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The principles of the first Critique.

IN THE A PREFACE to the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant gives us a general description of its central task. The "critique of pure reason" is to be
   a critique of the faculty of reason in general, in respect of all
   the cognitions after which reason might strive independently of all
   experience, and hence the decision about the possibility or
   impossibility of a metaphysics in general, and the determination of
   its sources, as well as its extent and boundaries, all, however,
   from principles. (1)

If the results of the Critique, including its decisions about metaphysics, are to depend on the principles it sets forth, then our understanding of those results would seem naturally to depend on our understanding of its principles. But further, if the principles that ground Kant's view depend on Kant's understanding of what kind of thing a principle is, then much would seem to hang on our understanding of Kant's conception of the nature of a principle. Surprisingly, for all the history of Kant scholarship devoted to questions concerning the results of the Critique, with its range of views concerning the significance of this or that principle to be found in Kant's text, there seems to be little attention paid to the very notion of a principle in Kant.

The term "principle" (2) appears repeatedly in the Critique, but nowhere in the text does Kant explain what he means by it. Moreover, the term is used in such varying contexts and with such seemingly diverse senses that it is difficult to see exactly how the Critique is supposed to be a unified science resting on a distinct and basic set of principles. For example, Kant uses the term to refer to forms of sensibility and understanding, to laws of possible experience, to maxims of reason to seek the unconditioned, and to grounds of cognition such as axioms of scientific knowledge or simply premises of a syllogism. On the face of it, it is unclear what the designation "principle" is supposed to signify, whether there are more or less fundamental principles and on what basis, and whether there is supposed to be some way in which the diverse instances of them are related to form a unified science of theoretical reason. (3) The aim of this essay is to offer a theory of Kant's principles that will provide answers to these questions. In what follows I shall first clarify what Kant understands by the term "principle" by briefly looking to his metaphysics lectures and then to the use of the term by two thinkers contemporary to and influential upon Kant--namely, Hume and Newton. Given these considerations, our initial hypothesis will be that Kant conceives of principles in an Aristotelian fashion, such that his use of the term involves distinct senses that correspond in an analogous way to Aristotle's four causes. I shall then show how this specific conception of a principle underlies Kant's account of reason's principles in the first Critique.


We begin with Kant's discussion of principles in his metaphysics lectures. (4) In the ontology division of his lecture Metaphysik [L.sub.2], (5) in a section entitled "Cause and Effect," Kant offers the following definitions and distinctions:
   Cause and ground are to be distinguished. What contains the ground
   of possibility is ground <ratio>, or the principle of being
   <principium essendi>. The ground of actuality is the principle of
   becoming <principium fiendi>, cause <causa>. What contains the
   ground of something is called in general principle <principium>.

Kant defines the term "principle" as that which contains the ground of something. He even seems to equate "principle" with "ground" insofar as, after making the claim that the principle of being "contains" the ground of possibility, he says that the ground of actuality "is" the principle of becoming. However closely Kant wants to bring together the concepts of ground and principle, what is most relevant for us here is Kant's distinction between two kinds of principle--namely, the principle of being and that of becoming.

Kant's rendering of the principle of being in Latin further identifies it as the principle of essence, and it is characterized as the ground of the possibility of a thing. Kant picks up a related discussion of this principle in the next section of his lecture, "Matter and Form":
   Matter is the given <datum>, what is given, thus the stuff.--But
   form is how these givens <data> are posited, the manner in which
   the manifold stands in connection. We see matter and form in all
   parts.... The ancients said: the universal or the genus was the
   matter, the specific difference <differentia specifica> the form.
   E.g., human being would be the genus, thus the matter; but learned
   human being [the] specific difference <differentia specifica>, thus
   the form. The ancients placed a great deal on the form; they said
   it was the essence of matters. (7)

Here Kant distinguishes between form and matter, referring to the former also as "essence." The principle of being, that is, the principle of possibility or of essence, is the form that determines the specific character of a thing.

