"Die Zwitscher-Maschine" le Paul KLEE 1922
§ 2 - FÀS NA STRÌ EADAR IDÈAL NA PEARSANTACHD AGUS IDÈAL AN T-SAIDHEINS SA CHIAD CHEUM DE SMAOIN KANT GU RUIGE ÒRAID IN-SHEALBHAIL 1770.
§ 2 - THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE IDEAL OF PERSONALITY AND THAT OF SCIENCE IN THE FIRST PHASE OF KANT'S THOUGHT UP UNTIL HIS INAUGURAL ORATION OF 1770.
All the philosophical motives of Humanistic thought during the rationalistic and transitional periods were focused in KANT's mind. In his struggle for release it was the mutual tension of these motives that gave rise to a new conception of the Humanist transcendental ground-Idea, which aimed at saving both the ideal of science and that of personality by bringing against them the actio finium regundorum.
The motives of the preceding Humanistic philosophy. The manner in which KANT wrestles with their mutual tension. The influence of Pietism.
Even in his pre-critical period KANT struggled with various mutually antagonistic motives. In the main they included: the proud structure of NEWTON'S system of natural science, in whose philosophic attitude the Enlightenment found the incarnation of its own spirit; the Leibnizian-Wolffian metaphysics of the mathematical ideal of science, in which the free human personality was proclaimed to be a function of creative mathematical thought and a relatively perfect stage of development in the system of monads; the epistemological psychologism of HUME, which was detrimental to both the ideal of personality and that of science; and, last but not least, ROUSSEAU'S passionate plea for the liberation of the Humanistic ideal of personality from the tyrannical domination of the science-ideal.
In addition, the religious influence of Puritanism and Pietism, that had impressed itself on his entire education, continued to rule KANT'S rigorous attitude with respect to sensory human nature, without having any affinity with the Biblical conception of sin. In his transition to the critical standpoint this influence was to acquire a conclusive significance.
No Humanistic thinker previous to KANT had struggled so intensely with the inner polarity in the basic structure of the Humanistic cosmonomic Idea. No one had understood the religious significance of the ideals of science and of personality as he did.
His "fondness of metaphysics" had its deepest root in the hope that he would be able to find a scientific foundation for his moral and religious convictions. Yet, even in his pre-critical period, under the influence of HUME and especially of ROUSSEAU, he acquired the insight that the speculative metaphysics of the mathematical science-ideal was necessarily incompetent to aid him in the fulfilment of his desire. Even in this phase he became confident that the sovereign freedom of human personality is not to be grasped in the categories of mathematical natural scientific thought.
In his natural scientific conception, KANT remained a faithful adherent of the ideal of science; his reverence for the spirit of the "Enlightenment".
After all, KANT was from the very beginning an enthusiastic follower of this very science-ideal. He had been so captivated by the spirit of the "Enlightenment" that even in his critical period he still spoke of it with an extreme reverence. His short answer to the question "What is Enlightenment?", given in 1784, begins with his confession of faith in the Humanistic Idea of science: "Enlightenment is the departure of man from his self-incurred blame of minority. Minority is the inability to use one's understanding without the direction of another... Sapere aude! Pluck up courage to use your own understanding! this is consequently the device of the Enlightenment." No church can contractually bind sovereign human thought to a dogma: "I say: this is quite impossible. Such a contract drawn up in order to keep mankind for ever from all further enlightenment, is simply null and void" (1).
(1) KANT's Werke (Groszherzog Wilhelm Ernst Ausg.), Bnd. I, pp. 163 and 167. Henceforth I shall cite from this edition. I shall only use the edition of CASSIRER in order to supplement.
