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subject in which thoughts inhere implies nothing about the self as an
object, because we can know ourselves only as we appear to ourselves
in inner sense.
Moreover, applying the concept of substance to appearances pre-
supposes the schema of permanence in time. To know that I am
substance I would have to establish that “I, as a thinking being,
endure for myself, that naturally I neither arise nor perish “ this I
can by no means infer” (A349). And in the B edition: “if that con-
cept, by means of the term ˜substance,™ is to indicate an object that
can be given . . . then it must be grounded on a persisting intuition
as the indispensable condition of the objective reality of a concept”
(B412). At the end of the Paralogisms he says that determining the
subject of thinking as an object “cannot take place without inner
sense, whose intuition always makes available the object not as a
thing in itself but merely as appearance . . . It is in this latter that the
thinking self must now seek the conditions of the use of its logical
functions for categories of substance, cause, etc.” (B429“30). Thus
the major premise errs by misapplying the empirically signi¬cant
concept of substance to the thinking thing taken as an object in
general.
Now Kant does say at A350, “one can quite well allow the propo-
sition The soul is substance to be valid, if only one admits that
this concept . . . cannot teach us any of the usual conclusions of the
rationalistic doctrine of the soul.” What he means is that the concept
“substance” here has no real signi¬cance, but only logical signi¬cance
as the idea of a thing that can only be subject, and not predicated
of another thing. As Grier points out, Kant would accept the major
premise construed as follows: if x were an object of possible experi-
ence, then if x cannot be thought otherwise than as subject, x can
exist only as substance. In this formulation the concept of substance
can be legitimately applied to whatever “cannot be thought otherwise
than as subject” only because that concept is restricted to objects of
Transcendental illusion I
220
possible experience.11 But since the point of rational psychology is to
get behind the self as experienced, to the subject in itself, it ignores
this restriction. Kant rejects this major premise, then, both because
it presupposes that things in themselves are knowable, and because it
overlooks the necessary schema for applying the concept of substance.
Kant™s treatment of the remaining arguments follows directly from
these criticisms. Not only do they suffer from the same invalidity, but
their conclusions also depend on the ¬rst conclusion that the soul is
a substance.12 In the B edition these arguments are offered to prove
that the substantial soul is simple, numerically identical or a person,
and immaterial. From these characteristics the rational psychologist
goes on to conclude that the soul is immortal, which Kant considers
the basis for religion. Let us look brie¬‚y at each of these arguments.
The Second Paralogism argues that the soul or thinking subject is
a simple substance. Although Kant does not offer a separate version
in the B edition, the argument appears as follows in the A edition:
[1] That thing whose action can never be regarded as the concurrence
of many acting things, is simple.
[2] Now the soul, or the thinking I, is such a thing.
[3] Thus etc. (A351)
Following the pattern of the First Paralogism, the major premise
predicates simplicity of those objects in general whose actions can-
not be decomposed into parts. This is clearly a synthetic claim. The
minor premise states the tautology that the action of thinking cannot
be divided into parts. The argument concludes, invalidly, that the
thinking “I” is a simple substance. Kant emphasizes that although
it is an analytic truth that the “I” of “I think” is a logically simple
subject, it does not follow that the subject in itself, whatever it is,
must be absolutely simple. At A355 he concedes the second premise:
The proposition I am simple must be regarded as an immediate expression
of apperception, just as the supposed Cartesian inference cogito, ergo sum is
in fact tautological, since the cogito (sum cogitans) immediately asserts the
reality. But I am simple signi¬es no more than that this representation I
11 See Grier, Kant™s Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion, 162“3.
12 Other commentators offer different accounts of the invalidity of the arguments, and the
nature of the premises. See Ameriks, Kant™s Theory of Mind, and chapter 7 of Kitcher, Kant™s
Transcendental Psychology.
