This entirely new translation of Critique of Pure Reason is the most accurate and informative English translation ever produced of this epochal philosophical text. Though its simple, direct style will make it suitable for all new readers of Kant, the translation displays a philosophical and textual sophistication that will enlighten Kant scholars as well. This translation recreates as far as possible a text with the same interpretative nuances and richness as the original.
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About the Author
A central figure of modern philosophy, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) synthesized rationalism and empiricism, and his thinking continues to influence the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics. The German philosopher's best-known maxim is a moral law that he called the categorical imperative, which states that morality is derived from rationality and all moral judgments are rationally supported.
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IN whatsoever mode, or by whatsoever means, our knowledge may relate to objects, it is at least quite clear, that the only manner in which it immediately relates to them, is by means of an intuition. To this as the indispensable groundwork, all thought points. But an intuition can take place only in so far as the object is given to us. This, again, is only possible, to man at least, on condition that the object affect the mind in a certain manner. The capacity for receiving representations (receptivity) through the mode in which we are affected by objects, is called sensibility. By means of sensibility, therefore, objects are given to us, and it alone furnishes us with intuitions; by the understanding they are thought, and from it arise conceptions. But all thought must directly, or indirectly, by means of certain signs, relate ultimately to intuitions; consequently, with us, to sensibility, because in no other way can an object be given to us.
The effect of an object upon the faculty of representation, so far as we are affected by the said object, is sensation. That sort of intuition which relates to an object by means of sensation, is called an empirical intuition. The undetermined object of an empirical intuition, is call phenomenon. That which in the phenomenon corresponds to the sensation, I term its matter; but that which effects that the content of the phenomenon can be arranged under certain relations, I call its form. But that in which our sensations are merely arranged, and by which they are susceptible of assuming a certain form, cannot be itself sensation. It is then, the matter of all phenomena that is given to us à posteriori; the form must lie ready à priori for them in the mind, and consequently can be regarded separately from all sensation.
I call all representations pure, in the transcendental meaning of the word, wherein nothing is met with that belongs to sensation. And accordingly we find existing in the mind à priori, the pure form of sensuous intuitions in general, in which all the manifold content of the phenomenal world is arranged and viewed under certain relations. This pure form of sensibility I shall call pure intuition. Thus, if I take away from our representation of a body, all that the understanding thinks as belonging to it, as substance, force, divisibility, etc., and also whatever belongs to sensation, as impenetrability, hardness, color, etc.; yet there is still something left us from this empirical intuition, namely, extension and shape. These belong to pure intuition, which exists à priori in the mind, as a mere form of sensibility, and without any real object of the senses or any sensation.
The science of all the principles of sensibility à priori, I call Transcendental Æsthetic. There must, then, be such a science, forming the first part of the transcendental doctrine of elements, in contradistinction to that part which contains the principles of pure thought, and which is called transcendental logic.
In the science of transcendental aesthetic accordingly, we shall first isolate sensibility or the sensuous faculty, by separating from it all that is annexed to its perceptions by the conceptions of understanding, so that nothing be left but empirical intuition. In the next place we shall take away from this intuition all that belongs to sensation, so that nothing may remain but pure intuition, and the mere form of phenomena, which is all that the sensibility can afford à priori. From this investigation it will be found that there are two pure forms of sensuous intuition, as principles of knowledge à priori, namely, space and time. To the consideration of these we shall now proceed.
