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Compiled by Anthony Harrison-Barbet


KANT

(1724 — 1804)

 

CRITICAL IDEALISM

Immanuel Kant incontrovertibly was one of the West's greatest philosophers. The son of a saddler of Scottish descent, spent his whole life in the Prussian city of Königsberg (now in Poland). After studying mathematics, theology and philosophy he earned a living as a private tutor, but later became a lecturer and then in 1770 Professor at the University, where he taught a wide range of subjects. Though a confirmed bachelor he had an eye for pretty and educated ladies. He was a man of regular habits; it is said that the inhabitants of Königsberg could always tell the time from his daily walks. In general his life was uneventful and uncontroversial, though in 1794 a book on religion which he had published brought him into conflict with the King of Prussia.

 

KNOWLEDGE AND METAPHYSICS

Critique of Pure Reason (1st edition 1781, 2nd edition 1787): starts from what is unknown and deduces the presuppositions and limits of knowledge and metaphysics.

Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics (1783): starts from what is known — mathematics, the natural sciences — and indicates, but does not 'prove' their possibility and that of a 'scientific' metaphysics.

[Source: The edition of the Critique of Pure Reason used is that of Kemp Smith. 'A' refers to the first edition and 'B' to the second edition of Kant's original text.]

 

KNOWLEDGE

[1] Kant argued that there are fundamental difficulties with both the 'rationalist' and 'empiricist' philosophical traditions. This can be seen by looking at two distinctions he makes about subject-predicate judgements. A subject-predicate judgement in 'traditional' formal logic is one like 'All bachelors are male', where 'bachelor' is the subject and 'maleness' is the predicate. By a 'judgement' Kant means something that is asserted by somebody when uttering or writing a sentence, for example, 'The grass is green'. He considers all judgements as "functions of unity among our representations" which involve the collecting of immediate representations under 'higher' representations, and thus concerns the relationship of predicates to their subjects [Critique of Pure Reason, A 69, B 94; see also sec. 9]. His first distinction [CPR, Introd. I] divides subject-predicate sentences into two kinds according as to how we decide whether they are true or false. An a priori judgement is one whose truth or falsity can be determined without direct reference to experience, for example, 'All circles are round'; once we know what the terms 'circle' and 'round' mean we can decide its truth. An a posteriori judgement, on the other hand, is one like 'It was sunny on Friday', where its truth can be determined only by reference to the actual experience; understanding the terms is not enough. Kant's second distinction is between analytic judgements and synthetic judgements [CPR, Introd. IV]. An analytic judgement is one in which the predicate is in some sense already contained in the subject. For example, 'All bodies are extended' is analytic because the idea of body in some way includes the idea of extension. Kant therefore calls analytic judgements 'explicative'. A synthetic judgement, on the other hand, is one in which the predicate is not included in the subject, for example, 'All bodies are heavy' because the idea of body does not have to include the idea of heaviness. Kant calls synthetic judgements 'ampliative'. While analytic judgements may be said to be 'necessarily' true, synthetic judgements are not logically certain; they may be true (or false) 'contingently' [a]. Combining the two distinctions Kant now has:

1. Analytic a priori judgements. These are clearly possible; if they are analytic then their truth has to be known a priori; and they cannot tell us anything about the world.

2. Analytic a posteriori judgements. It obviously follows from what has just been said in (1) that judgements of this kind are not possible.

3. Synthetic a posteriori judgements. Kant finds no difficulty with these. If our knowledge of their truth (or falsity) depends in some way on our experience of the world, then they cannot be analytic.

4. Synthetic a priori judgements. There is clearly a problem here. Empiricists would say that the truth of judgements belonging to this fourth group must depend on experience and therefore cannot be known a priori. But Kant argues that such judgements are possible. This can be understood if we look at what he says about the judgements of mathematics and natural science [ CPR Introd. V].

Hume had argued that the truths of mathematics, being analytic (to use Kant's word), can tell us nothing about the external world. But his empiricism can be shown to lead to scepticism; for although he was convinced that external objects are the cause of our impressions and hence ideas, the causal principle itself seems to be neither analytic nor derivable from experience. Kant's suggested solution to this problem involves showing that judgements of arithmetic, (Euclidean) geometry, and (Newtonian) science, while not analytic, are yet necessarily true of the empirical world to which they relate, and are thus known a priori. This is because he believes that such judgements relate to the co-existence and succession of finite magnitudes [b] which can be presented to the mind only through the 'forms of intuition' of space and time [see sec. 2]. Moreover mathematics underpins the natural science — though additionally this is grounded in synthetic principles relating to connections between things and which are prior to experience in so far as they are derived from 'forms of the understanding' such as causality [see sec. 2]. It is in justifying these claims that Kant in his 'critical' philosophy is in effect setting out the conditions under which we through our rational faculty can know objects and thereby exhibiting the limits of metaphysics [c].

[2] Kant's theory of knowledge is developed in the first main division of the First Critique, which he calls the Transcendental Doctrine of the Elements. The first part is the Transcendental Aesthetic [B 33-73]. As against both the rationalists and the empiricists, Kant thinks a sharp distinction must be made between sensations and 'ideas' or perceptions. He therefore identifies two faculties, (passive) sensibility and (active) understanding (Verstand) — an aspect of the faculty of reason (Vernunft) [B 327]. Kant's terminology is unfortunately sometimes ambiguous. But in general he argues that sensibility is the capacity to receive 'representations' of external objects. (He uses 'representations', Vorstellungen in a wide sense to include all mental contents or cognitive states [a] — perceptions, 'representations of representations' — as judgements [see sec. 1], images, and so on). This is effected by means of two 'forms of intuition' (Anschauungen), space and time, which in some sense belong to our perceptual apparatus (time relating to the 'inner sensiility', space to the 'outer'). A form may perhaps be thought of loosely as a kind of built-in filter or lens through which sensory data must pass. Sensations (Empfindungen), or 'sensuous empirical intuitions' (Anschauungen) constitute the 'matter' of appearances (Erscheinungen); space and time contribute the 'form' to those appearances. The faculty of sensibility, although passive, thus in effect takes our sensations of material things and arranges them in "certain relations" to produce appearances. Space and time, for Kant, are thus a priori and necessary (and also themselves intuitions); and he rejects both 'absolutist' and 'relativist' accounts. He says that they are empirically real but transcendentally ideal [b]. He means by this that although they are prior to experience they are necessary if we are to have knowledge of objects, and indeed they contribute to it [Transc. Aesthetic, secs I & II]. For experience and knowledge to be possible, however, understanding is also required. As he says, "thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind" [B 75]. The understanding, by means of its capacity to synthesize, orders appearances under its own forms or categories, such as reality, existence, substance, causality, as a result of which the appearances become phenomena. The categories are not innate ideas (which Kant rejected) but, as it were, built into and derived from the mind's structure and activity [B 105-6] [c].

Because of the joint effects of the sensibility and understanding we necessarily perceive the world in a particular way. So rather than our having to conform to the world, the world of experience conforms to us. Kant calls this his "Copernican Revolution" [B xvi, xxii — .]. He thus dismisses both realism and 'material' idealism. 'Realism' includes the rationalism of Wolff (following Leibniz), who supposed we might gain access to reality and truth (to ideas, be they 'innate' or 'transcendent') though logic and the exercise of pure reason [xxxv-xxxvii]. (Plato too might well be included in this category [see B 370ff.].) Kant also rejects empiricist philosophies, according to which knowledge of the real world can be obtained directly by means of sense-experience. He regards Aristotle as the chief of the empiricists, Locke being "inconsistent" [B 882]. As for the material idealists, he distinguishes [B 274-5] 'dogmatic' idealists, such as Berkeley, who (according to Kant) says that the existence of things outside us is impossible; 'problematic' idealists (for example, Descartes, for whom the existence of external things is doubtful — there being only one indubitable assertion, namely, that 'I am'). And he refers [A 377] to 'sceptical' idealists (he no doubt has Hume in mind), who say the existence of matter (and external objects) cannot be proved. Kant's own thesis is that what we actually experience are phenomena, that is, external things as they appear to us under the a priori forms of intuition of space and time and organized by the categories of the understanding; we can have no knowledge of external objects in themselves (noumena), nor of anything which transcends the limits of experience, in particular God, freedom, and immortality (Ideas of Reason) [B xxx]. This illegitimate 'transcendent' metaphysics is the result of attempting to push pure reason beyond its permissible limits rather than confining it to its role as understanding. He calls this new philosophy Transcendental Idealism. Implicit in this philosophy is Kant's affirmation of a clear dichotomy between the natural and the intelligible realm [B 44, A 369] [d]. [See further secs. 4, 6, and 10 below.]

