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The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

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discussion of the present question, we may make abstraction of the
quantity of the series of conditions, and consider merely the
dynamical relation of the condition to the conditioned. The
question, then, suggests itself, whether freedom is possible; and,
if it is, whether it can consist with the universality of the
natural law of causality; and, consequently, whether we enounce a
proper disjunctive proposition when we say: "Every effect must have
its origin either in nature or in freedom," or whether both cannot
exist together in the same event in different relations. The principle
of an unbroken connection between all events in the phenomenal
world, in accordance with the unchangeable laws of nature, is a
well-established principle of transcendental analytic which admits
of no exception. The question, therefore, is: "Whether an effect,
determined according to the laws of nature, can at the same time be
produced by a free agent, or whether freedom and nature mutually
exclude each other?" And here, the common but fallacious hypothesis
of the absolute reality of phenomena manifests its injurious influence
in embarrassing the procedure of reason. For if phenomena are things
in themselves, freedom is impossible. In this case, nature is the
complete and all-sufficient cause of every event; and condition and
conditioned, cause and effect are contained in the same series, and
necessitated by the same law. If, on the contrary, phenomena are
held to be, as they are in fact, nothing more than mere
representations, connected with each other in accordance with
empirical laws, they must have a ground which is not phenomenal. But
the causality of such an intelligible cause is not determined or
determinable by phenomena; although its effects, as phenomena, must
be determined by other phenomenal existences. This cause and its
causality exist therefore out of and apart from the series of
phenomena; while its effects do exist and are discoverable in the
series of empirical conditions. Such an effect may therefore be
considered to be free in relation to its intelligible cause, and
necessary in relation to the phenomena from which it is a necessary
consequence--a distinction which, stated in this perfectly general
and abstract manner, must appear in the highest degree subtle and obscure.
The sequel will explain. It is sufficient, at present, to remark that,
as the complete and unbroken connection of phenomena is an unalterable
law of nature, freedom is impossible--on the supposition that
phenomena are absolutely real. Hence those philosophers who adhere
to the common opinion on this subject can never succeed in reconciling
the ideas of nature and freedom.

Possibility of Freedom in Harmony with the Universal Law
of Natural Necessity.

That element in a sensuous object which is not itself sensuous, I
may be allowed to term intelligible. If, accordingly, an object
which must be regarded as a sensuous phenomenon possesses a faculty
which is not an object of sensuous intuition, but by means of which
it is capable of being the cause of phenomena, the causality of an
object or existence of this kind may be regarded from two different
points of view. It may be considered to be intelligible, as regards
its action--the action of a thing which is a thing in itself, and
sensuous, as regards its effects--the effects of a phenomenon
belonging to the sensuous world. We should accordingly, have to form
both an empirical and an intellectual conception of the causality of
such a faculty or power--both, however, having reference to the same
effect. This twofold manner of cogitating a power residing in a
sensuous object does not run counter to any of the conceptions which
we ought to form of the world of phenomena or of a possible
experience. Phenomena--not being things in themselves--must have a
transcendental object as a foundation, which determines them as mere
representations; and there seems to be no reason why we should not
ascribe to this transcendental object, in addition to the property
of self-phenomenization, a causality whose effects are to be met
with in the world of phenomena, although it is not itself a
phenomenon. But every effective cause must possess a character, that
is to say, a law of its causality, without which it would cease to
be a cause. In the above case, then, every sensuous object would
possess an empirical character, which guaranteed that its actions,
as phenomena, stand in complete and harmonious connection, conformably
to unvarying natural laws, with all other phenomena, and can be
deduced from these, as conditions, and that they do thus, in
connection with these, constitute a series in the order of nature.
This sensuous object must, in the second place, possess an
intelligible character, which guarantees it to be the cause of those
actions, as phenomena, although it is not itself a phenomenon nor
subordinate to the conditions of the world of sense. The former may
be termed the character of the thing as a phenomenon, the latter the
character of the thing as a thing in itself.

Now this active subject would, in its character of intelligible
subject, be subordinate to no conditions of time, for time is only
a condition of phenomena, and not of things in themselves. No action
would begin or cease to be in this subject; it would consequently be
free from the law of all determination of time--the law of change,
namely, that everything which happens must have a cause in the
phenomena of a preceding state. In one word, the causality of the
subject, in so far as it is intelligible, would not form part of the
series of empirical conditions which determine and necessitate an
event in the world of sense. Again, this intelligible character of
a thing cannot be immediately cognized, because we can perceive
nothing but phenomena, but it must be capable of being cogitated in
harmony with the empirical character; for we always find ourselves
compelled to place, in thought, a transcendental object at the basis
of phenomena although we can never know what this object is in itself.

In virtue of its empirical character, this subject would at the same
time be subordinate to all the empirical laws of causality, and, as
a phenomenon and member of the sensuous world, its effects would
have to be accounted for by a reference to preceding phenomena.
Eternal phenomena must be capable of influencing it; and its
actions, in accordance with natural laws, must explain to us how its
empirical character, that is, the law of its causality, is to be
cognized in and by means of experience. In a word, all requisites
for a complete and necessary determination of these actions must be
presented to us by experience.

In virtue of its intelligible character, on the other hand (although
we possess only a general conception of this character), the subject
must be regarded as free from all sensuous influences, and from all
phenomenal determination. Moreover, as nothing happens in this
subject--for it is a noumenon, and there does not consequently exist
in it any change, demanding the dynamical determination of time, and
for the same reason no connection with phenomena as causes--this
active existence must in its actions be free from and independent of
natural necessity, for or necessity exists only in the world of
phenomena. It would be quite correct to say that it originates or
begins its effects in the world of sense from itself, although the
action productive of these effects does not begin in itself. We should
not be in this case affirming that these sensuous effects began to
exist of themselves, because they are always determined by prior
empirical conditions--by virtue of the empirical character, which is
the phenomenon of the intelligible character--and are possible only
as constituting a continuation of the series of natural causes. And
thus nature and freedom, each in the complete and absolute
signification of these terms, can exist, without contradiction or
disagreement, in the same action.

Exposition of the Cosmological Idea of Freedom in Harmony
with the Universal Law of Natural Necessity.

I have thought it advisable to lay before the reader at first merely
a sketch of the solution of this transcendental problem, in order to
enable him to form with greater ease a clear conception of the
course which reason must adopt in the solution. I shall now proceed
to exhibit the several momenta of this solution, and to consider them
in their order.

The natural law that everything which happens must have a cause,
that the causality of this cause, that is, the action of the cause
(which cannot always have existed, but must be itself an event, for
it precedes in time some effect which it has originated), must have
itself a phenomenal cause, by which it is determined and, and,
consequently, all events are empirically determined in an order of
nature--this law, I say, which lies at the foundation of the
possibility of experience, and of a connected system of phenomena or
nature is a law of the understanding, from which no departure, and
to which no exception, can be admitted. For to except even a single
phenomenon from its operation is to exclude it from the sphere of
possible experience and thus to admit it to be a mere fiction of
thought or phantom of the brain.

Thus we are obliged to acknowledge the existence of a chain of
causes, in which, however, absolute totality cannot be found. But we
need not detain ourselves with this question, for it has already
been sufficiently answered in our discussion of the antinomies into
which reason falls, when it attempts to reach the unconditioned in
the series of phenomena. If we permit ourselves to be deceived by the
illusion of transcendental idealism, we shall find that neither nature
nor freedom exists. Now the question is: "Whether, admitting the
existence of natural necessity in the world of phenomena, it is
possible to consider an effect as at the same time an effect of nature
and an effect of freedom--or, whether these two modes of causality
are contradictory and incompatible?"

No phenomenal cause can absolutely and of itself begin a series.
Every action, in so far as it is productive of an event, is itself
an event or occurrence, and presupposes another preceding state, in
which its cause existed. Thus everything that happens is but a
continuation of a series, and an absolute beginning is impossible in
the sensuous world. The actions of natural causes are, accordingly,
themselves effects, and presuppose causes preceding them in time. A
primal action which forms an absolute beginning, is beyond the
causal power of phenomena.

Now, is it absolutely necessary that, granting that all effects
are phenomena, the causality of the cause of these effects must also
be a phenomenon and belong to the empirical world? Is it not rather
possible that, although every effect in the phenomenal world must be
connected with an empirical cause, according to the universal law of
nature, this empirical causality may be itself the effect of a
non-empirical and intelligible causality--its connection with
natural causes remaining nevertheless intact? Such a causality would
be considered, in reference to phenomena, as the primal action of a
cause, which is in so far, therefore, not phenomenal, but, by reason
of this faculty or power, intelligible; although it must, at the
same time, as a link in the chain of nature, be regarded as
belonging to the sensuous world.

A belief in the reciprocal causality of phenomena is necessary, if
we are required to look for and to present the natural conditions of
natural events, that is to say, their causes. This being admitted as
unexceptionably valid, the requirements of the understanding, which
recognizes nothing but nature in the region of phenomena, are
satisfied, and our physical explanations of physical phenomena may
proceed in their regular course, without hindrance and without
opposition. But it is no stumbling-block in the way, even assuming
the idea to be a pure fiction, to admit that there are some natural
causes in the possession of a faculty which is not empirical, but
intelligible, inasmuch as it is not determined to action by
empirical conditions, but purely and solely upon grounds brought
forward by the understanding--this action being still, when the
cause is phenomenized, in perfect accordance with the laws of
empirical causality. Thus the acting subject, as a causal
phenomenon, would continue to preserve a complete connection with
nature and natural conditions; and the phenomenon only of the
subject (with all its phenomenal causality) would contain certain
conditions, which, if we ascend from the empirical to the
transcendental object, must necessarily be regarded as intelligible.
For, if we attend, in our inquiries with regard to causes in the world
of phenomena, to the directions of nature alone, we need not trouble
ourselves about the relation in which the transcendental subject,
which is completely unknown to us, stands to these phenomena and their
connection in nature. The intelligible ground of phenomena in this
subject does not concern empirical questions. It has to do only with
pure thought; and, although the effects of this thought and action
of the pure understanding are discoverable in phenomena, these
phenomena must nevertheless be capable of a full and complete
explanation, upon purely physical grounds and in accordance with
natural laws. And in this case we attend solely to their empirical
and omit all consideration of their intelligible character (which is
the transcendental cause of the former) as completely unknown, except
in so far as it is exhibited by the latter as its empirical symbol.
Now let us apply this to experience. Man is a phenomenon of the sensuous
world and, at the same time, therefore, a natural cause, the causality
of which must be regulated by empirical laws. As such, he must possess
an empirical character, like all other natural phenomena. We remark
this empirical character in his actions, which reveal the presence
of certain powers and faculties. If we consider inanimate or merely
animal nature, we can discover no reason for ascribing to ourselves
any other than a faculty which is determined in a purely sensuous
manner. But man, to whom nature reveals herself only through sense,
cognizes himself not only by his senses, but also through pure
apperception; and this in actions and internal determinations, which
he cannot regard as sensuous impressions. He is thus to himself, on
the one hand, a phenomenon, but on the other hand, in respect of
certain faculties, a purely intelligible object--intelligible, because
its action cannot be ascribed to sensuous receptivity. These faculties
are understanding and reason. The latter, especially, is in a peculiar
manner distinct from all empirically-conditioned faculties, for it
employs ideas alone in the consideration of its objects, and by
means of these determines the understanding, which then proceeds to
make an empirical use of its own conceptions, which, like the ideas
of reason, are pure and non-empirical.