Section I. — Of Space
Metaphysical Exposition of this Conception
By means of the external sense (a property of the mind), we represent to ourselves objects as without us, and these all in space. Therein alone are their shape, dimensions, and relations to each other determined or determinable. The internal sense, by means of which the mind contemplates itself or its internal state, gives, indeed, no intuition of the soul as an object; yet there is nevertheless a determinate form, under which alone the contemplation of our internal state is possible, so that all which relates to the inward determinations of the mind is represented in relations of time. Of time we cannot have any external intuition, any more than we can have an internal intuition of space. What then are time and space? Are they real existences? Or, are they merely relations or determinations of things, such, however, as would equally belong to these things in themselves, though they should never become objects of intuition; or, are they such as belong only to the form of intuition, and consequently to the subjective constitution of the mind, without which these predicates of time and space could not be attached to any object? In order to become informed on these points, we shall first give an exposition of the conception of space. By exposition, I mean the clear, though not detailed, representation of that which belongs to a conception; and an exposition is metaphysical, when it contains that which represents the conception as given à priori.
1. Space is not a conception which has been derived from outward experiences. For, in order that certain sensations may relate to something without me (that is, to something which occupies a different part of space from that in which lam); in like manner, in order that I may represent them not merely as without of and near to each other, but also in separate places, the representation of space must already exist as a foundation. Consequently, the representation of space cannot be borrowed from the relations of external phenomena through experience; but, on the contrary" this external experience is itself only possible through the said antecedent representation.
2. Space then is a necessary representation à priori, which serves for the foundation of all external intuitions. We never can imagine or make a representation to ourselves of the nonexistence of space, though we may easily enough think that no objects are found in it. It must, therefore, be considered as the condition of the possibility of phenomena, and by no means as a determination dependent on them, and is a representation à priori, which necessarily supplies the basis for external phenomena.
3. Space is no discursive, or as we say, general conception of the relations of things, but a pure intuition. For in the first place, we can only represent to ourselves one space, and when we talk of divers spaces, we mean only parts of one and the same space. Moreover these parts cannot antecede this one all-embracing space, as the component parts from which the aggregate can be made up, but can be cogitated only as existing in it. Space is essentially one, and multiplicity in it, consequently the general notion of spaces, of this or that space, depends solely upon limitations. Hence it follows that an à priori intuition (which is not empirical) lies at the root of all our conceptions of space. Thus, moreover, the principles of geometry — for example, that " in a triangle, two sides together are greater than the third," are never deduced from general conceptions of line and triangle, but from intuition, and this à priori with apodictic certainty.
4. Space is represented as an infinite given quantity. Now every conception must indeed be considered as a representation which is contained in an infinite multitude of different possible representations, which, therefore, comprises these under itself; but no conception, as such, can be so conceived, as if it contained within itself an infinite multitude of representations. Nevertheless, space is so conceived of, for all parts of space are equally capable of being produced to infinity. Consequently, the original representation of space is an intuition à priori, and not a conception.
Transcendental exposition of the conception of Space
By a transcendental exposition, I mean the explanation of a conception, as a principle, whence can be discerned the possibility of other synthetical à priori cognitions. For this purpose, it is requisite, firstly, that such cognitions do really flow from the given conception; and, secondly, that the) said cognitions are only possible under the presupposition 6f a given mode of explaining this conception.
Geometry is a science which determines the properties of space synthetically, and yet à priori. What, then, must be our representation of space, in order that such a cognition of it may be possible? It must be originally intuition, for from a mere conception, no propositions can be deduced which go out beyond the conception, and yet this happens in geometry. (Introd. V.) But this intuition must be found in the mind à priori, that is, before any perception of objects, consequently, must be pure, not empirical, intuition. For geometrical principles are always apodictic, that is, united with the consciousness of their necessity, as, "Space has only three dimensions." But propositions of this kind cannot be empirical judgments, nor conclusions from them. (Introd. II.) Now, how can an external intuition anterior to objects themselves, and in which our conception of objects can be determined à priori, exist in the human mind? Obviously not otherwise than in so far as it has its seat in the subject only, as the formal capacity of the subject's being affected by objects, and thereby of obtaining immediate representation, that is, intuition; consequently, only as the form of the external sense in general.
Thus it is only by means of our explanation that the possibility of geometry, as a synthetical science à priori, becomes comprehensible. Every mode of explanation which does not show us this possibility, although in appearance it may be similar to ours, can with the utmost certainty be distinguished from it by these marks.
