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in the conditions, which can be satis¬ed only by something whose
existence is absolutely necessary. This conclusion is stated in line 4,
which describes alteration as its consequence. On Grier™s reading, the
term “consequence” should be understood as an ontological rather
than a temporal effect.
The second part of the proof argues that this absolutely necessary
ground must belong to the world “either as a part of it or as its cause.”
Here Kant returns to the reductio method, and derives a contradiction
from the idea that the necessary being is outside appearances. The key
is in lines 7 and 8, which argue that the “beginning” of a time-series

32 See Spinoza, Ethics, part I, proposition 18, in The Ethics and Selected Letters, 46 and 25 of
Shisley™s introduction.
Transcendental illusion II 251
must itself exist in the time prior to the series. As I argued above,
Kant intends to apply this to substance rather than to a (temporary)
¬rst state of the series. The issue is whether it has to exist temporally
or can be conceived of as existing outside time. Clearly, if it exists at
all in time, then it exists at all times. Kant addresses the atemporal
version of “grounding” in the third paragraph of the remark. If the
“condition must be taken in just the same signi¬cance as it has . . .
in the series,” and the series takes place in time, then “the necessary
being must be regarded as the supreme member of the world-series”
(A457“8/B485“6). Unfortunately it is not obvious that the relation
among appearances is relevant if the issue is whether the contingency
of the entire series requires an absolutely necessary ground.
The last two paragraphs of the remark respond to this objection.
Here Kant argues that a shift from a cosmological to an intelligi-
ble necessary being confuses empirical and intelligible contingency
(A458/B486). By empirical contingency he means “that the new state
could not at all have occurred on its own, without a cause” in the pre-
vious time (A460/B488). An intelligible contingency is one “whose
contradictory opposite is possible” (A458/B486). A body changing
state from motion to rest is an example of empirical contingency,
since motion at one time does not contradict rest at another time
(A460/B488). The contradictory opposite of a state would require
“that at the very time when the previous state was, its opposite could
have been there in place of it.” In other words, if the absolutely neces-
sary being were outside time, it could only ground logical contingency.
Because the contingency here is empirical, the necessary being must
be in time, in the world of appearances.
Antithesis: “There is no absolutely necessary being existing anywhere,
either in the world or outside the world as its cause” (A453/B481). The
antithesis explicitly contradicts not only the thesis, but also the view
rejected above, that there is an absolutely necessary being outside
the world of appearances. The proof devotes a paragraph to each
alternative. The argument against the thesis is this:
1. Assume the opposite, “that either the world itself is a necessary
being or that there is such a being in it.”
2. By 1, in the series of alterations, either (a) “there would be a
beginning that is unconditionally necessary, and hence without
Transcendental illusion II
252
a cause,” or (b) “the series itself would be without any beginning,
and although contingent . . . it would nevertheless be absolutely
necessary and unconditioned as a whole.”
3. Alternative (a) con¬‚icts with the “law of the determination of all
appearances in time,” and so is not possible.
4. Alternative (b) is self-contradictory “because the existence of a
multiplicity cannot be necessary if no single part of it possesses an
existence necessary in itself.”
5. Therefore the original assumption is not possible.
The next paragraph argues that an absolutely necessary cause cannot
exist outside the world, as follows:
6. Assume “there were an absolutely necessary cause of the world
outside the world” (A453“5/B481“3).
7. By 6, “this cause, as the supreme member in the series of causes
of alterations in the world, would ¬rst begin these changes and
their series” (A455/B483).
8. But its action would “begin to act then, and its causality would
belong in time, and for this very reason in the sum total of appear-
ances, i.e., in the world.”
9. Therefore, “this cause would not be outside the world, which
contradicts what was presupposed.”
10. Therefore, “neither in the world nor outside it (yet in causal
connection with it) is there any absolutely necessary being.”
A footnote to line 7 distinguishes two senses of “begin,” one active
(transitive), meaning to initiate, and the other passive, referring to a
temporal commencing. Kant says, “I infer here from the former to the
latter.” So the inference from line 7 to line 8 appears to incorporate
the argument from the thesis that by virtue of initiating a series of
appearances in time, the necessary cause would also have to be in
time. Here the point is used ultimately against the existence of an
absolutely necessary being.