That reason possesses the faculty of causality, or that at least
we are compelled so to represent it, is evident from the
imperatives, which in the sphere of the practical we impose on many
of our executive powers. The words I ought express a species of
necessity, and imply a connection with grounds which nature does not
and cannot present to the mind of man. Understanding knows nothing
in nature but that which is, or has been, or will be. It would be
absurd to say that anything in nature ought to be other than it is
in the relations of time in which it stands; indeed, the ought, when
we consider merely the course of nature, has neither application nor
meaning. The question, "What ought to happen in the sphere of nature?"
is just as absurd as the question, "What ought to be the properties
of a circle?" All that we are entitled to ask is, "What takes place
in nature?" or, in the latter case, "What are the properties of a

But the idea of an ought or of duty indicates a possible action, the
ground of which is a pure conception; while the ground of a merely
natural action is, on the contrary, always a phenomenon. This action
must certainly be possible under physical conditions, if it is
prescribed by the moral imperative ought; but these physical or
natural conditions do not concern the determination of the will
itself, they relate to its effects alone, and the consequences of
the effect in the world of phenomena. Whatever number of motives
nature may present to my will, whatever sensuous impulses--the moral
ought it is beyond their power to produce. They may produce a
volition, which, so far from being necessary, is always conditioned--a
volition to which the ought enunciated by reason, sets an aim and a
standard, gives permission or prohibition. Be the object what it
may, purely sensuous--as pleasure, or presented by pure reason--as
good, reason will not yield to grounds which have an empirical origin.
Reason will not follow the order of things presented by experience,
but, with perfect spontaneity, rearranges them according to ideas,
with which it compels empirical conditions to agree. It declares, in
the name of these ideas, certain actions to be necessary which
nevertheless have not taken place and which perhaps never will take
place; and yet presupposes that it possesses the faculty of
causality in relation to these actions. For, in the absence of this
supposition, it could not expect its ideas to produce certain
effects in the world of experience.

Now, let us stop here and admit it to be at least possible that
reason does stand in a really causal relation to phenomena. In this
case it must--pure reason as it is--exhibit an empirical character.
For every cause supposes a rule, according to which certain
phenomena follow as effects from the cause, and every rule requires
uniformity in these effects; and this is the proper ground of the
conception of a cause--as a faculty or power. Now this conception
(of a cause) may be termed the empirical character of reason; and this
character is a permanent one, while the effects produced appear, in
conformity with the various conditions which accompany and partly
limit them, in various forms.

Thus the volition of every man has an empirical character, which
is nothing more than the causality of his reason, in so far as its
effects in the phenomenal world manifest the presence of a rule,
according to which we are enabled to examine, in their several kinds
and degrees, the actions of this causality and the rational grounds
for these actions, and in this way to decide upon the subjective
principles of the volition. Now we learn what this empirical character
is only from phenomenal effects, and from the rule of these which is
presented by experience; and for this reason all the actions of man
in the world of phenomena are determined by his empirical character,
and the co-operative causes of nature. If, then, we could
investigate all the phenomena of human volition to their lowest
foundation in the mind, there would be no action which we could not
anticipate with certainty, and recognize to be absolutely necessary
from its preceding conditions. So far as relates to this empirical
character, therefore, there can be no freedom; and it is only in the
light of this character that we can consider the human will, when we
confine ourselves to simple observation and, as is the case in
anthropology, institute a physiological investigation of the motive
causes of human actions.

But when we consider the same actions in relation to reason--not for
the purpose of explaining their origin, that is, in relation to
speculative reason, but to practical reason, as the producing cause
of these actions--we shall discover a rule and an order very different
from those of nature and experience. For the declaration of this
mental faculty may be that what has and could not but take place in
the course of nature, ought not to have taken place. Sometimes, too,
we discover, or believe that we discover, that the ideas of reason
did actually stand in a causal relation to certain actions of man;
and that these actions have taken place because they were determined,
not by empirical causes, but by the act of the will upon grounds of

Now, granting that reason stands in a causal relation to
phenomena; can an action of reason be called free, when we know
that, sensuously, in its empirical character, it is completely
determined and absolutely necessary? But this empirical character is
itself determined by the intelligible character. The latter we
cannot cognize; we can only indicate it by means of phenomena, which
enable us to have an immediate cognition only of the empirical
character.* An action, then, in so far as it is to be ascribed to an
intelligible cause, does not result from it in accordance with
empirical laws. That is to say, not the conditions of pure reason,
but only their effects in the internal sense, precede the act. Pure
reason, as a purely intelligible faculty, is not subject to the
conditions of time. The causality of reason in its intelligible
character does not begin to be; it does not make its appearance at
a certain time, for the purpose of producing an effect. If this were
not the case, the causality of reason would be subservient to the
natural law of phenomena, which determines them according to time,
and as a series of causes and effects in time; it would consequently
cease to be freedom and become a part of nature. We are therefore
justified in saying: "If reason stands in a causal relation to
phenomena, it is a faculty which originates the sensuous condition
of an empirical series of effects." For the condition, which resides
in the reason, is non-sensuous, and therefore cannot be originated,
or begin to be. And thus we find--what we could not discover in any
empirical series--a condition of a successive series of events
itself empirically unconditioned. For, in the present case, the
condition stands out of and beyond the series of phenomena--it is
intelligible, and it consequently cannot be subjected to any
sensuous condition, or to any time-determination by a preceding cause.

[*Footnote: The real morality of actions--their merit or demerit, and
even that of our own conduct, is completely unknown to us. Our estimates
can relate only to their empirical character. How much is the result
of the action of free will, how much is to be ascribed to nature and
to blameless error, or to a happy constitution of temperament (merito
fortunae), no one can discover, nor, for this reason, determine with
perfect justice.]

But, in another respect, the same cause belongs also to the series
of phenomena. Man is himself a phenomenon. His will has an empirical
character, which is the empirical cause of all his actions. There is
no condition--determining man and his volition in conformity with this
character--which does not itself form part of the series of effects
in nature, and is subject to their law--the law according to which
an empirically undetermined cause of an event in time cannot exist.
For this reason no given action can have an absolute and spontaneous
origination, all actions being phenomena, and belonging to the world
of experience. But it cannot be said of reason, that the state in
which it determines the will is always preceded by some other state
determining it. For reason is not a phenomenon, and therefore not
subject to sensuous conditions; and, consequently, even in relation
to its causality, the sequence or conditions of time do not influence
reason, nor can the dynamical law of nature, which determines the
sequence of time according to certain rules, be applied to it.

Reason is consequently the permanent condition of all actions of the
human will. Each of these is determined in the empirical character
of the man, even before it has taken place. The intelligible
character, of which the former is but the sensuous schema, knows no
before or after; and every action, irrespective of the time-relation
in which it stands with other phenomena, is the immediate effect of
the intelligible character of pure reason, which, consequently, enjoys
freedom of action, and is not dynamically determined either by
internal or external preceding conditions. This freedom must not be
described, in a merely negative manner, as independence of empirical
conditions, for in this case the faculty of reason would cease to be
a cause of phenomena; but it must be regarded, positively, as a
faculty which can spontaneously originate a series of events. At the
same time, it must not be supposed that any beginning can take place
in reason; on the contrary, reason, as the unconditioned condition
of all action of the will, admits of no time-conditions, although
its effect does really begin in a series of phenomena--a beginning
which is not, however, absolutely primal.

I shall illustrate this regulative principle of reason by an
example, from its employment in the world of experience; proved it
cannot be by any amount of experience, or by any number of facts,
for such arguments cannot establish the truth of transcendental
propositions. Let us take a voluntary action--for example, a
falsehood--by means of which a man has introduced a certain degree
of confusion into the social life of humanity, which is judged
according to the motives from which it originated, and the blame of
which and of the evil consequences arising from it, is imputed to
the offender. We at first proceed to examine the empirical character
of the offence, and for this purpose we endeavour to penetrate to
the sources of that character, such as a defective education, bad
company, a shameless and wicked disposition, frivolity, and want of
reflection--not forgetting also the occasioning causes which prevailed
at the moment of the transgression. In this the procedure is exactly
the same as that pursued in the investigation of the series of
causes which determine a given physical effect. Now, although we
believe the action to have been determined by all these circumstances,
we do not the less blame the offender. We do not blame him for his
unhappy disposition, nor for the circumstances which influenced him,
nay, not even for his former course of life; for we presuppose that
all these considerations may be set aside, that the series of
preceding conditions may be regarded as having never existed, and that
the action may be considered as completely unconditioned in relation
to any state preceding, just as if the agent commenced with it an
entirely new series of effects. Our blame of the offender is
grounded upon a law of reason, which requires us to regard this
faculty as a cause, which could have and ought to have otherwise
determined the behaviour of the culprit, independently of all
empirical conditions. This causality of reason we do not regard as
a co-operating agency, but as complete in itself. It matters not whether
the sensuous impulses favoured or opposed the action of this
causality, the offence is estimated according to its intelligible
character--the offender is decidedly worthy of blame, the moment he
utters a falsehood. It follows that we regard reason, in spite of
the empirical conditions of the act, as completely free, and
therefore, therefore, as in the present case, culpable.

The above judgement is complete evidence that we are accustomed to
think that reason is not affected by sensuous conditions, that in it
no change takes place--although its phenomena, in other words, the
mode in which it appears in its effects, are subject to change--that
in it no preceding state determines the following, and,
consequently, that it does not form a member of the series of sensuous
conditions which necessitate phenomena according to natural laws.
Reason is present and the same in all human actions and at all
times; but it does not itself exist in time, and therefore does not
enter upon any state in which it did not formerly exist. It is,
relatively to new states or conditions, determining, but not
determinable. Hence we cannot ask: "Why did not reason determine
itself in a different manner?" The question ought to be thus stated:
"Why did not reason employ its power of causality to determine certain
phenomena in a different manner?" But this is a question which admits
of no answer. For a different intelligible character would have
exhibited a different empirical character; and, when we say that, in
spite of the course which his whole former life has taken, the
offender could have refrained from uttering the falsehood, this
means merely that the act was subject to the power and authority-
permissive or prohibitive--of reason. Now, reason is not subject in
its causality to any conditions of phenomena or of time; and a
difference in time may produce a difference in the relation of
phenomena to each other--for these are not things and therefore not
causes in themselves--but it cannot produce any difference in the
relation in which the action stands to the faculty of reason.

Thus, then, in our investigation into free actions and the causal
power which produced them, we arrive at an intelligible cause,
beyond which, however, we cannot go; although we can recognize that
it is free, that is, independent of all sensuous conditions, and that,
in this way, it may be the sensuously unconditioned condition of
phenomena. But for what reason the intelligible character generates
such and such phenomena and exhibits such and such an empirical
character under certain circumstances, it is beyond the power of our
reason to decide. The question is as much above the power and the
sphere of reason as the following would be: "Why does the
transcendental object of our external sensuous intuition allow of no
other form than that of intuition in space?" But the problem, which
we were called upon to solve, does not require us to entertain any
such questions. The problem was merely this--whether freedom and natural
necessity can exist without opposition in the same action. To this
question we have given a sufficient answer; for we have shown that,
as the former stands in a relation to a different kind of condition
from those of the latter, the law of the one does not affect the law
of the other and that, consequently, both can exist together in
independence of and without interference with each other.