Conclusions from the foregoing conceptions
1. Space does not represent any property of objects as things in themselves, nor does it represent them in their relations to each other; in other words, space does not represent to us any determination of objects such as attaches to the objects themselves, and would remain, even though all subjective conditions of the intuition were abstracted. For neither absolute nor relative determinations of objects can be intuited prior to the existence of the things to which they belong, and therefore not à priori.
2. Space is nothing else than the form of all phenomena of the external sense, that is, the subjective condition of the sensibility, under which alone external intuition is possible. Now, because the receptivity or capacity of the subject to be affected by objects necessarily antecedes all intuitions of these objects, it is easily understood how the form of all phenomena can be given in the mind previous to all actual perceptions, therefore à priori, and how it, as a pure intuition, in which all objects must be determined, can contain principles of the relations of these objects prior to all experience.
It is therefore from the human point of view only that we can speak of space, extended objects, etc. If we depart from the subjective condition, under which alone we can obtain external intuition, or, in other words, by means of which we are affected by objects, the representation of space has no meaning whatsoever. This predicate [of space] is only applicable to things in so far as they appear to us, that is, are objects of sensibility. The constant form of this receptivity, which we call sensibility, is a necessary condition of all relations in which objects can be intuited as existing without us, and when abstraction of these objects is made, is a pure intuition, to which we give the name of space. It is clear that we cannot make the special conditions of sensibility into conditions of the possibility of things, but only of the possibility of their existence as far as they are phenomena. And so we may correctly say that space contains all which can appear to us externally, but not all things considered as things in themselves, be they intuited or not, or by whatsoever subject one will. As to the intuitions of other thinking beings, we cannot judge whether they are or are not bound by the same conditions which limit our own intuition, and which for us are universally valid. If we join the limitation of a judgment to the conception of the subject, then the judgment will possess unconditioned validity. For example, the proposition, " All objects are beside each other in space," is valid only under the limitation that these things are taken as objects of our sensuous intuition. But if I join the condition to the conception, and say, " all things, as external phenomena, are beside each other in space," then the rule is valid universally, and without any limitation. Our expositions, consequently, teach the reality (i.e. the objective validity) of space in regard of all which can be presented to us externally as objects, and at the same time also the ideality of space in regard to objects when they are considered by means of reason as things in themselves, that is, without reference to the constitution of our sensibility. We maintain, therefore, the empirical reality of space in regard to all possible external experience, although we must admit its transcendental ideality; in other words, that it is nothing, so soon as we withdraw the condition upon which the possibility of all experience depends, and look upon space as something that belongs to things in themselves.
But, with the exception of space, there is no representation, subjective and referring to something external to us, which could be called objective à priori. For there are no other subjective representations from which we can deduce synthetical propositions à priori, as we can from the intuition of space. Therefore, to speak accurately, no ideality whatever belongs to these, although they agree in this respect with the representation of space, that they belong merely to the subjective nature of the mode of sensuous perception; such a mode, for example, as that of sight, of hearing, and of feeling, by means of the sensations of color, sound, and heat, but which, because they are only sensations, and not intuitions, do not of themselves give us the cognition of any object, least of all, an à priori cognition. My purpose, in the above remark, is merely this: to guard anyone against illustrating the asserted ideality of space by examples quite insufficient, for example, by color, taste, etc.; for these must be contemplated not as properties of things, but only as changes in the subject, changes which may be different in different men. For in such a case, that which is originally a mere phenomenon, a rose, for example, is taken by the empirical understanding for a thing in itself, though to every different eye, in respect of its color, it may appear different. On the contrary, the transcendental conception of phenomena in space is a critical admonition, that, in general, nothing which is intuited in space is a thing in itself, and that space is not a form which belongs as a property to things; but that objects are quite unknown to us in themselves, and what we call outward objects, are nothing else but mere representations of our sensibility, whose form is space, but whose real correlate, the thing in itself, is not known by means of these representations, nor ever can be, but respecting which, in experience, no inquiry is ever made.