The ¬rst stage of the proof appears straightforwardly to follow the
logic of the Principle of Suf¬cient Reason. Again, siding with the
understanding, the antithesis argument ¬rst rules out an absolutely
necessary being as part of the world, since its existence contradicts the
principle of causality, which requires every contingency to be condi-
tioned by a further contingency. The more interesting argument is
Transcendental illusion II 253
against the second alternative, that the entire world of appearances is
absolutely necessary. The proof rejects this possibility on the grounds
that the idea of a necessary series composed entirely of contingent
parts is incoherent. This objection thus applies the Principle of Suf¬-
cient Reason in a direction opposed to the thesis argument, claiming
that the contingency of the parts does not provide a suf¬cient basis
for the necessity of the whole.

3. ka nt™s res olu tions a nd t ra nsc enden ta l
idea li s m
The remainder of the chapter falls into three parts. Sections 3 through
5 contain general remarks about the arguments. In sections 6 and
7 Kant discusses their relation to transcendental idealism. He then
presents his solution in section 8, and applies it in detail to each argu-
ment in section 9. The newest material here concerns the Third Anti-
nomy debate over determinism and transcendental freedom. Kant
explains at length how human actions can be subject to causal laws as
appearances, and also attributed to free will as their intelligible cause.
This is important as a preamble to his moral theory, presented in
the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and Critique of Practical
Reason.
Earlier I discussed Kant™s claim that the thesis positions repre-
sent the “dogmatism” of pure reason, and the antithesis positions
the “pure empiricism” of the understanding (A466/B494). Following
that description in the third section, Kant evaluates the advantages
and disadvantages of each position. The dogmatic theses have the
advantage of supporting practical interests: Kant describes them as
“so many cornerstones of morality and religion” (A466/B494). By
contrast, the antithesis “robs us of all these supports,” and as a con-
sequence, “moral ideas and principles lose all validity” (A468/B496).
On the other hand, in rejecting reason™s demand for completion of the
series, the antithesis arguments promote the interests of speculative
reason by making continuing inquiry possible. By contrast, the dog-
matist introduces “ideas with whose objects it has no acquaintance
because, as thought-entities, they can never be given” (A469/B497).
Dogmatism thereby abandons natural inquiry, “certain that it can
never be refuted by facts of nature because it is not bound by their
testimony.” Given the nature of these con¬‚icts, in the absence of
Transcendental illusion II
254
practical and speculative interests, one “would be in a state of cease-
less vacillation” (A475/B504), one day persuaded by the thesis, the
next by the antithesis.
In the fourth section Kant claims that because the con¬‚icts arise
from the inherent tension within reason, they are all resolvable by rea-
son. The fact that the object is the empirical cosmos implies that the
resolution will derive from the empirical synthesis on which the tran-
scendent idea is based (A479/B507). The ¬fth section gives a “skeptical
representation” of the con¬‚icts, describing them as between ideas that
are either too big or too small for the concept of the understanding.
For the ¬rst three Antinomies, the thesis conclusions are “too small,”
since they close off the series. The opposing antithesis conclusions
asserting the in¬nity of the mathematical and dynamical series are
“too big” for the concepts of the understanding. The pattern breaks
with the Fourth Antinomy, where Kant says the thesis idea of an
absolutely necessary being is “too big for your empirical concept,”
while the antithesis position that all existence is contingent “is too
small for your concept” (A489/B517).
The sixth and seventh sections relate the con¬‚ict to transcendental
idealism. Section 6 distinguishes transcendental idealism from both
transcendental realism and empirical idealism. For transcendental
idealism, “objects of experience are never given in themselves, but
only in experience” (A492“3/B521). But “experience” means possible
rather than actual perception:
That there could be inhabitants of the moon, even though no human being
has ever perceived them, must of course be admitted; but this means only
that in the possible progress of experience we could encounter them; for
everything is actual that stands in one context with a perception in accor-
dance with the laws of the empirical progression. (A493/B521)

The empirical idealist, to the contrary, tries to reduce all objects to
collections of actual perceptions, and has dif¬culty accounting for
possible perceptions.
