8 Apr 2010

The Unchanging Form of Change: Summary of Kant's Elucidation of the Transcendental Aesthetic of Time and Space in the Critique of Pure Reason

The Unchanging Form of Change:
Summary of Kant's Elucidation of the Transcendental Aesthetic of Time and Space in the Critique of Pure Reason

Previously Kant drew some conclusions from his points regarding time.
1) Time is prior to our experiences not as a determination, but as the form our inner intuition.
2) Time is not spatial, but to better conceive it, we secondarily portray it to ourselves in the form of an endless line.
3) All appearances, be they inner or outer, must take-on the relations of time.
4) Time does not exist outside the subject, but it is objectively real in all appearances insofar as they are appearances.
5) Time conceived as apart from experience is the transcendental ideality of time.

Now Kant will further discuss his insights.


Kant will now discuss one argument against his position. Note how our mental representations of things are subject to change. This means that even if we ignore all the alterations that we sense in the world around us, we still must acknowledge that alterations are real things. Now, time is required for something to alter. Hence time itself must be something real all by itself.

Kant replies this way. He accepts that time is real. Only, it is "the real form of inner intuition'. So time is subjectively real for our inner experiences. Time itself, then, is not really an object. [Time allows us to represent our own intuitions, not those of others. Without time, we would not be able to represent our intuitions at all. But it is not really time that is being represented, rather it is our subjectivity. Hence] Kant says of time that "It is therefore to be regarded really not as object but as
the way of representing myself as object" (A37/B54; p.165bc, emphasis mine). [Now, let's suppose something. Let's imagine that we can mentally grasp our subjectivity, that is to say, to intuit ourselves, without that being an intuition involving our senses somehow. I will just suggest perhaps that we think of our own name equalling ourselves symbolically. What this tells us about ourselves is not something that involves time or alteration.] Kant writes, "But if I or another being could intuit myself without this condition of sensibility, then these very determinations, which we now represent to ourselves as alterations, would yield us a cognition in which the representation of time and thus also of alteration would not occur at all" (A37/B54; p.165c). So if there is time or change, it must be empirically real.

Those who raise the above objection have made a mistake. They assume that our inner reality is immediately apparent and provable, while outer reality is subject to doubt. Yet both inner and outer experiences are matters of appearance. And as appearances, they have two sides: 1) the appearing object in itself. Determining its make-up is problematic. And 2), the form of our intuition of the object, which is found in the subject and not the object, even though it is inherent to the presentation of the object.

On the grounds of these a priori sources of cognition, time and space, we may then produce synthetic a priori propositions: "Time and space are accordingly two sources of cognition, from which different synthetic cognitions can be drawn a priori, of which especially pure mathematics in regard to the cognitions of space and its relations provides a splendid example. Both taken together are, namely, the pure forms of all sensible intuition, and thereby make possible synthetic a priori propositions" (A39/B56 p.166c). Yet space and time as the a priori sources of cognition do not present things as they are in themselves but only as appearances.

Some try erroneously to see things differently. Many who investigate nature mathematically, for example, regard space and time to have an absolute reality. But this means that they must suppose there to be two eternal and infinite self-subsisting 'non-entities'. They would have to exist somehow even if there were no real things in the world. Metaphysicians of nature, on the other hand, might regard space and time as being relations of appearances. One thing would be next to another, or one event would succeed another. Now, consider how we find mathematical regularities in the real world around us. According to these metaphysicians of nature, we obtain the laws governing these mathematical realities secondarily through experience. That is to say, they are a posteriori rather than a priori.

Kant now discusses the pros and cons of each position. First consider those who regard space and time as having an absolute reality. This allows them to grasp how it is that mathematical laws are inherent to the real things in the world around us. However, they have a harder time understanding how our minds grasp these things. The other position regards space and time not as appearances but rather as things of our understanding. This allows them to grasp how it is we may obtain knowledge of these mathematical realities. However, they cannot tell us why a priori mathematical laws hold a posteriori as well, for the things in the world around us.

Kant's ideas solve these problems. [Because space and time are the pure forms of our inner and outer intuition, they are already a part of the appearances of the world around us as well as also inherently a part of how we grasp our inner and outer worlds.]

Kant will now explain why there cannot be more than space and time as transcendental, that is, as non-experiential or pre-experiential. They are the grounds for our experiences of things in space and time, but in their pure form they are prior to experience. Consider motion for example. In the concept of space by itself, movement is not implied (all is simultaneous). We only grasp movement in space by means of experience. So motion cannot be a priori and transcendental like space and time.

We also cannot say that alteration is a priori transcendental like time is. This is because time itself does not change, only the things within time change. We do not have some a priori intuition of change. Rather, we instead have to experience it, and hence it is a posteriori.

In like manner, transcendental Æsthetic cannot number the conception of change among its data a priori; for time itself does not change, but only something which is in time. To acquire the conception of change, therefore, the perception of some existing object and of the succession of its determinations, in one word, experience, is necessary. (Meiklejohn translation, emphasis mine)

From the text of the Meiklejohn translation:

SS 8. Elucidation.