In the German text the quoted passages read as follows: "Aufklärung ist der Ausgang des Menschen aus seiner selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit. Unmündigkeit ist das Unvermögen, sich seines Verstandes ohne Leitung eines Anderen zu bedienen... Sapere aude! Habe Mut, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen! ist also des Wahlspruch der Aufklärung..." Keine Kirche kann "berechtigt sein, sich eidlich auf ein gewisses unveränderliches Symbol zu verpflichten, um so eine unaufhörliche Obervormundschaft über jedes seiner Glieder, und vermittelst ihrer über das Volk zu führen, und diese sogar zu verewigen. Ich sage: das ist ganz unmöglich. Ein solcher Kontrakt, der auf immer alle weitere Aufklärung vom Menschengeschlechte abzuhalten geschlossen würde, ist schlechterdings null und nichtig."
Even the inception of KANT's philosophical development was characterized by a strong faith in the science-ideal in its mechanistic conception. In his hypothesis concerning the origin of the planetary system, developed in the natural scientific treatise of his first period Allgemeine Naturgeschichte des Himmels (1755), he extended this mechanistic conception to the most extreme consequences. Here he repeated the proud motto of DESCARTES' work "Le Monde", in which the passion to dominate nature found its classic expression: "Give me matter, I will build a world from it" (2).
( 2) Preface, Allgem. Naturgesch. des Himmels (General natural history of the Heaven), W.W. Bnd. II, pp. 267: "Gebet mir Materie, ich will eine Welt daraus bauen." To which KANT added: "das ist, gebet mir Materie, ich will euch zeigen, wie eine Welt daraus entstehen soll" ["that is, give me matter, I will show you how from it a world is to proceed."]
Throughout the rest of his life KANT remained faithful to this science-ideal. He never repudiated the spirit of NEWTON whom he admired so strongly.
Even when HUME'S epistemological psychologism temporarily gained the ascendency in KANT'S thought, the resulting sceptical attitude could only momentarily shake his firmly established faith in the sovereignty of mathematical and natural scientific thought over the entire "empirical" reality "in space and time".
KANT'S radical doubt was limited to the sovereignty of mathematical thought insofar as it involved itself with the most profound questions of life and of the world. It arose only with respect to the metaphysics of the mathematical science-ideal. KANT abandoned the latter insofar as he sought a definite answer to the questions in which the ideal of personality was directly involved.
The influence of ROUSSEAU and HUME.
At this point he was deeply moved by ROUSSEAU's proclamation of the freedom of human personality from its subjection to science.
WINDELBAND correctly sought in the influence of ROUSSEAU a decisive turning-point in KANT's philosophical thought. Through ROUSSEAU's influence, indeed, the division between the theoretical and the practical element in his philosophy was accomplished in an ever increasingly radical fashion (3).
( 3) Tr.'s note: By employing our terminology, this division can he more accurately expressed as the division between the ideal of science and that of personality. D. H. F.
The decisive influence of ROUSSEAU upon KANT's conception of the value of personality clearly appears from the famous treatise entitled "Träume eines Geistersehers erläutert durch Träume der Metaphysik" (Dreams of a visionary explained by dreams of metaphysics) (1766). KANT himself bore witness to the revolution in his thinking in his statement: "I myself am an investigator by nature. I feel all the force of the thirst after knowledge and the restless urge to make progress therein, but also the satisfaction at every advance. There was a time when I believed that all this could be to the honour of mankind and I disdained the mob that do not know anything. ROUSSEAU has set me right. This blind preference is disappearing; I learn how to honour men, and I would esteem myself much more useless than the common labourers, if I did not believe, that this view can give to all the rest a value on which to found the rights of the human race" (4).
( 4) "Ich bin selbst aus Neigung ein Forscher. Ich fühle den ganzen Durst nach Erkenntnis und die begierige Unruhe, darin weiter zu kommen, oder auch die Zufriedenheit bei jedem Fortschritte. Er war eine Zeit, da ich glaubte, dieses alles könnte die Ehre der Menschheit machen und ich verachtete den Pöbel, der von nichts weisz. ROUSSEAU hat mich zurecht gebracht. Dieser verblendete Vorzug verschwindet; ich lerne die Menschen ehren, und würde mich viel unnützer finden, als die gemeinen Arbeiter, wenn ich nicht glaubte, dasz diese Betrachtung allen übrigen einen Wert geben könnte, die Rechte der Menschheit herzustellen."