Section 7 then sketches the general form of Kant™s resolution:
although the conclusions of the arguments appear contradictory, they
are not. Instead, the opposition is “dialectical” as opposed to “analyti-
cal” (A504/B532). At A503/B532 Kant cites as examples the judgments,
“every body smells good” and “every body smells not good,” which
Transcendental illusion II 255
are not contradictories, since they both assume that every body has
some smell. If, however, there are bodies that lack an aroma, then the
propositions are contraries, since they can both be false. Similarly,
all the Antinomies presuppose that the world as the whole series of
appearances is a thing in itself. If this were true, then the conclusions
would contradict each other, with one true and the other false. But
if appearances are not things in themselves, then the world “does not
exist at all (independently of the regressive series of my representa-
tions)” and “by itself it is not to be met with at all” (A505/B533). And
at A506“7/B534“5 Kant offers this dilemma to show how the ¬rst
two Antinomies support transcendental idealism: “If the world is a
whole existing in itself, then it is either ¬nite or in¬nite. Now the ¬rst
as well as the second alternative is false . . . Thus it is also false that
the world (the sum total of appearances) is a whole existing in itself.”
As we shall see below, for the dynamical Antinomies, Kant offers a
different resolution.
The eighth section explains the principles of Kant™s resolution.
He recalls that reason™s idea of the unconditioned is only regulative,
supplying a maxim for inquiry, rather than constitutive, making a
substantive claim about the object: “Thus the principle of reason
is only a rule, prescribing a regress in the series of conditions for
given appearances, in which regress it is never allowed to stop with an
absolutely unconditioned” (A509/B537). Thus the principle “cannot
say what the object is, but only how the empirical regress is to be
instituted” (A510/B538). The rest of the section distinguishes between
two sorts of empirical regress, one to in¬nity (in in¬nitum), the other
extending indeterminately (in inde¬nitum).
A regress to in¬nity applies where the whole is empirically given.
For example, in dividing a body (or a line segment), the process can
go on to in¬nity since the parts (conditions) are given with the whole.
Because here “an unconditioned (indivisible) member of this series
of conditions is never encountered . . . the division goes to in¬nity”
(A513/B541). Where one is given only a member and seeks to extend
the series, the regress is inde¬nite rather than in¬nite. For example,
in tracing someone™s ancestors, because the whole series is not given,
“this regress . . . goes to an indeterminate distance, searching for more
members for the given” (A523/B541). The rule for the in¬nite regress
is, “You ought never to stop extending it,” because one is assured that
Transcendental illusion II
256
there is always a further member given empirically with the whole. By
contrast, the rule for the inde¬nite regress is, “Extend it as far as you
want,” because no member can be given as absolutely unconditioned
(A511/BH539). In neither regress, however, is the series being given
“in¬nite in the object” (A514/B542). Since the objects of the regress
are only appearances, the conditions “ parts or further members “ are
given only in the regress. In sum, for appearances one cannot determine
how big the series of conditions is, either ¬nite or in¬nite, “for it is
nothing in itself.” Although we can know a priori that space and time
are in¬nite, there is no determinate answer to the question, is the
world in¬nite in space and time?
The particular solutions follow from this analysis. For the First
Antinomy, the question is whether the world is bounded by empty
time or space. Since experience is always of the conditioned “ i.e., an
empty space or time beyond the world is not a possible object of expe-
rience “ one could never encounter the boundary of the world. Like
the inquiry into one™s ancestors, the search for the conditions goes on
in inde¬nitum: one is not assured of encountering a further member
of the series, but neither can one assume an unconditioned mem-
ber. In consequence, as Kant puts it in a footnote: “This world-series
can thus be neither bigger nor smaller than the possible empirical
regress . . . And since this cannot yield a determinate in¬nite, nor
yet something determinately ¬nite . . . we can assume the magni-
tude of the world to be neither ¬nite nor in¬nite” (A518/B546). Thus
there is no determinate answer to the question: how big is the world?
In a second footnote Kant notes the difference between his position
and the antithesis view that the world is actually in¬nite in time and
space (A521/B549). For Kant, both the thesis and antithesis are false
of appearances.
The same reasoning applies to the Second Antinomy, concern-
ing the divisibility of the real. In this case, since bodies are given
in experience, the regress is in in¬nitum, meaning that one must
continue seeking the condition (parts) for every member encoun-
tered. But although one can never arrive at simples, neither is one
entitled to claim, with the antithesis, that the whole is composed
of an in¬nity of parts: although all the parts are contained in the
intuition, “the whole division is not contained in it; this division
consists only in . . . the regress itself, which ¬rst makes the series
Transcendental illusion II 257
actual” (A524/B552). Here there are also two cases, one for matter
as continuous quantity (quantum continuum), another for matter as
discrete (quantum discretum). In the ¬rst case matter is not articulated
into parts, and the division proceeds to in¬nity as it does for space.
