Immanuel Kant – The Critique of Pure Reason; Part 27

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SECTION II. The Discipline of Pure Reason in Polemics

Reason must be subject, in all its operations, to criticism, which
Must always be permitted to exercise its functions without restraint;
Otherwise its interests are imperilled and its influence obnoxious to
Suspicion. There is nothing, however useful, however sacred it may be
That can claim exemption from the searching examination of this supreme
Tribunal, which has no respect of persons. The very existence of reason
Depends upon this freedom; for the voice of reason is not that of
A dictatorial and despotic power, it is rather like the vote of the
Citizens of a free state, every member of which must have the privilege
Of giving free expression to his doubts, and possess even the right of
Veto

But while reason can never decline to submit itself to the tribunal of
Criticism, it has not always cause to dread the judgement of this court
Pure reason, however, when engaged in the sphere of dogmatism, is not so
Thoroughly conscious of a strict observance of its highest laws, as to
Appear before a higher judicial reason with perfect confidence. On the
Contrary, it must renounce its magnificent dogmatical pretensions in
Philosophy

Very different is the case when it has to defend itself, not before a
Judge, but against an equal. If dogmatical assertions are advanced on
The negative side, in opposition to those made by reason on the positive
Side, its justification kat authrhopon is complete, although the proof
Of its propositions is kat aletheian unsatisfactory

By the polemic of pure reason I mean the defence of its propositions
Made by reason, in opposition to the dogmatical counter-propositions
Advanced by other parties. The question here is not whether its own
Statements may not also be false; it merely regards the fact that
Reason proves that the opposite cannot be established with demonstrative
Certainty, nor even asserted with a higher degree of probability. Reason
Does not hold her possessions upon sufferance; for, although she cannot
Show a perfectly satisfactory title to them, no one can prove that she
Is not the rightful possessor

It is a melancholy reflection that reason, in its highest exercise
Falls into an antithetic; and that the supreme tribunal for the
Settlement of differences should not be at union with itself. It is true
That we had to discuss the question of an apparent antithetic, but we
Found that it was based upon a misconception. In conformity with the
Common prejudice, phenomena were regarded as things in themselves, and
Thus an absolute completeness in their synthesis was required in the one
Mode or in the other (it was shown to be impossible in both); a demand
Entirely out of place in regard to phenomena. There was, then, no
Real self-contradiction of reason in the propositions: The series of
Phenomena given in themselves has an absolutely first beginning; and:
This series is absolutely and in itself without beginning. The two
Propositions are perfectly consistent with each other, because phenomena
As phenomena are in themselves nothing, and consequently the hypothesis
That they are things in themselves must lead to self-contradictory
Inferences

But there are cases in which a similar misunderstanding cannot be
Provided against, and the dispute must remain unsettled. Take, for
Example, the theistic proposition: There is a Supreme Being; and on the
Other hand, the atheistic counter-statement: There exists no Supreme
Being; or, in psychology: Everything that thinks possesses the attribute
Of absolute and permanent unity, which is utterly different from the
Transitory unity of material phenomena; and the counter-proposition: The
Soul is not an immaterial unity, and its nature is transitory, like that
Of phenomena. The objects of these questions contain no heterogeneous or
Contradictory elements, for they relate to things in themselves, and not
To phenomena. There would arise, indeed, a real contradiction, if reason
Came forward with a statement on the negative side of these questions
Alone. As regards the criticism to which the grounds of proof on the
Affirmative side must be subjected, it may be freely admitted, without
Necessitating the surrender of the affirmative propositions, which have
At least, the interest of reason in their favour--an advantage which the
Opposite party cannot lay claim to

