Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Of Reason in General
By Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)
From ‘The Critique of Pure Reason’: Translation of Friedrich Max Müller

ALL our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds thence to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason, for working up the material of intuition and comprehending it under the highest unity of thought. As it here becomes necessary to give a definition of that highest faculty of knowledge, I begin to feel considerable misgivings. There is of reason, as there is of the understanding, a purely formal—that is, logical—use, in which no account is taken of the contents of knowledge; but there is also a real use, in so far as reason itself contains the origin of certain concepts and principles, which it has not borrowed either from the senses or from the understanding. The former faculty has been long defined by logicians as the faculty of mediate conclusions, in contradistinction to immediate ones (consequentiæ immediatæ); but this does not help us to understand the latter, which itself produces concepts. As this brings us face to face with the division of reason into a logical and a transcendental faculty, we must look for a higher concept for this source of knowledge, to comprehend both concepts; though, according to the analogy of the concepts of the understanding, we may expect that the logical concept will give us the key to the transcendental, and that the table of the functions of the former will give us the genealogical outline of the concepts of reason.  1
  In the first part of our transcendental logic we defined the understanding as the faculty of rules; and we now distinguish reason from it by calling it the faculty of principles.  2
  The term “principle” is ambiguous, and signifies commonly some kind of knowledge only that may be used as a principle; though in itself, and according to its origin, it is no principle at all. Every general proposition, even though it may have been derived from experience by induction, may serve as a major in a syllogism of reason; but it is not on that account a principle. Mathematical axioms—as for instance, that between two points there can be only one straight line—constitute even general knowledge a priori; and may therefore, with reference to the cases which can be brought under them, rightly be called principles. Nevertheless it would be wrong to say that this property of a straight line, in general and by itself, is known to us from principles, for it is known from pure intuition only.  3
  I shall therefore call it knowledge from principles, whenever we know the particular in the general by means of concepts. Thus every syllogism of reason is a form of deducing some kind of knowledge from a principle; because the major always contains a concept which enables us to know, according to a principle, everything that can be comprehended under the conditions of that concept. As every general knowledge may serve as a major in such a syllogism, and as the understanding supplies such general propositions a priori, these no doubt may, with reference to their possible use, be called principles.  4
  But if we consider these principles of the pure understanding in themselves, and according to their origin, we find that they are anything rather than knowledge from concepts. They would not even be possible a priori, unless we relied on pure intuition (in mathematics) or on conditions of a possible experience in general. That everything which happens has a cause, can by no means be concluded from the concept of that which happens; on the contrary, that very principle shows in what manner alone we can form a definite empirical concept of that which happens.  5
  It is impossible therefore for the understanding to supply us with synthetical knowledge from concepts; and it is really that kind of knowledge which I call principles absolutely; while all general propositions may be called principles relatively.  6
  It is an old desideratum, which at some time however distant may be realized, that instead of the endless variety of civil laws, their principles might be discovered; for thus alone the secret might be found of what is called simplifying legislation. Such laws, however, are only limitations of our freedom under conditions by which it always agrees with itself; they refer to something which is entirely our own work, and of which we ourselves are the cause, by means of these concepts. But that objects in themselves, as for instance material nature, should be subject to principles, and be determined according to mere concepts, is something, if not impossible, at all events extremely contradictory. But be that as it may,—for on this point we have still all investigations before us,—so much at least is clear, that knowledge from principles by itself is something totally different from mere knowledge of the understanding; which in the form of a principle may no doubt precede other knowledge, but which by itself, in so far as it is synthetical, is not based on mere thought, nor contains anything general according to concepts.  7
  If the understanding is a faculty for producing unity among phenomena according to rules, reason is the faculty for producing unity among the rules of the understanding according to principles. Reason therefore never looks directly to experience or to any object, but to the understanding; in order to impart a priori, through concepts, to its manifold kinds of knowledge, a unity that may be called the unity of reason, and is very different from the unity which can be produced by the understanding.  8
  This is a general definition of the faculty of reason, so far as it was possible to make it intelligible without the help of illustrations.  9

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.