It is the voice of the ethical and religious spirit of ROUSSEAU's Discours sur les sciences et les arts" that we hear in this remarkable writing (5).
(5) See Träume, first part, chapt. 2, p. 115. (W.W. Vol. I) in which the moral motives "which move the human heart" are empirically reduced to "moral feeling".
In the "Pratical conclusion from the whole treatise" KANT writes: "But true wisdom is the companion of simplicity, and because with it the heart" (here taken in the sense of moral feeling) "lays down the law to the understanding, it generally renders the elaborate equipment of learning superfluous, and its goals do not need such means that can never be in the power of all men." "When science has run its course, it naturally arrives at the point of a modest distrust and, angry with itself, it says: How many things there are which I do not understand. But reason ripened to wisdom by experience speaks in the mouth of SOCRATES in the midst of the wares of an annual fair with a cheerful mind: How many things there are that I do not need at all!" (6).
( 6) Ibid., p. 159 and p. 155: "Allein die wahre Weisheit ist die Begleiterin der Einfalt, und da bei ihr das Herz (read "das sittliche Gefühl"!) dem Verstande die Vorschrift gibt, so macht sie gemeiniglich die grosze Zurüstungen der Gelehrsamkeit entbehrlich, und ihre Zwecke bedürfen nicht solcher Mittel, die nimmermehr in aller Menschen Gewalt sein können." "Wenn die Wissenschaft ihren Kreis durchlaufen hat, so gelangt sie natürlicherweise zu dem Punkte eines bescheidenen Mistrauens und sagt, unwillig über rieh selbst: Wie viel Dinge gibt es doch, die ich nicht einsehe! Aber die durch Erfahrung gereifte Vernunft, welche zur Weisheit wird, spricht in dem Munde des SOKRATES mitten unter den Waren eines Jahrmarkts mit heiteren Seele: Wie viel Dinge gibt es doch, die ich alle nicht brauche!"
ROUSSEAU's Discours also ended in this strain. With this statement the domination of the mathematical science-ideal over the ideal of personality in KANT's thought was definitely broken.
For in his humorous criticism of the "visionary" SWEDENBORG, KANT turned against the entire rationalistic metaphysics. He actually dealt a blow to the metaphysics of the Humanist science-ideal, as conceived of by LEIBNIZ and WOLFF and to which he himself had formerly adhered. Henceforth, to KANT, this metaphysics lost the right to speak on questions of morals and religion.
Just as in ROUSSEAU and in HUME, the ideal of personality in KANT, though only for a time, withdrew into the function of feeling. Henceforth, under the influence of HUME, theoretical metaphysics acquired in an ever increasing degree the positive significance of a critical theory concerning the foundations and limits of mathematical knowledge of nature.
Even in the so-called "empirist" phase of KANT'S philosophical development, the influence of HUME was only restricted in scope. KANT was no more capable of embracing definitively HUME'S sceptical attitude with regard to the foundations of the mathematical science-ideal, than he was of following ROUSSEAU'S complete degradation of the latter.
He never took seriously HUME'S attempt to establish the ground of the natural scientific judgment of causality in the laws of association which pertain to the connection of our successive psychical Ideas.
KANT was soon to assign to theoretical metaphysics the task of founding the objective universal validity of mathematical natural scientific thought in opposition to HUME'S sceptical criticism.
At the same time, however, in opposition to rationalistic metaphysics, he sought definitely to limit mathematical and causal thinking to the sensory-aspect of experience.
I shall now endeavour to present a more detailed examination of these different phases in KANT's development up to his famous inaugural oration.