As noted above, Kant contrasts the principle of being with the principle of becoming, or ground of actuality, the latter of which he also calls "cause." Kant subsequently defines a cause as "that which contains the ground of the actuality of the determination or of the substance." (8) He then introduces the notion of efficient cause and offers an example of one:

There is much that does contain the ground of a matter, but is not the actual cause. There are positive as well as negative causes. An efficient cause <causa efficiens> is a cause by efficient power [Kraft]. A necessary condition <conditio sine qua non> is a determination of things that is indeed not negative, but is also not called efficient cause, although it is at the same time reckoned a cause. So with cannonballs, the powder is a necessary condition <conditio sine qua non>; but the efficient cause <causa efficiens> is the soldier who ignites the cannon. (9)

Kant emphasizes here the element of "power [Kraft]" as essential for something to be considered an efficient cause. The example illustrates this feature of an efficient cause insofar as it is in virtue of the soldier as the source of motion--or as having the power of movement--in his lighting of the cannon that he is the proper efficient cause of the event of firing cannonballs. (Here it seems that "cannonballs" must be shorthand for the event of the firing of cannonballs.) An efficient cause is a cause that is the source of motion of a change, and that is due to the possession of some power. Finally, we might note that the powder itself is here "reckoned" a kind of cause in virtue of its status as a necessary condition, even though it cannot be counted as an efficient cause. It seems rather to be a material cause.

After defining terms relevant to the notion of a cause, Kant distinguishes between an efficient cause, now referred to as an "effective connection," and a further kind of cause:
   This effective connection <nexus effectivus> is to be distinguished
   chiefly from the connection of finality <nexu finali>, and indeed
   in the method of philosophizing, so that we do not substitute a
   connection of finality <nexum finalis> for an effective connection
   <effectivo>. (10)

After making this distinction, Kant warns both against the wholesale rejection of the connection of finality and against the laziness of reason that would abandon effective connections for final ones. Regardless of whether and how it could be appropriately used in the investigation of the causes of things, Kant certainly establishes here the principle of final causality as a legitimate notion. Just in case Kant's talk of "connections" or his somewhat ambivalent stance on the proper application of this principle obscures our main point here--which is to show that Kant understands final causes as a kind of cause, and thus as a kind of principle--we can turn to Kant's introduction of final causality in Metaphysik Mrongovius. (11) There Kant says straightforwardly, "causes are either efficient <efficientes> or final <finales>," and finishes his thought by reinforcing both the general idea of cause as the ground of actuality and the idea that efficient causes are to be understood in terms of the notion of power. (12) In sum, Kant is recorded in his metaphysics lectures as first distinguishing between a principle of being, which we have identified with a thing's form or essence, and a principle of becoming, which Kant calls a cause and which he divides into efficient and final causes. Thus we see that the term "principle" is used by Kant in an Aristotelian sense to refer to what we might call formal, efficient, and final causes. We even see something like a material cause named and thus seemingly included as a principle--even if only by courtesy.

One might straightaway object to our way of proceeding here by pointing out that Kant distinguishes between principles of being, principles of becoming, and principles of cognizing, (13) and by claiming that the first two have nothing to do with the principles of the Critique. In support of the relevance of our analysis, we refer to another remark Kant makes in his lectures, where he defends the idea of applying the distinction between form and matter, readily understood at the physical level, to transcendental analysis (14):
   Matter in the physical sense is the substrate <substratum> of
   extended objects, the possibility of bodies. But in the
   transcendental sense every given <datum> is matter, but the form
   [is] the relation of the given <dati>. Transcendental matter is the
   thing that is determinable <determinabile>; but transcendental form
   the determination, or the act of determining <actus determinandi>.
   Transcendental matter is the reality or the given <datum> for all
   things. But the limitation of reality constitutes transcendental
   form. All realities of things lie as if in infinite matter, where
   one then separates some realities for a thing, which is the form.

If the notions of matter and form have a transcendental application beyond their application to the physical, there seems no reason not to think that the principles of being and becoming have transcendental application as well. To begin with, we recall that the principle of being just is another way of talking about the form of a thing. Indeed, what we shall explore below are the transcendental senses of all of these principles insofar as they make possible a deeper analysis of the principles of cognition with which the Critique is concerned. Let us turn now to related uses of the term "principle" in Hume and Newton.