Transcendental illusion I 221
encompasses not the least manifoldness within itself, and that it is an absolute
(though merely logical) unity. (A355)
The B edition points out, similarly, that although the “I” of apper-
ception is logically simple and “cannot be resolved into a plurality,”
“that does not signify that the thinking I is a simple substance, which
would be a synthetic proposition” (B407“8). As the Transcendental
Deduction shows, formal self-awareness in thinking must be an abso-
lute unity because otherwise it could not produce a single complex
thought. But this uni¬ed self-awareness does not represent the think-
ing subject in itself. Claims about the subject or soul in itself are both
synthetic and unwarranted by experience:
The proposition “A thought can be only the effect of the absolute unity of
a thinking being” cannot be treated as analytic. For the unity of a thought
consisting of many representations is collective, and, as far as mere concepts
are concerned, it can be related to the collective unity of the substances
cooperating in it (as the movement of a body is the composite movement of
all its parts) just as easily as to the absolute unity of the subject. (A353)
In other words, we have no insight into the ultimate nature of what-
ever underlies our thinking. It is entirely possible that the logical
unity of thought could be produced by things that are composites
in themselves. This argument hearkens back to Locke™s response to
Descartes™s view of personal identity in the Essay Concerning Human
Understanding. We shall return to this point below.
The Third Paralogism attempts to establish the numerical identity
of the thinking subject from the logical identity of the “I” of “I
think.” In the A edition the major premise of the argument is, “What
is conscious of the numerical identity of its Self in different times,
is to that extent a person” (A361). The rest of the argument follows
the same pattern as the ¬rst two paralogisms, and Kant™s criticism
is likewise of a piece with the above. The major premise makes an
unwarranted synthetic claim about the subject as an object in itself;
the minor premise states the analytic truth that the logical subject of
thinking is conscious of its numerical identity in different times; and
the conclusion invalidly infers that the thinking subject in itself is
numerically identical. As with the previous paralogism, Kant™s reply
to this argument also shows the af¬nity between his and Locke™s views
on personal identity.
Transcendental illusion I
222
By personality Kant means “the possibility of a continuing con-
sciousness in an abiding subject,” even if interrupted (A365). It is
not clear here exactly what Kant takes this to imply, although, like
Locke, he tends to equate personality with concern for one™s interests
and one™s future state.13 This leads to the Lockean strategy mentioned
above. In the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke rejected
Descartes™s view that personal identity is based in the numerical iden-
tity of the mental substance. Although Locke™s own memory theory
has serious dif¬culties, he argued persuasively that retaining identity
of consciousness through a change of mental substance is suf¬cient for
personal identity. Since we have no empirical knowledge of the soul
or substratum underlying consciousness, we have no way of knowing
whether this substratum is identical through time.14 Now Kant makes
the same points in both the Second and Third Paralogisms. First, we
have no access to the thinking subject as such. Second, there is no
inconsistency in the idea that this substratum of the numerically iden-
tical “I think” could be composite or lack numerical identity: “despite
the logical identity of the I “ a change can go on that does not allow it
to keep its identity; and this even though . . . the identical-sounding
˜I™ is assigned to it, which . . . still keeps in view the thought of the
previous subject, and thus could also pass it along to the following
one” (A363). Like Locke, Kant envisages the possibility of a “mind-
swap” which maintains continuity of consciousness. In a footnote
he compares this idea to the way composite substances can commu-
nicate motion in a uni¬ed way in impact: “a whole series of these
substances may be thought, of which the ¬rst would communicate
its state, together with its consciousness, to the second [and so on].
The last substance would thus be conscious of all the states of all the
previously altered substances as its own states” (A363“4n). Thus Kant
agrees with Locke that continuity of consciousness constituting per-
sonal identity does not require numerical identity of the substratum
underlying the thinking subject.
In the B edition the Fourth Paralogism argues for the immateri-
ality of the soul given that as a merely thinking thing I distinguish
myself from things outside me, including my own body. Traditionally,
13 See Ameriks™s discussion of the notion of personality in Kant™s Theory of Mind, chapter 4,
especially 130“7.
14 See book II, chapter 27, “Of Identity and Diversity,” sections 11“19, in the Essay Concerning
Human Understanding, 336“42.
Transcendental illusion I 223
immaterialism is considered necessary for immortality, since if the
thinking subject were material, the soul would die with the body. In
criticizing the argument at B409 Kant remarks brie¬‚y that although
it is an analytic truth that I can distinguish myself as a thinking thing
from things outside me, I cannot know whether “this consciousness
of myself would even be possible without things outside me through
which representations are given to me, and thus whether I could exist
merely as a thinking being (without being a human being).” In other
words, based on experience I can separate myself as a thinking self
from other things, including my own body, only in the sense that I
can distinguish inner sense from outer sense. But the fact that these
two forms of sense are different entails nothing about the nature of
the thinking subject in itself. Because both inner and outer sense yield
only appearances, “through the analysis of the consciousness of myself
in thinking in general not the least is won in regard to the cognition
of myself as object” (B409).