KANT'S first period: KANT as an independent supporter of the metaphysics of LEIBNIZ and WOLFF. The primacy of the mathematical science-ideal in the first conception of his transcendental ground-Idea.
From the very beginning KANT was conscious of a certain discrepancy between mathematics and metaphysics in the sense in which the latter was defended by the Leibnizian-Wolffian school. Even in his Physische Monadologie (1756), he expounded the difference between the Leibnizian metaphysics and the mathematical conception of the problem of space.
In the discourse with which he began his career as special university lecturer in philosophy, KANT opposed WOLFF's attempt to derive the principle of causality from the logical principium contradictionis. This discourse, KANT's first metaphysical treatise, was entitled de Principiorum primorum cognitionis metaphysicae nova dilucidatio (1755). It attacked the Wolffian conception with CRUSIUS' distinction between "logical ground" and "ground of being" (Realgrund) and rejected the ontological proof for the existence of God, which concluded from logical grounds to the actual existence of a perfect divine Being.
Both these treatises were written during KANT's first period in which he still held to the possibility of a theoretical metaphysics in the Wolffian sense; a metaphysics which in a purely analytical way would furnish apriori knowledge of reality from mere concepts and also fancied itself competent to answer questions pertaining to the ideal of personality.
Even in this period KANT had gained the insight that the "metaphysical" root and origin of reality cannot be derived from the logical unthinkableness of the opposite. Even at this time he rejected the conception of LEIBNIZ and WOLFF that a metaphysical-logical possibility lies at the foundation of metaphysical reality.
According to KANT, metaphysical being can be ascertained by logical thought only in the judgment of identity, but it cannot be proved to be necessary from the principium contradictionis. That is why KANT laid great emphasis upon the logical superiority of the principle of identity to the principle of logical contradiction.
KANT'S second period: the methodological line of demarcation between mathematics and metaphysics. The influence of NEWTON and English psychologism.
In his second period, which extended from 1760 to 1765, these insights were intensified, so that they led to the drawing of a provisional line of demarcation between the method of mathematics and that of metaphysics.
KANT's views in this period are characterized especially by the following writings: Der einzig mögliche Beweisgrund zu einer Demonstration des Daseins Gottes (1763), Versuch, den Begriff der negativen Gröszen in die Weltweisheit einzuführen (1763), and Untersuchung über die Deutlichkeit der Grundsätze der natürlichen Theologie and Moral (1763, published 1764), the last of which was written in answer to the prize question posed by the Academy of Science of Berlin. KANT noted a distinction between the mathematical and metaphysical method of acquiring knowledge on two points, namely, with respect to the significance of definitions and the form of demonstration. Mathematical definitions are synthetical in contradistinction to metaphysical definitions which are analytical. Mathematics creates its own "Gegenstand" in arbitrary concepts. The being taken into consideration by it does not arise from anything other than the mathematical concept.
Therefore, in mathematics definitions come first, whereas in metaphysics the concepts of things are given. By means of thought the latter cannot create any new reality. Metaphysics can only logically analyze the concepts of concrete facts and things given in experience into their simplest elements, in order to make them clear and distinct. In metaphysics, therefore, unlike mathematics, definitions nearly always must be placed at the end rather than at the beginning. KANT pointed metaphysics to the method of mathematical physics as it was formulated by NEWTON: "At bottom the true method of metaphysics is identical with that introduced by NEWTON in physics and which had such useful results there" (7).
( 7) "Die ächte Methode der Metaphysik ist mit derjenigen im Grunde einerlei, die NEWTON in der Naturwissenschaft einführte und die daselbst von so nutzbaren Folgen war."
By so doing he unequivocally sided with NEWTON against the mathematical idealism of LEIBNIZ and WOLFF. According to NEWTON, knowledge commences with sense phenomena, from which by means of induction and analysis, scientific thought must ascend to the causes of these phenomena, which are expressed in natural laws.
