8 Apr 2010

Time and Reality: Summary of Kant's Conclusions Regarding Time in the Transcendental Aesthetic of the Critique of Pure Reason

by Corry Shores
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Time and Reality: Summary of Kant's Conclusions Regarding Time in the Transcendental Aesthetic of the Critique of Pure Reason

Previously Kant made five points regarding time.
1) Time is not an empirical concept that we obtain from our experiences.
2) Time is a necessary a priori representation that grounds all our intuitions.
3) Such necessary truths about time, for example, that different times are successive and not simultaneous, are grounded on the a priori necessity of time; we do not obtain these laws of time as by learning them from our experiences, rather, our experiences are conditioned by these a priori laws.
4) Even though time conditions every experience, it is not a generalized concept that we derived by abstracting what was common from all our experiences. Nonetheless, the different times that we experience are all part of one same time.
5) Time is infinite, because our experiences of determinate times are pieces of an unlimited time.

Now Kant will draw further conclusions from these points.

Conclusions from these concepts

Kant's Point a): Time is Prior to Objects Not as a Conceptual Determination, but as the Form of Inner Intuition

If time existed all by itself, then it would be something that is actually real, yet itself would not be actualized in any object. This seems contradictory, so in the first place we know that time cannot 'subsist for itself'.

We noted before that time is not a general concept. So it is not some determination that precedes objects and which we may think-about apart from objects. Hence time is not something that would "attach to things as an objective determination, and thus remain if one abstracted from all subjective conditions of the intuition of them". However, even though time is not a general concept, we did find that it is the "subjective condition under which all intuitions can take place in us". So time as the "form of inner intuition can be represented prior to the objects, thus a priori"(B49/A33; p.163bc).

Kant's Point b): Time is Inner Intuition, and We Secondarily Express it Spatially as a Line

So time cannot be a determination actually inhering in external objects. Time does not belong to the shape or position of an object in the world around us. [consider if every mental event happened at the same moment. We would not be able to distinguish them all. To grasp what happens in our minds, we need a way to form relations between them. They cannot be spatial relations, because our inner life is not a spatial one, although the things we sense in the world around us must always be spatial. So when we mentally grasp or intuit things in our inner mental worlds, we do so by welcoming them with open arms of time; we receive them as temporal things so that they may enter into temporal relations with each other. This way, one mental grasping or intuition can be regarded as different from another, because it came before or after the other one. So] time, rather, "determines the relation of representations in our inner state". But time in this inner form has no shape. This makes it difficult for us to conceptualize or imagine it. So we use the analogy of space to represent a temporal sequence. We give it the form of a one-dimensional line that progresses to infinity. Then, we regard all the properties of a line to also apply to a stretch of time. The only difference we recognize between time as a line and lines themselves is that the points in a spatial line are simultaneous, while the points of a temporal line are successive. Because we express temporal relations by using our outer intuition of space, we know that time begins in the first place as an intuition.

Kant's point c): All Appearances Whether Inner or Outer Take on Inner Relations of Time

When we mentally grasp (intuit) something in the world around us, we have just an outer spatial intuition. When we intuit something in our inner mental lives, we have an inner temporal intuition. So considering just this so far, we might think neither inner nor outer intuitions take some priority over the other. However, when we have an intuition of some external object, we also thereby have an inner intuition as well, for it is our mind that is grasping the outer object. Hence "'time is an a priori condition of all appearance in general, and indeed the immediate condition of the inner intuition (of our souls), and thereby also the mediate condition of outer appearances. We said that all outer appearances are determined a priori according to relations of space. Since outer intuitions are inner ones as well, we can say that "all appearances in general, i.e., all objects of the senses, are in time, and necessarily stand in relations of time" (A34/B51; p.164a).

Now, if we think about objects as they are, in themselves and all by themselves, time is no longer a factor. Because it is no more than our way of receiving inner intuitions, it only has objective validity for things insofar as they are appearances for us. "Time is therefore merely a subjective condition of our (human) intuition (which is always sensible, i.e., insofar as we are affected by objects), and in itself, outside the subject, is nothing. Nonetheless it is necessarily objective in regard to all appearances, thus also in regard to all things that can come before us in experience. We cannot say all things are in time, because with the concept of things in general abstraction is made from every kind of intuition of them, but this is the real condition under which time belongs to the representation of objects" (A35/B51-42; p.164bc). But it is a priori universally true to say that all things as appearances are in time.