The reader must be careful to remark that my intention in the
above remarks has not been to prove the actual existence of freedom,
as a faculty in which resides the cause of certain sensuous phenomena.
For, not to mention that such an argument would not have a
transcendental character, nor have been limited to the discussion of
pure conceptions--all attempts at inferring from experience what
cannot be cogitated in accordance with its laws, must ever be
unsuccessful. Nay, more, I have not even aimed at demonstrating the
possibility of freedom; for this too would have been a vain endeavour,
inasmuch as it is beyond the power of the mind to cognize the
possibility of a reality or of a causal power by the aid of mere a
priori conceptions. Freedom has been considered in the foregoing
remarks only as a transcendental idea, by means of which reason aims
at originating a series of conditions in the world of phenomena with
the help of that which is sensuously unconditioned, involving
itself, however, in an antinomy with the laws which itself
prescribes for the conduct of the understanding. That this antinomy
is based upon a mere illusion, and that nature and freedom are at least
not opposed--this was the only thing in our power to prove, and the
question which it was our task to solve.

IV. Solution of the Cosmological Idea of the Totality of
the Dependence of Phenomenal Existences.

In the preceding remarks, we considered the changes in the world
of sense as constituting a dynamical series, in which each member is
subordinated to another--as its cause. Our present purpose is to avail
ourselves of this series of states or conditions as a guide to an
existence which may be the highest condition of all changeable
phenomena, that is, to a necessary being. Our endeavour to reach,
not the unconditioned causality, but the unconditioned existence, of
substance. The series before us is therefore a series of
conceptions, and not of intuitions (in which the one intuition is
the condition of the other).

But it is evident that, as all phenomena are subject to change and
conditioned in their existence, the series of dependent existences
cannot embrace an unconditioned member, the existence of which would
be absolutely necessary. It follows that, if phenomena were things
in themselves, and--as an immediate consequence from this supposition-
condition and conditioned belonged to the same series of phenomena,
the existence of a necessary being, as the condition of the
existence of sensuous phenomena, would be perfectly impossible.

An important distinction, however, exists between the dynamical
and the mathematical regress. The latter is engaged solely with the
combination of parts into a whole, or with the division of a whole
into its parts; and therefore are the conditions of its series parts
of the series, and to be consequently regarded as homogeneous, and
for this reason, as consisting, without exception, of phenomena. If
the former regress, on the contrary, the aim of which is not to
establish the possibility of an unconditioned whole consisting of
given parts, or of an unconditioned part of a given whole, but to
demonstrate the possibility of the deduction of a certain state from
its cause, or of the contingent existence of substance from that which
exists necessarily, it is not requisite that the condition should form
part of an empirical series along with the conditioned.

In the case of the apparent antinomy with which we are at present
dealing, there exists a way of escape from the difficulty; for it is
not impossible that both of the contradictory statements may be true
in different relations. All sensuous phenomena may be contingent,
and consequently possess only an empirically conditioned existence,
and yet there may also exist a non-empirical condition of the whole
series, or, in other words, a necessary being. For this necessary
being, as an intelligible condition, would not form a member--not even
the highest member--of the series; the whole world of sense would be
left in its empirically determined existence uninterfered with and
uninfluenced. This would also form a ground of distinction between
the modes of solution employed for the third and fourth antinomies.
For, while in the consideration of freedom in the former antinomy,
the thing itself--the cause (substantia phaenomenon)--was regarded
as belonging to the series of conditions, and only its causality to
the intelligible world--we are obliged in the present case to cogitate
this necessary being as purely intelligible and as existing entirely
apart from the world of sense (as an ens extramundanum); for otherwise
it would be subject to the phenomenal law of contingency and

In relation to the present problem, therefore, the regulative
principle of reason is that everything in the sensuous world possesses
an empirically conditioned existence--that no property of the sensuous
world possesses unconditioned necessity--that we are bound to
expect, and, so far as is possible, to seek for the empirical
condition of every member in the series of conditions--and that
there is no sufficient reason to justify us in deducing any
existence from a condition which lies out of and beyond the
empirical series, or in regarding any existence as independent and
self-subsistent; although this should not prevent us from
recognizing the possibility of the whole series being based upon a
being which is intelligible, and for this reason free from all
empirical conditions.

But it has been far from my intention, in these remarks, to prove
the existence of this unconditioned and necessary being, or even to
evidence the possibility of a purely intelligible condition of the
existence or all sensuous phenomena. As bounds were set to reason,
to prevent it from leaving the guiding thread of empirical
conditions and losing itself in transcendent theories which are
incapable of concrete presentation; so it was my purpose, on the other
band, to set bounds to the law of the purely empirical
understanding, and to protest against any attempts on its part at
deciding on the possibility of things, or declaring the existence of
the intelligible to be impossible, merely on the ground that it is
not available for the explanation and exposition of phenomena. It has
been shown, at the same time, that the contingency of all the phenomena
of nature and their empirical conditions is quite consistent with
the arbitrary hypothesis of a necessary, although purely
intelligible condition, that no real contradiction exists between them
and that, consequently, both may be true. The existence of such an
absolutely necessary being may be impossible; but this can never be
demonstrated from the universal contingency and dependence of sensuous
phenomena, nor from the principle which forbids us to discontinue
the series at some member of it, or to seek for its cause in some
sphere of existence beyond the world of nature. Reason goes its way
in the empirical world, and follows, too, its peculiar path in the
sphere of the transcendental.

The sensuous world contains nothing but phenomena, which are mere
representations, and always sensuously conditioned; things in
themselves are not, and cannot be, objects to us. It is not to be
wondered at, therefore, that we are not justified in leaping from some
member of an empirical series beyond the world of sense, as if
empirical representations were things in themselves, existing apart
from their transcendental ground in the human mind, and the cause of
whose existence may be sought out of the empirical series. This
would certainly be the case with contingent things; but it cannot be
with mere representations of things, the contingency of which is
itself merely a phenomenon and can relate to no other regress than
that which determines phenomena, that is, the empirical. But to
cogitate an intelligible ground of phenomena, as free, moreover,
from the contingency of the latter, conflicts neither with the
unlimited nature of the empirical regress, nor with the complete
contingency of phenomena. And the demonstration of this was the only
thing necessary for the solution of this apparent antinomy. For if
the condition of every conditioned--as regards its existence--is sensuous,
and for this reason a part of the same series, it must be itself
conditioned, as was shown in the antithesis of the fourth antinomy.
The embarrassments into which a reason, which postulates the
unconditioned, necessarily falls, must, therefore, continue to
exist; or the unconditioned must be placed in the sphere of the
intelligible. In this way, its necessity does not require, nor does
it even permit, the presence of an empirical condition: and it is,
consequently, unconditionally necessary.

The empirical employment of reason is not affected by the assumption
of a purely intelligible being; it continues its operations on the
principle of the contingency of all phenomena, proceeding from
empirical conditions to still higher and higher conditions, themselves
empirical. Just as little does this regulative principle exclude the
assumption of an intelligible cause, when the question regards
merely the pure employment of reason--in relation to ends or aims.
For, in this case, an intelligible cause signifies merely the
transcendental and to us unknown ground of the possibility of sensuous
phenomena, and its existence, necessary and independent of all
sensuous conditions, is not inconsistent with the contingency of
phenomena, or with the unlimited possibility of regress which exists
in the series of empirical conditions.

Concluding Remarks on the Antinomy of Pure Reason.

So long as the object of our rational conceptions is the totality of
conditions in the world of phenomena, and the satisfaction, from
this source, of the requirements of reason, so long are our ideas
transcendental and cosmological. But when we set the unconditioned-
which is the aim of all our inquiries--in a sphere which lies out of
the world of sense and possible experience, our ideas become
transcendent. They are then not merely serviceable towards the
completion of the exercise of reason (which remains an idea, never
executed, but always to be pursued); they detach themselves completely
from experience and construct for themselves objects, the material
of which has not been presented by experience, and the objective
reality of which is not based upon the completion of the empirical
series, but upon pure a priori conceptions. The intelligible object
of these transcendent ideas may be conceded, as a transcendental
object. But we cannot cogitate it as a thing determinable by certain
distinct predicates relating to its internal nature, for it has no
connection with empirical conceptions; nor are we justified in
affirming the existence of any such object. It is, consequently, a
mere product of the mind alone. Of all the cosmological ideas,
however, it is that occasioning the fourth antinomy which compels us
to venture upon this step. For the existence of phenomena, always
conditioned and never self-subsistent, requires us to look for an
object different from phenomena--an intelligible object, with which
all contingency must cease. But, as we have allowed ourselves to
assume the existence of a self-subsistent reality out of the field
of experience, and are therefore obliged to regard phenomena as merely
a contingent mode of representing intelligible objects employed by
beings which are themselves intelligences--no other course remains
for us than to follow analogy and employ the same mode in forming
some conception of intelligible things, of which we have not the least
knowledge, which nature taught us to use in the formation of empirical
conceptions. Experience made us acquainted with the contingent. But
we are at present engaged in the discussion of things which are not
objects of experience; and must, therefore, deduce our knowledge of
them from that which is necessary absolutely and in itself, that is,
from pure conceptions. Hence the first step which we take out of the
world of sense obliges us to begin our system of new cognition with
the investigation of a necessary being, and to deduce from our
conceptions of it all our conceptions of intelligible things. This
we propose to attempt in the following chapter.

CHAPTER III. The Ideal of Pure Reason.

SECTION I. Of the Ideal in General.

We have seen that pure conceptions do not present objects to the
mind, except under sensuous conditions; because the conditions of
objective reality do not exist in these conceptions, which contain,
in fact, nothing but the mere form of thought. They may, however, when
applied to phenomena, be presented in concreto; for it is phenomena
that present to them the materials for the formation of empirical
conceptions, which are nothing more than concrete forms of the
conceptions of the understanding. But ideas are still further
removed from objective reality than categories; for no phenomenon
can ever present them to the human mind in concreto. They contain a
certain perfection, attainable by no possible empirical cognition;
and they give to reason a systematic unity, to which the unity of
experience attempts to approximate, but can never completely attain.

But still further removed than the idea from objective reality is
the Ideal, by which term I understand the idea, not in concreto, but
in individuo--as an individual thing, determinable or determined by
the idea alone. The idea of humanity in its complete perfection
supposes not only the advancement of all the powers and faculties,
which constitute our conception of human nature, to a complete
attainment of their final aims, but also everything which is requisite
for the complete determination of the idea; for of all contradictory
predicates, only one can conform with the idea of the perfect man.
What I have termed an ideal was in Plato's philosophy an idea of the
divine mind--an individual object present to its pure intuition, the
most perfect of every kind of possible beings, and the archetype of
all phenomenal existences.

