Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics - Contents - Part Three of The Main Transcendental Problem. How Is Metaphysics in General Possible?

Part Three of The Main Transcendental Problem. How Is Metaphysics in General Possible?

§ 40. The truth or the objective reality of the concepts that are used in metaphysics cannot be discovered or confirmed by experience. Metaphysics is subjectively actual because its problems occur to everyone as a result of the nature of their reason. How, however, is metaphysics objectively possible? The concepts of reason are transcendent because they are concerned with the absolute totality of all possible experience. Reason doesn't know when to stop asking, "why?." Such an absolute totality cannot be experienced. The corresponding objects of the necessary Ideas of reason cannot be given in experience and are misleading illusions. Only through self–knowledge can reason prevent the consideration of the immanent, subjective, guiding Ideas as being transcendent objects.

§ 41. In order to establish metaphysics as a science, a clear distinction must be made between the categories (pure concepts of the understanding) and the Ideas (pure concepts of reason).

§ 42. The concepts of the understanding appear in experience. They are confirmed by experience. On the other hand, the transcendent concepts of reason cannot be confirmed or refuted by experience because they don't appear in experience. Reason must introspectively investigate itself in order to avoid errors, illusions, and dialectical problems.

§ 43. The origin of the transcendental Ideas is the three forms of syllogism that reason uses in its activity. The first Idea is based on the categorical syllogism. It is the psychological Idea of the complete substantial subject. This Idea results in a paralogism, or unwittingly false dialectical reasoning. The second Idea is based on the hypothetical syllogism. It is the cosmological Idea of the complete series of conditions. This Idea results in an antinomy, or contradiction. The third Idea is based on the disjunctive syllogism. It is the theological Idea of the complete complex of everything that is possible. This Idea results in the dialectical problem of the Ideal. In this way, reason and its claims are completely and systematically considered.

§ 44. The Ideas of reason are useless, and even detrimental, to the understanding of nature. Is the soul a simple substance? Did the world have a beginning or did it always exist? Did a Supreme Being design nature? Reason, however, can help to make understanding complete. To do this, reason's Ideas are thought of as though they are known objects.

§ 45. Prefatory Remark to the Dialectic of Pure Reason.

Reason continues to ask "why?" and will not be satisfied until a final thing in itself is experienced and understood. This, however, is a deceitful illusion. This transcendent and unbounded abuse of knowledge must be restrained by toilsome, laborious scientific instruction.

I. The Psychological Ideas (wrongly use Reason beyond experience)

§ 46. Substance (subject) cannot be known. Only accidents (predicates) can be known. Substance is a mere Idea, not an object. Pure reason, however, wrongly wants to know the subject of every predicate. Every subject, however, is a predicate for yet another subject, and so on as far as our knowledge of predicates extends. We can never know an ultimate subject or absolute substance. We seem to have an ego, though, which is a thinking subject for our thoughts. The ego, however, is not known. It is only a conceptless feeling of an existence and a representation of something that is related to all thinking.

§ 47. We can call this thinking self, or soul, a substance. We can say that is an ultimate subject that is not the predicate of yet another subject. Substances, though, are permanent. If we cannot prove that the soul is permanent, then it is an empty, insignificant concept. The synthetical a priori proposition "the thinking subject is permanent" can only be proved if it is an object of experience.

§ 48. Substances can be said to be permanent only if we are going to associate them with possible or actual experience. We can never think of substances as independent of all experience. The soul, or thinking substance, cannot be proved to be permanent and immortal, because death is the end of experience. Only living beings can have experiences. We cannot prove anything about a person's thinking substance (soul) after the person dies.

§49. We know only appearances, not things in themselves. Actual bodies are external appearances in space. My soul, self, or ego is an internal appearance in time. Bodies, as appearances of my outer sense, do not exist apart from my thoughts. I myself, as an appearance of my inner sense, do not exist apart from being my representation in time and cannot be known to be immortal. Space and time are forms of my sensibility and whatever exists in them is a real appearance that I experience. These appearances are connected in space and time according to universal laws of experience. Anything that cannot be experienced in space or time is nothing to us and does not exist for us.

II. The Cosmological Ideas (wrongly use Reason beyond experience)

§50. The Cosmological Idea is cosmological because it is concerned with sensually experienced objects and it is an Idea because the ultimate condition which it seeks can never be experienced. Because its objects can be sensed, the Cosmological Idea wouldn't usually be considered to be a mere Idea. However, it outruns experience when it seeks the ultimate condition for all conditioned objects. In so doing, it is a mere Idea.