[3] The forms of the understanding are investigated in the second part of the Transcendental Doctrine of the Elements — the Transcendental Logic [First Division: Transcendental Analytic] Kant there examines three issues: (1) what the forms are; (2) why they are needed for experience; (3) how they are used.

1. [Analytic of Concepts, ch. I, B92-116.] In answer to the first point, he says that pure forms (the categories) are basic concepts. When concepts are used by the understanding they make up statements. The job of statements is to unify our representations. To find the basic concepts he adopts Aristotle's classification of statements into four types: quantity, quality, relation, modality [a]. The twelve categories can then be listed under these headings. Thus, Unity, Plurality, and Totality are associated with quantity; Reality and Negation are linked with quality; Substance and Causality [see sec. 3] with relation; and corresponding to modality we find such categories as Possibility and Necessity.

2. [Analytic of Concepts, ch. 2.]. Kant's next step is to attempt a transcendental 'deduction' of the categories [a] which will 'justify' our use of them [1st edition: A 96-130; 2nd edition: B 130-169]. In other words, he wants to show why and how they are necessary. Suppose I have an experience of an object: say I see a tree. Now if I am to think of this experience both as being mine and as a unity [A 97-103, B 150-2] (the trunk, leaves, colours, shapes, etc. all make up one experience), then according to Kant there must be two conditions.

Firstly, it must be possible for the "I think" to accompany all my perceptions [B 131 ff.]. He means by this that there has to be a sense of a unifying 'self' to hold the perceptions together in the one experience. In Kant's language, we have to regard the manifold as subject to "the transcendental unity of apperception" [A 107, B 143]. This is a formal condition of experience whereby one is able to think of one's experiences as one's own — as belonging to a single consciousness. Moreover, this unity would not be possible if such experience did not conform to the categories. However, Kant rejects 'rational psychology'. This unifying 'self' is not to be understood as a mental substance of any kind; nor is it an empirical notion, a 'bundle of [discrete] perceptions', for example, or everyday self-consciousness — our knowledge of which the Transcendental Unity of Apperception itself presupposes. We can have no knowledge or intuition of a noumenal self as such — though such a 'transcendental ego' seems — on one interpretation — to remain as a postulate.) [See CS (3) below] [b].

Secondly, we must also suppose there is a "Transcendental Object" (Kant calls it 'X' [A 104-6; cf. B 139] ), that is, a real thing which exists in the world before we experience it and to which our representations can be referred to in accordance with 'rules' [see, for example, A 108, 114, 126]. (Such rules tell us in some sense how our representations relate to the same object and how that object guarantees a unity between those representations.) This Transcendental Object is thus unlike the noumenon in that it is not an empty concept but is an a priori formal concept, a presupposition of experience, giving it unity so that it can be of an objective world. As such

it is not itself an object of knowledge, but only the representation of appearances under the concept of an object in general — a concept which is determinable through the manifold of those appearances. [A 251]

The concept of such an object is itself not an empirical one; we cannot derive it from experience by any kind of 'abstraction' or 'association' of ideas [B 142]. Moreover, we are directly aware of external objects rather than only our own ideas behind the perception of which such objects might be supposed to exist. These objects do exist independent of our perceptions [A 109-10, 820, B 137, 142, 276], but we know them as phenomenal objects in space and time and not as noumena (whether understood as a limiting concept or as unknowable things in themselves) [B 277] [see CS (3)] [c]. Kant also argues that this unity is the same as that needed for the "I think" to accompany someone's experience, and that both the 'subjective' and the 'objective' unity presuppose the categories:

The original and necessary consciousness of the identity of the self is thus at the same time a consciousness of the identity of an equally necessary unity of the synthesis of all appearances according to concepts, that is, according to rules, which not only make them necessarily reproducible but also in so doing determine an object for their intuition, that is, the concept of something wherein they are necessarily connected. [A 108; cf.119, 126-7]

3. [Analytic of Principles, ch. II B 176-294.] Before going on to look at how the categories are used Kant has to deal with a problem. The categories are a priori forms of the understanding. How then can they apply to sensible appearances? In the case of an empirical concept such as 'plate' there is no difficulty; the roundness of the object fits with the concept 'circle' — whether this concept be sensible or a pure geometric one. But in the case of the categories Kant says there has to be some third 'thing', which he calls a 'schema', to link them to appearances. He supposes the various schemata to be produced by relating the categories to time through the activity of the imagination. As time is both a priori and the form of inner sensibility it is suitable as the means by which schemata can mediate between the categories and the manifold. To show the ways in which the categories are applied by the understanding Kant now [B 188 ff.] distinguishes four sets of principles — corresponding again to Aristotle's four kinds of statements. The first two, which Kant says are 'constitutive', relate to appearances and justify the application of mathematics to experience. He calls them Axioms of Intuition [B 202 ff.] (corresponding to the schematized categories of quantity) and the Anticipations of Perception [B 207 ff.] (quality). They enable us respectively to predict that an intuition will be of a definite size (extension) and that it can admit of being of a particular degree or intensity (which can vary). For example, something may be seen or heard with varying degrees of faintness. The second two are 'regulative'. They are 'dynamical' instead of being mathematical and are concerned with the actual existence of appearances and how they relate to each other. In the Analogies of Experience (relation) Kant tries to show firstly [A 182-9, B 224-32] that something permanent underlies changes of appearances, and which represents time as the permanent form of intuition. This a priori category is substance. There can be no change in the quantity of substance; all changes are but transformations of substance. Ordinary objects are therefore not substances. He does however, sometimes talk of a plurality of substances [for example, B 462]. These might be understood as finite 'units' of substance in general — the total quantity of this 'one' substance being fixed: but both the nature of these substances (are they simples?) and the relation to them of ordinary objects remains obscure [d]. [See further sec. 5 below (the Antinomies).] He then, in the second analogy [A 189-211, B 232-56], distinguishes between a (subjective) coexistence of appearances and an (objective) succession. We may perceive aspects of a house in any order, but our perceptions of a moving boat are determined by its direction, say from upstream to down. Kant's point seems to be that if we can identify an objective succession then we have a basis for the a priori concept of causality. This provides unity of consciousness and gives to experience the characteristics of objectivity. The principle of the causal relation (or the principle of sufficient reason) in the sequence of appearances, Kant says [ B 246, 247], is valid of all objects of experience in so far as it is itself the ground of the possibility of such experience. He is saying implicitly that the proposition 'All events must have a cause', and hence the principle of sufficient reason, is necessary but not analytic, and is unprovable empirically or through pure reason [B 811-12]. The third analogy also deals with causality [A211-15, B257-62]. But here Kant is concerned with the reciprocal interactions of substances with each other [e] and not just with the causation involved in a temporal sequence between, say, substance A and substance B. This is because he regards causal intreraction as a requirement for substances to exist in space. Reciprocity is guaranteed by the application of the category of community: "In our mind, all appearances must stand in community of apperception" [B261]. The other principles in this second set are called the Postulates of Empirical Thought [B 265 ff.]. They may be regarded as constituting a summary of the general conditions necessary (a) for things to exist within our experience; (b) for them to be counted as real and as knowable, for example, through science; and (c) for us to be able to argue from our perceptions to the existence of unperceived things, that is, in accordance with the analogies and other empirical or scientific rules.

Kant makes it clear that we do therefore have direct experience of the external world. His argument is roughly this. We are conscious that we exist in time; there must be something permanent underlying the changes of our perceptions in time; it cannot be in us because we need the idea of something permanent to 'fix' our own existence in time; so there must be external objects to provide the basis for this permanence. In other words, we need the actual existence of an external world (albeit known only as phenomenon) to help us determine our own inner states [f].

 

METAPHYSICS

[4] In showing how synthetic a priori knowledge is possible in mathematics and science Kant is at the same time setting a limit as to what can be known. His attitude towards 'traditional' metaphysics is thus broadly negative. 'The 'dogmatic' idealism of Berkeley, he says ['Refutation of Idealism', B 274-5], denies the existence of space and objects as existing externally and independently of a perceiver; while according to the 'problematic' idealism of Descartes we can be acquainted only with our immediate experiences and can therefore never be certain that things exist outside us, because inference is unreliable. So Kant rejects both forms of 'idealism' in favour of his own theory. Firstly, he says that we do have knowledge of external objects as phenomena (because he believes has shown that the experienced world of nature conforms to the a priori forms of intuition and understanding): but, secondly, he denies that we can have any knowledge of the intelligible realm of noumena. Kant's Transcendental Idealism is therefore to be regarded as 'legitimate' metaphysics [see Analytic of Principles, ch. III, A 235-60, B 294-315] [a].