NEWTON'S famous pronouncement: "Hypotheses non fingo" demanded, that the natural laws formulated with the aid of mathematical thought must in the last analysis be subjected to the test of experience. The causes of phenomena cannot be devised by thinking. Only sense experience can offer us the necessary material for knowledge. Even mathematical thought must therefore remain bound to the confines of sense experience, if it is to furnish us with veritable knowledge of reality. By the acceptance of this method of mathematical natural science for metaphysics, KANT implicitly acknowledged, that the line of demarcation, which he made between the method of mathematics and that of philosophy in his writings during the year 1763, could not be definitive and fundamental.
His opinion was only that for metaphysics the time to follow the synthetical method of geometry had not yet come. As soon as "the analysis will have furnished clear and thorougly understood concepts, the synthesis of the simplest cognitions will be able to subsume under itself the complex, just as in mathematics" (8).
(8) Untersuchung über die Deutlichkeit der Grundsätze der natürlichen Theologie und Moral [Enquiry concerning the clearness of the basic principles of natural theology and ethics], W.W. Bnd. IV, pp. 299 (Conclusion of the "second consideration").
In other words, the standpoint of KANT during this period is still that of the English and French Enlightenment. As also appears from the other writings of this phase, the science-ideal, at least partially, still possesses the primacy. This ideal, however, is no longer conceived of in the abstract mathematical deductive sense of DESCARTES, but rather in the sense in which it was formulated by NEWTON. In his first metaphysical treatise, it was this conception of the science-ideal which caused KANT to reject the freedom of the will, thereby manifesting its supremacy over the ideal of personality.
The rupture between the metaphysics of the science-ideal and moral philosophy in this period of KANT's thought.
Nevertheless, during this time, under the influence of English psychologism a break began to show between the theoretical metaphysics of the science-ideal and moral philosophy. This break reveals itself in the treatise concerning the clarity of the basic principles of natural theology and ethics which I have just cited.
Here KANT made a sharp distinction between the knowing faculty, through which we are able to represent that which is true, and the power to distinguish that which is good. And together with SHAFTESBURY, HUTCHESON and HUME, KANT sought the latter faculty in the moral sentiment: "It is a matter of the understanding to analyze the complex and confused concept of the good and to render it distinct," KANT observes, "by demonstrating how it originates from more simple impressions of the good. If once this latter, however, is simple, the judgment: this is good, is wholly incapable of demonstration, and an immediate effect of the consciousness of the feeling of the pleasure we take in the Idea of the object" (9).
( 9) 1 W.W. End. IV, S. 311 (Fourth Consideration § 2): "Es ist ein Geschäft des Verstandes, den zusammengesetzen und verworrenen Begriff des Guten auf zu lösen und deutlich zu machen, indem er zeigt, wie er aus einfachern Empfindungen des Guten entspringe. Allein ist dieses einmal einfach, so ist das Urteil: dieses ist gut, völlig unerweislich und eine unmittelbare Wirkung von dem Bewusztsein des Gefühls der Lust mit der Vorstellung des Gegenstandes."
The first principles of "natural theology" are indeed capable of the greatest philosophical evidence, insofar as they are metaphysical principles of knowledge, as for example, the principle that an absolutely existing perfect Supreme Being must lie at the foundation of all possible existing things, or the principle of the omnipresence of this Supreme Being.
In contrast to these, however, (like all basic principles of ethics in general) the first principles of this theology are only capable of moral certainty, insofar as they are concerned with God's freedom in action, His justice and goodness.
From this we see that in moral philosophy KANT had taken the path of psychologism. This fact is also confirmed by his Beobachtungen über das Gefühl des Schönen und Erhabenen (Considerations on the feeling of the beautiful and the sublime), published in 1764, where in the footsteps of SHAFTESBURY, ethics is psychologically and aesthetically grounded in the "feeling of beauty." During this period in KANT's thought, the first division began to arise between the ideal of science and the still psychologically comprehended ideal of personality, although this line of demarcation was not yet radically drawn.