Because time is a matter of appearances, time then has an empirical reality, that is, "an objective validity in regard to all objects that may ever be given to our senses" (A35/B52; p164c). Now all our intuitions are sensible, so that means all objects that are given to experience are conditioned by time. However, this does not mean that time has an absolute reality. It does not "attach to things absolutely as a condition or property even without regard to the form of our sensible intuition. Such properties, which pertain to things in themselves, can never be given to us through the senses" (A35-36/B52; p.164c). When we consider time as being independent of experience, it would then not be found in actual objects or in our intuitions of objects. This would be then the transcendental ideality of time. Now, we can also make a mistake when we think that what appears to us, along with its properties [for example its color], has objective reality. But this mistake does not apply to the transcendental ideality of time. For, as transcendental and non-experiential, we are not regarding this ideal time as objective.

From the text of the Meiklejohn translation:

SS 7. Conclusions from the above Conceptions.

(a) Time is not something which subsists of itself, or which inheres in things as an objective determination, and therefore remains, when abstraction is made of the subjective conditions of the intuition of things. For in the former case, it would be something real, yet without presenting to any power of perception any real object. In the latter case, as an order or determination inherent in things themselves, it could not be antecedent to things, as their condition, nor discerned or intuited by means of synthetical propositions a priori. But all this is quite possible when we regard time as merely the subjective condition under which all our intuitions take place. For in that case, this form of the inward intuition can be represented prior to the objects, and consequently a priori.

(b) Time is nothing else than the form of the internal sense, that is, of the intuitions of self and of our internal state. For time cannot be any determination of outward phenomena. It has to do neither with shape nor position; on the contrary, it determines the relation of representations in our internal state. And precisely because this internal intuition presents to us no shape or form, we endeavour to supply this want by analogies, and represent the course of time by a line progressing to infinity, the content of which constitutes a series which is only of one dimension; and we conclude from the properties of this line as to all the properties of time, with this single exception, that the parts of the line are coexistent, whilst those of time are successive. From this it is clear also that the representation of time is itself an intuition, because all its relations can be expressed in an external intuition.

(c) Time is the formal condition a priori of all phenomena whatsoever. Space, as the pure form of external intuition, is limited as a condition a priori to external phenomena alone. On the other hand, because all representations, whether they have or have not external things for their objects, still in themselves, as determinations of the mind, belong to our internal state; and because this internal state is subject to the formal condition of the internal intuition, that is,


to time -- time is a condition a priori of all phenomena whatsoever -- the immediate condition of all internal, and thereby the mediate condition of all external phenomena. If I can say a priori, "All outward phenomena are in space, and determined a priori according to the relations of space," I can also, from the principle of the internal sense, affirm universally, "All phenomena in general, that is, all objects of the senses, are in time and stand necessarily in relations of time."

If we abstract our internal intuition of ourselves and all external intuitions, possible only by virtue of this internal intuition and presented to us by our faculty of representation, and consequently take objects as they are in themselves, then time is nothing. It is only of objective validity in regard to phenomena, because these are things which we regard as objects of our senses. It no longer objective we, make abstraction of the sensuousness of our intuition, in other words, of that mode of representation which is peculiar to us, and speak of things in general. Time is therefore merely a subjective condition of our (human) intuition (which is always sensuous, that is, so far as we are affected by objects), and in itself, independently of the mind or subject, is nothing. Nevertheless, in respect of all phenomena, consequently of all things which come within the sphere of our experience, it is necessarily objective. We cannot say, "All things are in time," because in this conception of things in general, we abstract and make no mention of any sort of intuition of things. But this is the proper condition under which time belongs to our representation of objects. If we add the condition to the conception, and say, "All things, as phenomena, that is, objects of sensuous intuition, are in time," then the proposition has its sound objective validity and universality a priori.

What we have now set forth teaches, therefore, the empirical reality of time; that is, its objective validity in reference to all objects which can ever be presented to our senses. And as our intuition is always sensuous, no object ever can be presented to us in experience, which does not come under the conditions of time. On the other hand, we deny to time all claim to absolute reality; that is, we deny that it, without having regard to the form of our sensuous intuition, absolutely inheres in things as a condition or property. Such properties


as belong to objects as things in themselves never can be presented to us through the medium of the senses. Herein consists, therefore, the transcendental ideality of time, according to which, if we abstract the subjective conditions of sensuous intuition, it is nothing, and cannot be reckoned as subsisting or inhering in objects as things in themselves, independently of its relation to our intuition. this ideality, like that of space, is not to be proved or illustrated by fallacious analogies with sensations, for this reason -- that in such arguments or illustrations, we make the presupposition that the phenomenon, in which such and such predicates inhere, has objective reality, while in this case we can only find such an objective reality as is itself empirical, that is, regards the object as a mere phenomenon. In reference to this subject, see the remark in Section I. (p. 27).

Summary based on:
Kant. Critique of Pure Reason. Eds. & Transls. Paul Guyer and Allen Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Full text taken from:
Kant. Critique of Pure Reason. Transl. J.M.D Meiklejohn.
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