Without rising to these speculative heights, we are bound to confess
that human reason contains not only ideas, but ideals, which
possess, not, like those of Plato, creative, but certainly practical
power--as regulative principles, and form the basis of the
perfectibility of certain actions. Moral conceptions are not perfectly
pure conceptions of reason, because an empirical element--of
pleasure or pain--lies at the foundation of them. In relation,
however, to the principle, whereby reason sets bounds to a freedom
which is in itself without law, and consequently when we attend merely
to their form, they may be considered as pure conceptions of reason.
Virtue and wisdom in their perfect purity are ideas. But the wise
man of the Stoics is an ideal, that is to say, a human being
existing only in thought and in complete conformity with the idea of
wisdom. As the idea provides a rule, so the ideal serves as an
archetype for the perfect and complete determination of the copy. Thus
the conduct of this wise and divine man serves us as a standard of
action, with which we may compare and judge ourselves, which may
help us to reform ourselves, although the perfection it demands can
never be attained by us. Although we cannot concede objective
reality to these ideals, they are not to be considered as chimeras;
on the contrary, they provide reason with a standard, which enables
it to estimate, by comparison, the degree of incompleteness in the
objects presented to it. But to aim at realizing the ideal in an example
in the world of experience--to describe, for instance, the character
of the perfectly wise man in a romance--is impracticable. Nay more,
there is something absurd in the attempt; and the result must be little
edifying, as the natural limitations, which are continually breaking
in upon the perfection and completeness of the idea, destroy the
illusion in the story and throw an air of suspicion even on what is
good in the idea, which hence appears fictitious and unreal.

Such is the constitution of the ideal of reason, which is always
based upon determinate conceptions, and serves as a rule and a model
for limitation or of criticism. Very different is the nature of the
ideals of the imagination. Of these it is impossible to present an
intelligible conception; they are a kind of monogram, drawn
according to no determinate rule, and forming rather a vague
picture--the production of many diverse experiences--than a
determinate image. Such are the ideals which painters and
physiognomists profess to have in their minds, and which can serve
neither as a model for production nor as a standard for
appreciation. They may be termed, though improperly, sensuous
ideals, as they are declared to be models of certain possible
empirical intuitions. They cannot, however, furnish rules or standards
for explanation or examination.

In its ideals, reason aims at complete and perfect determination
according to a priori rules; and hence it cogitates an object, which
must be completely determinable in conformity with principles,
although all empirical conditions are absent, and the conception of
the object is on this account transcendent.

SECTION II. Of the Transcendental Ideal (Prototypon Trancendentale).

Every conception is, in relation to that which is not contained in
it, undetermined and subject to the principle of determinability. This
principle is that, of every two contradictorily opposed predicates,
only one can belong to a conception. It is a purely logical principle,
itself based upon the principle of contradiction; inasmuch as it makes
complete abstraction of the content and attends merely to the
logical form of the cognition.

But again, everything, as regards its possibility, is also subject
to the principle of complete determination, according to which one
of all the possible contradictory predicates of things must belong
to it. This principle is not based merely upon that of
contradiction; for, in addition to the relation between two
contradictory predicates, it regards everything as standing in a
relation to the sum of possibilities, as the sum total of all
predicates of things, and, while presupposing this sum as an a
priori condition, presents to the mind everything as receiving the
possibility of its individual existence from the relation it bears
to, and the share it possesses in, the aforesaid sum of possibilities.*
The principle of complete determination relates the content and not
to the logical form. It is the principle of the synthesis of all the
predicates which are required to constitute the complete conception
of a thing, and not a mere principle analytical representation, which
enounces that one of two contradictory predicates must belong to a
conception. It contains, moreover, a transcendental presupposition--
that, namely, of the material for all possibility, which must
contain a priori the data for this or that particular possibility.

[*Footnote: Thus this principle declares everything to possess a
relation to a common correlate--the sum-total of possibility, which, if
discovered to exist in the idea of one individual thing, would
establish the affinity of all possible things, from the identity of the
ground of their complete determination. The determinability of every
conception is subordinate to the universality (Allgemeinheit,
universalitas) of the principle of excluded middle; the determination
of a thing to the totality (Allheit, universitas) of all possible

The proposition, everything which exists is completely determined,
means not only that one of every pair of given contradictory
attributes, but that one of all possible attributes, is always
predicable of the thing; in it the predicates are not merely
compared logically with each other, but the thing itself is
transcendentally compared with the sum-total of all possible
predicates. The proposition is equivalent to saying: "To attain to
a complete knowledge of a thing, it is necessary to possess a
knowledge of everything that is possible, and to determine it
thereby in a positive or negative manner." The conception of
complete determination is consequently a conception which cannot be
presented in its totality in concreto, and is therefore based upon
an idea, which has its seat in the reason--the faculty which
prescribes to the understanding the laws of its harmonious and perfect

Now, although this idea of the sum-total of all possibility, in so
far as it forms the condition of the complete determination of
everything, is itself undetermined in relation to the predicates which
may constitute this sum-total, and we cogitate in it merely the
sum-total of all possible predicates--we nevertheless find, upon
closer examination, that this idea, as a primitive conception of the
mind, excludes a large number of predicates--those deduced and those
irreconcilable with others, and that it is evolved as a conception
completely determined a priori. Thus it becomes the conception of an
individual object, which is completely determined by and through the
mere idea, and must consequently be termed an ideal of pure reason.

When we consider all possible predicates, not merely logically,
but transcendentally, that is to say, with reference to the content
which may be cogitated as existing in them a priori, we shall find
that some indicate a being, others merely a non-being. The logical
negation expressed in the word not does not properly belong to a
conception, but only to the relation of one conception to another in
a judgement, and is consequently quite insufficient to present to the
mind the content of a conception. The expression not mortal does not
indicate that a non-being is cogitated in the object; it does not
concern the content at all. A transcendental negation, on the
contrary, indicates non-being in itself, and is opposed to
transcendental affirmation, the conception of which of itself
expresses a being. Hence this affirmation indicates a reality, because
in and through it objects are considered to be something--to be
things; while the opposite negation, on the other band, indicates a
mere want, or privation, or absence, and, where such negations alone
are attached to a representation, the non-existence of anything
corresponding to the representation.

Now a negation cannot be cogitated as determined, without cogitating
at the same time the opposite affirmation. The man born blind has
not the least notion of darkness, because he has none of light; the
vagabond knows nothing of poverty, because he has never known what
it is to be in comfort;* the ignorant man has no conception of his
ignorance, because he has no conception of knowledge. All
conceptions of negatives are accordingly derived or deduced
conceptions; and realities contain the data, and, so to speak, the
material or transcendental content of the possibility and complete
determination of all things.

[*Footnote: The investigations and calculations of astronomers have
taught us much that is wonderful; but the most important lesson we
have received from them is the discovery of the abyss of our ignorance
in relation to the universe--an ignorance the magnitude of which reason,
without the information thus derived, could never have conceived. This
discovery of our deficiencies must produce a great change in the
determination of the aims of human reason.]

If, therefore, a transcendental substratum lies at the foundation of
the complete determination of things--a substratum which is to form
the fund from which all possible predicates of things are to be
supplied, this substratum cannot be anything else than the idea of
a sum-total of reality (omnitudo realitatis). In this view, negations
are nothing but limitations--a term which could not, with propriety,
be applied to them, if the unlimited (the all) did not form the true
basis of our conception.

This conception of a sum-total of reality is the conception of a
thing in itself, regarded as completely determined; and the conception
of an ens realissimum is the conception of an individual being,
inasmuch as it is determined by that predicate of all possible
contradictory predicates, which indicates and belongs to being. It
is, therefore, a transcendental ideal which forms the basis of the
complete determination of everything that exists, and is the highest
material condition of its possibility--a condition on which must
rest the cogitation of all objects with respect to their content. Nay,
more, this ideal is the only proper ideal of which the human mind is
capable; because in this case alone a general conception of a thing
is completely determined by and through itself, and cognized as the
representation of an individuum.

The logical determination of a conception is based upon a
disjunctive syllogism, the major of which contains the logical
division of the extent of a general conception, the minor limits
this extent to a certain part, while the conclusion determines the
conception by this part. The general conception of a reality cannot
be divided a priori, because, without the aid of experience, we cannot
know any determinate kinds of reality, standing under the former as
the genus. The transcendental principle of the complete
determination of all things is therefore merely the representation
of the sum-total of all reality; it is not a conception which is the
genus of all predicates under itself, but one which comprehends them
all within itself. The complete determination of a thing is
consequently based upon the limitation of this total of reality, so
much being predicated of the thing, while all that remains over is
excluded--a procedure which is in exact agreement with that of the
disjunctive syllogism and the determination of the objects in the
conclusion by one of the members of the division. It follows that
reason, in laying the transcendental ideal at the foundation of its
determination of all possible things, takes a course in exact
analogy with that which it pursues in disjunctive syllogisms--a
proposition which formed the basis of the systematic division of all
transcendental ideas, according to which they are produced in complete
parallelism with the three modes of syllogistic reasoning employed
by the human mind.

It is self-evident that reason, in cogitating the necessary complete
determination of things, does not presuppose the existence of a
being corresponding to its ideal, but merely the idea of the ideal-
for the purpose of deducing from the unconditional totality of
complete determination, The ideal is therefore the prototype of all
things, which, as defective copies (ectypa), receive from it the
material of their possibility, and approximate to it more or less,
though it is impossible that they can ever attain to its perfection.

The possibility of things must therefore be regarded as derived-
except that of the thing which contains in itself all reality, which
must be considered to be primitive and original. For all negations-
and they are the only predicates by means of which all other things
can be distinguished from the ens realissimum--are mere limitations
of a greater and a higher--nay, the highest reality; and they
consequently presuppose this reality, and are, as regards their
content, derived from it. The manifold nature of things is only an
infinitely various mode of limiting the conception of the highest
reality, which is their common substratum; just as all figures are
possible only as different modes of limiting infinite space. The
object of the ideal of reason--an object existing only in reason
itself--is also termed the primal being (ens originarium); as having
no existence superior to him, the supreme being (ens summum); and as
being the condition of all other beings, which rank under it, the
being of all beings (ens entium). But none of these terms indicate
the objective relation of an actually existing object to other things,
but merely that of an idea to conceptions; and all our investigations
into this subject still leave us in perfect uncertainty with regard
to the existence of this being.

A primal being cannot be said to consist of many other beings with
an existence which is derivative, for the latter presuppose the
former, and therefore cannot be constitutive parts of it. It follows
that the ideal of the primal being must be cogitated as simple.

The deduction of the possibility of all other things from this
primal being cannot, strictly speaking, be considered as a limitation,
or as a kind of division of its reality; for this would be regarding
the primal being as a mere aggregate--which has been shown to be
impossible, although it was so represented in our first rough
sketch. The highest reality must be regarded rather as the ground than
as the sum-total of the possibility of all things, and the manifold
nature of things be based, not upon the limitation of the primal being
itself, but upon the complete series of effects which flow from it.
And thus all our powers of sense, as well as all phenomenal reality,
phenomenal reality, may be with propriety regarded as belonging to
this series of effects, while they could not have formed parts of
the idea, considered as an aggregate. Pursuing this track, and
hypostatizing this idea, we shall find ourselves authorized to
determine our notion of the Supreme Being by means of the mere
conception of a highest reality, as one, simple, all-sufficient,
eternal, and so on--in one word, to determine it in its
unconditioned completeness by the aid of every possible predicate.
The conception of such a being is the conception of God in its
transcendental sense, and thus the ideal of pure reason is the
object-matter of a transcendental theology.