In this phase, in which KANT orientated theoretical metaphysics to mathematical natural science, he also proceeded critically to examine the contradiction between the latter and the logicistic-mathematical method of CHRISTIAN WOLFF, who thought that by mere conceptual analysis he could obtain apriori knowledge of reality and its causal relations.
Influence of CRUSIUS.
The constant confusions between logical and real states of affairs in the ruling logicistic metaphysics were now analyzed with a real critical furor. KANT made CRUSIUS' fundamental distinction between the logical ground of knowledge and the ground of being into the very foundation for this critical investigation.
Following in the footsteps of his teacher RUDIGER, but with much more solid means, CHR. AUG. CRUSIUS (1715-75) had been the foremost German opponent of the geometrical method in metaphysics. CRUSIUS had related the material principles of knowledge to the sensory side of experience. Upon the same grounds he also combated LEIBNIZ' monadology with a famous argument that since has very frequently been employed: if, as LEIBNIZ taught, the essence of each monad were to consist in the fact that the latter represents to itself all the other monads, an absolute concept of the essence of any single monad is not given. If, however, nothing is absolute it is also contradictory to assume something which is relative (10).
(10) Entwurf der notwendigen Vernunftwahrheiten, wiefern sie den zufälligen entgegengesetzt werden [Project of the necessary truths of Reason, in how far they are opposed to the contingent ones] (3th ed. 1745)
In other words, the necessary relations may not be absolutized. CRUSIUS' fundamental distinction between the grounds of knowledge and the grounds of being and his further division of the latter into causal ones and mere grounds of existence (whereby he simultaneously distinguished the physical from merely mathematical ones) undoubtedly exerted considerable influence upon the further development of German philosophy.
Such men as LAMBERT and MENDELSOHN developed these distinctions further, while SCHOPENHAUER's treatise "Uber die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde (Concerning the four-fold root of the principle of sufficient ground) is practically a faithful reproduction of CRUSIUS' schema.
In his just-mentioned treatise, KANT recognized the great importance of this schema and made ample use of it. In his Versuch den Begriff der negativen Gröszen in die Weltweisheit einzuführen (Attempt to introduce the concept of negative magnitudes in philosophy), he affirmed that in physics the terms negative and positive have an entirely different significance from that ascribed to them in logic and mathematics. In physics the mutual neutralizing of physical determinations (forces) leads to rest, whereas the mutual neutralizing of logical determinations leads to a logical contradiction and with that to a logical nothingness (11).
(11) Versuch den Begriff etc. first chapt. (W.W. Vol. IV), p. 239.
Third period; the dominating influence of HUME and ROUSSEAU. Complete emancipation of the ideal of personality from the metaphysics of the science-ideal.
As ALOIS RIEHL has convincingly demonstrated (12), during the following period of his development KANT was for a short time very close to HUME'S scepticism with respect to the foundations of the mathematical ideal of science. At the same time the influence of ROUSSEAU led him to the radical emancipation of the science-ideal from the grasp of theoretical metaphysics.
(12 ) RIELH, Der phil. Kritizismus I (3e Aufl.), S. 306ff.
This phase in the evolution of his thought is best expressed in the writing which I have mentioned above, Träume eines Geisterehers.
In this period (between 1764 and 1766) KANT introduced the distinction between analytical judgments which in the predicate do not add anything to the concept of the grammatical subject, and synthetical judgments which do so. This distinction which later on was to form the foundation of the entire Critique of Pure Reason, had not yet been introduced in his treatise concerning the "negativen Gröszen" (1763) (13).
(13) See CASSIRER, Erkenntnisproblem II, p. 612ff.