In the Second Division (the Transcendental Dialectic) of the Transcendental Logic Kant develops his attack on the old (or 'transcendent') metaphysics. He also tries to discover the source of its errors. His main argument [B355-66] follows a distinction he makes between two uses of the reason. In logical arguments the job of reason is only to unify or bring together an ever-widening range of judgements as we move from premisses to a conclusion — which can then act as a new premiss for a further argument. But pure reason may try to go beyond what is given in experience, and to search for what Kant calls the 'unconditioned' [B 365, 7]. This involves an examination of 'transcendental ideas', 'idea' in this context being "a necessary concept of reason to which no corresponding object can be given in sense-experience" [B 384]. He says there are three kinds of unconditioned unity, corresponding to the three categories of relation (substance, cause and reciprocity). Reason's attempt to transcend the limits of experience can be seen in each of the three branches of traditional metaphysics: psychology, cosmology and theology. These deal respectively with the 'Ideas of Reason' of a substantial soul, the world as a totality, and God. Kant goes on to say that when pure reason fails to confine itself to the a priori conditions of experience and, during its unifying activity, tries to pass to the unconditioned it produces fallacies and contradictions. He hopes that by identifying these he will be able to show why transcendent metaphysics is mistaken. [See Transcendental Dialectic, Bk I, section 3.]

[5] Kant calls the fallacies associated with the first Idea of Reason Paralogisms [T.Dial., Bk II, ch. I]. Some previous philosophers had claimed that the soul is a substance, is simple, is a person, and that the existence of external things is doubtful. Kant answers these assertions as follows. (1) The soul is a substance only in idea, because we cannot argue from a concept to an actual existing unitary thinking substance. (2) It cannot be simple, because this notion can apply only to an object that can be experienced. (3) The idea of personal identity is itself just a 'representation' and may be no more permanent than the thoughts it is supposed to hold together. (4) He repeats the criticisms he made earlier about idealism [B 375]. So far from the 'I think' being experienced, the self, as the Transcendental Unity of Apperception, is a presupposition of all possible experience and cannot be known in itself [a]. He goes on [A 381ff.] to consider a number of issues which arise in 'pure psychology' in the light of the paralogisms, and in particular the mind (or soul)-body problem. The 'doctrine of the soul' relates to the physiology of the (temporal) inner sense [a], that of the body to the object of the outer senses. And provided we consider inner and outer appearances together as mere representations in experience then there can be nothing strange in the 'association' of the two kinds of senses. The problem arises, according to Kant, when we think of outer appearances as "things existing by themselves outside us, with the same quality as that which they exist in us" and then try to relate them to our thinking subject [A 386]. And it is to deal with this that traditional solutions have been proposed, such as physical influence, predetermined harmony, and supernatural intervention — none of which is successful [A 390-3]. In fact in the last analysis the question how outer intuition (space which comprehends shape and motion) is possible in a thinking subject is unanswerable. All we can do is to ascribe outer appearances to the transcendental object and avoid treating the appearances as objects in themselves. Similar considerations apply to such matters as the existence of the thinking subject after death [b]. He concludes:

Thus all controversy in regard to the nature of the thinking being and its connection with the corporeal world is merely a result of filling the gap where knowledge is wholly lacking to us with paralogisms of reason, treating our thoughts as things and hypostatising them. [A 395]

The arguments for the second and third Ideas of Reason are called Antinomies [T.Dial., Bk II, ch. II]. Each consists of a thesis and an antithesis which contradict each other, though Kant says both can be proved. (The theses are supposed to be held by 'dogmatic rationalists', the antitheses by 'empiricists'.) The first antinomy is concerned with the question whether the world has or has not a beginning in time and limits in space. The second addresses the question whether or not the world is composed of simples (or composites of simples) [see sec. 3]. In the third antinomy Kant presents 'proofs' of the thesis that there are both natural and free causes and of the antithesis that there is natural causation but no freedom. He suggests that all these contradictions can be avoided if we relate the theses to both phenomena and noumena but the antitheses to only the phenomenal world. In other words we should accept his Transcendental Idealism and not try to push Reason beyond the limits of experience (transcendental realism) [B 511]. We shall then find that in the case of the first two (the 'mathematical' antinomies) the theses and the antitheses are all false — being based on the assumption that the world exists as a (finite or infinite) whole. In fact it is neither, nor is it divisible finitely or infinitely. As for the other two ('dynamical' antinomies), the theses and antitheses are both true — but differentially. Things belonging to the phenomenal world are causally determined: but in the noumenal world there are free causes [c][c]. Similarly in the case of the Theological Idea [fourth antinomy]: the thesis is true when applied to both worlds, while the antithesis is true only of the phenomena. Kant concentrates his attack on three traditional 'proofs' for God's existence: the ontological, the cosmological, and the teleological arguments [ch. III, secs 4-6]. He tries to show that the ontological argument is the main one, in that the other two presuppose its validity. The ontological argument is fallacious, he says, because it assumes that existence is a predicate, whereas the 'is' in statements is merely a copula linking the predicate to its subject (as in 'God is omnipotent') [d]. By this he means that we do not add anything new to the concept of God by saying that He exists; existence cannot therefore be a perfection, and God may as well not exist. Also existential judgements are synthetic. It does not follow logically from a definition of God as a necessary being that he actually exists necessarily. Kant goes on to say in the Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic that although we cannot have knowledge of God (as an idea of the unconditioned it is 'regulative' not 'constitutive'), together with the Ideas of the soul and of freedom we need God for our morality and religion. That is why he had said in the Preface [B xxx], "I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith" [e].

 

ETHICS      DEONTOLOGY

Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785): the initial presentation of Kant's ethics.

Critique of Practical Reason (1788): Part I, Book I (Analytic) consists a more formal statement of the Groundwork thesis; Book II (Dialectic) offers a justification of morality.

[Sources: The edition of the Groundwork used is that of Paton (The Moral Law); and the edition of the Critique of Practical Reason is Beck's. Number references in both cases are to the pages of the standard Royal Prussian Academy edition of his works.]

 

[6] Although, according to Kant, we can have no knowledge of the external world, he argues that the moral law [see Groundwork 389, Critique of Practical Reason, 32] has its origin in the freely acting rational noumenal self and that it is willed onto the phenomenal world by the practical reason. (He rejects all 'material principles' which purport to be determining grounds, for example, physical and moral feeling, perfection, the will of God [a]; the first two, he says, are obviously unfit; the latter two can be motives only by reason of the happiness expected of them) [C.Pract.R., 40-41; Cf. Gr. 388-390]. To understand what this means we must look at the distinction he makes between two kinds of imperatives (that is, commands) — a hypothetical imperative (which is analytic) and a categorical one (which is synthetic) [Gr 37-44] [b]. Consider the reasons we may have for doing what is supposed to be morally 'right', say telling the truth. We may wish to avoid punishment (which for Kant is retributive — as required by 'the moral order' [see Philosophy of Law] ) [c][c]; we may want to maximize our happiness or that of other people; or maybe we feel that it would be against our moral 'sense' or conscience to tell lies. Now Kant says that if we behave on the basis of such considerations, our actions cannot be said strictly to have any moral worth. This is because we are acting in accordance with a hypothetical imperative, which relates to subjective (empirical) principles such as "education, civil constitution, physical and moral feeling" or to objective (rational) principles such as "perfection and the will of God". Our actions, he says, can have moral worth only if they are in accordance with the categorical imperative, that is, if they are done for the sake of duty [Gr. 9-11]. By this he means that we should act out of reverence (Achtung) for the (moral) law — without any consideration of the possible consequences of our actions and regardless of the impulses and inclinations we have so far as we belong to the phenomenal world. This notion of doing something for the sake of duty is central to Kant's ethics; it is not sufficient that ones actions should merely be in accordance with it. A shopkeeper, for example, may be honest and not overcharge his customers. But he could also be acting out of self-interest — so that his business might prosper. Even if he were motivated by love that would not in itself guarantee the moral worth of his action. Only reverence for the moral law can provide this. This underpins Kant's notion of a good will as the only thing "which can be taken as good without qualification" [Gr. 1-4, 8ff.] [d]. But he distinguishes between the imperfect (human) will and the perfectly good 'holy' will (of God). The former is 'necessitated' to act in conformity with the law — the 'I ought'. For the divine will' however, there are no imperatives [Gr. 39].