Before introducing his principles in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume thematizes the notion of first principles and philosophy's search for them:
   But may we not hope, that philosophy ... may carry its researches
   still farther, and discover, at least in some degree, the secret
   springs and principles, by which the human mind is actuated in its
   operations? Astronomers had long contented themselves with proving,
   from the phaenomena, the true motions, order, and magnitude of the
   heavenly bodies: Till a philosopher, at last, arose, who seems,
   from the happiest reasoning, to have also determined the laws and
   forces, by which the revolutions of the planets are governed and
   directed.... And there is no reason to despair of equal success in
   our enquiries concerning the mental powers and economy, if
   prosecuted with equal capacity and caution. It is probable, that
   one operation and principle of the mind depends on another; which,
   again, may be resolved into one more general and universal.... (16)

Here Hume takes Newton's "laws and forces" of the physical world as his model for determining the "principles" of the mind. After laying out in [section]II of the Enquiry what is to be the ultimate "materials" or givens of all thought (17)--namely impressions--Hume identifies in [section]III the various "principles of connexion" that exist between ideas of the mind: resemblance, contiguity in time or place, and cause or effect. (18) These principles designate the various laws or formal relations that the mind is found to employ in its acts of thinking.

In [section]V Hume searches for the cause of the mind's propensity to infer, given past experiences of objects attended with certain effects, that similar objects will be attended with similar effects in the future. "If the mind be not engaged by argument to make this step," declares Hume, then "it must be induced by some other principle of equal weight and authority." (19) Hume then determines that "this principle is Custom or Habit," (20) and he later concludes that the whole of belief is constituted by a "feeling" that is ultimately grounded in the "force" of custom:
   Whenever any object is presented to the memory or senses, it
   immediately, by the force of custom, carries the imagination to
   conceive that object, which is usually conjoined to it; and this
   conception is attended with a feeling or sentiment, different from
   the loose reveries of the fancy. In this consists the whole nature
   of belief. (21)

For Hume the operation of belief is a "species of natural instincts." (22) Thus the so-called "principle" of custom or habit constitutes an instinctual urge that causes the mind to make inferences and hold beliefs about future states of affairs. It designates a power or force as the efficient cause behind the production of beliefs. (23)

As Hume suggests, Newton too uses the term "principle" to designate both laws and forces--both formal and efficient causes. At the beginning of Book Three of the Principia, Newton summarizes what he has established up to that point:
   In the preceding books I have laid down the principles of
   philosophy; principles not philosophical but mathematical: such,
   namely, as we may build our reasonings upon in philosophical
   inquiries. These principles are the laws and conditions of certain
   motions, and powers or forces, which chiefly have respect to
   philosophy.... (24)

The "principles" that Newton has laid down in the previous two books all depend on the first principles that he lays out in the definitions and axioms. Whereas the axioms posit the fundamental rules governing motion, the definitions identify and explicate the other conditions of motion--namely, those of matter and of forces or powers. In Newton, as in Hume, we see principles designating at least two distinct phenomena: rules that express formal relations of a given matter as well as forces that set the matter in motion. Both types of principles are introduced after the kind of matter under consideration is clarified.

Given both Kant's understanding of the term "principle" evidenced in his lectures on metaphysics and the use of the term by his immediate predecessors, we should not be surprised to find Kant thinking in terms of material, efficient, and formal principles in his transcendental analysis of reason. Ultimately, I shall argue that Kant also thinks of reason in terms of a final cause. Before turning to this latter topic, I shall first show how approaching Kant's text with the distinctions between material, efficient, and formal principles will help to illuminate both details of his analysis and broader implications of the Critical view.


In Kant's summary of the science of transcendental logic, he outlines the basic conditions that need to be fulfilled for an act of cognition to occur:
   The first thing that must be given to us a priori for the cognition
   of all objects is the manifold of pure intuition; the synthesis of
   this manifold by means of the power of imagination
   [Einbildungskraft] is the second thing, but it still does not yield
   cognition. The concepts that give this pure synthesis unity, and
   that consist solely in the representation of this necessary
   synthetic unity, are the third thing necessary for cognition of an
   object that comes before us, and they depend on the understanding.