In the second case matter is articulated, as in an organic body. Here,
“only experience can settle how far the organization in an articulated
body may go, and . . . such parts must nevertheless at least be within
a possible experience” (A527/B555). In general, however, the extent to
which appearances can be divided “is not a matter of experience”; it
is “a principle of reason never to take the empirical regress . . . to be
absolutely complete.” As Melnick explains, the transcendental realist
can apply the idea of in¬nity to a whole given of parts. For the tran-
scendental idealist, because an in¬nite series cannot be completed, the
idea of in¬nity applies only to the rule for seeking the condition.33
In concluding his account of the mathematical Antinomies, Kant
explains that they admit of a “both false” resolution because the con-
ditions are homogeneous with the conditioned. When investigating
the temporal and spatial bounds of the universe, or the parts of the
given whole, “none other than a sensible condition can enter, i.e., only
one that is itself a part of the series” (A530/B558). For the dynami-
cal Antinomies the matter is different, since “a synthesis of things
not homogeneous . . . must be at least admitted in the case of the
dynamical synthesis.” In these cases the dynamic series allows for an
intelligible condition that is not part of the series. In consequence,
although the dialectical arguments collapse, the rational proposi-
tions “may both be true” if their signi¬cance is restricted to either
things in themselves or appearances (A531“2/B559“60). As we shall
see, however, this resolution provides no support for transcendental
idealism.
The resolution of the con¬‚ict between transcendental freedom and
causal determinism follows the “both true” pattern. First Kant empha-
sizes that the causal principle of the understanding necessarily applies
to appearances (A532/B560). The idea of transcendental freedom orig-
inates in reason, and represents the power to begin a state “from
itself, the causality of which does not in turn stand under another
cause determining it in time in accordance with the law of nature”

33 See Melnick, Space, Time, and Thought in Kant, especially 379“95.
Transcendental illusion II
258
(A533/B561). This is the basis of the idea of practical freedom or
free will. Morality and religion assume that human beings can deter-
mine themselves, independently of causal necessitation (A534/B562).
Whereas for the transcendental realist, causal determinism could not
coexist with transcendental freedom, this is possible for the transcen-
dental idealist. Kant then explains how “the very same effect that is
determined by nature” can also allow for freedom (A536/B564).
Before looking at the details of Kant™s solution, there are two issues
to address brie¬‚y. One concerns the relation between Kant™s views
of freedom here and in his ethical theory. Allison argues that in 1781
Kant had not yet developed the notion of autonomy central to his
moral theory. Thus the idea of free will here is the negative idea
of the agent resisting determination by sensible impulses. Not until
the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and the Critique of
Practical Reason (1788) did Kant conceive of free will as autonomy, the
faculty for giving the law to oneself.34 Accordingly he also changes his
stand on our knowledge of freedom. In the ¬rst Critique he claims only
that transcendental freedom is conceivable; the moral theory argues
that transcendental freedom can be deduced from the existence of
the moral law.
A second issue is whether the Dialectic account of the relation
between transcendental and practical freedom is inconsistent with
remarks in the later Canon of Pure Reason. As we have seen, the
Antinomies treat practical freedom as in some sense dependent on
transcendental freedom. By contrast, in the Canon Kant says whether,
in actions of practical freedom, “reason is not itself determined by fur-
ther in¬‚uences,” does not concern us in the practical sphere, since “we
ask of reason only a precept for conduct; it is rather a merely specula-
tive question, which we can set aside as long as our aim is directed to
action or omission” (A803/B831). Here he allows the possibility that
the spontaneity exhibited in free will might not be the absolute spon-
taneity of transcendental freedom. This implies that transcendental
freedom is not presupposed by practical freedom.
Allison thinks the apparent contradiction between the texts can
be dispelled. First he claims Kant takes the dependence of practical

34 See Allison, Kant™s Transcendental Idealism, chapter 15, especially 315“17. I am indebted to
Allison™s explanation of transcendental and practical freedom.