I cannot agree with the opinion of several admirable thinkers--Sulzer
Among the rest--that, in spite of the weakness of the arguments hitherto
In use, we may hope, one day, to see sufficient demonstrations of the
Two cardinal propositions of pure reason--the existence of a Supreme
Being, and the immortality of the soul. I am certain, on the contrary
That this will never be the case. For on what ground can reason base
Such synthetical propositions, which do not relate to the objects
Of experience and their internal possibility? But it is also
Demonstratively certain that no one will ever be able to maintain the
Contrary with the least show of probability. For, as he can attempt such
A proof solely upon the basis of pure reason, he is bound to prove
That a Supreme Being, and a thinking subject in the character of a pure
Intelligence, are impossible. But where will he find the knowledge which
Can enable him to enounce synthetical judgements in regard to things
Which transcend the region of experience? We may, therefore, rest
Assured that the opposite never will be demonstrated. We need not, then
Have recourse to scholastic arguments; we may always admit the truth of
Those propositions which are consistent with the speculative interests
Of reason in the sphere of experience, and form, moreover, the only
Means of uniting the speculative with the practical interest. Our
Opponent, who must not be considered here as a critic solely, we can
Be ready to meet with a non liquet which cannot fail to disconcert him;
While we cannot deny his right to a similar retort, as we have on our
Side the advantage of the support of the subjective maxim of reason
And can therefore look upon all his sophistical arguments with calm
Indifference

From this point of view, there is properly no antithetic of pure reason
For the only arena for such a struggle would be upon the field of
Pure theology and psychology; but on this ground there can appear no
Combatant whom we need to fear. Ridicule and boasting can be his
Only weapons; and these may be laughed at, as mere child's play
This consideration restores to Reason her courage; for what source
Of confidence could be found, if she, whose vocation it is to destroy
Error, were at variance with herself and without any reasonable hope of
Ever reaching a state of permanent repose?

Everything in nature is good for some purpose. Even poisons are
Serviceable; they destroy the evil effects of other poisons generated
In our system, and must always find a place in every complete
Pharmacopoeia. The objections raised against the fallacies and
Sophistries of speculative reason, are objections given by the nature
Of this reason itself, and must therefore have a destination and
Purpose which can only be for the good of humanity. For what purpose has
Providence raised many objects, in which we have the deepest interest
So far above us, that we vainly try to cognize them with certainty, and
Our powers of mental vision are rather excited than satisfied by the
Glimpses we may chance to seize? It is very doubtful whether it is for
Our benefit to advance bold affirmations regarding subjects involved
In such obscurity; perhaps it would even be detrimental to our best
Interests. But it is undoubtedly always beneficial to leave the
Investigating, as well as the critical reason, in perfect freedom, and
Permit it to take charge of its own interests, which are advanced as
Much by its limitation, as by its extension of its views, and which
Always suffer by the interference of foreign powers forcing it, against
Its natural tendencies, to bend to certain preconceived designs

Allow your opponent to say what he thinks reasonable, and combat him
Only with the weapons of reason. Have no anxiety for the practical
Interests of humanity--these are never imperilled in a purely
Speculative dispute. Such a dispute serves merely to disclose the
Antinomy of reason, which, as it has its source in the nature of
Reason, ought to be thoroughly investigated. Reason is benefited by the
Examination of a subject on both sides, and its judgements are corrected
By being limited. It is not the matter that may give occasion to
Dispute, but the manner. For it is perfectly permissible to employ
In the presence of reason, the language of a firmly rooted faith, even
After we have been obliged to renounce all pretensions to knowledge

If we were to ask the dispassionate David Hume--a philosopher endowed
In a degree that few are, with a well-balanced judgement: What motive
Induced you to spend so much labour and thought in undermining the
Consoling and beneficial persuasion that reason is capable of assuring
Us of the existence, and presenting us with a determinate conception
Of a Supreme Being?--his answer would be: Nothing but the desire of
Teaching reason to know its own powers better, and, at the same time, a
Dislike of the procedure by which that faculty was compelled to support
Foregone conclusions, and prevented from confessing the internal
Weaknesses which it cannot but feel when it enters upon a rigid
Self-examination. If, on the other hand, we were to ask Priestley--a
Philosopher who had no taste for transcendental speculation, but was
Entirely devoted to the principles of empiricism--what his motives were
For overturning those two main pillars of religion--the doctrines of
The freedom of the will and the immortality of the soul (in his view
The hope of a future life is but the expectation of the miracle of
Resurrection)--this philosopher, himself a zealous and pious teacher of
Religion, could give no other answer than this: I acted in the interest
Of reason, which always suffers, when certain objects are explained
And judged by a reference to other supposed laws than those of material
Nature--the only laws which we know in a determinate manner. It would be
Unfair to decry the latter philosopher, who endeavoured to harmonize his
Paradoxical opinions with the interests of religion, and to undervalue
An honest and reflecting man, because he finds himself at a loss the
Moment he has left the field of natural science. The same grace must be
Accorded to Hume, a man not less well-disposed, and quite as blameless
In his moral character, and who pushed his abstract speculations to an
Extreme length, because, as he rightly believed, the object of them lies
Entirely beyond the bounds of natural science, and within the sphere of
Pure ideas