How can we know that a particular course of action accords with the categorical imperative and is thus performed for the sake of duty? To answer this Kant introduces what he calls a maxim [Gr. 51-2, C.Pract.R., 27-8]. This is a subjective principle on the basis of which we decide to act. If the maxim we adopt expresses the idea of obeying a universal law, it is said to be a formal maxim and becomes an objective principle, that is, the principle on which a rational being ought and would act if he had full control over his desires. (Principles which relate to ends or consequences are said to be empirical maxims.) This leads to Kant's first formulation of the categorical imperative: "Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will to become a universal law" [Gr. 52] [e]. He gives four examples of duties which, he claims, accord with this universal law [Gr. 53-7]. Two of them, concerning suicide and the keeping of promises, allow of no exceptions. He calls these perfect duties. If we allowed that everybody might break their promises or might kill themselves then there clearly there would be peculiar consequences: the concept of keeping a promise race would lose its 'purchase', while in the case of suicide the human race would become extinct. So we cannot in practice universalize such maxims. The second two examples, which relate to the cultivation of ones talents and the practice of benevolence, are, however, imperfect, in the sense that although we may often give in to our inclinations we do not will that the maxim on which we act should be universalized; but we recognise that its opposite should remain universal. He goes on to give four more formulations of the categorical imperative. (While it is the third formulation which receives the most emphasis in the second Critique, Kant seems to regard the first formulation as the most important in the Groundwork.) (2) We must act as if our maxim were to become a universal law of nature [Gr. 52, C.PractR., 31]; and (3) in such a way that our will can regard itself as producing universal law through that maxim [Gr. 70-1, 76]. Also (4) in our actions we must never treat people including ourselves, just as means but also as rational beings and hence as ends in themselves [Gr. 66-7]. Lastly (5), we must act as if we were law-giving members of a universal kingdom of ends [Gr. 74-6]. As law-givers — and law-obeyers — individuals implicitly accept the general will of the people. For Kant this 'contract', however, is a regulative ideal and not historically grounded. [See Fundamental Principles of Law.] He argues that each member of society transfers his moral freedom to the 'republic' but receives it back in the form of civil liberties. Nevertheless it is to be regarded as binding; and there can be no right to rebel against authority as the 'general will' — even in imperfect states [f].

[7] When we act in accordance with the categorical imperative we are acting autonomously, in contrast to the heteronomy of actions guided by the hypothetical imperative [Gr. 87-9, C.Pract.R., 33ff.]. Now the principle of autonomy (never to choose unless the maxims you will are present in universal law) is, Kant says, a synthetic statement, so we cannot prove it by analysing concepts. So he argues that to show how the categorical imperative is possible we need a critique of practical reason. This brings him back [Gr. III, 97ff., 113ff; C.Pract.R., Analytic ch. 3, 90ff.] to the antinomy examined in the first Critique between freedom and necessity. Non-rational beings act in accordance with natural necessity, but the wills of rational beings are free. This does not mean that free action is 'lawless'; for the free will does not act causally. But, unlike the causes at work in the natural or phenomenal world, the will's 'causation' is self-imposed and involves accepting the categorical imperative. The difficulty with this, Kant says, is that it leads to a kind of circularity in our reasoning. Freedom and self-legislation are 'reciprocal' concepts, that is, they are dependent on each other; so neither can serve as an explanation for the other. To get round this he suggests that in using the two concepts we are adopting different standpoints. As free agents we think of ourselves as autonomous members of the noumenal or intelligible world and as subject to the laws of reason (which prescribes ought — 'ought' implies 'can', we might say). But our actions have also to be seen as factual events in the phenomenal world which are subject to the laws of natural science. Natural necessity is a concept of the understanding: whereas freedom is an Idea of Reason [a]. There is no contradiction. At this point in the Groundwork Kant says that he is now at the limit of moral enquiry but that it is important to determine what the limit is. How is that a "bare principle" can supply a motive for acting rightly? How can pure reason be practical? He has more to say about this motive in the Critique where he deals with the object of practical reason and what is presupposed if it is to be achieved.

[8] Kant's view is that what is sought in moral action is the highest good (summum bonum) [Gr. 29, C.Pract.R., Dialectic, ch. 2]. What is this highest good? The Stoics had thought it was virtue and that we are aware that we are virtuous. The Epicureans, on the other hand, had identified the highest good with happiness, virtue being that which we need to become happy. Kant says that the highest good is a synthesis of both. However the concept is known a priori and not derivable from experience; the deduction must be transcendental [C.Pract.R.,. 111-113] [a]. The good is not like the concept of 'well-being', which is defined in terms of our feeling of happiness; and so it clearly presupposes the moral law. Further, the connection between virtue and happiness is synthetic, yet the highest good is known a priori and is necessary practically. So how is it possible? How is this "antinomy of practical reason" [ch. 2, I] to be resolved? [C.Pract.R., ch. 2, II.] The desire for happiness cannot be a motive for a maxim of virtue (as he has already shown). And a maxim of virtue cannot be an efficient cause of happiness, because causality relates to natural laws and not to the will. But, argues Kant, the problem arises because we are confining ourselves to the phenomenal world. If we think of ourselves as belonging also to the noumenal realm, then we can see the moral law as a "pure determining ground of our causality", and that there is a necessary connection between our intentions as (noumenal) cause and our happiness as effect in the sensible world — provided there is mediation by "an Intelligible Author of Nature" to guarantee our happiness in proportion to morality. (This is in effect Kant's ethical 'proof' for the existence of God — as a "postulate of pure practical reason" [ch. V].) He also argues [chs IV and VI] that immortality is necessary to guarantee that the will is completely 'fit' to the moral law [b]. By this he means that we must think of our moral efforts as having significance in that we can imagine that after death we might belong to a universal kingdom of rational beings (ends in themselves) ruled by God. Thus the categorical imperative (the fifth formulation is particularly relevant here) requires the three Ideas of Reason — Freedom, Immortality, and God.

 

AESTHETICS AND PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE

The Critique of Judgement (1790)

[Source: The edition used is that of Meredith. Number references are to the pages of the Royal Prussian Academy edition.]

 

AESTHETICS

[9] In the second Critique Kant believed that had reconciled freedom and necessity by means of the practical reason. But there remains a gulf between the intelligible and natural worlds when considered from the standpoint of the theoretical reason. One of his main aims in the third Critique is to show how they can be brought together by supposing that they can both be grounded in the concept of judgement. Judgement, he says, mediates between understanding and reason; and feeling mediates between knowing and desiring. So if knowledge is a function of the understanding, and desiring is a manifestation of the (practical) reason, perhaps judgement may be assumed to have its own a a priori principles which can legislate for feeling. He explores this further in the Introduction to the third Critique.

He defines 'judgement' as "the faculty of thinking the particular under the universal" [Intro. IV]. Now, when we make a judgement (such as 'All changes in bodies must have a cause') the universal is 'given' — as an a priori category. In this case the judgement is said to be 'determinant'. But in physics, for example, we may have to look for a universal, that is a general and empirical law, under which particulars can be subsumed. Here judgement is 'reflective'. The scientist wants to go further and try to relate all his laws to a still more general unifying principle. Kant says that this is not given by the understanding and must lie beyond experience. He calls it the principle of 'finality' or 'purposiveness': Nature is represented as if it made up an ordered and purposive whole [a]. The principle of the formal finality of Nature [V] is a transcendental principle. It is a concept neither of Nature nor or freedom, but is a maxim of judgement. [VI-VII.] Whenever we think of Nature in this way we experience a feeling of 'disinterested' pleasure. If this feeling is linked immediately with a 'representation' of an object, the object is said to be final and the representation aesthetic [b]. Kant examines this in Part I of the Critique of Judgement. Finality is here subjective (formal). Objective (real) finality, on the other hand, has nothing to do with feelings of pleasure in things: rather, through the understanding and reason, things are represented in their universals as if they were fulfilling a purpose in Nature. In this case the representation is said to be logical [VIII]. This is investigated in Part II of the Critique. Kant goes on to argue that while the judgement cannot prescribe laws in the way that the understanding and practical reason do, it does have an a priori principle for 'estimating' Nature; and this enables us by means of the aesthetic representation to see Nature as a phenomenal manifestation of the underlying or supersensible noumenal realm, and by the logical representation to think of ends as being actualized in Nature according to its laws. Nature is seen to be in agreement with our powers of cognition. In this way judgement can effect the transition between the two worlds, and can allow us to grasp the unity of reason. [See Intro. III and IX.]