Especially given our analysis above, it seems natural to understand Kant's "three things" as identifying the material, efficient, and formal causes of cognition. Given Kant's explicit statements elsewhere, it is certainly uncontroversial to refer to the manifold of pure intuition as a "matter." (26) We shall focus here instead on what we take to be Kant's implicit distinction between efficient and formal principles. Our hypothesis is that he distinguishes carefully between the powers [Krafte] that constitute the efficient causes of cognition and the forms that constitute the principles of intelligibility in acts of cognition. (27)

Just before the passage cited above, Kant makes the following remark:
   Synthesis in general [uberhaupt] is, as we shall subsequently see,
   the mere effect of the power of imagination, of a blind though
   indispensable function of the soul, without which we would have no
   cognition at all. Yet to bring this synthesis to concepts is a
   function that pertains to the understanding, and by means of which
   it first provides cognition in the proper sense. (28)

In accordance with our hypothesis, we can understand the expression "synthesis in general" as referring to synthesis as such or the mere activity of synthesis. By calling such synthesis in general the "mere effect" of the power of the imagination, Kant seems to be stressing the merely efficient causality of this cognitive power. In his copy of the first edition of the Critique, Kant replaces the phrase "of a blind though indispensable function of the soul" with "of a function of the understanding." (29) I suggest that we can make the most sense of these alternate descriptions if we take them as attempts, from different perspectives, to articulate the role of the imagination as a merely efficient cause. In his unpublished emendation, Kant stresses that the imagination operates under the service of the understanding; while the imagination generates synthetic activity, it is the understanding that guides it in its activity. (30) In the published formulation, Kant describes this merely efficient causality from the perspective not of the understanding but of the imagination itself, and from this latter perspective the imagination is appropriately described as a "blind function," for its "sight" or its capacity for conceptualizing synthetic activity comes from the understanding.

The "concepts"--or the "third thing"--to which Kant refers are of course the pure concepts of the understanding, which he elsewhere calls "self-thought a priori first principles of our cognition." (31) They are, as Kant says, responsible for giving unity to the pure synthesis of the imagination by bringing it to concepts. Only by means of the categories can the matter presented by intuition, and "generally" or "merely" synthesized by the imagination, receive an intelligible form. Now, in virtue of this unity of form that they bring to the synthesis, the categories are to be understood, according to our analysis, as formal principles.

So far we have suggested that cognition depends on a matter constituted by the manifold of pure intuition, on an efficient principle constituted by the power of the imagination, and on formal principles constituted by the categories. Kant's picture in the end is of course much more complicated than this. First, Kant introduces into his analysis powers other than that of the imagination--namely, the power of representation [Vorstellungskraft], which he attributes to original apperception, and the power of judgment [Urteilskraft]. Second, in his analysis of original apperception Kant stresses at times its combinatory activity as a power of representation and at other times its function as an original form of unity more primitive than the categories, a dual capacity which our analysis allows us to understand in terms of a distinction between efficient and formal causal roles. Finally, Kant's formal principles extend beyond the understanding to the forms of sensibility. A complete analysis of Kant's efficient and formal principles of cognition would of course include an analysis of the grounding roles of all of these principles.

While our interpretive analysis of Kant's elements of cognition in terms of different types of causes or grounds might make good sense of various passages in the Critique, it would be helpful if we could find more explicit support for it in Kant's own formulations. In referring to the categories, Kant certainly does not use the term "formal principles," but he does often refer to them as "forms" and even, if less often, as "principles," as we saw in the passage from B167. In contrast, Kant does not, as far as I know, ever make explicit reference in the Critique to the powers of the understanding as "principles" (32) and much less as "efficient" principles. The case for this reading must be made more indirectly. (33) I shall now point to a few places in Kant's writings that strongly suggest that he does have this conception in mind.