What is to be done to provide against the danger which seems in the
Present case to menace the best interests of humanity? The course to be
Pursued in reference to this subject is a perfectly plain and natural
One. Let each thinker pursue his own path; if he shows talent, if he
Gives evidence of profound thought, in one word, if he shows that he
Possesses the power of reasoning--reason is always the gainer. If you
Have recourse to other means, if you attempt to coerce reason, if you
Raise the cry of treason to humanity, if you excite the feelings of
The crowd, which can neither understand nor sympathize with such subtle
Speculations--you will only make yourselves ridiculous. For the question
Does not concern the advantage or disadvantage which we are expected
To reap from such inquiries; the question is merely how far reason can
Advance in the field of speculation, apart from all kinds of interest
And whether we may depend upon the exertions of speculative reason, or
Must renounce all reliance on it. Instead of joining the combatants
It is your part to be a tranquil spectator of the struggle--a laborious
Struggle for the parties engaged, but attended, in its progress as
Well as in its result, with the most advantageous consequences for
The interests of thought and knowledge. It is absurd to expect to be
Enlightened by Reason, and at the same time to prescribe to her what
Side of the question she must adopt. Moreover, reason is sufficiently
Held in check by its own power, the limits imposed on it by its own
Nature are sufficient; it is unnecessary for you to place over it
Additional guards, as if its power were dangerous to the constitution of
The intellectual state. In the dialectic of reason there is no victory
Gained which need in the least disturb your tranquility

The strife of dialectic is a necessity of reason, and we cannot but wish
That it had been conducted long ere this with that perfect freedom which
Ought to be its essential condition. In this case, we should have had at
An earlier period a matured and profound criticism, which must have
Put an end to all dialectical disputes, by exposing the illusions and
Prejudices in which they originated

There is in human nature an unworthy propensity--a propensity which
Like everything that springs from nature, must in its final purpose be
Conducive to the good of humanity--to conceal our real sentiments, and
To give expression only to certain received opinions, which are regarded
As at once safe and promotive of the common good. It is true, this
Tendency, not only to conceal our real sentiments, but to profess those
Which may gain us favour in the eyes of society, has not only civilized
But, in a certain measure, moralized us; as no one can break through the
Outward covering of respectability, honour, and morality, and thus
The seemingly-good examples which we which we see around us form an
Excellent school for moral improvement, so long as our belief in
Their genuineness remains unshaken. But this disposition to represent
Ourselves as better than we are, and to utter opinions which are not
Our own, can be nothing more than a kind of provisionary arrangement
Of nature to lead us from the rudeness of an uncivilized state, and to
Teach us how to assume at least the appearance and manner of the good we
See. But when true principles have been developed, and have obtained a
Sure foundation in our habit of thought, this conventionalism must
Be attacked with earnest vigour, otherwise it corrupts the heart, and
Checks the growth of good dispositions with the mischievous weed of air
Appearances

I am sorry to remark the same tendency to misrepresentation and
Hypocrisy in the sphere of speculative discussion, where there is less
Temptation to restrain the free expression of thought. For what can be
More prejudicial to the interests of intelligence than to falsify our
Real sentiments, to conceal the doubts which we feel in regard to our
Statements, or to maintain the validity of grounds of proof which we
Well know to be insufficient? So long as mere personal vanity is the
Source of these unworthy artifices--and this is generally the case
In speculative discussions, which are mostly destitute of practical
Interest, and are incapable of complete demonstration--the vanity of
The opposite party exaggerates as much on the other side; and thus the
Result is the same, although it is not brought about so soon as if the
Dispute had been conducted in a sincere and upright spirit. But
Where the mass entertains the notion that the aim of certain subtle
Speculators is nothing less than to shake the very foundations of public
Welfare and morality--it seems not only prudent, but even praise worthy
To maintain the good cause by illusory arguments, rather than to give to
Our supposed opponents the advantage of lowering our declarations to the
Moderate tone of a merely practical conviction, and of compelling us to
Confess our inability to attain to apodeictic certainty in speculative
Subjects. But we ought to reflect that there is nothing, in the
World more fatal to the maintenance of a good cause than deceit
Misrepresentation, and falsehood. That the strictest laws of honesty
Should be observed in the discussion of a purely speculative subject is
The least requirement that can be made. If we could reckon with security
Even upon so little, the conflict of speculative reason regarding the
Important questions of God, immortality, and freedom, would have been
Either decided long ago, or would very soon be brought to a conclusion
But, in general, the uprightness of the defence stands in an inverse
Ratio to the goodness of the cause; and perhaps more honesty and
Fairness are shown by those who deny than by those who uphold these
Doctrines