 

1. Critique of Aesthetic Judgement

Kant distinguishes between three kinds of aesthetic judgements: judgements of the 'agreeable' — relating to the pleasantness of an object; judgements of taste, which refer to the beauty of objects; and judgements of the sublime. In the 'Analytic' [sections 1-54] he identifies four 'moments' or characteristics which apply to both judgements of taste and judgements of the sublime. Aesthetic judgements are (1) disinterested in their quality; (2) universal in quantity; (3) subjectively final in relation; and (4) necessary in modality. His general thesis in relation to these characteristics may be summarized as follows.

When we look at an object or scene which we call beautiful or sublime we are not concerned whether the object actually exists. We experience a feeling of delight; we take pleasure in the object. But this feeling of pleasure cannot be known (in the way that space and sensations can). The delight we experience is not based on any private inclination or interest. We feel ourselves to be completely free in respect to this liking we have for the object; and we suppose other people to respond in a similar way. As he says, an object is called beautiful when its form (as opposed to the matter of its representation, as sensation) is,

without regard to any concept to be obtained from it, estimated as the ground of a pleasure in the representation of such an Object [as a result of which] this pleasure is also to be judged to be combined necessarily with the representation of it, and so not merely for the Subject apprehending this form, but for all in general who pass this judgement. And the faculty of judging by means of such a pleasure (and so also with universal validity) is called taste. [C.J., Introduction, 190].

(Hegel noted [History of Philosophy, iii] that this was "the first rational word concerning beauty".) We therefore attribute universal validity to our judgements of taste. But as empirical judgements they are not objectively necessary. According to Kant, the explanation of their subjective universality lies in the harmonious free play of imagination and understanding — no determinate concept being invoked [c]. While the delight we have is seen to be necessarily linked with the representation of the object, this necessity is neither theoretical (as in the first Critique) nor practical (second Critique). Kant calls the necessity 'exemplary' [237], by which he means that it is the necessity of the assent of all to a judgement which is regarded as exemplifying a universal rule although we cannot actually formulate the rule or relate it to specific instances. As to the 'finality' of judgements of taste, Kant is saying that in looking at the object we get the feeling that it in some fulfils some end or purpose — though we cannot conceptualize this. That is why he writes that 'Beauty is the form of finality in an object, so far as perceived in it apart from the representation of an end" [236]; and this 'form of finality' is the sole foundation of the judgement of taste [d].

In Book II Kant embarks on an Analytic of the Sublime. Sublimity has much in common with beauty, but there are important differences [23ff.]. Beauty is external and grounded in the 'form' of the object, whereas sublimity involves 'formlessness' and lack of limits. Beauty is a concept of the understanding: sublimity is associated with the pure reason. The most important difference is that while beauty conveys a purposiveness in its form, sublimity is entirely separate from the idea of a finality in Nature [e] and involves only a kind of 'stretching' of and indeed passing beyond the imagination. (Kant talks of the imagination as being "outraged".) So strictly speaking we should say that sublimity belongs not to natural objects (for example, a stormy ocean) but to the feelings (such as awe) they arouse in us. Kant in fact distinguishes between the mathematically sublime [25-27] and the dynamically sublime [28-29]. The former, which involves the knowing faculty and corresponds to the first two 'moments', is "that which is absolutely great", in comparison with which everything else is small, for example, the Pyramids or the Milky Way. The pleasure we experience includes a feeling of respect when we judge that the inadequacy of our imagination is in accord with reason. The dynamically sublime, relating to the second two 'moments', engages our faculty of desire. The violence of nature frightens us, but it also enables us to recognise our independence of and superiority to Nature.

[The 'Deduction': 30ff.] As has been mentioned, judgements of taste conform to "law without a law", are purposive though no purpose can be known, and arise from a harmony between imagination and understanding, which is subjective. They cannot be determined by either empirical or a priori logical laws. So how are they possible? The pleasure or displeasure they depend on, Kant says, arises from cognitive powers which everybody is supposed to possess; and that this supposition is based on the communicability of the relevant representations [39]. lt is an "aesthetic common sense" [40]. (As for judgements of the sublime, Kant does not think that they need to be justified because here the subjective purposiveness belongs to the use to which objects are put and not to their form. He has said earlier that the necessity that the judgements of other people should coincide with ours is based on the fact that such judgements are a product of culture and are grounded in a natural capacity for moral feeling.) Later in the Deduction Kant discusses artefacts, as contrasted with natural objects. A work of art is 'purposive' only within itself, though it can help to develop our mental powers and thereby help communication in society. It is a product of genius [46ff.], that is, "the talent or innate mental aptitude, through which nature gives the rule to art". Genius has its own 'spirit': the faculty of presenting aesthetic Ideas (the counterpart of Ideas of Reason). It is opposed to imitation and itself supplies the 'material' for a work of art (though training is required for its 'form'). And Kant adds that understanding, imagination, and taste are also all required; understanding provides the artist with his goal, imagination (in addition to its normal role as synthesizer of intuitions) 'remodels' Nature and taste as a judgement 'disciplines' or 'corrects' genius.

As in the other Critiques, the Analytic is followed by a Dialectic [55-60]. Kant first claims to have solved an antinomy — that the judgement of taste both is and is not based on concepts. There is no inconsistency, he says, if we say the judgement is not grounded in (determinate) concepts (the thesis); and that it is based on an (indeterminate) concept, namely the supersensible substrate of phenomena. He goes on to say that because this same noumenal substrate is also the principle underlying freedom and the choice of moral ends a connection can be made between the aesthetic judgement and ethics [f]. The beautiful and the moral, despite their differences, are clearly similar in that (1) they both please immediately; (2) they are not bound up with any interest prior to judgement; (3) they involve harmony — respectively between the imagination and the understanding, and between the will with itself according to the law of practical reason; (4) the subjective principle in aesthetic judgement and the objective principle of morality both claim universality. Beauty is the symbol of the morally good, and taste is thus a faculty for judging sensible representations of moral ideas by means of an analogy [g].

 

PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE

2. Critique of Teleological Judgement

[10] In the 'Analytic' [62-68] Kant distinguishes between (a) formal and material and (b) subjective and objective finality [62]. Formal (or intellectual) finality deals with possibility, not the existing things which are the concern of material teleological judgements. In mathematics, for example, the formal judgement might be about the suitability of a circle for the construction of a particular kind of triangle. The finality is objective because it does not involve the feelings of the person making the judgement. Material judgements are subjective if they relate to human concerns (as we saw in the case of aesthetic finality). But if they refer to purpose in nature they are said to be objective. He makes a further distinction between relative and intrinsic or absolute finality [63]. Suppose we say the existence of reindeer in Lapland benefits the inhabitants. By attributing purposiveness to the presence of these animals we seem to be explaining their existence. But Kant says it is an empirical and hypothetical matter that there should be men living in such a region. We cannot see any causal link between the two factors. Intrinsic final judgements, however, state that a thing is an end in itself: "a thing exists as an end of Nature if it is, though in two senses, both cause and effect of itself' [64]. Thus a tree (i) generates another tree, (ii) produces itself as an individual (through growth), (iii) as a whole, is reciprocally dependent on its parts, for example, its leaves. In such natural things each part not only exists through the agency of their other parts but also for the sake of both those other parts and the whole, that is, as an instrument or organ. Also, in contrast to, say, a watch the parts must be organisms reciprocally producing each other; the product is both organized and self-organized, that is has formative power [65]. This principle for judging internal purposiveness, although derived from experience, must be grounded in an a priori principle because it predicates the universality and necessity of the finality attributed to Nature, which is a regulative and not a constitutive Idea [66ff.] [a]. Kant goes on to stress that an advance has been made in finding in Nature a capacity for producing objects which we can think of in terms of final causes — even where it is not necessary to move beyond mechanical causation; for objects in the latter case may still be supposed to form part of a system of ends.