First, in accordance with what one would expect given his lectures, Kant--like Newton--does speak of physical forces in general as causes of motion, and as such, as "principles." Consider, for example, his discussion of the force of gravity at A663/B691 in the first Critique. Second, Kant refers to the efficient causes of change in living substances, too, as "principles." One might consider, for example, Kant's discussion in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science where he speaks of the "internal principle" of change belonging to living substances due to the faculty of desire. (34) Finally, and most significantly, Kant, in the second Critique, explicitly uses the term "principle" to designate what appear to be clear cases of efficient causality to be found in every faculty of the mind, and indeed in the "powers" of the mind:
   To every faculty of the mind one can attribute an interest, that
   is, a principle that contains the condition under which alone its
   exercise is promoted. Reason, as the faculty of principles,
   determines the interest of all the powers of the mind but itself
   determines its own. The interest of its speculative use consists in
   the cognition of the object up to the highest a priori
   principles.... (35)

To "promote an exercise"--that is, to set something in motion--is precisely to be an efficient cause. In accordance with this remark from the second Critique, then, we are taking the view that part of Kant's goal in the first Critique is to identify the distinct "interests" of various faculties of theoretical reason as genuine principles of reason.

With respect to the faculty of the understanding, I take it that the powers of imagination, representation, and judgment designate just those conditions under which its exercise is promoted. Moreover, the idea that we should think of the exercise of this faculty as promoted specifically by an "interest" fits well with Kant's talk of the spontaneity of the understanding. Consider, for example, the following remark: "Only the spontaneity of our thought requires [erfordert] that this manifold [of intuition] first be gone through, taken up, and combined in a certain way in order for a cognition to be made out of it." (36) Given the passage from the second Critique, we should interpret this notion of requirement in the sense of something required by an interest of the understanding to promote a certain activity, namely, cognition. Instead of focusing here on the spontaneity of the understanding, however, I would like to turn our attention to the faculty of pure reason, where we can find a similar attribution of an interest by Kant.

In the First Book of the Dialectic, Kant identifies a "need" that belongs to our "power of cognition," but that goes beyond any that we might attribute to the understanding:
   Plato noted very well that our power of cognition [Erkenntniskraft]
   feels a far higher need than that of merely spelling out
   appearances according to a synthetic unity in order to be able to
   read them as experience, and that our reason naturally exalts
   itself to cognitions that go much too far for any object that
   experience can give ever to be congruent, but that nonetheless have
   their reality and are by no means merely figments of the brain.

Kant refers to this "need" elsewhere as a "prescription," "demand [Forderung]," and "maxim" of reason, (38) and he explicitly characterizes it as a "principle"--one that is defined in terms of a specific interest: "the proper principle of reason in general (in its logical use) is to find the unconditioned for conditioned cognitions of the understanding, with which its unity will be completed." (39) Kant of course distinguishes this proper principle of reason, which he describes as reason in its "logical use" and refers to as a prescription or demand, from an illusory principle of reason, which he describes as reason in its "pure use." (40) The latter, illusory principle is not a demand but a law expressed by the proposition that, when a conditioned object or state of affairs is given, the unconditioned ground of it is also given. On our reading we can clarify Kant's distinction here, and appreciate his explicit reference to the demand of reason as a principle, by characterizing it as a distinction between a genuine efficient principle that drives reason, on the one hand, and a spurious formal principle expressing a synthetic law of pure reason, on the other. Thus we see here that, just as we should think of the understanding as guided by an interest in cognition, we should think of pure reason as guided by an interest in reaching unconditioned conditions.

Of course, the very talk of interests already implies the notion of ends. Having laid out the case for understanding Kant's conception of principles in a way that distinguishes between material, formal, and efficient instances, I shall next show how this analysis is at bottom tied to Kant's conception of theoretical reason as teleological, (41) that is, as grounded in its activity by a final principle or end. Before doing so, however, let me first point out what I take to be some advantages of the present reading.