At B419“20 he points out that neither materialism nor spiritualism
(i.e., immaterialism) can explain how I exist as a merely thinking
subject. Materialism fails because nothing real given in space is simple.
Thus matter as it appears to us cannot be the source of the logically
simple thinking self. But based on our representations of the self
in inner sense, neither can one conclude that the self is immaterial.
This is because nothing persisting is given in inner sense. As the
Refutation argues, inner intuition yields no access to the soul or
persisting substratum of the thinking thing.
In the A edition Kant makes extended remarks on the debates
over immaterialism and the problem of interaction. In the section
titled Observation on the Sum of the Pure Doctrine of the Soul, Fol-
lowing these Paralogisms, he argues that the problem of interaction,
apparently intractable for the realist who espouses substance dual-
ism, dissolves when one admits that matter is only appearance. From
A390“2, Kant discusses the three “solutions” traditionally offered
to explain interaction between minds and bodies, namely physi-
cal in¬‚uence, pre-established harmony, and “supernatural assistance”
(A390). Physical in¬‚uence is the theory that bodies and minds directly
interact with one another. The classic argument against this position is
Descartes™s Sixth Meditation argument, that minds and bodies can-
not interact causally because the essence of mind is thinking, that
of body extension. Substances with distinct essences can share no
Transcendental illusion I
224
properties in common, and therefore cannot exert causal in¬‚uence
on one another.15 Now Kant remarks that this argument is the basis for
the remaining two explanations, pre-established harmony and “super-
natural assistance.” Descartes himself embraces a form of “supernat-
ural assistance,” since he argues that the union of the mind with the
body in humans is established by “divine institution.” For Leibniz,
pre-established harmony operates between all monadic substances, as
well as between the system of corporeal nature and the system of ¬nal
causes.16
From the point of view of transcendental idealism, there is no
problem of mind“body interaction precisely because the empirically
meaningful concept of substance does not apply to the thinking sub-
ject. Since we do not know ourselves as mental substances, there is in
experience no heterogeneity between matter and the thinking subject.
For Kant, the “opposition” between mind and body translates into
the distinction between inner and outer sense. In consequence the
problem of interaction becomes the question, “How is outer intu-
ition “ namely, that of space (the ¬lling of it by shape and motion) “
possible at all in a thinking subject?” (A393). In other words, how
can the self that represents itself through inner sense be affected by
external things through outer sense? And the only answer is that we
cannot know:
But it is not possible for any human being to ¬nd an answer to this question,
and no one will ever ¬ll this gap in our knowledge, but rather only indicate
it, by ascribing outer appearances to a transcendental object that is the cause
of this species of representations, with which cause, however, we have no
acquaintance at all, nor will we ever get a concept of it. (A393)
Just as we have no way of explaining why the human understanding
thinks according to our forms of judgment, and why spatial intuition
is three-dimensional and Euclidean, we cannot explain why humans
have both inner and outer sense, or the ways their objects “interact.”
Finally, given both the invalidity of the paralogisms and the
unknowability of things in themselves, it follows that all specula-
tion about the pre-existence or immortality of the soul is merely that,

15 See the Sixth Meditation, Philosophical Writings, 2:54“5.
16 For Leibniz, see Monadology and Theodicy, cited in Adams, Leibniz: Determinist, Theist,
Idealist, 83“4.
Transcendental illusion I 225
speculation. “Thus every dispute about the nature of our thinking
being and its conjunction with the corporeal world is merely a con-
sequence of the fact that one ¬lls the gaps regarding what one does
not know with paralogisms of reason, making thoughts into things
and hypostatizing them” (A395).

4 . s um ma ry
This analysis supports Grier™s view that there is no inconsistency in
Kant™s diagnosis of the failures of traditional metaphysics. Reason™s
transcendent principle P2 , that where the conditioned is given, the
unconditioned is given, leads to the idea of the soul as the underlying
subject of thinking. The attempt to discover the “objective” nature of
this being in turn leads to the misuse of concepts of the understanding.
Thus transcendental illusion engenders fallacies of the understanding.