I shall persuade myself, then, that I have readers who do not wish
To see a righteous cause defended by unfair arguments. Such will now
Recognize the fact that, according to the principles of this Critique
If we consider not what is, but what ought to be the case, there can be
Really no polemic of pure reason. For how can two persons dispute about
A thing, the reality of which neither can present in actual or even in
Possible experience? Each adopts the plan of meditating on his idea for
The purpose of drawing from the idea, if he can, what is more than the
Idea, that is, the reality of the object which it indicates. How shall
They settle the dispute, since neither is able to make his assertions
Directly comprehensible and certain, but must restrict himself to
Attacking and confuting those of his opponent? All statements enounced
By pure reason transcend the conditions of possible experience, beyond
The sphere of which we can discover no criterion of truth, while
They are at the same time framed in accordance with the laws of the
Understanding, which are applicable only to experience; and thus it is
The fate of all such speculative discussions that while the one party
Attacks the weaker side of his opponent, he infallibly lays open his own
Weaknesses

The critique of pure reason may be regarded as the highest tribunal
For all speculative disputes; for it is not involved in these disputes
Which have an immediate relation to certain objects and not to the laws
Of the mind, but is instituted for the purpose of determining the rights
And limits of reason

Without the control of criticism, reason is, as it were, in a state
Of nature, and can only establish its claims and assertions by war
Criticism, on the contrary, deciding all questions according to the
Fundamental laws of its own institution, secures to us the peace of
Law and order, and enables us to discuss all differences in the more
Tranquil manner of a legal process. In the former case, disputes are
Ended by victory, which both sides may claim and which is followed by a
Hollow armistice; in the latter, by a sentence, which, as it strikes
At the root of all speculative differences, ensures to all concerned a
Lasting peace. The endless disputes of a dogmatizing reason compel us
To look for some mode of arriving at a settled decision by a critical
Investigation of reason itself; just as Hobbes maintains that the state
Of nature is a state of injustice and violence, and that we must leave
It and submit ourselves to the constraint of law, which indeed limits
Individual freedom, but only that it may consist with the freedom of
Others and with the common good of all

This freedom will, among other things, permit of our openly stating the
Difficulties and doubts which we are ourselves unable to solve, without
Being decried on that account as turbulent and dangerous citizens
This privilege forms part of the native rights of human reason, which
Recognizes no other judge than the universal reason of humanity; and
As this reason is the source of all progress and improvement, such a
Privilege is to be held sacred and inviolable. It is unwise, moreover
To denounce as dangerous any bold assertions against, or rash attacks
Upon, an opinion which is held by the largest and most moral class of
The community; for that would be giving them an importance which they
Do not deserve. When I hear that the freedom of the will, the hope of
A future life, and the existence of God have been overthrown by the
Arguments of some able writer, I feel a strong desire to read his
Book; for I expect that he will add to my knowledge and impart greater
Clearness and distinctness to my views by the argumentative power shown
In his writings. But I am perfectly certain, even before I have opened
The book, that he has not succeeded in a single point, not because
I believe I am in possession of irrefutable demonstrations of these
Important propositions, but because this transcendental critique, which
Has disclosed to me the power and the limits of pure reason, has fully
Convinced me that, as it is insufficient to establish the affirmative
It is as powerless, and even more so, to assure us of the truth of
The negative answer to these questions. From what source does this
Free-thinker derive his knowledge that there is, for example, no Supreme
Being? This proposition lies out of the field of possible experience
And, therefore, beyond the limits of human cognition. But I would not
Read at, all the answer which the dogmatical maintainer of the good
Cause makes to his opponent, because I know well beforehand, that he
Will merely attack the fallacious grounds of his adversary, without
Being able to establish his own assertions. Besides, a new illusory
Argument, in the construction of which talent and acuteness are shown
Is suggestive of new ideas and new trains of reasoning, and in this
Respect the old and everyday sophistries are quite useless. Again
The dogmatical opponent of religion gives employment to criticism
And enables us to test and correct its principles, while there is no
Occasion for anxiety in regard to the influence and results of his
Reasoning

But, it will be said, must we not warn the youth entrusted to academical
Care against such writings, must we not preserve them from the knowledge
Of these dangerous assertions, until their judgement is ripened, or
Rather until the doctrines which we wish to inculcate are so firmly
Rooted in their minds as to withstand all attempts at instilling the
Contrary dogmas, from whatever quarter they may come?