But, by such an employment of the transcendental idea, we should
be over stepping the limits of its validity and purpose. For reason
placed it, as the conception of all reality, at the basis of the
complete determination of things, without requiring that this
conception be regarded as the conception of an objective existence.
Such an existence would be purely fictitious, and the hypostatizing
of the content of the idea into an ideal, as an individual being, is
a step perfectly unauthorized. Nay, more, we are not even called upon
to assume the possibility of such an hypothesis, as none of the
deductions drawn from such an ideal would affect the complete
determination of things in general--for the sake of which alone is
the idea necessary.

It is not sufficient to circumscribe the procedure and the dialectic
of reason; we must also endeavour to discover the sources of this
dialectic, that we may have it in our power to give a rational
explanation of this illusion, as a phenomenon of the human mind. For
the ideal, of which we are at present speaking, is based, not upon
an arbitrary, but upon a natural, idea. The question hence arises:
How happens it that reason regards the possibility of all things as
deduced from a single possibility, that, to wit, of the highest
reality, and presupposes this as existing in an individual and
primal being?

The answer is ready; it is at once presented by the procedure of
transcendental analytic. The possibility of sensuous objects is a
relation of these objects to thought, in which something (the
empirical form) may be cogitated a priori; while that which
constitutes the matter--the reality of the phenomenon (that element
which corresponds to sensation)--must be given from without, as
otherwise it could not even be cogitated by, nor could its possibility
be presentable to the mind. Now, a sensuous object is completely
determined, when it has been compared with all phenomenal
predicates, and represented by means of these either positively or
negatively. But, as that which constitutes the thing itself--the
real in a phenomenon, must be given, and that, in which the real of
all phenomena is given, is experience, one, sole, and all-embracing-
the material of the possibility of all sensuous objects must be
presupposed as given in a whole, and it is upon the limitation of this
whole that the possibility of all empirical objects, their distinction
from each other and their complete determination, are based. Now, no
other objects are presented to us besides sensuous objects, and
these can be given only in connection with a possible experience; it
follows that a thing is not an object to us, unless it presupposes
the whole or sum-total of empirical reality as the condition of its
possibility. Now, a natural illusion leads us to consider this
principle, which is valid only of sensuous objects, as valid with
regard to things in general. And thus we are induced to hold the
empirical principle of our conceptions of the possibility of things,
as phenomena, by leaving out this limitative condition, to be a
transcendental principle of the possibility of things in general.

We proceed afterwards to hypostatize this idea of the sum-total of
all reality, by changing the distributive unity of the empirical
exercise of the understanding into the collective unity of an
empirical whole--a dialectical illusion, and by cogitating this
whole or sum of experience as an individual thing, containing in
itself all empirical reality. This individual thing or being is
then, by means of the above-mentioned transcendental subreption,
substituted for our notion of a thing which stands at the head of
the possibility of all things, the real conditions of whose complete
determination it presents.*

[*Footnote: This ideal of the ens realissimum--although merely a mental
representation--is first objectivized, that is, has an objective
existence attributed to it, then hypostatized, and finally, by the
natural progress of reason to the completion of unity, personified,
as we shall show presently. For the regulative unity of experience
is not based upon phenomena themselves, but upon the connection of
the variety of phenomena by the understanding in a consciousness, and
thus the unity of the supreme reality and the complete determinability
of all things, seem to reside in a supreme understanding, and,
consequently, in a conscious intelligence.]

SECTION III. Of the Arguments employed by Speculative Reason in
Proof of the Existence of a Supreme Being.

Notwithstanding the pressing necessity which reason feels, to form
some presupposition that shall serve the understanding as a proper
basis for the complete determination of its conceptions, the
idealistic and factitious nature of such a presupposition is too
evident to allow reason for a moment to persuade itself into a
belief of the objective existence of a mere creation of its own
thought. But there are other considerations which compel reason to
seek out some resting place in the regress from the conditioned to
the unconditioned, which is not given as an actual existence from the
mere conception of it, although it alone can give completeness to the
series of conditions. And this is the natural course of every human
reason, even of the most uneducated, although the path at first
entered it does not always continue to follow. It does not begin
from conceptions, but from common experience, and requires a basis
in actual existence. But this basis is insecure, unless it rests
upon the immovable rock of the absolutely necessary. And this
foundation is itself unworthy of trust, if it leave under and above
it empty space, if it do not fill all, and leave no room for a why
or a wherefore, if it be not, in one word, infinite in its reality.

If we admit the existence of some one thing, whatever it may be,
we must also admit that there is something which exists necessarily.
For what is contingent exists only under the condition of some other
thing, which is its cause; and from this we must go on to conclude
the existence of a cause which is not contingent, and which consequently
exists necessarily and unconditionally. Such is the argument by
which reason justifies its advances towards a primal being.

Now reason looks round for the conception of a being that may be
admitted, without inconsistency, to be worthy of the attribute of
absolute necessity, not for the purpose of inferring a priori, from
the conception of such a being, its objective existence (for if reason
allowed itself to take this course, it would not require a basis in
given and actual existence, but merely the support of pure
conceptions), but for the purpose of discovering, among all our
conceptions of possible things, that conception which possesses no
element inconsistent with the idea of absolute necessity. For that
there must be some absolutely necessary existence, it regards as a
truth already established. Now, if it can remove every existence
incapable of supporting the attribute of absolute necessity, excepting
one--this must be the absolutely necessary being, whether its
necessity is comprehensible by us, that is, deducible from the
conception of it alone, or not.

Now that, the conception of which contains a therefore to every
wherefore, which is not defective in any respect whatever, which is
all-sufficient as a condition, seems to be the being of which we can
justly predicate absolute necessity--for this reason, that, possessing
the conditions of all that is possible, it does not and cannot
itself require any condition. And thus it satisfies, in one respect
at least, the requirements of the conception of absolute necessity.
In this view, it is superior to all other conceptions, which, as
deficient and incomplete, do not possess the characteristic of
independence of all higher conditions. It is true that we cannot infer
from this that what does not contain in itself the supreme and
complete condition--the condition of all other things--must possess
only a conditioned existence; but as little can we assert the
contrary, for this supposed being does not possess the only
characteristic which can enable reason to cognize by means of an a
priori conception the unconditioned and necessary nature of its

The conception of an ens realissimum is that which best agrees
with the conception of an unconditioned and necessary being. The
former conception does not satisfy all the requirements of the latter;
but we have no choice, we are obliged to adhere to it, for we find
that we cannot do without the existence of a necessary being; and even
although we admit it, we find it out of our power to discover in the
whole sphere of possibility any being that can advance well-grounded
claims to such a distinction.

The following is, therefore, the natural course of human reason.
It begins by persuading itself of the existence of some necessary
being. In this being it recognizes the characteristics of
unconditioned existence. It then seeks the conception of that which
is independent of all conditions, and finds it in that which is itself
the sufficient condition of all other things--in other words, in
that which contains all reality. But the unlimited all is an
absolute unity, and is conceived by the mind as a being one and
supreme; and thus reason concludes that the Supreme Being, as the
primal basis of all things, possesses an existence which is absolutely

This conception must be regarded as in some degree satisfactory,
if we admit the existence of a necessary being, and consider that
there exists a necessity for a definite and final answer to these
questions. In such a case, we cannot make a better choice, or rather
we have no choice at all, but feel ourselves obliged to declare in
favour of the absolute unity of complete reality, as the highest
source of the possibility of things. But if there exists no motive
for coming to a definite conclusion, and we may leave the question
unanswered till we have fully weighed both sides--in other words, when
we are merely called upon to decide how much we happen to know about
the question, and how much we merely flatter ourselves that we know-
the above conclusion does not appear to be so great advantage, but,
on the contrary, seems defective in the grounds upon which it is

For, admitting the truth of all that has been said, that, namely,
the inference from a given existence (my own, for example) to the
existence of an unconditioned and necessary being is valid and
unassailable; that, in the second place, we must consider a being
which contains all reality, and consequently all the conditions of
other things, to be absolutely unconditioned; and admitting too,
that we have thus discovered the conception of a thing to which may
be attributed, without inconsistency, absolute necessity--it does not
follow from all this that the conception of a limited being, in
which the supreme reality does not reside, is therefore incompatible
with the idea of absolute necessity. For, although I do not discover
the element of the unconditioned in the conception of such a being--an
element which is manifestly existent in the sum-total of all
conditions--I am not entitled to conclude that its existence is
therefore conditioned; just as I am not entitled to affirm, in a
hypothetical syllogism, that where a certain condition does not
exist (in the present, completeness, as far as pure conceptions are
concerned), the conditioned does not exist either. On the contrary,
we are free to consider all limited beings as likewise unconditionally
necessary, although we are unable to infer this from the general
conception which we have of them. Thus conducted, this argument is
incapable of giving us the least notion of the properties of a
necessary being, and must be in every respect without result.

This argument continues, however, to possess a weight and an
authority, which, in spite of its objective insufficiency, it has
never been divested of. For, granting that certain responsibilities
lie upon us, which, as based on the ideas of reason, deserve to be
respected and submitted to, although they are incapable of a real or
practical application to our nature, or, in other words, would be
responsibilities without motives, except upon the supposition of a
Supreme Being to give effect and influence to the practical laws: in
such a case we should be bound to obey our conceptions, which,
although objectively insufficient, do, according to the standard of
reason, preponderate over and are superior to any claims that may be
advanced from any other quarter. The equilibrium of doubt would in
this case be destroyed by a practical addition; indeed, Reason would
be compelled to condemn herself, if she refused to comply with the
demands of the judgement, no superior to which we know--however
defective her understanding of the grounds of these demands might be.

This argument, although in fact transcendental, inasmuch as it rests
upon the intrinsic insufficiency of the contingent, is so simple and
natural, that the commonest understanding can appreciate its value.
We see things around us change, arise, and pass away; they, or their
condition, must therefore have a cause. The same demand must again
be made of the cause itself--as a datum of experience. Now it is
natural that we should place the highest causality just where we place
supreme causality, in that being, which contains the conditions of
all possible effects, and the conception of which is so simple as that
of an all-embracing reality. This highest cause, then, we regard as
absolutely necessary, because we find it absolutely necessary to
rise to it, and do not discover any reason for proceeding beyond it.
Thus, among all nations, through the darkest polytheism glimmer some
faint sparks of monotheism, to which these idolaters have been led,
not from reflection and profound thought, but by the study and natural
progress of the common understanding.

There are only three modes of proving the existence of a Deity, on
the grounds of speculative reason.

All the paths conducting to this end begin either from determinate
experience and the peculiar constitution of the world of sense, and
rise, according to the laws of causality, from it to the highest cause
existing apart from the world--or from a purely indeterminate
experience, that is, some empirical existence--or abstraction is
made of all experience, and the existence of a supreme cause is
concluded from a priori conceptions alone. The first is the
physicotheological argument, the second the cosmological, the third
the ontological. More there are not, and more there cannot be.