The first advantage is that we can begin to provide a unified account of Kant's principles in two different directions. With respect to what we might call a horizontal dimension, we now have a principled way of accounting for Kant's diverse uses of the term "principle" that refer to distinct kinds of grounds, an essential precondition for becoming clear about the foundational principles that the Critique is supposed to establish. In particular we can recognize and account for Kant's designation of interests or demands as principles of reason, which can otherwise be overlooked especially if we assume that the foundational principles of the Critique are to be found solely in formal rules of cognition or even in mere cognitive forms. With respect to what we might call a vertical dimension of unity in Kant's account of principles, we can understand Kant's other main uses of the term "principle," which do not refer to the specific material, formal, or efficient principles of the kind laid out above, as designating items that are derivative from these principles. Such derivative grounds would have the status of being relatively fundamental. For example, the principles of possible experience are derivative insofar as they have their basis in the material and formal principles found at the most elemental level--namely, in pure intuition and in the categories of the understanding. (42) As a further example, the "supreme principle of all synthetic judgments"--namely, the law that "every object stands under the necessary conditions of the synthetic unity of the manifold of intuition in a possible experience" (43)--could then be understood as derivative in a further sense; it is a metalevel principle that states a general rule governing all principles of possible experience.

The second advantage of our analysis of Kant's principles is that it may allow us to capture more of Kant's science of reason than does, for example, an analysis that would take the principles of possible experience as fundamental. The latter analysis has the effect of restricting Kant's positive theory of theoretical reason to a metaphysics of experience by ruling out from the start the possibility of a positive analysis of pure reason as a distinct intellectual faculty with its own genuine principles and thus its own place in Kant's positive theory in the Critique. But there seems little reason to prejudge the issue from the start, especially given many of Kant's own programmatic statements about his conception of reason. We turn now to those statements and to the implications they have for construing reason as possessing a final principle.


Above we showed that Hume, taking his inspiration from Newton, attempted to organize his science of the mind in terms of efficient and formal principles. We argued that Kant, in his science of reason, also makes use of this distinction. Furthermore, just as Newton in his system of the world was able to reduce all forces in the universe to a single efficient cause, namely, the fundamental force of gravity, we see Hume in his system of the mind striving to reduce the operations of the mind to a single efficient cause, namely, the force of custom. What we find in the Critique is a similar insistence on a unified science with respect to reason and, furthermore, a similar claim that the unity of this science is to rest on a single principle. Consider the following remarks from the A Preface:

(1) In fact pure reason is such a perfect unity that if its principle were insufficient for even a single one of the questions that are set for it by its own nature, then this [principle] might as well be discarded.... (44)

(2) ... we direct our view toward the intelligibility of a whole of speculative cognition that is wide-ranging and yet connected in a principle, (45)

(3) Nothing here can escape us, because what reason brings forth entirely out of itself cannot be hidden, but is brought to light by reason itself as soon as reason's common principle has been discovered. (46)

In all of these passages, Kant makes reference to a single principle that is to provide unity to his system. But what kind of principle is this? Let us start by clarifying what it is not. First, in contrast to Hume, the unity of Kant's system of reason is not to be understood in terms of some single efficient cause. While Kant does appeal to forces or efficient principles in his analysis of reason, as we have argued above, it seems clear that Kant was skeptical about finding any single efficient principle or "fundamental power [Grundkraft]" of the mind, to which all other powers could be reduced. (47) Second, it is difficult to find in Kant some single, primitive formal principle--whether a law of the understanding or a category--that could reasonably be construed as providing unity to his system. There seems clearly to be no single formal law to which all the laws of the understanding could be traced back, and for Kant all the categories are supposed to be nonderivative. Moreover, any metalevel principle like the "supreme principle of all synthetic judgments," which would articulate some general constraint on all particular principles of possible experience, would seem incapable of serving the substantial unifying function that Kant emphasizes in the above passages. As an alternative to such attempts at locating this principle, I shall argue that, for Kant, the kind of principle that can bring to light everything that belongs to reason and connect it into a wide-ranging whole of speculative cognition is a principle that designates the purpose or aim of reason. (48)

That Kant did think of reason in terms of a unifying purpose seems to be precisely what is revealed by his repeated comparison of reason to an organism. (49) Let us turn first, then, to Kant's developed conception of an organism, which he presents in the third Critique:
   For a body, therefore, which is to be judged as a natural end in
   itself and in accordance with its internal possibility, it is
   required that its parts reciprocally produce each other, as far as
   both their form and their combination is concerned, and thus
   produces a whole out of their own causality, the concept of which,
   conversely, is in turn the cause (in a being that would possess the
   causality according to concepts appropriate for such a product) of
   it in accordance with a principle; consequently the connection of
   efficient causes could at the same time be judged as an effect
   through final causes.