If we are to confine ourselves to the dogmatical procedure in the
Sphere of pure reason, and find ourselves unable to settle such
Disputes otherwise than by becoming a party in them, and setting
Counter-assertions against the statements advanced by our opponents
There is certainly no plan more advisable for the moment, but, at the
Same time, none more absurd and inefficient for the future, than this
Retaining of the youthful mind under guardianship for a time, and thus
Preserving it--for so long at least--from seduction into error. But
When, at a later period, either curiosity, or the prevalent fashion
Of thought places such writings in their hands, will the so-called
Convictions of their youth stand firm? The young thinker, who has in his
Armoury none but dogmatical weapons with which to resist the attacks of
His opponent, and who cannot detect the latent dialectic which lies in
His own opinions as well as in those of the opposite party, sees the
Advance of illusory arguments and grounds of proof which have the
Advantage of novelty, against as illusory grounds of proof destitute
Of this advantage, and which, perhaps, excite the suspicion that the
Natural credulity of his youth has been abused by his instructors. He
Thinks he can find no better means of showing that he has out grown the
Discipline of his minority than by despising those well-meant warnings
And, knowing no system of thought but that of dogmatism, he drinks deep
Draughts of the poison that is to sap the principles in which his early
Years were trained

Exactly the opposite of the system here recommended ought to be pursued
In academical instruction. This can only be effected, however, by a
Thorough training in the critical investigation of pure reason. For, in
Order to bring the principles of this critique into exercise as soon as
Possible, and to demonstrate their perfect even in the presence of the
Highest degree of dialectical illusion, the student ought to examine the
Assertions made on both sides of speculative questions step by step, and
To test them by these principles. It cannot be a difficult task for him
To show the fallacies inherent in these propositions, and thus he begins
Early to feel his own power of securing himself against the influence of
Such sophistical arguments, which must finally lose, for him, all their
Illusory power. And, although the same blows which overturn the edifice
Of his opponent are as fatal to his own speculative structures, if such
He has wished to rear; he need not feel any sorrow in regard to this
Seeming misfortune, as he has now before him a fair prospect into the
Practical region in which he may reasonably hope to find a more secure
Foundation for a rational system

There is, accordingly, no proper polemic in the sphere of pure reason
Both parties beat the air and fight with their own shadows, as they
Pass beyond the limits of nature, and can find no tangible point
Of attack--no firm footing for their dogmatical conflict. Fight as
Vigorously as they may, the shadows which they hew down, immediately
Start up again, like the heroes in Walhalla, and renew the bloodless and
Unceasing contest

But neither can we admit that there is any proper sceptical employment
Of pure reason, such as might be based upon the principle of neutrality
In all speculative disputes. To excite reason against itself, to place
Weapons in the hands of the party on the one side as well as in those of
The other, and to remain an undisturbed and sarcastic spectator of the
Fierce struggle that ensues, seems, from the dogmatical point of view
To be a part fitting only a malevolent disposition. But, when the
Sophist evidences an invincible obstinacy and blindness, and a pride
Which no criticism can moderate, there is no other practicable course
Than to oppose to this pride and obstinacy similar feelings and
Pretensions on the other side, equally well or ill founded, so that
Reason, staggered by the reflections thus forced upon it, finds it
Necessary to moderate its confidence in such pretensions and to listen
To the advice of criticism. But we cannot stop at these doubts, much
Less regard the conviction of our ignorance, not only as a cure for the
Conceit natural to dogmatism, but as the settlement of the disputes in
Which reason is involved with itself. On the contrary, scepticism is
Merely a means of awakening reason from its dogmatic dreams and exciting
It to a more careful investigation into its own powers and pretensions
But, as scepticism appears to be the shortest road to a permanent peace
In the domain of philosophy, and as it is the track pursued by the
Many who aim at giving a philosophical colouring to their contemptuous
Dislike of all inquiries of this kind, I think it necessary to present
To my readers this mode of thought in its true light