Section II. — Of Time
Metaphysical exposition of this conception
1. Time is not an empirical conception. For neither coexistence nor succession would be perceived by us, if the representation of time did not exist as a foundation à priori. Without this presupposition we could not represent to ourselves that things exist together at one and the same time, or at different times, that is, contemporaneously, or in succession.
2. Time is a necessary representation, lying at the foundation of all our intuitions. With regard to phenomena in general, we cannot think away time from them, and represent them to ourselves as out of and unconnected with time, but we can quite well represent to ourselves time void of phenomena. Time is therefore given à priori. In it alone is all reality of phenomena possible. These may all be annihilated in thought, but time itself, as the universal condition of their possibility, cannot be so annulled.(Continues…)
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Table of Contents
General editor's preface; Acknowledgements; Introduction Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood; Bibliography; Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason translated by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood; Editorial notes; Glossary; Index.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) has been caricatured as a stiff German professor, whose Stoic habits were so predictable that the people of Königsberg, his hometown, could set their clocks by his daily walks. Kant's life is best described as a heroic struggle to discover order within chaos or, better, an effort to fix human thought and behavior within it proper limits. He lived and worked during the revolutionary period known as the Enlightenment, a time when political, religious, and intellectual freedom erupted across the Western world. The Critique of Pure Reason was published in the 1780s, between the American and French Revolutions. The first edition (1781) came out during the reign in Prussia of the "enlightened despot," Frederick the Great, to whom Kant dedicated hisfamous essay "What is Enlightenment?" in 1784. The second edition (1787) was issued during the reign of Frederick's reactionary heir, Frederick William II. During the 1790s Prussian censors rebuked Kant for the unorthodox implications of his philosophy of religion, which held that God was merely a moral postulate whose existence could not be proven by science. Although Kant's ideas were radical, he did not want to inspire anarchy or actual revolution. For Kant, the freedom of Enlightenment was to be directed toward wisdom, law, and order, not toward license and disorder.
Kant is supposed to have written the first edition of the Critique in 1780 in a matter of months, "an accomplishment," according to Ernst Cassirer, "that is scarcely rivaled, even as a purely literary feat, in the entire history of thought." After the first Critique, Kant published two other Critiques: the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and the Critique of Judgment (1790). The scope of these texts is remarkable. They deal with metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics. Together the three works form what is known as the "critical" philosophy, the basic approach of which is methodological criticism. In general, in the critical works, Kant asks the question of what we are entitled to claim that we know. While Kant produced his three major Critiques in his 50s and 60s, he continued to write and publish well into his 70s, producing works on a wide range of topics including politics, religion, anthropology, and history.
As part of his struggle to enlighten his age, Kant issued an easier distillation of the content of the Critique of Pure Reason under the title Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783). The titles of both of these works are instructive. They indicate that Kant's project is preparatory. He is clearing the ground and criticizing reason in an effort to prepare the way for the future completion of philosophy. A critique of reason is not a system of philosophy, as such a system had been traditionally conceived. He makes this explicit in the often-overlooked second major section of the Critique, "The Transcendental Doctrine of Method." Here he indicates that the problem of the book is that reason needs "discipline," and he argues that until such discipline has been instituted, philosophy, as a finished system of knowledge will not exist. Thus the critical approach is designed to help us learn to philosophize. "In other words, we can only exercise our powers of reasoning accordance with general principles, retaining at the same time, the right of investigating the sources of these principles, of testing, and even of rejecting them." The Critique enacts this process of investigating and testing principles, while encouraging each of us to judge for ourselves using our own critical powers.