   In such a product of nature each part is conceived as if it exists
   only through all the others, thus as if existing for the sake of
   others and on account of the whole.... (50)

For Kant, the concept of an organism is one that, as far as we can tell, requires the notion of final causality. (51) That is, while we partly make an organism intelligible to ourselves by understanding, through use of the categories, its parts as efficient causes that produce one another--even reciprocally--it is further required that we think of the organism as caused by a concept that contains the end toward which the activities of the parts are directed. The "principle in accordance with which the concept is a cause" is thus a final principle. Kant further tells us that it is in virtue of final and efficient causality, respectively, that an organism can be understood as both an "organized" and "self-organizing being." (52) On this view, each species of organism has a distinct concept that would explain the organism as a combination of parts whose forms and individual activities all relate to the single purpose of being a certain kind of thing. In short, this concept would identify the specific nature of an organism. (53)

Now it is just this notion of an organism to which Kant appeals in the first Critique in order to explain the basic features of human reason. Consider the following passages:

(1) ... pure speculative reason is, in respect of principles of cognition, a unity entirely separate and subsisting for itself, in which, as in an organized body, every part exists for the sake of all the others as all the others exist for its sake, and no principle can be taken with certainty in one relation unless it has at the same time been investigated in its thoroughgoing relation to the entire use of pure reason. (54)

(2) [the nature of a pure speculative reason] contains a truly articulated structure of members in which each thing is an organ, that is, in which everything is for the sake of each member, and each individual member is for the sake of all, so that even the least frailty, whether it be a mistake (an error) or a lack, must inevitably betray itself in its use. (55)

Reason is presented not only as self-organizing, which follows from its status as a unity "subsisting for itself," but also as organized, insofar as it is made up of various organs that exist for the sake of one another, and that together form a unity grounded in the use of the whole.

Kant makes the further claim here that reason constitutes such a cohesive and tightly organized unity that every part of it must be viewed as contributing toward the whole and its activity. Kant makes the same claim about organisms in the third Critique:
   An idea has to ground the possibility of the product of nature.
   However, since this is an absolute unity of the representation, ...
   if that unity of the idea is even to serve as the determining
   ground a priori of a natural law of the causality of such a form of
   the composite, then the end of nature must extend to everything
   that lies in its product. For once we have related such an effect
   in the whole to a supersensible determining ground beyond the blind
   mechanism of nature, we must also judge it entirely in accordance
   with this principle.... (56)

To know the underlying nature of an organism would require one to grasp the concept that reveals the unifying purpose of everything that belongs to that organism. But instead of speaking of a "concept" in accordance with a principle, Kant now uses the term "idea," which here indicates his skepticism about our ability to achieve knowledge of such natures. (57) Nonetheless, even if such determinate concepts, and thus ultimate, underlying natures, are beyond our grasp, we can still think of an organism in terms of an indeterminate idea that posits the special unity of the organism without comprehending it. Indeed, such an idea can be an indispensable heuristic "Leitfaden" or "guideline" for limited, empirical investigation:
   No one has doubted the correctness of the fundamental principle
   that certain things in nature (organized beings) and their
   possibility must be judged in accordance with the concept of final
   causes, even if one requires only a guideline for coming to know
   their constitution through observation without rising to the level
   of an investigation into their ultimate origin. (58)

It is this last claim about the indeterminacy of such ideas that marks the crucial point at which the analogy between reason and the organism ends. Unlike in the case of organisms, the single principle that grounds the thoroughgoing unity of reason is, according to Kant, discoverable. We recall a now familiar passage: "Nothing here can escape us, because what reason brings forth entirely out of itself cannot be hidden, but is brought to light by reason itself as soon as reason's common principle has been discovered." (59) And indeed Kant claims to have discovered it. Now to claim that this principle is discoverable is of course not to claim that it is self-evident, but only that it is capable of discovery, that human reason can grasp it. What, then, is this principle?