Now while it would seem that the concept of purposiveness is required for self-organizing beings, mechanical causality being inadequate, the Idea of the finality of Nature is applicable to the whole of Nature in that it points beyond sense-experience to the supersensible substrate [b]. Moreover, the fact that all natural objects belong to the phenomenal realm gives rise to an antinomy between the two regulative principles or maxims of judgement: that some products of material nature must be judged as possible on the basis of mechanical laws, whereas others cannot and require final causes. If these maxims could be converted into constitutive principles of the possibility of objects we should have a contradiction between (thesis) "All production of material things is possible on mere mechanical laws", and (antithesis) "Some production of such things is not possible on mere mechanical laws" [70]. In the Dialectic [69-78] Kant argues that neither assertion can be proved a priori. Furthermore, the judgement cannot give us these constitutive principles. The contradiction is therefore avoided. In science we appeal to mechanical causality, but when this proves inadequate or has reached its explanatory limits we have to introduce the concept of final causality [c]

Final causality leads on to theology; and this forms the greater part of the content of the remaining sections of the Dialectic. After a historical digression to examine the inadequacies of various systems, including theism, which purport to deal with the finality of nature, Kant says [73] that he nevertheless sees theism as the best in so far as it attributes purposiveness in Nature to a supreme intelligent being, God, and thus provides us with a seemingly acceptable world-view in which final and mechanical causality might be reconciled in the supersensible substrate [d]. (In this way he would be able to bridge the gap between the first two Critiques.) But teleology cannot prove the existence of such a being; the Idea of purpose in Nature is regulative and not constitutive and can act only as a guide for reflective judgement. In so far as its objects are physical generations and their causes, teleology does not form a branch of theology. Neither does it form part of natural science, for this requires determinant and not just reflective principles [Appendix, 79ff]. But it is a science in that it is a critique (of judgement); and to the extent it contains a priori principles and must therefore specify the method by which Nature must be judged according to final causes. It thus exerts an influence (although negative) upon the procedure to be adopted in natural science and also affects the metaphysical bearing this science may have on theology. The 'physico-theological' proof for the existence of God, being based on empirical data, can provide no more than "artificial understanding" for miscellaneous ends; it cannot give wisdom for a final end which is outside Nature [85ff.] [e]. An 'ethico-theology', however, involves inference from a moral end which can be known a priori; and Nature considered as a moral Kingdom of Ends demands the existence of an Original Being, omniscient of the summum bonum, omnipotent, all-good, just, and eternal, who has created the universe for a moral purpose [see the second Critique]. The moral proof, however, is not objectively valid [87ff.]. God's existence as "a not-sensible something containing the ultimate ground of the world of sense" [90] is a matter of practical faith to which one commits oneself freely [91]; and although He can be understood through symbols and analogy we can have no theoretical knowledge of Him [f].

 

RELIGION

[11] [see also sec. 10] [See Religion Within the Bounds of Mere Reason.] It is clear from his three Critiques that Kant rejected traditional dogmatic religion and metaphysical 'proofs' for God's existence. Instead he advocates a 'pure religion of morality' — his 'ethico-theology, with its presuppositions of God and immortality (though as regulative Ideas of Reason they are not proper objects of knowledge). Kant believes that the moral life is best preserved in Christianity, but he does not regard its traditions and ceremonies as important and he radically reinterprets that religion's doctrines. We may say that in his deism Christianity is essentially demythologized. It is through our feeling for nature and our conscience that we may have access to God [a]; and these are the sources of the faith (to make room for which he had denied knowledge) [see end of sec. 5 above]. As he says [Critique of Practical Reason, 161-2]:

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I do not merely conjecture them and seek them as though obscured in darkness or in the transcendent region beyond my horizon: I see them before me, and I associate them directly with the consciousness of my own existence.

 

CRITICAL SUMMARY

Kant's views on epistemology and metaphysics turn essentially on his approach to the analytic-synthetic distinction and on the possibility of synthetic a priori judgements. If he is correct, then we can have knowledge of the external world as phenomenon because we in some sense contribute to our experience of it: but he will not allow that we can pass beyond the limits of that experience to have any kind of knowledge of things in themselves, though he needs the idea of a noumenal world for his ethics and philosophy of Nature. There are many difficulties with his thesis.

(1) It is often not easy to decide whether a given statement is or is not analytic. Why should extension, but not heaviness, be supposed to belong to the concept of body'? What he says about the 'necessity' of synthetic a priori statements also needs to be questioned. He appeals to the a priori status of space and time and the alleged grounding in them of the truths of geometry and arithmetic respectively. But most philosophers today say that mathematical statements are analytic, and that the possibility of alternative (non-Euclidean) geometries may also undermine Kant's position. In answer to this it might be said that he is concerned only with our actual perceptions.

(2) Kant's account of the categories has been criticized. He is not always clear and consistent in distinguishing between pure concepts and empirical concepts. His grounding of the categories in the Aristotelian forms of judgement is perhaps artificial especially when seen from the wider vantage point of modern symbolic logic. His arguments relating to the analogies may also be seen as suspect. It is not clear whether the permanence he refers to is absolute or relative. Is it time itself that is supposed not to change, or time as a form of intuition? And he seems not to have distinguished satisfactorily between logical or causal necessity and coincidence.

(3) Perhaps most controversial is Kant's distinction between phenomena and noumena. Sometimes he talks of noumena as non-spatial things in themselves, which we can know nothing about; the world therefore consists of phenomena and noumena [A 30, 371 ]. (This interpretation would appear to be the one that Husserl held). Elsewhere it seems that Kant does not regard them as objects at all. Rather the concept is introduced as a limit to show the impossibility of our going beyond experience; the world consists only of phenomena [A 255, 257]. It is difficult to decide between these two positions: but it is reasonable to suppose that tended towards the weaker ('limit') view but found it difficult to shake himself free from the more Berkeleyan view of objects as representations which cannot exist independently of our perceptions. It should also be noted that Kant's interpretations of Berkeley and Descartes are questionable.

(4) Kant's arguments against the paralogisms make up an important criticism of Descartes' cogito thesis. The validity of the antinomies, however, is itself doubtful. And it has been suggested (a) that recent developments in physics may well damage his account of the third antinomy, given his commitment to Newtonian science; and (b) that the ambiguity of his account of the noumenal world might cause difficulties for the view that we can think of ourselves as free beings. His objections to traditional 'proofs' of the existence of God, on the other hand, are regarded by many philosophers as being sound. Kant's own convictions concerning God relate, more controversially, to what he has to say about ethics, into which he carries over his two-world distinction. In general it may be said that in his epistemology and metaphysics he both brings together and passes beyond the central tenets of rationalism and empiricism.

(5) According to Kant, reason in its theoretical aspect cannot pass beyond the limits of experience. But in his ethics he argues that the practical reason, or rational will, enables us to discover and act in accordance with the moral law, which is grounded in the noumenal realm. But the central and most original features of Kant's moral philosophy — his emphasis on action performed for the sake of duty, and the categorical imperative as a criterion of moral worth — are at the same time the elements in his thought most open to objections. Firstly, it might be said that his 'formalist' approach does not seem to fit in with our everyday 'intuitions' about what is right or good. Kant would of course reply, so much the worse for our ordinary views. A more telling objection, however, may be made against the categorical imperative, especially in its main formulation. Can it always be shown that the maxim on which we act is universalizable? Is the test that there should be an absence of contradiction, or less rigorously that the universalization simply does not 'work' or leads to absurd or sterile consequences, in which case the test might even seem to be utilitarian? There is also a problem when maxims are qualified in some way. Kant says killing is wrong and yet approves of capital punishment. If still further 'special' cases were allowed, would not the maxims become so particular that universalizability would be superfluous? There is a third difficulty — in relation to the final formulation of the imperative. While emphasizing duty Kant yet thinks in terms of a Kingdom of Ends in which we might ultimately enjoy supreme happiness. It is arguable that this end and the concept of duty might not be as sharply separated as he would wish. Can we entirely disregard such happiness — for others as well as ourselves — as a motivating factor?

(6) As for the third Critique, although it has tended to be overshadowed by the other two, what Kant has to say about art and finality is important in this history of philosophy, as is also his account of the difference between beauty and sublimity. However, it can be objected that his formalism in aesthetics, as in his ethics, does not work well in practice. Disagreement about the beauty or excellence of, say, a painting should not occur if Kant were correct when he claims that one person's judgement should coincide with everybody else's. This suggests that his transcendental deduction is invalid.

(7) The second part of the Critique is interesting for Kant's discussion of mechanical and teleological explanation. It is clearly relevant to the distinction later to be made between the methods supposed to applicable in the natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften) and those appropriate to the 'social' or 'human' sciences (Geisteswissenschaften). But it is an open question whether Kant is justified when he claims to have reconciled, through the faculty of judgement, the phenomenal realm (to which science applies) and the noumenal realm (as revealed in art and Nature, considered as an end in relation to God, and realized through the practical reason).

 

READING

Kant: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, (1st edition, 1781; 2nd edition, 1787) (Critique of Pure Reason); Prolegomena zu einer jeden knftigen Metaphysik die als Wissenschaft auftreten knnen (1783) (Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics; Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (1788) (Critique of Practical Reason); Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (1785) (Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals); Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790) (Critique of Judgement); Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft (1793) (Religion within the Limits of Mere Reason); Metaphysik der Sitten (1797) [I. Metaphysische Anfangsgrnde der Rechtslehre; II. Metaphysische Anfangsgrnde der Tugendlehre] (Metaphysic of Morals: I. Metaphysical Principles of Law; II. Metaphysical Principles of Virtue).