The enlightenment facilitated by the critical philosophy is connected to political enlightenment and the liberal ideal of freedom of thought. The critical method assumes that reason is an authority found in each and every human being and that each has a right to openly express objections and doubt. "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." Political enlightenment facilitates the completion of the philosophical task by setting us free to complete the ground-clearing project of the Critique. Likewise, reason that is improved through critique is supposed to lead to progress in all aspects of human life.
The motto of Kant's 1784 essay, "What is Enlightenment?" was sapere aude ("dare to be wise"). This motto can also serve to guide readers of the Critique. For Kant, enlightenment means that every man has the right to understand the necessary limits of human knowledge. But this right comes with the responsibility to respect those limits and admit the truth. Indeed, in his moral and political writings Kant emphasized obedience to the moral law and to political authority. The idea of obedience to the law is also seen in the Critique of Pure Reason, where Kant catalogues the principles that govern the mind and encourages us to obey them. The problem to be remedied by the critical process is the tendency of those who are interested in metaphysical questions to become undisciplined as they allow themselves to transgress the limits of what the human mind can actually know. If we would dare to be wise, we must admit that there are some things the mind cannot know.
Kant thus shares the epistemological and methodological concerns of modern philosophers such as Descartes and Hume. Indeed, it is not too much to say that Kant redefines metaphysical problems as problems of epistemology. What this means is that Kant transforms questions about the existence of God, about the freedom of the will, and about the nature of time into questions about knowledge. For Kant the crucial question is what any human being could know about God, freedom, and time. Kant concludes that we cannot experience an object such as God as He would be "in Himself" because everything we know comes to us through the filters of experience. Thus God is a concept or idea that we construct out of the tendency of reason to look for absolute and unconditioned things. But, we cannot know of God as He would be outside of our experience. We cannot know, then, that God exists; but neither can we know that God does not exist. Both the dogmatic theist and the dogmatic atheist go beyond the bounds of what is knowable. At best we know that God is an idea-the idea of absolute, unconditioned Being-toward which reason pushes us. Kant more explicitly avoids atheism by claiming that there are certain "transcendental" or "regulative" ideas that we must postulate in light of our practical interests. These ideas-or moral postulates-include the ideas of God, freedom, and immortality. To be honest we must admit that we have no knowledge of these things, even while recognizing that our practical moral interests demand that we believe them. In regard to these issues, Kant clearly states his position in the Preface to the Second Edition of the Critique: "I have found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith."
Kant's project can be understood in relation to the concerns of both Plato and Christian philosophers such as Augustine. Plato and Augustine both assume that there is a difference between what is real and what is merely apparent. With Plato, philosophy-rigorous methodical thinking-is supposed to lead beyond the shadow world of appearances and unfounded opinions toward the world of reality and true knowledge. Augustine and the Christians add that faith is also necessary for this ascent from appearance to reality. Kant's important conclusion is that there is no escape from the world of the mind. The things we experience are shaped by the forms and categories by which the human mind necessarily experiences anything. We cannot, then, experience "things in themselves"-whether these are Platonic Ideas or the Christian God-as they would be if the human mind were not actively working to make sense of them.
While this sounds skeptical, Kant is only agnostic about our knowledge of metaphysical objects such as God. And, as noted above, Kant's agnosticism leads to the conclusion that we can neither affirm nor deny claims made by traditional metaphysics. But Kant is not skeptical about empirical objects and the laws that govern their appearance. Indeed, Kant's effort was explicitly directed to overcoming skepticism about empirical reality of the sort propounded by Hume. Kant famously claims in the Introduction to the Prolegomena that Hume was the philosopher who had "awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers." Hume had argued that the empirical world of experience was not governed by necessity because the laws of nature were mere generalizations constructed by us as we tried to make sense of experience. But this empirical point of view created profound skepticism about the nature of scientific law. Could it be possible, Kant wondered, that the laws of nature and even the laws of mathematics were not governed by necessity? One of Kant's goals is to show us that science is a valuable way of understanding the world of experience, precisely because science constrains itself to the world of experience and does not stray into metaphysical speculation. The necessary laws of experience are truly necessary because any experience must conform to them. In other words, it would be impossible to imagine an experience that was not constrained by the laws of experience.