§ 51. There are four Cosmological Ideas. They mistakenly refer to the completeness, which can never be experienced, of a series of conditions. Pure reason makes four kinds of contradictory assertions about these Ideas. These antinomies result from the nature of human reason and cannot be avoided.

1. Thesis: The world has a temporal and spatial beginning or limit. Antithesis: The world does not have a temporal and spatial beginning or limit .

2. Thesis: Everything in the world consists of something that is simple. Antithesis: Everything in the world does not consist of something that is simple.

3. Thesis: There are causes in the world that are, themselves, free and uncaused. Antithesis: There are no causes in the world that are, themselves, free and uncaused.

4. Thesis: In the series of causes in the world, there is a necessary, uncaused being. Antithesis: In the series of causes in the world, there is not a necessary, uncaused being.

§ 52a. This conflict between thesis and antithesis cannot be resolved dogmatically. Both are supported by proofs. The conflict results when an observer considers a phenomenon (an observed occurrence) to be a thing in itself (an observed occurrence without an observer).

§ 52b. The falsehood of mere Ideas, which cannot be experienced, cannot be discovered by reference to experience. The hidden dialectic of the four natural Ideas of pure reason, however, reveals their false dogmatism. Reason's assertions are based on universally admitted principles while contrary assertions are deduced from other universally acknowledged principles. Contradictory assertions are both false when they are based on a self–contradictory concept. There is no middle between the two false contradictory assertions and therefore nothing is thought by the self–contradictory concept on which they are based.

§ 52c. Experienced objects exist, in the way that they appear, only in experience. They do not exist, in the way that they appear, apart from a spectator's thoughts. In the first two antinomies, both the thesis and the antithesis are false because they are founded on a contradictory concept.

With regard to the first antinomy, I cannot say that the world is infinite or finite. Infinite or finite space and time are mere Ideas and can never be experienced.

With regard to the second antinomy, I cannot say that a body consists of an infinite or a finite number of simple parts. The division, into simple parts, of an experienced body reaches only as far as the possible experience reaches.

§ 53. The first two antinomies were false because they considered an appearance to be a thing–in–itself (a thing as it is apart from being an appearance). In the last two antinomies, due to a misunderstanding, an appearance was mistakenly opposed to a thing–in–itself. The theses are true of the world of things–in–themselves, or the intelligible world. The antitheses are true of the world of appearances, or the phenomenal world.

In the third antinomy, the contradiction is resolved if we realize that natural necessity is a property of things only as mere appearances, while freedom is attributed to things–in–themselves. An action of a rational being has two aspects or states of being: (1) as an appearance, it is an effect of some previous cause and is a cause of some subsequent effect, and (2) as a thing–in–itself it is free or spontaneous. Necessity and freedom can both be predicated of reason. In the world of appearances, motives necessarily cause actions. On the other hand, rational Ideas and maxims, or principles of conduct, command what a reasonable being ought to do. All actions of rational beings, as appearances, are strictly determined by causality. The same actions are free when the rational being acts as a thing–in– itself in accordance with mere practical reason.

The fourth antinomy is solved in the same way as the third. Nowhere in the world of sense experiences and appearances is there an absolutely necessary being. The whole world of sense experiences and appearances, however, is the effect of an absolutely necessary being which can be thought of as a thing–in–itself which is not in the world of appearances.

§ 54. This antinomy or self–conflict of reason results when reason applies its principles to the sensible world. The antinomy cannot be prevented as long as objects (mere appearances) of the sensible world are considered to be things–in–themselves (objects apart from the way that they appear). This exposition of the antinomy will allow the reader to combat the dialectical illusions that result from the nature of pure reason.

III. The Theological Idea

§ 55. This Idea is that of a highest, most perfect, primeval, original Being. From this Idea of pure reason, the possibility and actuality of all other things is determined. The Idea of this Being is conceived in order for all experience to be comprehended in an orderly, united connection. It is, however, a dialectical illusion that results when we assume that the subjective conditions of our thinking are the objective conditions of objects in the world. The theological Idea is an hypothesis that was made in order to satisfy reason. It mistakenly became a dogma.

§ 56. General Remark on the Transcendental Ideas

The psychological, cosmological, and theological Ideas are nothing but pure concepts of reason. They cannot be experienced. All questions about them must be answerable because they are only principles that reason has originated from itself in order to achieve complete and unified understanding of experience. The Idea of a whole of knowledge according to principles gives knowledge a systematic unity. The unity of reason's transcendental Ideas has nothing to do with the object of knowledge. The Ideas are merely for regulative use. If we try to use these Ideas beyond experience, a confusing dialectic results.

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