In misapplying the concept of substance, the Paralogisms confuse ana-
lytic truths about the logical subject of thought with synthetic claims
about the subject in itself. As in all cases of transcendental realism,
the doctrine of the soul ignores the distinction between appearances
and things in themselves. As we have seen, Kant™s resolution of these
arguments is based on his “critical” rejection of the major premise
as unwarranted. The next two chapters examine how transcendental
illusion leads to the arguments of rational cosmology and theology.
c h a p t er 9

Transcendental illusion II: rational
cosmology



In contrast to rational psychology, rational cosmology and rational
theology apply the transcendent idea of the unconditioned to the
object of thought. Rational cosmology concerns objects taken as
appearances; rational theology argues for God as the explanation of
things in themselves. All three spurious sciences assume as objectively
valid the illusory principle P2 , that if the conditioned is given, the
entire series of conditions is given. Despite their similar origin, the
arguments and their resolutions differ in the three cases. In particular,
the cosmological arguments have the form of antinomies, or pairs of
opposing claims. Consequently, their solution involves the “skeptical
method” mentioned in chapter 8. Kant attributes these differences
to the fact that the ideas of the soul and God are “supersensible,”
ideas of things that are not objects of experience. By contrast, the
cosmological idea of the world-whole in space and time is based on
experience. For this reason, Kant also claims that the Antinomies
offer an indirect proof of transcendental idealism. The ¬rst part of
this chapter introduces the Antinomies and their importance to the
critical philosophy. The second examines the arguments in detail,
discussing their strengths and weaknesses. The last section discusses
the relation between the con¬‚icts and transcendental idealism.

1 . in trod uct ion to t he a nti nom i es
In both the Prolegomena and a letter to Garve of 1798, Kant explains
the signi¬cance of the Antinomies for his critical philosophy. In para-
graph 50 of the Prolegomena, echoing his earlier remark about Hume,
Kant says that the transcendent use of pure reason is most effective
“to awaken philosophy from its dogmatic slumber,” and prompting
226
Transcendental illusion II 227
it “toward the critique of reason itself.”1 More than the problems of
God and the soul, the disputes over rational cosmology shaped Kant™s
theory of the inherent con¬‚ict in reason.
The Antinomies arise when reason attempts to explain the ultimate
conditions underlying the world of appearances. The transcendent
idea of the world represents “the sum total of all appearances,” or
“the absolute totality of the sum total of existing things” (A419“20/
B447“8). Although this idea concerns the sensible world, it “tran-
scends all possible experience.” This has several important implica-
tions. First, the cosmological arguments concern the world in space
and time, and not space and time themselves.2 Second, the idea of the
world-whole has a basis in experience, unlike the ideas of the soul and
God. Nevertheless, this cosmological idea is one “whose object can
never be adequately given in any experience whatsoever.” As Michelle
Grier puts it, the idea of the world of appearance is “pseudoempirical,”
by contrast with the “pseudorational” ideas of the soul and God.3
This “pseudoempirical” character gives rise to the antithetic nature
of the Antinomies, which brings into con¬‚ict competing claims of
reason and the understanding. As we saw in chapter 8, reason sup-
plies the idea of the unconditioned, driving the attempt to know
appearances as a whole. But since reason produces no concepts, it
must apply the concepts of the understanding to the world-whole.
The opposition between the idea of reason and the concepts of the
understanding generates contradictions: the thesis of each argument
sides with reason and the antithesis with the understanding. In this
broad sense reason contains a con¬‚ict within itself.
This analysis helps clarify the origins of the ¬rst two Antinomies.
A standard interpretation, based on textual remarks, identi¬es the
theses with rationalism, and the antitheses with empiricism.4 In
response, Sadik Al-Azm argues persuasively that the debates arise
1 See Prolegomena, Theoretical Philosophy after 1781, 129. The letter to Christian Garve of
September 21, 1798 also says the Antinomies “¬rst aroused me from my dogmatic slumber
and drove me to the critique of reason itself, in order to resolve the scandal of ostensible
contradiction of reason with itself.” Kant, Correspondence, 552.
2 This point has been misunderstood by several commentators. See Kemp Smith, Commentary,
483“8; Prichard, Kant™s Theory of Knowledge, 101; and Guyer, Kant and the Claims of Knowledge,
386.
3 Grier, Kant™s Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion, 176.
4 Walsh claims this view prevailed among English commentators. See Kant™s Criticism of Meta-
physics, 198.