I shall show it is as unsuccessful on the one path--the empirical-
as on the other--the transcendental, and that it stretches its wings
in vain, to soar beyond the world of sense by the mere might of
speculative thought. As regards the order in which we must discuss
those arguments, it will be exactly the reverse of that in which
reason, in the progress of its development, attains to them--the order
in which they are placed above. For it will be made manifest to the
reader that, although experience presents the occasion and the
starting-point, it is the transcendental idea of reason which guides
it in its pilgrimage and is the goal of all its struggles. I shall
therefore begin with an examination of the transcendental argument,
and afterwards inquire what additional strength has accrued to this
mode of proof from the addition of the empirical element.

SECTION IV. Of the Impossibility of an Ontological Proof of
the Existence of God.

It is evident from what has been said that the conception of an
absolutely necessary being is a mere idea, the objective reality of
which is far from being established by the mere fact that it is a need
of reason. On the contrary, this idea serves merely to indicate a
certain unattainable perfection, and rather limits the operations
than, by the presentation of new objects, extends the sphere of the
understanding. But a strange anomaly meets us at the very threshold;
for the inference from a given existence in general to an absolutely
necessary existence seems to be correct and unavoidable, while the
conditions of the understanding refuse to aid us in forming any
conception of such a being.

Philosophers have always talked of an absolutely necessary being,
and have nevertheless declined to take the trouble of conceiving
whether--and how--a being of this nature is even cogitable, not to
mention that its existence is actually demonstrable. A verbal
definition of the conception is certainly easy enough: it is something
the non-existence of which is impossible. But does this definition
throw any light upon the conditions which render it impossible to
cogitate the non-existence of a thing--conditions which we wish to
ascertain, that we may discover whether we think anything in the
conception of such a being or not? For the mere fact that I throw
away, by means of the word unconditioned, all the conditions which
the understanding habitually requires in order to regard anything as
necessary, is very far from making clear whether by means of the
conception of the unconditionally necessary I think of something, or
really of nothing at all.

Nay, more, this chance-conception, now become so current, many
have endeavoured to explain by examples which seemed to render any
inquiries regarding its intelligibility quite needless. Every
geometrical proposition--a triangle has three angles--it was said,
is absolutely necessary; and thus people talked of an object which
lay out of the sphere of our understanding as if it were perfectly
plain what the conception of such a being meant.

All the examples adduced have been drawn, without exception, from
judgements, and not from things. But the unconditioned necessity of
a judgement does not form the absolute necessity of a thing. On the
contrary, the absolute necessity of a judgement is only a
conditioned necessity of a thing, or of the predicate in a
judgement. The proposition above-mentioned does not enounce that three
angles necessarily exist, but, upon condition that a triangle
exists, three angles must necessarily exist--in it. And thus this
logical necessity has been the source of the greatest delusions.
Having formed an a priori conception of a thing, the content of
which was made to embrace existence, we believed ourselves safe in
concluding that, because existence belongs necessarily to the object
of the conception (that is, under the condition of my positing this
thing as given), the existence of the thing is also posited
necessarily, and that it is therefore absolutely necessary--merely
because its existence has been cogitated in the conception.

If, in an identical judgement, I annihilate the predicate in
thought, and retain the subject, a contradiction is the result; and
hence I say, the former belongs necessarily to the latter. But if I
suppress both subject and predicate in thought, no contradiction
arises; for there is nothing at all, and therefore no means of forming
a contradiction. To suppose the existence of a triangle and not that
of its three angles, is self-contradictory; but to suppose the
non-existence of both triangle and angles is perfectly admissible.
And so is it with the conception of an absolutely necessary being.
Annihilate its existence in thought, and you annihilate the thing
itself with all its predicates; how then can there be any room for
contradiction? Externally, there is nothing to give rise to a
contradiction, for a thing cannot be necessary externally; nor
internally, for, by the annihilation or suppression of the thing
itself, its internal properties are also annihilated. God is
omnipotent--that is a necessary judgement. His omnipotence cannot be
denied, if the existence of a Deity is posited--the existence, that
is, of an infinite being, the two conceptions being identical. But
when you say, God does not exist, neither omnipotence nor any other
predicate is affirmed; they must all disappear with the subject, and
in this judgement there cannot exist the least self-contradiction.

You have thus seen that when the predicate of a judgement is
annihilated in thought along with the subject, no internal
contradiction can arise, be the predicate what it may. There is no
possibility of evading the conclusion--you find yourselves compelled
to declare: There are certain subjects which cannot be annihilated
in thought. But this is nothing more than saying: There exist subjects
which are absolutely necessary--the very hypothesis which you are
called upon to establish. For I find myself unable to form the
slightest conception of a thing which when annihilated in thought with
all its predicates, leaves behind a contradiction; and contradiction
is the only criterion of impossibility in the sphere of pure a
priori conceptions.

Against these general considerations, the justice of which no one
can dispute, one argument is adduced, which is regarded as
furnishing a satisfactory demonstration from the fact. It is
affirmed that there is one and only one conception, in which the
non-being or annihilation of the object is self-contradictory, and
this is the conception of an ens realissimum. It possesses, you say,
all reality, and you feel yourselves justified in admitting the
possibility of such a being. (This I am willing to grant for the
present, although the existence of a conception which is not
self-contradictory is far from being sufficient to prove the
possibility of an object.)* Now the notion of all reality embraces
in it that of existence; the notion of existence lies, therefore, in
the conception of this possible thing. If this thing is annihilated
in thought, the internal possibility of the thing is also annihilated,
which is self-contradictory.

[*Footnote: A conception is always possible, if it is not
self-contradictory. This is the logical criterion of possibility,
distinguishing the object of such a conception from the nihil negativum.
But it may be, notwithstanding, an empty conception, unless the objective
reality of this synthesis, but which it is generated, is demonstrated;
and a proof of this kind must be based upon principles of possible
experience, and not upon the principle of analysis or contradiction.
This remark may be serviceable as a warning against concluding, from
the possibility of a conception--which is logical--the possibility
of a thing--which is real.]

I answer: It is absurd to introduce--under whatever term
disguised--into the conception of a thing, which is to be cogitated
solely in reference to its possibility, the conception of its
existence. If this is admitted, you will have apparently gained the
day, but in reality have enounced nothing but a mere tautology. I ask,
is the proposition, this or that thing (which I am admitting to be
possible) exists, an analytical or a synthetical proposition? If the
former, there is no addition made to the subject of your thought by
the affirmation of its existence; but then the conception in your
minds is identical with the thing itself, or you have supposed the
existence of a thing to be possible, and then inferred its existence
from its internal possibility--which is but a miserable tautology.
The word reality in the conception of the thing, and the word existence
in the conception of the predicate, will not help you out of the
difficulty. For, supposing you were to term all positing of a thing
reality, you have thereby posited the thing with all its predicates
in the conception of the subject and assumed its actual existence,
and this you merely repeat in the predicate. But if you confess, as
every reasonable person must, that every existential proposition is
synthetical, how can it be maintained that the predicate of
existence cannot be denied without contradiction?--a property which
is the characteristic of analytical propositions, alone.

I should have a reasonable hope of putting an end for ever to this
sophistical mode of argumentation, by a strict definition of the
conception of existence, did not my own experience teach me that the
illusion arising from our confounding a logical with a real
predicate (a predicate which aids in the determination of a thing)
resists almost all the endeavours of explanation and illustration.
A logical predicate may be what you please, even the subject may be
predicated of itself; for logic pays no regard to the content of a
judgement. But the determination of a conception is a predicate, which
adds to and enlarges the conception. It must not, therefore, be
contained in the conception.

Being is evidently not a real predicate, that is, a conception of
something which is added to the conception of some other thing. It
is merely the positing of a thing, or of certain determinations in
it. Logically, it is merely the copula of a judgement. The proposition,
God is omnipotent, contains two conceptions, which have a certain
object or content; the word is, is no additional predicate--it
merely indicates the relation of the predicate to the subject. Now,
if I take the subject (God) with all its predicates (omnipotence being
one), and say: God is, or, There is a God, I add no new predicate to
the conception of God, I merely posit or affirm the existence of the
subject with all its predicates--I posit the object in relation to
my conception. The content of both is the same; and there is no
addition made to the conception, which expresses merely the
possibility of the object, by my cogitating the object--in the
expression, it is--as absolutely given or existing. Thus the real
contains no more than the possible. A hundred real dollars contain
no more than a hundred possible dollars. For, as the latter indicate
the conception, and the former the object, on the supposition that
the content of the former was greater than that of the latter, my
conception would not be an expression of the whole object, and would
consequently be an inadequate conception of it. But in reckoning my
wealth there may be said to be more in a hundred real dollars than
in a hundred possible dollars--that is, in the mere conception of
them. For the real object--the dollars--is not analytically
contained in my conception, but forms a synthetical addition to my
conception (which is merely a determination of my mental state),
although this objective reality--this existence--apart from my
conceptions, does not in the least degree increase the aforesaid
hundred dollars.

By whatever and by whatever number of predicates--even to the
complete determination of it--I may cogitate a thing, I do not in
the least augment the object of my conception by the addition of the
statement: This thing exists. Otherwise, not exactly the same, but
something more than what was cogitated in my conception, would
exist, and I could not affirm that the exact object of my conception
had real existence. If I cogitate a thing as containing all modes of
reality except one, the mode of reality which is absent is not added
to the conception of the thing by the affirmation that the thing
exists; on the contrary, the thing exists--if it exist at all--with
the same defect as that cogitated in its conception; otherwise not
that which was cogitated, but something different, exists. Now, if
I cogitate a being as the highest reality, without defect or
imperfection, the question still remains--whether this being exists
or not? For, although no element is wanting in the possible real
content of my conception, there is a defect in its relation to my
mental state, that is, I am ignorant whether the cognition of the
object indicated by the conception is possible a posteriori. And
here the cause of the present difficulty becomes apparent. If the
question regarded an object of sense merely, it would be impossible
for me to confound the conception with the existence of a thing. For
the conception merely enables me to cogitate an object as according
with the general conditions of experience; while the existence of
the object permits me to cogitate it as contained in the sphere of
actual experience. At the same time, this connection with the world
of experience does not in the least augment the conception, although
a possible perception has been added to the experience of the mind.
But if we cogitate existence by the pure category alone, it is not
to be wondered at, that we should find ourselves unable to present
any criterion sufficient to distinguish it from mere possibility.

Whatever be the content of our conception of an object, it is
necessary to go beyond it, if we wish to predicate existence of the
object. In the case of sensuous objects, this is attained by their
connection according to empirical laws with some one of my
perceptions; but there is no means of cognizing the existence of
objects of pure thought, because it must be cognized completely a
priori. But all our knowledge of existence (be it immediately by
perception, or by inferences connecting some object with a perception)
belongs entirely to the sphere of experience--which is in perfect
unity with itself; and although an existence out of this sphere cannot
be absolutely declared to be impossible, it is a hypothesis the
truth of which we have no means of ascertaining.

The notion of a Supreme Being is in many respects a highly useful
idea; but for the very reason that it is an idea, it is incapable of
enlarging our cognition with regard to the existence of things. It
is not even sufficient to instruct us as to the possibility of a being
which we do not know to exist. The analytical criterion of
possibility, which consists in the absence of contradiction in
propositions, cannot be denied it. But the connection of real
properties in a thing is a synthesis of the possibility of which an
a priori judgement cannot be formed, because these realities are not
presented to us specifically; and even if this were to happen, a
judgement would still be impossible, because the criterion of the
possibility of synthetical cognitions must be sought for in the
world of experience, to which the object of an idea cannot belong.
And thus the celebrated Leibnitz has utterly failed in his attempt
to establish upon a priori grounds the possibility of this sublime
ideal being.

