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Kant™s transcendental idealism embraces one form of skepticism, that
concerning knowledge of things in themselves. But Kant is not an
empirical idealist: for him, spatiotemporal appearances are more than
ideas in individual perceivers™ minds. He also believes synthetic a
priori knowledge makes it possible to know necessary features of
these objects. This puts him at odds with traditional skeptics, who
deny that we can know anything other than our own mental states.
On their view all beliefs about things that exist independently of
representation, including the enduring subject, are doubtful. Kant™s
answers to metaphysical skepticism also address skepticism about
mathematics, logic, and reason in general. For all forms of skepticism
the only solution is to appeal to the necessary conditions of thought
and experience. And thus was born Kant™s innovative strategy, the
transcendental deduction.
The method of transcendental deduction is ad hominem in begin-
ning with premises acceptable to the skeptic. These include the fol-
lowing claims:
1. I can recognize my own mental states, ascribing them to myself,
in “I think.”
2. I can identify the content of these states, and recognize the order
in which I apprehend them.
3. I can think the difference between a subjective order of apprehen-
sion and an objective order of states of affairs.
4. My sensory impressions occur in a uni¬ed time and a uni¬ed space.
5. I can make judgments that purport to be true.
Notice that none of these claims expressly commits one to knowledge
of anything except one™s mental states and a self that has them. Clearly
Analytic of Principles II
198
Hume accepts all of them, either explicitly or implicitly. First, his the-
ory of ideas presupposes the ¬rst three claims. Both impressions and
ideas are “perceptions of the mind.” And even though Hume attacks
belief in an enduring self in the Treatise, in the Appendix he appar-
ently recognizes that his own account of mental faculties commits
him to the existence of something having perceptions. Not only can
Hume identify the content of perceptions, his theory of the process
of association assumes that he can recognize the order of apprehen-
sion, as well as distinguishing subjective from objective orders. Like
empiricists generally, Hume has dif¬culty explaining space and time,
but there is no reason to think he would reject claim 4. And of course
his entire theory commits him to proposition 5.
Kant™s strategy is to bootstrap his arguments for objective knowl-
edge on the above assumptions about one™s representations. Tran-
scendental deductions show that recognizing certain features of
“subjective” states presupposes cognitive processes importing objec-
tivity into experience. In the Aesthetic, Kant bases his theory of the
forms of intuition in part on the fact that experience occurs in a
uni¬ed spatiotemporal framework. The Transcendental Deduction
of the categories incorporates all of the above claims. The arguments
of the Analogies and the Refutation also assume that we are capa-
ble of locating apprehended states of affairs in objective time. Given
Hume™s theory of association, it is hard to see how he could deny
these assumptions. In short, Kant tries to show that the skepticism
implied by empirical idealism is self-defeating.
Kant™s strategy depends essentially on the relation between judg-
ment and the notion of objectivity. As chapter 4 explains, Kant was
the ¬rst philosopher to analyze concepts in terms of their judgmental
function. The logical forms of judgment as well as the very notion of
an object of judgment are presupposed in taking sensory experience
to be of objects. The key move is to connect the notion of an object,
and the distinction between the objective and the subjective, with
the objective validity of judgment. This consists in two features: ¬rst,
judgments are complex representations of objects or states of affairs,
and second, they are capable of truth values. Anyone who judges,
including the skeptic, implicitly recognizes the notions of truth and
falsity. These notions are essentially objective, since even assertions
about one™s subjective states are true or false for everyone.
Analytic of Principles II 199
Further, objective states of affairs must be rule-governed. Represen-
tations of states that obtain for everyone must conform to something
outside my representation of it. Thus the objectivity of judgment
entails that the states about which one judges must be subject to rules
importing necessity into our thought. Now in order for judgments
to provide knowledge, they must also have objective reality. And to
do this they must be connected to experience that is intersubjectively
available. Kant argues that the intersubjective nature of experience
depends on the fact that it is, at the ¬rst order, of spatial objects. The
permanence of space guarantees that things given in it are more than
any individual perceiver™s apprehension of them. By virtue of their
spatial properties and locations, appearances are not reducible to any
(¬nite) collection of representations.
The issues raised by skepticism and Kant™s response to them are
complex. However one evaluates his arguments, Kant™s brilliance lies
in seeing that what is usually considered “subjective” experience has
its own objectivity. The genius of the Transcendental Deduction
consists in “bootstrapping,” that is, justifying ¬rst-order beliefs on
second-order, re¬‚ective claims about mental states. Whether Kant
puts skepticism to rest, he certainly presents a viable alternative to
the failed methods of foundationalism and the in¬nite regress.