There is a plethora of English translations of these (and many other ) works of Kant. For the first Critique the edition of N. Kemp Smith (2nd edn) is still probably the most convenient. However, there are recent translations — by P. Guyer and A. Wood, and by V. Politis. For the Prolegomena see P. G. Lucas, L. W. Beck, or J. Ellington; for the second Critique: Beck; Foundations: H. J. Paton, The Moral Law, or Ellington. (Both of these works on ethics are contained in M. Gregor (ed.), Practical Philosophy.) The third Critique: see the translation by J. C. Meredith or a more recent one by W. Pluhar. There is an edition of Religion within the Limits of Mere Reason by T. M. Greene & H. H. Hudson. The Metaphysic of Morals is translated by M. Gregor & R. J. Sullivan.

Note that the literature on Kant is enormous; there is therefore inevitably an element of arbitrariness in the following selection. However, these titles do represent a range of interpretations and they should help you to find your way around the thought of this important but difficult philosopher.

Studies:

Introductory/ overall perspective

S. Körner, Kant.

R. Scruton, Kant.

Advanced/ covering specific areas

H. B. Acton, Kant's Moral Philosophy.

H. Allison, Kant's Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense.

D. Crawford, Kant's Aesthetic Theory.

A. C. Ewing, A Short Commentary on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

N. Kemp-Smith, A Commentary of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

H. J. Paton, The Categorical Imperative.

E. Schaper, Studies in Kant's Aesthetics.

P. F. Strawson, The Bounds of Sense.

R. Walker, Kant.

T. E. Wilkerson, Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason': A Commentary for Students.

Collections of essays

P. Guyer (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Kant.

R. Walker (ed.), Kant on Pure Reason.

R. P. Wolff (ed.), Kant: A Collection of Critical Essays.

 

 

CONNECTIONS

Kant

 

Note: A primary influence on Kant was Leibniz, though initially his understanding of Leibniz's philosophy was mediated through the 'Leibnizian' philosophers Christian Wolff (1679-1754), Alexander Baumgarten (1714-1762) and Christian Crusius (1712-1775). Other important influences should also be noted: German pietism, Newtonian science, and the aesthetics of Edmund Burke (1729-1797) (see his Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful). Note also that Kant's understanding and interpretation of the ideas of major philosophers such as Descartes and Berkeley is often idiosyncratic.

 

Knowledge

[Note: Kant's theory of knowledge and his 'metaphysics' (transcendental idealism) in general are rejected in the last phase of Schelling's philosophy as 'negative philosophy' — see [6e]; and they are subordinated to 'will' and man's 'existential' and ethical needs in Schopenhauer's system.]

[1a] Judgement as unifying representations (in subject-predicate relation); a priori & a posteriori, and analytic-synthetic judgements; in analytic ones predicates included in subjects and thence their certainty

   Aristotle

   Locke

   Leibniz

   Hume

Fichte

Mill

Brentano

Peirce

Frege

Moore

Schlick

Quine

Ayer

Strawson

Kripke

[1b]

[2q]

[1a b 1c]

[1g]

[1c 2d]

[1c 1f]

[1b c]

[1f]

[1c]

[1b]

[1a]

[1b]

[1a]

[1f]

[1e]

 

[1b] Synthetic-a priori judgements possible (mathematics, science); relate to empirical world through forms of intuition (response to scepticism)

   Locke

   Leibniz

Hume

Herder

Mill

Spencer

Brentano

Peirce

Frege

Royce

Husserl

Santayana

Russell

Moore

Schlick

Ayer

Kripke

[2n]

[1b]

[1g]

[1c]

[1d]

[1b]

[2c]

[1a 2c]

[1a 1c]

[1a]

[1a]

[4c]

[1a]

[1b]

[1a]

[1a]

[1e]

 

[1c; cf. 2d] The 'critical' philosophy shows conditions under which we can know objects (Kantian method); role of reason

Dilthey

Husserl

   Davidson

Rawls

Putnam

[3a]

[4a]

[1d]

[1d]

[1h]

 

[2a] Clear separation between sensibility and understanding (but 'representation' in wide sense covers intuitions, concepts, and judgements — all mental contents)

   Locke

   Leibniz

Hamann

Herder

Fichte

Hegel

Schopenhauer

Dilthey

Brentano

Peirce

[2a]

[6b]

[1b]

[1a]

[2a]

[1b 5c]

[1a]

[1a]

[1b]

[2a]

 

[2b] Sensibility and forms of intuition of space and time; rejection of absolutist and relational theories

   Descartes

   Leibniz

   Berkeley

   Hume

Hamann

Herder

Fichte

Hegel

Schelling

Schopenhauer

Spencer

Husserl

Bergson

Whitehead

Scheler

Heidegger

[3f]

[3b]

[4a]

[1i]

[1b]

[1a]

[2a]

[4b]

[2b]

[1a]

[1d]

[6c]

[1b]

[1c]

[3c 4b]

[3d]

 

[2c 3a] Forms of understanding (categories): a priori but not innate ideas — products of the mind's activity and structure; relate to 'ideas'

   Aristotle

   Epicurus

   Leibniz

   Vico

Fichte

Hegel

Schelling

Schopenhauer

Mill

Spencer

Dilthey

Brentano

Peirce

James

Scheler

Ortega y Gasset

Heidegger

Popper

[4a b]

[1a]

[6c]

[1d]

[1b 2a 2d]

[2a 2b 5c d 8e]

[2b]

[1a]

[1i]

[1b]

[1c e]

[3a]

[2a]

[1c e 1i]

[4b]

[2b]

[1a]

[2b]

 

[2d 4a; cf 3b-e 5a c] Rejection of traditional metaphysics — 'dogmatic realism', empiricism, and various kinds of 'idealism', 'things-in-themselves' — in favour of his transcendental idealism; dichotomy between natural and intelligible realms; the latter not knowable

   [e.g., as representative:]

   Plato

   Aristotle

   Descartes

   Locke

   Leibniz

   Berkeley

   Hume

Fichte

Schleiermacher

Hegel

Schelling

Schopenhauer

Spencer

Dilthey

James

Nietzsche

Bradley

Royce

Husserl

Santayana

Jaspers

Ortega y Gasset

   Wittgenstein

Heidegger

Merleau-Ponty

Ricoeur

Putnam

   [e.g., as representative:]

[secs 1-3 6 & 7]

[16a-c]

[1a b d 2a-c]

[2a j]

[6b]

[2b e]

[1c 2c]

[1a 2a]

[1a 10f]

[1a c 8d]

[1a c d 2b 3b c]

[1b c 2a 2c 3b e]

[1a 4a 4d e]

[2a]

[1c e f h]

[2a c]

[4b]

[1a d]

[7a]

[3a]

[1b c]

[1a 2a 2b]

[3b]

[1a 1b]

[1b]

[1b]

[1g]

 

[3a; see also 2c] Transcendental deduction of the categories

Fichte

Hegel

Peirce

[1b 2a]

[2a b 3a]

[1e g]

 

[3b 5a] The transcendental unity of apperception — a priori concept of the unifying self; rejection of empirical self and rational psychology; self belongs to noumenal realm and unknowable

   Plato

   Descartes

   Locke

   Leibniz

   Berkeley

   Hume

Fichte

Hegel

Schelling

Brentano

Peirce

James

Bradley

Husserl

Santayana

Scheler

Merleau-Ponty

Ayer

[9a c]

[3d]

[2e h]

[2e]

[2f]

[2d]

[1a]

[5a b e]

[2a b 3b]

[3b]

[1c]

[2b]

[4a]

[5a 6b c 7d 7g]

[4b]

[4a d]

[1b]

[3d]

 

[3c; cf. 2d] The transcendental object ('X'): a formal a priori concept, gives unity in experience; objects exist independent of perception but we perceive them directly through senses; noumenon as limit or thing-in-itself?

   Descartes

   Locke

   Berkeley

   Hume

Fichte

Schleiermacher

Hegel

Schopenhauer

James

Sartre

Merleau-Ponty

[2c]

[2a c]

[2b e]

[2c]

[1a]

[1a]

[5c]

[1c 2a 2c 3b]

[1i]

[1a]

[1b]

 

[3d; cf. 2c; see also sec. 5] Substance an a priori category: represents the absolutely permanent underlying change; not ordinary objects; are they 'simples'?