To be sure, the synthetical method of the mathematical formation of concepts had, at this earlier stage, been placed in opposition to the analytical method of metaphysics. But this only meant to signify that mathematics creates its own "Gegenstand" in its concepts. Mathematical judgments, which develop only the content given in the definitions, were still conceived of as merely logical. In the period with which we are now dealing, however, the distinction has assumed a new sense.
Following HUME, KANT could for the present find no other solution than to reduce all synthetical propositions to the sensory aspect of experience, thus qualifying them all as "empirical judgments" (14). Thereby, in fact, scepticism momentarily predominated with respect to the universally valid foundations of mathematical physics.
(14) Cf. Reflexionen (ERDM.), p. 92 and 500 in CASSIRER II, p. 614.
The physical principle of causality, as a "synthetic judgment", does not possess universal validity or necessity. The universality which we ascribe to it, rests upon a generalizing of the sensory perception of the sequence of causes and effects.
Nevertheless, this psychologistic standpoint was abandoned almost immediately after KANT realized, that mathematical judgments, as "synthetical", must possess an apriori universal validity which cannot be grounded in the senses. It was abandoned when he considered that scepticism with respect to the foundations of mathematical natural science would first of all touch the very foundations of mathematics (15).
( 15) Reflexionen 496. See also H. J. DE VLEESCHAUWER, L'évolution de la pensée Kantienne (1939) p. 48.
Henceforth, the question arises as to whether or not apriori principles of form are included in all synthetic judgments, principles which themselves possessing a synthetic character lie at the foundation of all mathematical and natural scientific knowledge, and as such are the necessary prerequisites for all experience.
The transitional phase in KANT'S thought until 1770.
Henceforth, the development of KANT's thought is very complicated. Its course can only be reconstructed in some degree by making use of KANT's philosophical journal, published by ERDMANN, Reflexionen Kants zur kritischen Philosophie supplemented by the "stray notes" of KANT of the Duisburg inheritance, first edited by REICKE and later on by TH. HAERING (16). But it must be granted that every reconstruction, in view of the scarcity of available material, must retain a hypothetical moment.
(16 ) I could not consult the Reflexionen myself and cite them from CASSIRER, Erkenntnisproblem II.
From the source material in question, it appears, that by this time the problem concerning the relation of space and time to real things had been placed in the centre of KANT's interest. In a treatise entitled, Vom ersten Grunde des Unterschiedes der Gegenden im Raume (About the first ground of the difference of situations in space) (17), which he wrote in 1768, KANT defended NEWTON's and EULER's mathematical doctrine of "absolute pure space" against LEIBNIZ' conception, which held that space is nothing but an apriori "ordre des coexistences possibles", an apriori concept of relation.
(17) It is not easy to translate the German term "Gegend" in the sense here intended by KANT. In his introductory considerations KANT refers to LEIBNIZ' analysis situs; but he remarks that he is not able to say in how far the subject of his treatise has affinity with the branch of mathematics which LEIBNIZ meant. KANT defines the "Gegend" as the "relation of the system of spatial positions (Lagen) of a thing to the absolute world-space". As the simplest examples of "Gegende" he refers to the distinctions of above and beneath, right and left, ahead and astern of us, in which our body is the point of reference in relation to three planes of the three-dimensional space which intersect each other rectangularly. I think the English term "situation" is the best I can find to translate KANT's "Gegend" in the sense here explained.
KANT showed, with respect to incongruent symmetrical figures, that two things in the ordering of their parts can be completely alike without the one being capable of covering the other spatially. Consequently, space cannot be the product of the relations of material parts with respect to each other, but it is rather the prerequisite for the relations of spatial things to each other.
In this writing KANT was concerned exclusively with the significance of NEWTON's and EULER's doctrine for geometry and mathematical natural science; he never wished to be held accountable for the metaphysical speculation which NEWTON joined to his theory of absolute space as sensorium Dei.