8. su mm a ry
In completing Kant™s deductions of the pure principles of the under-
standing, the Analogies of Experience and the Postulates of Empiri-
cal Thought offer his strongest arguments against skepticism. In the
Analogies, the principles correlated with the relational categories,
Kant justi¬es the metaphysical concepts of substance, cause, and
causal interaction by showing that they are required to locate states
of affairs in global, objective time. The Postulates describe the con-
ditions required to apply the modal concepts in judging the real
possibility, actuality, and necessity of states of affairs. This section
also contains the Refutation of Idealism, added in the B edition,
where Kant argues against the Cartesian view that self-knowledge
is more certain than knowledge of the external world. These argu-
ments taken together constitute a direct response to skeptical attacks
on metaphysical knowledge of objects independent of perceivers. By
Analytic of Principles II
200
showing that principles of substance and causation are required to
produce a coherent system of empirical knowledge, Kant completes
his positive account of the functions of the understanding. At the
same time he demonstrates why legitimate metaphysical principles
cannot provide knowledge of things in themselves, thus reinforcing
the case for transcendental idealism.
ch ap t e r 8

Transcendental illusion I: rational psychology




In the remaining sections of the Critique, Kant has two main pur-
poses. Most of the text concerns errors arising from the misuse of
the understanding and reason, the basis of the traditional disputes
of metaphysics. This discussion begins with two bridging sections
at the end of the Transcendental Analytic, one clarifying the dis-
tinction between phenomena and noumena, the other titled On the
Amphiboly of the Concepts of Re¬‚ection. It then proceeds with the
Transcendental Dialectic, containing Kant™s theory of transcenden-
tal illusion. The main discussion concerns the arguments of rational
psychology (the Paralogisms), rational cosmology (the Antinomies),
and rational theology (the existence of God). In an Appendix at the
end of the Transcendental Dialectic Kant then turns to his second
purpose, his theory of the legitimate functions of theoretical reason
as the highest intellectual faculty. Here he explains the role of tran-
scendental ideas and maxims of reason in scienti¬c knowledge. The
last part of the Critique, the Transcendental Doctrine of Method,
discusses the methods of mathematical construction, and serves as a
transition to Kant™s account of practical reason. Chapters 8, 9, and
10 will treat Kant™s theory of error. Chapter 11 discusses Kant™s pos-
itive accounts of the role of reason in empirical and mathematical
cognition.

1 . errors of the und e rsta ndi ng
In the section On the Ground of the Distinction of all Objects in
General into Phenomena and Noumena, and the Appendix On the
Amphiboly of the Concepts of Re¬‚ection, Kant explains how extend-
ing pure concepts of the understanding beyond appearances leads to
201
Transcendental illusion I
202
spurious metaphysical conclusions. Although adding nothing new,
he offers an interesting critique of Leibniz™s rationalist metaphysics.
In particular, Kant shows how Leibniz™s application of the principle
of the Identity of Indiscernibles to things in general misapplies the
pure concepts, an error arising from a mistaken view of the relation
between the sensibility and the understanding.
Leibniz used the terms “phenomena” and “noumena” to distinguish
between objects of the senses and objects of the intellect. Accord-
ing to Leibniz™s theory of ideas, sense perceptions are merely con-
fused or indistinct concepts. But there is a correspondence between
our sensory representations and the noumenal objects as they are
in themselves. Leibniz calls space and time “well-founded phenom-
ena” to mark this correspondence.1 For Leibniz it is possible to know
noumena, the intelligible substances or monads giving rise to appear-
ances, through intellectual intuition. Thus like all rationalist meta-
physics, Leibniz™s monadology is a form of transcendental realism.
Kant begins the section on phenomena and noumena by distin-
guishing between transcendental and empirical uses of pure concepts.
In its transcendental use, a concept is applied to things in general and
in themselves; in its empirical use it applies only to objects of experi-
ence (A238“9/B298). In his previous arguments Kant established three
essential conclusions. First, human intuition is sensible; only through
the sensibility are objects given to us. Second, human understanding is
discursive and not intuitive; our intellect has no independent access
to existing things. And third, pure concepts of the understanding
acquire cognitive signi¬cance only when schematized in spatiotem-
poral terms. Hence any use of them beyond spatiotemporal objects
is illegitimate. Kant sums up these points at A248/B305: “The pure
categories, without formal conditions of sensibility, have merely tran-
scendental signi¬cance, but are not of any transcendental use.” The
point turns on distinguishing two senses of “transcendental.” The
transcendental signi¬cance of pure concepts refers to their role as nec-
essary conditions of experience. Their transcendental use, however,
refers to their application beyond appearances. This latter gives rise
to transcendental realism, that is, meaningless claims about things in
themselves or objects “in general.”