Transcendental illusion II 259
on transcendental freedom as conceptual rather than real: “it is this
transcendental idea of freedom on which the practical concept of
freedom is grounded” (A533/B561). Since confusing transcendental
ideas for ideas of objects involves transcendental illusion, Kant could
not consistently claim that the reality of practical freedom presupposes
the reality of transcendental freedom. This introduces the possibility
mentioned in the Canon, that practical freedom is not the absolute
spontaneity conceived in the idea of transcendental freedom.35 But as
Kant claims, the speculative basis of practical reason is not an issue
for morality.
The “both true” resolution of the Third Antinomy begins with
Kant reaf¬rming that “if all causality in the world of sense were
mere nature, then every occurrence would be determined in time,”
and so abolishing “transcendental freedom would also simultaneously
eliminate all practical freedom” (A534/B562). Moreover, if appear-
ances were things in themselves, then “freedom cannot be saved,” for
nature would be a “determining cause, suf¬cient in itself, of every
occurrence” (A536/B564). But because appearances are not things in
themselves, “they themselves must have grounds that are not appear-
ances.” Although these “intelligible” grounds are outside appearances,
they nevertheless give rise to effects in the series. “The effect can there-
fore be regarded as free in regard to its intelligible cause,” and yet the
result of necessary laws in regard to appearances (A537/B565). The
remainder of this section explains how transcendental freedom and
determinism can coexist by distinguishing the intelligible from the
empirical character of action.
At A538/B566 Kant de¬nes the intelligible as “that in an object of
sense which is not itself appearance.” The “clari¬cation” applies this
de¬nition to human intellectual faculties. Through the t.u.a., one rec-
ognizes that acts of understanding and reason “cannot be accounted
at all among impressions of sense.” In consequence, subjects iden-
tify themselves as partly phenomenal, and partly merely intelligible
(A546“7/B575). Human actions, then, can have both an empirical
and an intelligible character, where “character” refers to the “law of
its causality” (A539/B567). In its empirical character, as subject to
sensible conditions, the action is connected to other appearances “in

35 See Allison, Kant™s Transcendental Idealism, 315“19.
Transcendental illusion II
260
accordance with constant natural laws.” By virtue of its intelligible
character the action would not stand under temporal conditions,
for time is only a condition of appearances. Considered as an effect
of an intelligible cause, “no action would arise or perish,” and so,
not being part of the empirical series that makes its necessary, the
action would be free of all causal determination (A541/B569). Thus
intelligible causality “begins its effects in the sensible world from
itself, without its action beginning in it itself.” Kant concludes that
“freedom and nature . . . would both be found in the same actions,
simultaneously and without any contradiction, according to whether
one compares them with their intelligible or their sensible cause”
(A541/B569).
As Allison explains, this is a “compatibilism” in which the empirical
and intelligible characters represent alternative ways of explaining the
action.36 The empirical account views the action as emanating from an
agent™s desires, themselves understood as determined by physiological,
psychological, and sociological causes. In presupposing that an indi-
vidual™s character develops as an effect of these conditions, empirical
explanations accord with the causal principle. Explanations by intel-
ligible causes appeal to the agent™s reasons for acting rather than to
natural causes. This “causality of reason” is expressed through imper-
atives, both moral and non-moral: “The ought expresses a species
of necessity and a connection with grounds which does not occur
anywhere else in the whole of nature” (A547/B575). Whereas there is
no room in nature for the idea that something ought to exist, this
˜ought™ expresses an action whose ground “is nothing other than a
mere concept.” Explanations in terms of reasons assume that choices
are governed by rational principles relating the action to the agent™s
purposes.
The question, of course, is how both types of causation can work
together. Kant believes that when we exercise practical reason, our
desires function as incentives rather than causes of action. As Allison
explains, for beings with free will, an incentive can determine an
action only “insofar as the agent incorporates that incentive into
his rule or maxim of action.”37 When an agent acts freely on a
desire, the action is based on a maxim licensing the action on that

36 37
Allison, Kant™s Transcendental Idealism, 325“9. Kant™s Transcendental Idealism, 327.
Transcendental illusion II 261
desire: “In circumstances C, it is permissible (or obligatory) to act
on my desire D.” According to this model of rational agency, desires

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