At the end of his treatise, he only mentioned the difficulties which are inherent in the concept of absolute space, "if one wishes to conceive its reality by means of rational concepts, whereas the inner sense is satisfied with grasping it in intuition. But this difficulty manifests itself everywhere, when we want to philosophize at all about the first data of our knowledge, but it is never so decisive as that which presents itself when the consequences of an assumed concept contradict the most apparent experience" (18).
(18) Von dem ersten Grande des Unterschiedes der Gegenden im Raume (W.W. Bnd. IV) p. 325: "wenn man seine Realität, welche dem inneren Sinne anschauend genug ist, durch Vernunftideen fassen will. Aber diese Beschwerlichkeit zeigt sich allerwärts, wenn man über die ersten data unserer Erkenntnis noch philosophieren will, aber sie ist niemals so entscheidend als diejenige, welche sich hervortut, wenn die Folgen eines angenommenen Begriffs der augenscheinlichsten Erfahrung widersprechen."
Thus KANT expressly removed the metaphysical side of NEWTON's doctrine in order to limit himself to the data of experience.
The problem of the mathematical antinomies. LEIBNIZ' and NEWTON's conception of space and time.
Meanwhile, the very difficulties of this conception of space were to be of an enormous importance for KANT's further development. The thorough consideration of the problem concerning the relationship of absolute space and time to the universum of corporeal things led him to the discovery of the mathematical antinomies of actual infinity which were to play such an important role in the central part of the Critique of Pure Reason. Quite naturally, we shall deal with them later on.
By reason of these reflections, KANT finally became convinced that space and time cannot be absolute realities in NEWTON's and EULER's sense. Therefore, for the time being he accepted LEIBNIZ' doctrine, which had proclaimed them to be apriori forms of pure thought, "notions" or "conceptus intellectus puri"; notions, however, of which we first become clearly aware on the occasion of our sensory perceptions of corporeal things (19).
(19) In contradistinction to the earlier view, more recent investigation has made it very likely, that we are not here dealing with a merely external influence of LEIBNIZ, but rather with an influence explainable only by the internal development of KANT'S own thought.
For while KANT was in the middle of his reflections upon the exact relation between sensibility and the logical function of thought with respect to knowledge, the major epistemological work of LEIBNIZ, the famous Nouveaux Essais sur l'Entendement Humain appeared.
In it LEIBNIZ treated the same problem, and, as we have seen earlier, he sought its solution in the fact that the contents of experience virtually contain the very apriori concepts of mathematical metaphysical thought. Consequently, the latter do not originate from the sensory elements of the Idea, rather they are an originally obscure and unconscious possession of the mind. Even though sense experience acts as an intermediary, the mind becomes conscious of them only in clear conceptual apperception.
Nevertheless, LEIBNIZ had given a metaphysical turn to his epistemology. The apriori concepts of the mind enable us to know the "eternal truths", the metaphysical order of the cosmos; they reveal to us the laws of the "noumenon", of the „Dinge an sich", whereas sense experience, as a lower function of knowledge, supplies us with knowledge only of the sensory world of phenomena, in which world only contingent truths hold good.
Although originally KANT had accepted LEIBNIZ' doctrine of the creative apriori concepts of mind, he could at this time no longer ascribe any value to their metaphysical application. Even in this phase of his development he had planned a schema of apriori basic concepts, although this project did not yet correspond to any specific methodical point of view. In this schema, space and time originally functioned next to the concepts of actuality, possibility and necessity, sufficient reason, unity and multiplicity, part, totality and nothing, complex and simple, change and motion, substance and accident, force and activity. In the Reflexion 513, written between 1768 and 1769, KANT reckoned all these concepts to ontology, in its true sense related to the rest of philosophy as mathesis pura to mathesis applicata (20). Nevertheless, he could not remain satisfied with this view. For, as we shall see, he was driven further in his thought by the activity of the ideal of personality.
(20) CASSIRER II, 623/4
(Herman Dooyeweerd, New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol I/ Part 2/ Chapt 4/§2 pp 330-344)