1 See my Space and Incongruence, 31“8, for a discussion of these views.
Transcendental illusion I 203
Contrasting legitimate with illegitimate uses of pure concepts pro-
duces two notions of the noumenon: one negative or “limiting,” the
other positive. In essence, Kant™s negative notion of the noumenon
is his notion of the thing in itself. This is the legitimate correlate to
the notion of appearance. Recall that in the B edition Preface, Kant
claims that although we cannot know things in themselves, “we at
least must be able to think them . . . For otherwise there would follow
the absurd proposition that there is an appearance without anything
that appears” (Bxxvi). Here he repeats the point: “it also follows nat-
urally from the concept of an appearance in general that something
must correspond to it which is not in itself appearance” (A251“2).2
Since things in themselves are unknowable, however, this notion has
no cognitive content. It is the completely indeterminate thought of
whatever exists considered independently of all relations to knowers.
Kant labels it “negative” and “problematic” to indicate that we cannot
make any meaningful predications of such things.
Now this negative notion has to be distinguished from two others:
the idea of the transcendental object and the positive notion of the
noumenon. The former is the legitimate thought, through pure con-
cepts, of the object of sensible intuition. As we have seen, it is not
an object of cognition but only “the concept of an object in general,
which is determinable through the manifold of those appearances”
(A250“1). As the correlate of the t.u.a., the idea of the transcendental
object is the merely formal thought of the object of the manifold
about which one judges.
A more serious error confuses the negative notion of the noumenon
with the positive notion of an object of a non-sensible intuition.
This is the basis of all rationalist metaphysics, which presupposes
that the intellect can intuit things in themselves. In the B edition,
Kant says this error occurs when the understanding takes the “unde-
termined concept of a being of understanding,” for a determinate
concept of something the understanding could know (B307). In
short, illegitimate metaphysics commits a scope error, shifting the
negation from the (legitimate) notion of the noumenon as “not an
object of our sensible intuition” to the positive notion of “an object of

2 I discuss this point in Space and Incongruence, 105“12. On my reading, Kant errs in relating
the thing in itself to the cause of appearance or the transcendental object, as at A288/B344.
Transcendental illusion I
204
a non-sensible intuition” (emphases mine, B307). As a corollary, Kant
argues that it is a mistake to divide objects into two worlds, objects of
the senses and objects of the understanding: “The division of objects
into phaenomena and noumena, and of the world into a world of sense
and a world of understanding, can therefore not be permitted at all”
(B311).3
The Appendix On the Amphiboly of the Concepts of Re¬‚ection
develops this analysis in terms of four distinctions Kant attributes to
transcendental re¬‚ection. In the ¬rst Critique, Kant treats transcen-
dental re¬‚ection primarily as the process enabling one to perform the
critique of pure reason. Not until the Critique of the Power of Judgment
of 1790 does he explain the role of re¬‚ective judgment in aesthetics
and science. Here Kant™s main point is to show how Leibniz misuses
the concepts of transcendental re¬‚ection.
Kant criticizes Leibniz by analyzing concepts of re¬‚ection fun-
damental to all philosophical analysis. In logical re¬‚ection the
understanding considers concepts by four distinctions: identity and
difference; agreement and opposition; inner and outer; and matter
and form. Identity and difference concern the content of concepts.
By agreement and opposition Kant means whether they are logically
compatible. Inner and outer have to do with whether a concept is
relational or not. Connected to this is the distinction between mat-
ter and form, or the determinable and the determinate. As we have
seen, the form is the way in which the matter is related, which is
also equivalent to giving the matter speci¬cation, or determining a
determinable. In the logic of concepts, the determinable is that which
can be made more speci¬c. A genus, for example, is determined by
enumerating the species falling under it. In logical re¬‚ection these
comparisons bear only on concepts rather than on objects.
Transcendental re¬‚ection consists in comparing “representations
in general with the cognitive power in which they are situated,” and
distinguishing “whether they [belong] to the pure understanding or to
pure intuition” (A261/B317). Kant™s analyses of the forms of intuition
and the categories are exercises of transcendental re¬‚ection. In this