Furthermore, Kant claims that the scientific method-as utilized by Galileo and Copernicus-provides a model for the way in which we should understand the process of reason. Scientists propose experiments and understand the world in terms of the answers that are received in light of specific questions and hypotheses. This shows us that the mind is active in comprehension and not passive. We approach the world with questions and actively look for answers. In the same way, Kant argues that we impose form, categories, and structures upon the sense data that we receive. Ultimately, what science discovers are the necessary ways in which the world of experience is structured.
An example might help. The first section of the book, the "Transcendental Aesthetic," argues that space and time are the necessary conditions for the possibility of any experience. Space, Kant says, is the form of outer sense, while time is the form of inner sense. We know nothing about space and time in themselves, apart from our experience. We do know, however, that they are presupposed in any possible experience. This is what Kant means when he say that time and space are "empirically real" but "transcendentally ideal": time and space are necessary components of any experience-they are empirically real, even though we know nothing about them in themselves-and they are transcendentally ideal.
An argument such as this, about the necessary conditions of experience, is what Kant calls "transcendental": it is an a priori argument about that which constitutes experience. "I apply the term transcendental to all knowledge which is not so much occupied with objects as with the mode of our cognition of these objects, so far as this mode of cognition is possible a priori." By, a priori, Kant means anything that is not established by way of inductive generalizations based upon experience. Inductive generalizations-such as, "heavy objects tend to fall"-are, in Kant's language, a posteriori. Unlike inductive generalizations, a priori reasoning focuses on the very constitution of experience: it postulates necessary and universal features of any possible experience that cannot themselves be confirmed by experience. For example, the claim that "every change must have a cause" is a necessary assumption of any experience. In other words, it is impossible to imagine a change in experience that is not caused, just as it is impossible to imagine an experience that did not occur in space or time.
Of course, one can raise objections to Kant's theory. The most important objection focuses on a subjectivist interpretation of Kant's "transcendental idealism." For Kant, subjective conditions constitute objectivity. Although he postulates the existence of a "thing-in-itself, " Kant tells us that the thing-in-itself is a "thing = X" about which we can know nothing. This leaves us, unfortunately, divorced from the world in disquieting ways. Later philosophers respond to Kant's subjectivism either by arguing for a more complete form of idealism as Fichte and Hegel were to do, by claiming that the essence of the thing-in-itself is Will, as Schopenhauer was to do, or by explicitly affirming subjectivism as Nietzsche was to do. In the twentieth century, the subjective focus that is present in Kant's philosophy would give way to pragmatism, phenomenology, existentialism, and to Kuhnian philosophy of science.
Kant's virtue, however, is that he was not content merely to propound a solipsistic form of subjective idealism. Rather, he recognized the importance of intersubjectivity and maintained that the empirical world will be experienced by everyone according to the same laws. Indeed, he acknowledged that experience is not something we produce as if we were gods. The sensible manifold is given to us, we know not how. But this world of sense is comprehensible because it conforms to the necessary conditions of experience. Kant admits that the human mind is creative, as the Romantics and Modernists who followed Kant would emphasize. But Kant emphasizes that the mind must respect the laws which govern its own creativity. Kant's text is seminal because of his unique approach to the discipline of philosophy. It remains vital because it celebrates the power of the human mind.
Andrew Fiala is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Humanistic Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. He is the author of The Philosopher's Voice and articles on topics in nineteenth-century philosophy, ethics, and political philosophy.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another book I read while getting my BA in Philosophy at UCLA and one of only two literary works (the other being Harry Frankfurt's essay The Importance of What We Care About) that I would say changed my life. Kant, once you learn his language, which occupies the first part of book, goes on to use his Critique in fascinating discussions of the antimonies in the more interesting latter part of the book. Read this book from cover to cover. It is worth your time.