The celebrated ontological or Cartesian argument for the existence
of a Supreme Being is therefore insufficient; and we may as well
hope to increase our stock of knowledge by the aid of mere ideas, as
the merchant to augment his wealth by the addition of noughts to his
cash account.

SECTION V. Of the Impossibility of a Cosmological Proof
of the Existence of God.

It was by no means a natural course of proceeding, but, on the
contrary, an invention entirely due to the subtlety of the schools,
to attempt to draw from a mere idea a proof of the existence of an
object corresponding to it. Such a course would never have been pursued,
were it not for that need of reason which requires it to suppose the
existence of a necessary being as a basis for the empirical regress,
and that, as this necessity must be unconditioned and a priori, reason
is bound to discover a conception which shall satisfy, if possible,
this requirement, and enable us to attain to the a priori cognition
of such a being. This conception was thought to be found in the idea
of an ens realissimum, and thus this idea was employed for the attainment
of a better defined knowledge of a necessary being, of the existence
of which we were convinced, or persuaded, on other grounds. Thus
reason was seduced from her natural courage; and, instead of
concluding with the conception of an ens realissimum, an attempt was
made to begin with it, for the purpose of inferring from it that
idea of a necessary existence which it was in fact called in to
complete. Thus arose that unfortunate ontological argument, which
neither satisfies the healthy common sense of humanity, nor sustains
the scientific examination of the philosopher.

The cosmological proof, which we are about to examine, retains the
connection between absolute necessity and the highest reality; but,
instead of reasoning from this highest reality to a necessary
existence, like the preceding argument, it concludes from the given.
unconditioned necessity of some being its unlimited reality. The track
it pursues, whether rational or sophistical, is at least natural,
and not only goes far to persuade the common understanding, but
shows itself deserving of respect from the speculative intellect;
while it contains, at the same time, the outlines of all the arguments
employed in natural theology--arguments which always have been, and
still will be, in use and authority. These, however adorned, and hid
under whatever embellishments of rhetoric and sentiment, are at bottom
identical with the arguments we are at present to discuss. This proof,
termed by Leibnitz the argumentum a contingentia mundi, I shall now
lay before the reader, and subject to a strict examination.

It is framed in the following manner: If something exists, an
absolutely necessary being must likewise exist. Now I, at least,
exist. Consequently, there exists an absolutely necessary being. The
minor contains an experience, the major reasons from a general
experience to the existence of a necessary being.* Thus this
argument really begins at experience, and is not completely a
priori, or ontological. The object of all possible experience being
the world, it is called the cosmological proof. It contains no
reference to any peculiar property of sensuous objects, by which
this world of sense might be distinguished from other possible worlds;
and in this respect it differs from the physico-theological proof,
which is based upon the consideration of the peculiar constitution
of our sensuous world.

[*Footnote: This inference is too well known to require more detailed
discussion. It is based upon the spurious transcendental law of
causality, that everything which is contingent has a cause, which,
if itself contingent, must also have a cause; and so on, till the
series of subordinated causes must end with an absolutely necessary
cause, without which it would not possess completeness.]

The proof proceeds thus: A necessary being can be determined only in
one way, that is, it can be determined by only one of all possible
opposed predicates; consequently, it must be completely determined
in and by its conception. But there is only a single conception of
a thing possible, which completely determines the thing a priori: that
is, the conception of the ens realissimum. It follows that the
conception of the ens realissimum is the only conception by and in
which we can cogitate a necessary being. Consequently, a Supreme Being
necessarily exists.

In this cosmological argument are assembled so many sophistical
propositions that speculative reason seems to have exerted in it all
her dialectical skill to produce a transcendental illusion of the most
extreme character. We shall postpone an investigation of this argument
for the present, and confine ourselves to exposing the stratagem by
which it imposes upon us an old argument in a new dress, and appeals
to the agreement of two witnesses, the one with the credentials of
pure reason, and the other with those of empiricism; while, in fact,
it is only the former who has changed his dress and voice, for the
purpose of passing himself off for an additional witness. That it
may possess a secure foundation, it bases its conclusions upon
experience, and thus appears to be completely distinct from the
ontological argument, which places its confidence entirely in pure
a priori conceptions. But this experience merely aids reason in making
one step--to the existence of a necessary being. What the properties
of this being are cannot be learned from experience; and therefore
reason abandons it altogether, and pursues its inquiries in the sphere
of pure conception, for the purpose of discovering what the properties
of an absolutely necessary being ought to be, that is, what among
all possible things contain the conditions (requisita) of absolute
necessity. Reason believes that it has discovered these requisites
in the conception of an ens realissimum--and in it alone, and hence
concludes: The ens realissimum is an absolutely necessary being. But
it is evident that reason has here presupposed that the conception
of an ens realissimum is perfectly adequate to the conception of a
being of absolute necessity, that is, that we may infer the
existence of the latter from that of the former--a proposition which
formed the basis of the ontological argument, and which is now
employed in the support of the cosmological argument, contrary to
the wish and professions of its inventors. For the existence of an
absolutely necessary being is given in conceptions alone. But if I
say: "The conception of the ens realissimum is a conception of this
kind, and in fact the only conception which is adequate to our idea
of a necessary being," I am obliged to admit, that the latter may be
inferred from the former. Thus it is properly the ontological argument
which figures in the cosmological, and constitutes the whole
strength of the latter; while the spurious basis of experience has
been of no further use than to conduct us to the conception of
absolute necessity, being utterly insufficient to demonstrate the
presence of this attribute in any determinate existence or thing.
For when we propose to ourselves an aim of this character, we must
abandon the sphere of experience, and rise to that of pure
conceptions, which we examine with the purpose of discovering
whether any one contains the conditions of the possibility of an
absolutely necessary being. But if the possibility of such a being
is thus demonstrated, its existence is also proved; for we may then
assert that, of all possible beings there is one which possesses the
attribute of necessity--in other words, this being possesses an
absolutely necessary existence.

All illusions in an argument are more easily detected when they
are presented in the formal manner employed by the schools, which we
now proceed to do.

If the proposition: "Every absolutely necessary being is likewise an
ens realissimum," is correct (and it is this which constitutes the
nervus probandi of the cosmological argument), it must, like all
affirmative judgements, be capable of conversion--the conversio per
accidens, at least. It follows, then, that some entia realissima are
absolutely necessary beings. But no ens realissimum is in any
respect different from another, and what is valid of some is valid
of all. In this present case, therefore, I may employ simple
conversion, and say: "Every ens realissimum is a necessary being."
But as this proposition is determined a priori by the conceptions
contained in it, the mere conception of an ens realissimum must
possess the additional attribute of absolute necessity. But this is
exactly what was maintained in the ontological argument, and not
recognized by the cosmological, although it formed the real ground
of its disguised and illusory reasoning.

Thus the second mode employed by speculative reason of demonstrating
the existence of a Supreme Being, is not only, like the first,
illusory and inadequate, but possesses the additional blemish of an
ignoratio elenchi--professing to conduct us by a new road to the
desired goal, but bringing us back, after a short circuit, to the
old path which we had deserted at its call.

I mentioned above that this cosmological argument contains a perfect
nest of dialectical assumptions, which transcendental criticism does
not find it difficult to expose and to dissipate. I shall merely
enumerate these, leaving it to the reader, who must by this time be
well practised in such matters, to investigate the fallacies
residing therein.

The following fallacies, for example, are discoverable in this
mode of proof: 1. The transcendental principle: "Everything that is
contingent must have a cause"--a principle without significance,
except in the sensuous world. For the purely intellectual conception
of the contingent cannot produce any synthetical proposition, like
that of causality, which is itself without significance or
distinguishing characteristic except in the phenomenal world. But in
the present case it is employed to help us beyond the limits of its
sphere. 2. "From the impossibility of an infinite ascending series
of causes in the world of sense a first cause is inferred"; a
conclusion which the principles of the employment of reason do not
justify even in the sphere of experience, and still less when an
attempt is made to pass the limits of this sphere. 3. Reason allows
itself to be satisfied upon insufficient grounds, with regard to the
completion of this series. It removes all conditions (without which,
however, no conception of Necessity can take place); and, as after
this it is beyond our power to form any other conceptions, it
accepts this as a completion of the conception it wishes to form of
the series. 4. The logical possibility of a conception of the total
of reality (the criterion of this possibility being the absence of
contradiction) is confounded with the transcendental, which requires
a principle of the practicability of such a synthesis--a principle
which again refers us to the world of experience. And so on.

The aim of the cosmological argument is to avoid the necessity of
proving the existence of a necessary being priori from mere
conceptions--a proof which must be ontological, and of which we feel
ourselves quite incapable. With this purpose, we reason from an actual
existence--an experience in general, to an absolutely necessary
condition of that existence. It is in this case unnecessary to
demonstrate its possibility. For after having proved that it exists,
the question regarding its possibility is superfluous. Now, when we
wish to define more strictly the nature of this necessary being, we
do not look out for some being the conception of which would enable
us to comprehend the necessity of its being--for if we could do this,
an empirical presupposition would be unnecessary; no, we try to
discover merely the negative condition (conditio sine qua non),
without which a being would not be absolutely necessary. Now this
would be perfectly admissible in every sort of reasoning, from a
consequence to its principle; but in the present case it unfortunately
happens that the condition of absolute necessity can be discovered
in but a single being, the conception of which must consequently
contain all that is requisite for demonstrating the presence of
absolute necessity, and thus entitle me to infer this absolute
necessity a priori. That is, it must be possible to reason conversely,
and say: The thing, to which the conception of the highest reality
belongs, is absolutely necessary. But if I cannot reason thus--and
I cannot, unless I believe in the sufficiency of the ontological
argument--I find insurmountable obstacles in my new path, and am
really no farther than the point from which I set out. The
conception of a Supreme Being satisfies all questions a priori
regarding the internal determinations of a thing, and is for this
reason an ideal without equal or parallel, the general conception of
it indicating it as at the same time an ens individuum among all
possible things. But the conception does not satisfy the question
regarding its existence--which was the purpose of all our inquiries;
and, although the existence of a necessary being were admitted, we
should find it impossible to answer the question: What of all things
in the world must be regarded as such?

It is certainly allowable to admit the existence of an
all-sufficient being--a cause of all possible effects--for the purpose
of enabling reason to introduce unity into its mode and grounds of
explanation with regard to phenomena. But to assert that such a
being necessarily exists, is no longer the modest enunciation of an
admissible hypothesis, but the boldest declaration of an apodeictic
certainty; for the cognition of that which is absolutely necessary
must itself possess that character.