3 This passage apparently rules out the “two-worlds” reading of Kant™s distinction between
appearances and things in themselves, espoused by Kemp Smith and others.
Transcendental illusion I 205
act the faculty doing the comparing is reason rather than the under-
standing. And because the representation is referred to the source of
the cognition, Kant says the comparison “goes to the objects them-
selves” since it “contains the ground of the possibility of the objective
comparison of the representations to each other.” He also emphasizes
that “transcendental re¬‚ection is a duty from which no one can escape
if he would judge anything about things a priori” (A263/B319). Kant
has shown, for example, that sensible intuition yields both a matter
(sensation) and the pure forms in which the matter is given, whereas
the understanding provides the determining concepts through which
this manifold is related to objects.
Leibnizian metaphysics illustrates the errors that arise when con-
cepts of re¬‚ection are mistakenly applied to things in themselves.
Leibniz™s system depends on the principle of the Identity of Indis-
cernibles, that things that are indiscernible in all their properties
are numerically identical. Thus there cannot be two numerically
distinct things that are similar in all respects. On Kant™s view this
principle is true of concepts: concepts that are entirely similar in
their contained concepts are identical. He makes the point with ref-
erence to objects of the understanding: “If an object is presented
to us several times, but always with the same inner determinations
(qualitas et quantitas), then it is always exactly the same if it counts
as an object of pure understanding” (A263/B319). But the princi-
ple does not apply to appearances because of the sensible forms in
which they are given. Space and time are homogeneous wholes whose
parts are numerically distinct although qualitatively similar. Kant
says

multiplicity and numerical difference are already given by space itself as the
condition of outer appearances. For a part of space, even though it might be
completely similar and equal to another, is nevertheless outside of it, and is
on that account a different part . . . and this must therefore hold of everything
that exists simultaneously in the various positions in space. (A264/B320)

Thus two particles of matter could be entirely similar in all their
properties, but numerically distinct by virtue of their distinct spatio-
temporal locations.
Transcendental illusion I
206
Leibniz misuses other concepts of re¬‚ection, in assuming that inner
determinations always precede outer determinations, and that mat-
ter always precedes form. The former claim means that relations of
things presuppose their non-relational properties. The latter means
that the determinable matter is independent of its organization. Leib-
niz expressed both views in his theory that relations among things are
ideal, meaning they depend on non-relational properties, and have no
independent metaphysical status. This is the reason Leibniz describes
space and time as “well-founded phenomena.” As with the Identity
of Indiscernibles, Kant claims these principles would be true were
we able to know things by intellectual intuition: “As object of the
pure understanding . . . every substance must have inner determi-
nations and forces that pertain to its inner reality” (A265/B321). The
same holds for matter and form: “The understanding . . . demands
¬rst that something be given (at least in the concept) in order to
be able to determine it in a certain way. Hence in the concept of
pure understanding matter precedes form” (A267/B322“3). Because
relations between concepts depend on their non-relational content,
for concepts the inner precedes the outer, and matter precedes form.
But pure concepts apply only to objects of intuition, which appear
in space and time. Now as the Aesthetic shows, space and time are
logically independent of the manifold given in them. For appear-
ances, then, form precedes matter. Moreover, because space and time
are systems of relations underlying all properties of appearances, “We
know substance in space only through forces that are ef¬cacious in it”
(A265/B321). In other words, all knowledge of objects is of relations:
“a persistent appearance in space (impenetrable extension) contains
mere relations and nothing absolutely internal, and nevertheless can
be the primary substratum of all outer perception” (A284/B340). The
Remark to the Amphiboly of the Concepts of Re¬‚ection develops
these ideas in more detail.
Like all rationalist metaphysics, Leibniz™s monadology rests on two
fundamental errors. First, he makes cognitive claims about things in
themselves or noumena in the positive sense. And second, he attempts
to derive a priori truths about noumenal reality by misapplying con-
cepts originating in the understanding and in logical re¬‚ection. In the
Dialectic, Kant explains the transcendental illusion motivating these
Transcendental illusion I 207
errors, and applies his analysis to metaphysical disputes concerning
the soul, the world, and God.