Transcendental illusion II
228
in the Leibniz“Clarke Correspondence. He attributes the thesis argu-
ments to the Newtonian Samuel Clarke and the antithesis arguments
to Leibniz.5 Now it is true that Kant assigns the theses to “dogmatism
of pure reason” and the antitheses to “a principle of pure empiri-
cism” (A466/B494). But these labels refer to general positions rather
than to particular philosophical ¬gures. Kant™s point is that “empiri-
cism” demands “the dissolution of the transcendental ideas of the
world-whole itself” (A466/B494), in favor of the continuing regress
postulated by the understanding. By contrast, the “dogmatic” thesis
positions apply the transcendental idea, seeking an end to the regres-
sive series. In fact, Kant cites “the opposition of Epicureanism and Pla-
tonism” (A471/B499) as representative of the competing viewpoints.
Thus I agree with Grier that the description refers not to historical
¬gures, but to the con¬‚ict between reason™s demand for closure and
the regress conceived by the understanding.6
In the ¬rst section, A409“13/B436“40, Kant reviews the idea of the
conditions of the world of appearance. He reiterates that the search
for the unconditioned involves only the “ascending” or regressive
series of subordinate conditions. This is because neither coordinated
conditions nor the “descending” consequences are presupposed by
the conditioned. An example of a regressive series is the series of past
states up to the present; the series of future states is a “progressive”
series. Because the present depends only on the past and not on the
future, reason seeks to explain it by the series of past states.
The table at A415/B443 summarizes the four Antinomies. Each
of the four categorical headings “ quantity, quality, relation, and
modality “ gives rise to a con¬‚ict. The quantitative regress involves
“The absolute completeness of the composition of a given whole
of all appearances.” The issue is whether the world is ¬nite or in¬nite
in space and time. Now Kant admits that unlike time, the parts of
space are coordinated with rather than subordinated to one another
(A412/B439), apparently deviating from his description of the regress

5 See Al-Azm, The Origins of Kant™s Arguments in the Antinomies. I agree with Walsh that Kant
likely saw “what began as an argument between Newton and Leibniz . . . in a very different
light” (Kant™s Criticism of Metaphysics, 198). Al-Azm™s interpretation in some cases obscures
Kant™s approach to the issues.
6 See Grier, Kant™s Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion, 182“3.
Transcendental illusion II 229
of conditions. But although spatial parts are simultaneous, Kant will
argue that we can represent them only through a successive synthesis,
requiring a regress.
The second, qualitative Antinomy concerns “The absolute
completeness of the division of a given whole in appearance”
(A415/B443). At issue here is the nature of the part“whole relation for
the real or substance. The real is conditioned by its parts, represented
through division. But this process involves a regress to ever smaller
parts. Thus the con¬‚ict is whether substance is in¬nitely divisible or
has simple parts. Although the discussion focuses primarily on matter,
Kant brie¬‚y addresses arguments concerning mental substance.
The third, relational, Antinomy regards “The absolute complete-
ness of the arising of an appearance in general” (A415/B443). Only
cause“effect gives rise to a regressive series of conditions; substance“
accident and causal interaction are not relevant here. Accidents are
not subordinated to substance “but are rather the way substance itself
exists” (A414/B441). Similarly, causal interaction involves the idea of
substances in community, not subordinated to one another. Thus the
issue is whether the causal series is complete or not. If it is, then there
must be a ¬rst, uncaused cause, which can initiate the series sponta-
neously through transcendental freedom. If there is no ¬rst cause, then
the series extends in¬nitely. The Third Antinomy, then, represents a
version of the traditional dispute over freedom and determinism.
Finally, the Fourth Antinomy concerns “The absolute complete-
ness of the dependence of the existence of the alterable in appear-
ance” (A415/B443). The question is whether something in appearance
exists necessarily. The relevant modal concept is contingency, because
“the contingent in existence always has to be seen as conditioned,”
since it refers “to a condition under which it is necessary” (A415/B442).
Because the contingent is dependent, only the absolutely necessary
could explain all contingency. So the Fourth Antinomy concerns
whether there is some absolutely necessary being in appearance.
Now the reader might wonder how the third and fourth arguments
differ from the proofs in rational theology. After all, the Third
Antinomy concerns an unmoved mover, and the Fourth Antinomy
the idea of a necessary existence, ideas employed in the cosmological
and ontological proofs. The cosmological arguments differ from the
Transcendental illusion II
230
theological proofs, however, because the “¬rst cause” and “necessary

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