Against this theory, which grants empirical reality to time, but denies to it absolute and transcendental reality, I have heard from intelligent men an objection so unanimously urged that I conclude that it must naturally present itself to every reader to whom these considerations are novel. It runs thus: "Changes are real" (this the continual change in our own representations demonstrates, even though the existence of all external phenomena, together with their changes, is denied). Now, changes are only possible in time, and therefore time must be something real. But there is no difficulty in answering this. I grant the whole argument. Time, no doubt, is something real, that is, it is the real form of our internal intuition. It therefore has subjective reality, in reference to our internal experience, that is, I have really the representation of time and of my determinations therein. Time, therefore, is not to be regarded as an object, but as the mode of representation of myself as an object. But if I could intuite myself, or be intuited by another being, without this condition of sensibility, then those very determinations which we now represent to ourselves as changes, would present to us a knowledge in which the representation of time, and consequently of change, would not appear. The empirical reality of time, therefore, remains, as the condition of all our experience. But absolute reality, according to what has been


said above, cannot be granted it. Time is nothing but the form of our internal intuition.* If we take away from it the special condition of our sensibility, the conception of time also vanishes; and it inheres not in the objects themselves, but solely in the subject (or mind) which intuites them.

* I can indeed say "my representations follow one another, or are successive"; but this means only that we are conscious of them as in a succession, that is, according to the form of the internal sense. Time, therefore, is not a thing in itself, nor is it any objective determination pertaining to, or inherent in things.
But the reason why this objection is so unanimously brought against our doctrine of time, and that too by disputants who cannot start any intelligible arguments against the doctrine of the ideality of space, is this -- they have no hope of demonstrating apodeictically the absolute reality of space, because the doctrine of idealism is against them, according to which the reality of external objects is not capable of any strict proof. On the other hand, the reality of the object of our internal sense (that is, myself and my internal state) is clear immediately through consciousness. The former -- external objects in space -- might be a mere delusion, but the latter -- the object of my internal perception -- is undeniably real. They do not, however, reflect that both, without question of their reality as representations, belong only to the genus phenomenon, which has always two aspects, the one, the object considered as a thing in itself, without regard to the mode of intuiting it, and the nature of which remains for this very reason problematical, the other, the form of our intuition of the object, which must be sought not in the object as a thing in itself, but in the subject to which it appears -- which form of intuition nevertheless belongs really and necessarily to the phenomenal object.

Time and space are, therefore, two sources of knowledge, from which, a priori, various synthetical cognitions can be drawn. Of this we find a striking example in the cognitions of space and its relations, which form the foundation of pure mathematics. They are the two pure forms of all intuitions, and thereby make synthetical propositions a priori possible. But these sources of knowledge being merely conditions of our sensibility, do therefore, and as such, strictly determine their own range and purpose, in that they do not and cannot present


objects as things in themselves, but are applicable to them solely in so far as they are considered as sensuous phenomena. The sphere of phenomena is the only sphere of their validity, and if we venture out of this, no further objective use can be made of them. For the rest, this formal reality of time and space leaves the validity of our empirical knowledge unshaken; for our certainty in that respect is equally firm, whether these forms necessarily inhere in the things themselves, or only in our intuitions of them. On the other hand, those who maintain the absolute reality of time and space, whether as essentially subsisting, or only inhering, as modifications, in things, must find themselves at utter variance with the principles of experience itself. For, if they decide for the first view, and make space and time into substances, this being the side taken by mathematical natural philosophers, they must admit two self -- subsisting nonentities, infinite and eternal, which exist (yet without there being anything real) for the purpose of containing in themselves everything that is real. If they adopt the second view of inherence, which is preferred by some metaphysical natural philosophers, and regard space and time as relations (contiguity in space or succession in time), abstracted from experience, though represented confusedly in this state of separation, they find themselves in that case necessitated to deny the validity of mathematical doctrines a priori in reference to real things (for example, in space) -- at all events their apodeictic certainty. For such certainty cannot be found in an a posteriori proposition; and the conceptions a priori of space and time are, according to this opinion, mere creations of the imagination,* having their source really in experience, inasmuch as, out of relations abstracted from experience, imagination has made up something which contains, indeed, general statements of these relations, yet of which no application can be made without the restrictions attached thereto by nature. The former of these parties gains this advantage, that they keep the sphere of phenomena free for mathematical science. On the other hand, these very conditions (space and time) embarrass them greatly, when the understanding endeavours


to pass the limits of that sphere. The latter has, indeed, this advantage, that the representations of space and time do not come in their way when they wish to judge of objects, not as phenomena, but merely in their relation to the understanding. Devoid, however, of a true and objectively valid a priori intuition, they can neither furnish any basis for the possibility of mathematical cognitions a priori, nor bring the propositions of experience into necessary accordance with those of mathematics. In our theory of the true nature of these two original forms of the sensibility, both difficulties are surmounted.

* This word is here used, and will be hereafter always used, in it primitive sense. That meaning of it which denotes a poetical inventive power, is a secondary one. -- Tr.
In conclusion, that transcendental æsthetic cannot contain any more than these two elements -- space and time, is sufficiently obvious from the fact that all other conceptions appertaining to sensibility, even that of motion, which unites in itself both elements, presuppose something empirical. Motion, for example, presupposes the perception of something movable. But space considered in itself contains nothing movable, consequently motion must be something which is found in space only through experience -- in other words, an empirical datum. In like manner, transcendental Æsthetic cannot number the conception of change among its data a priori; for time itself does not change, but only something which is in time. To acquire the conception of change, therefore, the perception of some existing object and of the succession of its determinations, in one word, experience, is necessary.

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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1 comment:

  1. thank you. this made it so much easier to understand.