Scepticism not a Permanent State for Human Reason

The consciousness of ignorance--unless this ignorance is recognized to
Be absolutely necessary ought, instead of forming the conclusion of
My inquiries, to be the strongest motive to the pursuit of them. All
Ignorance is either ignorance of things or of the limits of knowledge
If my ignorance is accidental and not necessary, it must incite me, in
The first case, to a dogmatical inquiry regarding the objects of which I
Am ignorant; in the second, to a critical investigation into the bounds
Of all possible knowledge. But that my ignorance is absolutely necessary
And unavoidable, and that it consequently absolves from the duty of all
Further investigation, is a fact which cannot be made out upon empirical
Grounds--from observation--but upon critical grounds alone, that is, by
A thoroughgoing investigation into the primary sources of cognition. It
Follows that the determination of the bounds of reason can be made only
On a priori grounds; while the empirical limitation of reason, which
Is merely an indeterminate cognition of an ignorance that can never be
Completely removed, can take place only a posteriori. In other words
Our empirical knowledge is limited by that which yet remains for us to
Know. The former cognition of our ignorance, which is possible only on a
Rational basis, is a science; the latter is merely a perception, and we
Cannot say how far the inferences drawn from it may extend. If I regard
The earth, as it really appears to my senses, as a flat surface, I am
Ignorant how far this surface extends. But experience teaches me that
How far soever I go, I always see before me a space in which I can
Proceed farther; and thus I know the limits--merely visual--of my actual
Knowledge of the earth, although I am ignorant of the limits of the
Earth itself. But if I have got so far as to know that the earth is a
Sphere, and that its surface is spherical, I can cognize a priori and
Determine upon principles, from my knowledge of a small part of this
Surface--say to the extent of a degree--the diameter and circumference
Of the earth; and although I am ignorant of the objects which this
Surface contains, I have a perfect knowledge of its limits and extent

The sum of all the possible objects of our cognition seems to us to be
A level surface, with an apparent horizon--that which forms the limit
Of its extent, and which has been termed by us the idea of unconditioned
Totality. To reach this limit by empirical means is impossible, and all
Attempts to determine it a priori according to a principle, are alike in
Vain. But all the questions raised by pure reason relate to that which
Lies beyond this horizon, or, at least, in its boundary line

The celebrated David Hume was one of those geographers of human reason
Who believe that they have given a sufficient answer to all such
Questions by declaring them to lie beyond the horizon of our
Knowledge--a horizon which, however, Hume was unable to determine. His
Attention especially was directed to the principle of causality; and he
Remarked with perfect justice that the truth of this principle, and even
The objective validity of the conception of a cause, was not commonly
Based upon clear insight, that is, upon a priori cognition. Hence
He concluded that this law does not derive its authority from its
Universality and necessity, but merely from its general applicability
In the course of experience, and a kind of subjective necessity
Thence arising, which he termed habit. From the inability of reason to
Establish this principle as a necessary law for the acquisition of all
Experience, he inferred the nullity of all the attempts of reason to
Pass the region of the empirical

This procedure of subjecting the facta of reason to examination, and
If necessary, to disapproval, may be termed the censura of reason. This
Censura must inevitably lead us to doubts regarding all transcendent
Employment of principles. But this is only the second step in our
Inquiry. The first step in regard to the subjects of pure reason, and
Which marks the infancy of that faculty, is that of dogmatism. The
Second, which we have just mentioned, is that of scepticism, and it
Gives evidence that our judgement has been improved by experience. But
A third step is necessary--indicative of the maturity and manhood of the
Judgement, which now lays a firm foundation upon universal and necessary
Principles. This is the period of criticism, in which we do not examine
The facta of reason, but reason itself, in the whole extent of its
Powers, and in regard to its capability of a priori cognition; and thus
We determine not merely the empirical and ever-shifting bounds of our
Knowledge, but its necessary and eternal limits. We demonstrate from
Indubitable principles, not merely our ignorance in respect to this
Or that subject, but in regard to all possible questions of a certain
Class. Thus scepticism is a resting place for reason, in which it may
Reflect on its dogmatical wanderings and gain some knowledge of the
Region in which it happens to be, that it may pursue its way with
Greater certainty; but it cannot be its permanent dwelling-place. It
Must take up its abode only in the region of complete certitude, whether
This relates to the cognition of objects themselves, or to the limits
Which bound all our cognition

