perceptions alone significance and relation to a real object, under
The condition that this or that perception--indicating an object--is in
Complete connection with all others in accordance with the rules of the
Unity of experience. Thus we can say: "The things that really existed
In past time are given in the transcendental object of experience." But
These are to me real objects, only in so far as I can represent to my
Own mind, that a regressive series of possible perceptions--following
The indications of history, or the footsteps of cause and effect--in
Accordance with empirical laws--that, in one word, the course of the
World conducts us to an elapsed series of time as the condition of the
Present time. This series in past time is represented as real, not in
Itself, but only in connection with a possible experience. Thus, when
I say that certain events occurred in past time, I merely assert the
Possibility of prolonging the chain of experience, from the present
Perception, upwards to the conditions that determine it according to

If I represent to myself all objects existing in all space and time, I
Do not thereby place these in space and time prior to all experience; on
The contrary, such a representation is nothing more than the notion of
A possible experience, in its absolute completeness. In experience alone
Are those objects, which are nothing but representations, given. But
When I say they existed prior to my experience, this means only that
I must begin with the perception present to me and follow the track
Indicated until I discover them in some part or region of experience
The cause of the empirical condition of this progression--and
Consequently at what member therein I must stop, and at what point
In the regress I am to find this member--is transcendental, and hence
Necessarily incognizable. But with this we have not to do; our concern
Is only with the law of progression in experience, in which objects
That is, phenomena, are given. It is a matter of indifference, whether
I say, "I may in the progress of experience discover stars, at a hundred
Times greater distance than the most distant of those now visible," or
"Stars at this distance may be met in space, although no one has
Or ever will discover them." For, if they are given as things in
Themselves, without any relation to possible experience, they are for me
Non-existent, consequently, are not objects, for they are not contained
In the regressive series of experience. But, if these phenomena must be
Employed in the construction or support of the cosmological idea of an
Absolute whole, and when we are discussing a question that oversteps the
Limits of possible experience, the proper distinction of the different
Theories of the reality of sensuous objects is of great importance
In order to avoid the illusion which must necessarily arise from the
Misinterpretation of our empirical conceptions

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