   Descartes

   Spinoza

   Locke

   Leibniz

   Hume

Santayana

Scheler

[3a e]

[2b d g]

[2d]

[2a]

[1e]

[3b]

[4b]

 

[3e 5c; cf. 2c 7a 10c] Causation as a priori category; relevance to unity of consciousness and possibility and objectivity of knowledge of experience; reciprocity of substances (communion)

   Locke

   Leibniz

   Berkeley

   Hume

Hegel

Schopenhauer

Mill

James

Whitehead

Santayana

Scheler

[2g]

[4 b c]

[4b]

[1h]

[3c 5d]

[1d]

[1i]

[1k]

[4j]

[3b]

[4b]

 

[3f; cf. 3c 5b] Our existence as permanence in time — requires existence of external world

Heidegger

Ricoeur

[3c]

[5h]

 

Metaphysics
[4a see 2d]      

 

[5a; cf. 3b f] Soul and personal identity only in terms of 'inner sense': cannot be simple; identity may not be permanent

   Plato

   Descartes

   Locke

   Leibniz

   Berkeley

   Hume

Hegel

Husserl

Ricoeur

[9a]

[3d]

[2e]

[2e]

[2f]

[2d]

[5a b e]

[5a 6b]

[5h]

 

[5b; cf. 2d 3e 8b] Problems of mind-body 'communion' and existence of soul after death are not legitimate (from stand point of transcendental idealism)

   Plato

   Descartes

   Locke

   Leibniz

   Hume

Hegel

Schelling

Schopenhauer

   Mill

[9a b]

[3g]

[2e]

[2f 4b]

[2d]

[5a b]

[2b 3b]

[3g]

[5e]

 

[5c; cf. 2d 3e 7a 10c d] Freedom and natural causation: no conflict; different applications of thesis and antithesis

   Leibniz

   Hume

Fichte

Hegel

Schelling

   James

   Bradley

Bergson

Scheler

   Jaspers

Ricoeur

[5h]

[5c]

[3a]

[4a 5f]

[2c 4d]

[1k]

[7a]

[3b]

[4e]

[4a]

[6b]

 

[5d; cf. 2d 8b 10e f 11a] God's existence — all traditional proofs fail (Reason unconditioned); ontological argument presupposed by cosmological and teleological arguments; 'existence' not a predicate

   Anselm

   Descartes

   Locke

   Leibniz

   Berkeley

Hegel

Mill

Kierkegaard

Brentano

Frege

Jaspers

[1e]

[3b c]

[2l 2l]

[5b-e]

[3a]

[8e 8f]

[5d]

[1b]

[5a]

[2d]

[2a]

 

[5e; cf. 10f] Knowledge denied to make room for faith; regulative not constitutive Ideas

   Jaspers

Ricoeur

[2b]

[1b]

 

Ethics
[6a] Moral law originates in noumenal world (willed by autonomous practical reason) not in any 'material' principles (e.g., feeling, perfection, happiness, God's will)

   Epicurus

   Stoics [e.g. Seneca]

   Leibniz [Wolff]

   Hutcheson

   Hume

   Rousseau

Fichte

Schleiermacher

Hegel

Schelling

Schopenhauer

Mill

Dilthey

Nietzsche

Bradley

Royce

Bergson

Dewey

Moore

Scheler

Schlick

Rawls

[4a]

[2b]

[5g]

[1a b]

[3g i]

[1g]

[1a 2c]

[2a 3a]

[6f]

[4a 6d]

[3a e f]

[3a]

[1c]

[1b 2a]

[7c]

[2a]

[7a]

[3b]

[3a]

[5a]

[3a]

[1b]

 

[6b-e] Hypothetical and categorical imperatives; moral worth when actions done for sake of duty — in accord with the categorical imperative; universalizability; reverence for moral law; good will

   Hutcheson

Fichte

Schleiermacher

Hegel

Schopenhauer

Mill

Brentano

Nietzsche

Bradley

Royce

Bergson

Moore

Scheler

Schlick

Jaspers

Sartre

Ricoeur

Hare

Rawls

[1b c]

[3c]

[2a 3a b]

[6c 6e 6f]

[3a]

[3a 3h]

[4a]

[1b 2a]

[7c]

[2a]

[7a]

[3a b]

[2b 5c]

[3a]

[4b]

[5a b]

[8a 9a-c 10a f g]

[1c f g]

[1a b]

 

[6c] Punishment retributive — demanded by 'moral law'

   Seneca

   Bentham

Hegel

Mill

[2d]

[1f]

[6b]

[4d]

 

[6f] Persons as ends in themselves; Kingdom of ends; social contract as regulative ideal; no right to rebel against authrority

   Rousseau

Schleiermacher

Hegel

   Royce

Ricoeur

Rawls

   Hampshire

[1f-h]

[2a]

[6d]

[2c]

[9b d 10f-h]

[1d 1f]

[2d]

 

[7a; cf. 2d 10c] Will's causation self-imposed; natural necessity and autonomous freedom (an Idea of Reason); obligation entails freedom

   Rousseau

Fichte

Schelling

Kierkegaard

Dilthey

Royce

Husserl

Bergson

Scheler

Heidegger

[1g]

[3a]

[2c 4 a d]

[1e g]

[2b]

[2b]

[5c]

[3b 7b]

[4b]

[2i]

 

[8a] Moral action leads to highest good: a priori concept, synthesis of virtue and happiness (deduced transcendentally)

   Plato

   Epicurus

   Seneca

Hegel

Schopenhauer

Nietzsche

Hampshire

[11 e f]

[4a]

[2b]

[6f]

[3a f]

[1b 2a]

[2b]

 

[8b; cf. 5b c 6d 10f] Ethical 'proof' for immortality and God's existence: guarantees will 'fits' to moral law; 'kingdom of ends'

Fichte

Hegel

Schopenhauer

Mill

Nietzsche

Royce

[5a]

[5b]

[3g]

[5e]

[1b]

[2d]

 

Aesthetics and teleology
[9a b] Principle of finality ('purposiveness'): Nature 'as if' ordered purposive whole; gives experience of disinterested pleasure if linked with representations of object

Schelling

Schopenhauer

Santayana

[5b e]

[3c]

[1c]

 

[9c; see also 9e] Judgements of taste both empirical (grounded in feeling) and universally valid — but necessity is subjective — result of harmonious free-play of imagination and understanding; beauty of object

   Shaftesbury

Herder

Hegel

Santayana

Heidegger

Gadamer

[1d]

[1e]

[8b]

[1c]

[7a]

[1c]

 

[9d] Judgements of taste purposive (but no 'purpose'); 'form of finality' sole foundation Schelling [5a]

 

[9e; see also 9c] Beauty external, grounded in form, conveys purposiveness; sublimity exhibits formlessness and separate from finality — 'outrages' imagination    [Burke — see introductory note]

 

[9f] Ethics and aesthetics linked through same noumenal substrate (the principle underlying freedom and moral choice

   Shaftesbury

Schelling

[1d e]

[5c e]

 

[9g] Beauty as symbol of morally good; taste as faculty for judging representations of moral ideas analogically Schelling [5c]

 

[10a b; cf 10d] Principle for judging internal purposiveness must be a priori; it predicates universality and necessity of the finality of whole of nature — which points to supersensible substrate

Schelling

Scheler

[5b e]

[4e]

 

[10c; see also 10d; cf. 5c 7a] Final causality invoked for explanation when mechanical causality reaches

   Leibniz

Schelling

Nietzsche

[4c]

[1c]

[2a]

 

Religion
[10d] Final and mechanical causality reconciled in supersensible substrate (within world-view in which purposiveness guaranteed by God)

   Leibniz

Fichte

Schelling

Nietzsche

Husserl

Scheler

[4a c]

[3c]

[1c]

[1b 2a]

[5c]

[4e]

 

[10e; cf. 5d ] Physico-theological (Teleological) 'proof' has limitations; empirical data, Idea of purpose only regulative

   Aquinas

Mill

[3h]

[5d]

 

[10f; cf. 8b] 'Ethico-theology': inference from moral end known a priori but not objectively valid; matter of faith (via symbols)

Fichte

Schleiermacher

   Jaspers

[5a 5b]

[1b d]

[2a b]

 

[11a; see also 5d 10d-f] Rejection of Christian dogma and metaphysical proofs for the existence of God: deism; access to God through feeling for nature and conscience

   Ockham

   Hume

   Rousseau

Hamann

Schleiermacher

James

[6c]

[5a]

[2b c]

[1b]

[1c 2b]

[3a]