Reason is not to be considered as an indefinitely extended plane, of the
Bounds of which we have only a general knowledge; it ought rather to
Be compared to a sphere, the radius of which may be found from the
Curvature of its surface--that is, the nature of a priori synthetical
Propositions--and, consequently, its circumference and extent. Beyond
The sphere of experience there are no objects which it can cognize; nay
Even questions regarding such supposititious objects relate only to the
Subjective principles of a complete determination of the relations
Which exist between the understanding-conceptions which lie within this
Sphere

We are actually in possession of a priori synthetical cognitions, as is
Proved by the existence of the principles of the understanding, which
Anticipate experience. If any one cannot comprehend the possibility
Of these principles, he may have some reason to doubt whether they
Are really a priori; but he cannot on this account declare them to be
Impossible, and affirm the nullity of the steps which reason may have
Taken under their guidance. He can only say: If we perceived their
Origin and their authenticity, we should be able to determine the
Extent and limits of reason; but, till we can do this, all propositions
Regarding the latter are mere random assertions. In this view, the
Doubt respecting all dogmatical philosophy, which proceeds without the
Guidance of criticism, is well grounded; but we cannot therefore deny
To reason the ability to construct a sound philosophy, when the way has
Been prepared by a thorough critical investigation. All the conceptions
Produced, and all the questions raised, by pure reason, do not lie in
The sphere of experience, but in that of reason itself, and hence they
Must be solved, and shown to be either valid or inadmissible, by that
Faculty. We have no right to decline the solution of such problems, on
The ground that the solution can be discovered only from the nature of
Things, and under pretence of the limitation of human faculties, for
Reason is the sole creator of all these ideas, and is therefore bound
Either to establish their validity or to expose their illusory nature

The polemic of scepticism is properly directed against the dogmatist
Who erects a system of philosophy without having examined the
Fundamental objective principles on which it is based, for the purpose
Of evidencing the futility of his designs, and thus bringing him to a
Knowledge of his own powers. But, in itself, scepticism does not give
Us any certain information in regard to the bounds of our knowledge. All
Unsuccessful dogmatical attempts of reason are facia, which it is always
Useful to submit to the censure of the sceptic. But this cannot help
Us to any decision regarding the expectations which reason cherishes of
Better success in future endeavours; the investigations of scepticism
Cannot, therefore, settle the dispute regarding the rights and powers of
Human reason

Hume is perhaps the ablest and most ingenious of all sceptical
Philosophers, and his writings have, undoubtedly, exerted the most
Powerful influence in awakening reason to a thorough investigation into
Its own powers. It will, therefore, well repay our labours to consider
For a little the course of reasoning which he followed and the errors
Into which he strayed, although setting out on the path of truth and
Certitude