2. tra nsc ende n ta l i llusi on
Transcendental illusion arises from the misuse of theoretical reason. As
the highest intellectual function, theoretical reason uni¬es the judg-
ments of the understanding in empirical cognition. Like the under-
standing, theoretical reason has both a logical and a real use. In its
logical or justi¬catory use, reason infers conclusions from premises.
In its real use, reason provides principles directing the search for
empirical knowledge. Scienti¬c reasoning involves explaining natural
phenomena and subsuming empirical generalizations or laws under
higher laws. Although Kant postpones the details of its legitimate
function until the Appendix of the Dialectic, here he brie¬‚y sketches
how the misuse of reason leads to illegitimate metaphysics.4
The Transcendental Dialectic begins with a general account of
error. Because the understanding, if left to its natural operations,
could not make erroneous judgments, all error or illusion involves
some interfering factor, namely “the unnoticed in¬‚uence of sensi-
bility on understanding, through which . . . the subjective grounds
of the judgment join with the objective ones, and make the latter
deviate from their destination” (A294“5/B350“1). Kant uses the anal-
ogy of opposing forces to illustrate how the sensibility can cause the
understanding to go astray. At A295/B352 he remarks that in empiri-
cal illusions, such as optical illusions, the imagination interferes with
“the empirical use of otherwise correct rules of the understanding.”
Although transcendental illusion does not always directly involve the
sensibility, it arises from con¬‚ating subjective with objective grounds
of judgment.
Kant next makes some confusing distinctions between the imma-
nent and transcendental uses of principles, and between the tran-
scendental use of a principle and a transcendent principle. The cat-
egories and principles of the understanding are “objective” rather
than transcendent, because they apply to objects. In their immanent
4 My discussion of the Dialectic relies heavily on Grier™s Kant™s Doctrine of Transcendental
Illusion.
Transcendental illusion I
208
(legitimate) use, they are restricted to objects of possible experience.
To apply them beyond experience, to things in themselves, would
be a (positive) transcendental use, which of course is illegitimate. A
transcendent principle, by contrast, is one “that takes away these limits,
which indeed bids us to overstep them” (A296/B353). As we shall see,
the ideas of reason and the principle(s) directing their use are “tran-
scendent principles” because they do not directly apply to objects.
Taking them to represent objects of any kind, whether appearances
or things in themselves, is an error. But because these transcendent
principles of reason are indispensable for empirical cognition, Kant
says they have a “subjective necessity.” Transcendental illusion occurs
when this subjective necessity is mistaken for the objective necessity
of principles of the understanding.
The section ends with the claim that transcendental illusion is as
“natural and unavoidable” as the optical illusions that the sea is higher
away from the shore than at the shore, and that the moon is larger
at the horizon. To some commentators this appears at odds with
his claim that the dialectical fallacies infecting metaphysical disputes
can be corrected by a critique of reason. As Michelle Grier argues,
however, it is possible to reconcile Kant™s claims by distinguishing the
inevitable transcendental illusion from the avoidable fallacies of the
understanding to which it gives rise.5 We shall return to this point
below.
Finally Kant turns to the analysis of theoretical reason. Recall that
in the metaphysical deduction Kant derives the categories from the
logical forms of judgment. Here he intends to show a similar rela-
tion between the pure transcendent ideas of reason and the logical
forms of syllogistic inference. Like the forms of judgment, rules of

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