The aim of the transcendental ideal formed by the mind is either
to discover a conception which shall harmonize with the idea of
absolute necessity, or a conception which shall contain that idea.
If the one is possible, so is the other; for reason recognizes that
alone as absolutely necessary which is necessary from its
conception. But both attempts are equally beyond our power--we find
it impossible to satisfy the understanding upon this point, and as
impossible to induce it to remain at rest in relation to this

Unconditioned necessity, which, as the ultimate support and stay
of all existing things, is an indispensable requirement of the mind,
is an abyss on the verge of which human reason trembles in dismay.
Even the idea of eternity, terrible and sublime as it is, as
depicted by Haller, does not produce upon the mental vision such a
feeling of awe and terror; for, although it measures the duration of
things, it does not support them. We cannot bear, nor can we rid
ourselves of the thought that a being, which we regard as the greatest
of all possible existences, should say to himself: I am from
eternity to eternity; beside me there is nothing, except that which
exists by my will; whence then am I? Here all sinks away from under
us; and the greatest, as the smallest, perfection, hovers without stay
or footing in presence of the speculative reason, which finds it as
easy to part with the one as with the other.

Many physical powers, which evidence their existence by their
effects, are perfectly inscrutable in their nature; they elude all
our powers of observation. The transcendental object which forms the
basis of phenomena, and, in connection with it, the reason why our
sensibility possesses this rather than that particular kind of
conditions, are and must ever remain hidden from our mental vision;
the fact is there, the reason of the fact we cannot see. But an
ideal of pure reason cannot be termed mysterious or inscrutable,
because the only credential of its reality is the need of it felt by
reason, for the purpose of giving completeness to the world of
synthetical unity. An ideal is not even given as a cogitable object,
and therefore cannot be inscrutable; on the contrary, it must, as a
mere idea, be based on the constitution of reason itself, and on
this account must be capable of explanation and solution. For the very
essence of reason consists in its ability to give an account, of all
our conceptions, opinions, and assertions--upon objective, or, when
they happen to be illusory and fallacious, upon subjective grounds.

Detection and Explanation of the Dialectical Illusion in
all Transcendental Arguments for the Existence of a
Necessary Being.

Both of the above arguments are transcendental; in other words, they
do not proceed upon empirical principles. For, although the
cosmological argument professed to lay a basis of experience for its
edifice of reasoning, it did not ground its procedure upon the
peculiar constitution of experience, but upon pure principles of
reason--in relation to an existence given by empirical
consciousness; utterly abandoning its guidance, however, for the
purpose of supporting its assertions entirely upon pure conceptions.
Now what is the cause, in these transcendental arguments, of the
dialectical, but natural, illusion, which connects the conceptions
of necessity and supreme reality, and hypostatizes that which cannot
be anything but an idea? What is the cause of this unavoidable step
on the part of reason, of admitting that some one among all existing
things must be necessary, while it falls back from the assertion of
the existence of such a being as from an abyss? And how does reason
proceed to explain this anomaly to itself, and from the wavering
condition of a timid and reluctant approbation--always again
withdrawn--arrive at a calm and settled insight into its cause?

It is something very remarkable that, on the supposition that
something exists, I cannot avoid the inference that something exists
necessarily. Upon this perfectly natural--but not on that account
reliable--inference does the cosmological argument rest. But, let me
form any conception whatever of a thing, I find that I cannot cogitate
the existence of the thing as absolutely necessary, and that nothing
prevents me--be the thing or being what it may--from cogitating its
non-existence. I may thus be obliged to admit that all existing things
have a necessary basis, while I cannot cogitate any single or
individual thing as necessary. In other words, I can never complete
the regress through the conditions of existence, without admitting
the existence of a necessary being; but, on the other hand, I cannot
make a commencement from this being.

If I must cogitate something as existing necessarily as the basis of
existing things, and yet am not permitted to cogitate any individual
thing as in itself necessary, the inevitable inference is that
necessity and contingency are not properties of things themselves-
otherwise an internal contradiction would result; that consequently
neither of these principles are objective, but merely subjective
principles of reason--the one requiring us to seek for a necessary
ground for everything that exists, that is, to be satisfied with no
other explanation than that which is complete a priori, the other
forbidding us ever to hope for the attainment of this completeness,
that is, to regard no member of the empirical world as
unconditioned. In this mode of viewing them, both principles, in their
purely heuristic and regulative character, and as concerning merely
the formal interest of reason, are quite consistent with each other.
The one says: "You must philosophize upon nature," as if there existed
a necessary primal basis of all existing things, solely for the
purpose of introducing systematic unity into your knowledge, by
pursuing an idea of this character--a foundation which is
arbitrarily admitted to be ultimate; while the other warns you to
consider no individual determination, concerning the existence of
things, as such an ultimate foundation, that is, as absolutely
necessary, but to keep the way always open for further progress in
the deduction, and to treat every determination as determined by some
other. But if all that we perceive must be regarded as conditionally
necessary, it is impossible that anything which is empirically given
should be absolutely necessary.

It follows from this that you must accept the absolutely necessary
as out of and beyond the world, inasmuch as it is useful only as a
principle of the highest possible unity in experience, and you
cannot discover any such necessary existence in the would, the
second rule requiring you to regard all empirical causes of unity as
themselves deduced.

The philosophers of antiquity regarded all the forms of nature as
contingent; while matter was considered by them, in accordance with
the judgement of the common reason of mankind, as primal and
necessary. But if they had regarded matter, not relatively--as the
substratum of phenomena, but absolutely and in itself--as an
independent existence, this idea of absolute necessity would have
immediately disappeared. For there is nothing absolutely connecting
reason with such an existence; on the contrary, it can annihilate it
in thought, always and without self-contradiction. But in thought
alone lay the idea of absolute necessity. A regulative principle must,
therefore, have been at the foundation of this opinion. In fact,
extension and impenetrability--which together constitute our
conception of matter--form the supreme empirical principle of the
unity of phenomena, and this principle, in so far as it is empirically
unconditioned, possesses the property of a regulative principle.
But, as every determination of matter which constitutes what is real
in it--and consequently impenetrability--is an effect, which must have
a cause, and is for this reason always derived, the notion of matter
cannot harmonize with the idea of a necessary being, in its
character of the principle of all derived unity. For every one of
its real properties, being derived, must be only conditionally
necessary, and can therefore be annihilated in thought; and thus the
whole existence of matter can be so annihilated or suppressed. If this
were not the case, we should have found in the world of phenomena
the highest ground or condition of unity--which is impossible,
according to the second regulative principle. It follows that
matter, and, in general, all that forms part of the world of sense,
cannot be a necessary primal being, nor even a principle of
empirical unity, but that this being or principle must have its
place assigned without the world. And, in this way, we can proceed
in perfect confidence to deduce the phenomena of the world and their
existence from other phenomena, just as if there existed no
necessary being; and we can at the same time, strive without ceasing
towards the attainment of completeness for our deduction, just as if
such a being--the supreme condition of all existences--were
presupposed by the mind.

These remarks will have made it evident to the reader that the ideal
of the Supreme Being, far from being an enouncement of the existence
of a being in itself necessary, is nothing more than a regulative
principle of reason, requiring us to regard all connection existing
between phenomena as if it had its origin from an all-sufficient
necessary cause, and basing upon this the rule of a systematic and
necessary unity in the explanation of phenomena. We cannot, at the
same time, avoid regarding, by a transcendental subreptio, this formal
principle as constitutive, and hypostatizing this unity. Precisely
similar is the case with our notion of space. Space is the primal
condition of all forms, which are properly just so many different
limitations of it; and thus, although it is merely a principle of
sensibility, we cannot help regarding it as an absolutely necessary
and self-subsistent thing--as an object given a priori in itself. In
the same way, it is quite natural that, as the systematic unity of
nature cannot be established as a principle for the empirical
employment of reason, unless it is based upon the idea of an ens
realissimum, as the supreme cause, we should regard this idea as a
real object, and this object, in its character of supreme condition,
as absolutely necessary, and that in this way a regulative should be
transformed into a constitutive principle. This interchange becomes
evident when I regard this supreme being, which, relatively to the
world, was absolutely (unconditionally) necessary, as a thing per
se. In this case, I find it impossible to represent this necessity
in or by any conception, and it exists merely in my own mind, as the
formal condition of thought, but not as a material and hypostatic
condition of existence.

SECTION VI. Of the Impossibility of a Physico-Theological Proof.

If, then, neither a pure conception nor the general experience of an
existing being can provide a sufficient basis for the proof of the
existence of the Deity, we can make the attempt by the only other
mode--that of grounding our argument upon a determinate experience
of the phenomena of the present world, their constitution and
disposition, and discover whether we can thus attain to a sound
conviction of the existence of a Supreme Being. This argument we shall
term the physico-theological argument. If it is shown to be
insufficient, speculative reason cannot present us with any
satisfactory proof of the existence of a being corresponding to our
transcendental idea.

It is evident from the remarks that have been made in the
preceding sections, that an answer to this question will be far from
being difficult or unconvincing. For how can any experience be
adequate with an idea? The very essence of an idea consists in the
fact that no experience can ever be discovered congruent or adequate
with it. The transcendental idea of a necessary and all-sufficient
being is so immeasurably great, so high above all that is empirical,
which is always conditioned, that we hope in vain to find materials
in the sphere of experience sufficiently ample for our conception,
and in vain seek the unconditioned among things that are conditioned,
while examples, nay, even guidance is denied us by the laws of empirical

If the Supreme Being forms a link in the chain of empirical
conditions, it must be a member of the empirical series, and, like
the lower members which it precedes, have its origin in some higher
member of the series. If, on the other hand, we disengage it from the
chain, and cogitate it as an intelligible being, apart from the series
of natural causes--how shall reason bridge the abyss that separates
the latter from the former? All laws respecting the regress from
effects to causes, all synthetical additions to our knowledge relate
solely to possible experience and the objects of the sensuous world,
and, apart from them, are without significance.

The world around us opens before our view so magnificent a spectacle
of order, variety, beauty, and conformity to ends, that whether we
pursue our observations into the infinity of space in the one
direction, or into its illimitable divisions in the other, whether
we regard the world in its greatest or its least manifestations-
even after we have attained to the highest summit of knowledge which
our weak minds can reach, we find that language in the presence of
wonders so inconceivable has lost its force, and number its power to
reckon, nay, even thought fails to conceive adequately, and our
conception of the whole dissolves into an astonishment without power
of expression--all the more eloquent that it is dumb. Everywhere
around us we observe a chain of causes and effects, of means and ends,
of death and birth; and, as nothing has entered of itself into the
condition in which we find it, we are constantly referred to some
other thing, which itself suggests the same inquiry regarding its
cause, and thus the universe must sink into the abyss of
nothingness, unless we admit that, besides this infinite chain of
contingencies, there exists something that is primal and
self-subsistent--something which, as the cause of this phenomenal
world, secures its continuance and preservation.

This highest cause--what magnitude shall we attribute to it? Of
the content of the world we are ignorant; still less can we estimate
its magnitude by comparison with the sphere of the possible. But
this supreme cause being a necessity of the human mind, what is
there to prevent us from attributing to it such a degree of perfection
as to place it above the sphere of all that is possible? This we can
easily do, although only by the aid of the faint outline of an
abstract conception, by representing this being to ourselves as
containing in itself, as an individual substance, all possible
perfection--a conception which satisfies that requirement of reason
which demands parsimony in principles, which is free from
self-contradiction, which even contributes to the extension of the
employment of reason in experience, by means of the guidance
afforded by this idea to order and system, and which in no respect
conflicts with any law of experience.

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