Hume was probably aware, although he never clearly developed the notion
That we proceed in judgements of a certain class beyond our conception
If the object. I have termed this kind of judgement synthetical. As
Regard the manner in which I pass beyond my conception by the aid
Of experience, no doubts can be entertained. Experience is itself a
Synthesis of perceptions; and it employs perceptions to increment the
Conception, which I obtain by means of another perception. But we feel
Persuaded that we are able to proceed beyond a conception, and to extend
Our cognition a priori. We attempt this in two ways--either, through the
Pure understanding, in relation to that which may become an object of
Experience, or, through pure reason, in relation to such properties of
Things, or of the existence of things, as can never be presented in any
Experience. This sceptical philosopher did not distinguish these
Two kinds of judgements, as he ought to have done, but regarded this
Augmentation of conceptions, and, if we may so express ourselves, the
Spontaneous generation of understanding and reason, independently of the
Impregnation of experience, as altogether impossible. The so-called a
Priori principles of these faculties he consequently held to be invalid
And imaginary, and regarded them as nothing but subjective habits of
Thought originating in experience, and therefore purely empirical
And contingent rules, to which we attribute a spurious necessity and
Universality. In support of this strange assertion, he referred us to
The generally acknowledged principle of the relation between cause and
Effect. No faculty of the mind can conduct us from the conception of a
Thing to the existence of something else; and hence he believed he could
Infer that, without experience, we possess no source from which we can
Augment a conception, and no ground sufficient to justify us in framing
A judgement that is to extend our cognition a priori. That the light of
The sun, which shines upon a piece of wax, at the same time melts it
While it hardens clay, no power of the understanding could infer from
The conceptions which we previously possessed of these substances;
Much less is there any a priori law that could conduct us to such a
Conclusion, which experience alone can certify. On the other hand, we
Have seen in our discussion of transcendental logic, that, although we
Can never proceed immediately beyond the content of the conception which
Is given us, we can always cognize completely a priori--in relation
However, to a third term, namely, possible experience--the law of its
Connection with other things. For example, if I observe that a piece of
Wax melts, I can cognize a priori that there must have been something
(the sun's heat) preceding, which this law; although, without the aid
Of experience, I could not cognize a priori and in a determinate manner
Either the cause from the effect, or the effect from the cause
Hume was, therefore, wrong in inferring, from the contingency of the
Determination according to law, the contingency of the law itself; and
The passing beyond the conception of a thing to possible experience
(which is an a priori proceeding, constituting the objective reality of
The conception), he confounded with our synthesis of objects in actual
Experience, which is always, of course, empirical. Thus, too
He regarded the principle of affinity, which has its seat in the
Understanding and indicates a necessary connection, as a mere rule of
Association, lying in the imitative faculty of imagination, which can
Present only contingent, and not objective connections

The sceptical errors of this remarkably acute thinker arose principally
From a defect, which was common to him with the dogmatists, namely, that
He had never made a systematic review of all the different kinds of
A priori synthesis performed by the understanding. Had he done so, he
Would have found, to take one example among many, that the principle of
Permanence was of this character, and that it, as well as the principle
Of causality, anticipates experience. In this way he might have been
Able to describe the determinate limits of the a priori operations of
Understanding and reason. But he merely declared the understanding to be
Limited, instead of showing what its limits were; he created a
General mistrust in the power of our faculties, without giving us any
Determinate knowledge of the bounds of our necessary and unavoidable
Ignorance; he examined and condemned some of the principles of
The understanding, without investigating all its powers with the
Completeness necessary to criticism. He denies, with truth, certain
Powers to the understanding, but he goes further, and declares it to be
Utterly inadequate to the a priori extension of knowledge, although he
Has not fully examined all the powers which reside in the faculty; and
Thus the fate which always overtakes scepticism meets him too. That is
To say, his own declarations are doubted, for his objections were based
Upon facta, which are contingent, and not upon principles, which can
Alone demonstrate the necessary invalidity of all dogmatical assertions

As Hume makes no distinction between the well-grounded claims of the
Understanding and the dialectical pretensions of reason, against which
However, his attacks are mainly directed, reason does not feel itself
Shut out from all attempts at the extension of a priori cognition, and
Hence it refuses, in spite of a few checks in this or that quarter, to
Relinquish such efforts. For one naturally arms oneself to resist an
Attack, and becomes more obstinate in the resolve to establish the
Claims he has advanced. But a complete review of the powers of reason
And the conviction thence arising that we are in possession of a limited
Field of action, while we must admit the vanity of higher claims, puts
An end to all doubt and dispute, and induces reason to rest satisfied
With the undisturbed possession of its limited domain

To the uncritical dogmatist, who has not surveyed the sphere of his
Understanding, nor determined, in accordance with principles, the limits
Of possible cognition, who, consequently, is ignorant of his own powers
And believes he will discover them by the attempts he makes in the field
Of cognition, these attacks of scepticism are not only dangerous, but
Destructive. For if there is one proposition in his chain of reasoning
Which be he cannot prove, or the fallacy in which he cannot evolve in
Accordance with a principle, suspicion falls on all his statements
However plausible they may appear

And thus scepticism, the bane of dogmatical philosophy, conducts us to
A sound investigation into the understanding and the reason. When we are
Thus far advanced, we need fear no further attacks; for the limits of
Our domain are clearly marked out, and we can make no claims nor become
Involved in any disputes regarding the region that lies beyond these
Limits. Thus the sceptical procedure in philosophy does not present any
Solution of the problems of reason, but it forms an excellent exercise
For its powers, awakening its circumspection, and indicating the
Means whereby it may most fully establish its claims to its legitimate
Possessions

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