In the Transcendental Analytic, Kant extends his way of speaking about speculative reason as a whole to the specific faculty of the understanding, which is to be thought of not only as a part, or organ, of reason as a whole, but also as an organism in its own right:
   [The pure understanding is] a unity that subsists on its own, which
   is sufficient by itself, and which is not to be supplemented by any
   external additions. Hence the sum total of its cognition will
   constitute a system that is to be grasped and determined under one
   idea, the completeness and articulation of which system can at the
   same time yield a touchstone of the correctness and genuineness of
   all the pieces of cognition fitting into it. (60)

Like reason, the understanding is described as a self-subsisting unity and as comprising a system that is to be "grasped and determined under one idea." Kant then tells us a few pages later what this idea, or now "principle," is that will give us insight into the nature of the understanding and its parts--both its forms and their combination: "This division [of all original pure concepts of synthesis] is systematically generated from a common principle, namely the faculty for judging (which is the same as the faculty for thinking)." (61) Given Kant's comparisons of the understanding and of reason as a whole to an organism, whose distinctive feature is that of being organized in virtue of a final cause, I suggest that it is only natural to understand this common principle of judgment (62) in terms of a final cause. Kant thinks that it is appropriate to derive the pure concepts of the understanding, as well as its powers of synthesis, from the various functions of judgment because he thinks that the end or purpose of the understanding is to judge. So, just as an indeterminate idea of a unity through a final cause can serve as a "guideline [Leitfaden]" for thinking of an organism in ways that would make it intelligible beyond application of the categories, so the determinate principle of judgment can serve as a "clue [Leitfaden]" for grasping or comprehending the faculty of the understanding. (63)

Now if the act of judgment is the end toward which the understanding is oriented and thus the principle that constitutes the unity underlying the science of this faculty, what is the principle that would underlie the science of theoretical reason as a whole? It is the very same principle, and thus one that can provide the thoroughgoing unity that Kant claims for theoretical reason. The place to look for Kant's conception of how the activity of judging constitutes the end of the whole of theoretical reason is in the class of modal judgments. We turn briefly then to the modal functions of judgment and conclude our analysis.


In the table of judgments Kant distinguishes between different logical modalities:
   Problematic judgments are those in which one regards the assertion
   or denial as merely possible (arbitrary). Assertoric judgments are
   those in which it is considered actual (true). Apodictic judgments
   are those in which it is seen as necessary. (64)

Abstracting from all content of a judgment, Kant explains these distinctions in terms of the different epistemic attitudes a subject can have with regard to the truth of a judgment: one can regard a judgment as possibly true, actually true, or necessarily true. In a footnote to this remark Kant says further that "it is just as if in the first case thought were a function of the understanding, in the second of the power of judgment, and in the third of reason." (65) Our hypothesis then is that judgment can be understood as the aim of theoretical reason as a whole insofar as distinct modal judgments express the aims of theoretical reason at its various levels. To see this point, we turn to a brief but pregnant remark of Kant's that portrays the various modal functions of judgments as belonging to a unified, teleological course of thinking:
   Now since everything here is gradually incorporated into the
   understanding, so that one first judges something problematically,
   then assumes it assertorically as true, and finally asserts it to
   be inseparably connected with the understanding, i.e., asserts it
   as necessary and apodictic, these three functions of modality can
   also be called so many moments of thinking in general. (66)

According to this passage, the gradual movement of thinking is one that starts with the formation of a judgment that expresses an act of understanding as such--that is, with the grasping or making intelligible of some possible state of affairs in accordance with the general rules for objectivity. It then progresses to the acceptance of that judgment (in the case that it is true) as an assertion about the way things actually are. Finally, it culminates in the assertion of this judgment as necessary. To clarify this sense of necessity and thus the ultimate aim of speculative reason, we turn to one last distinction Kant makes in the Critique. (67)

In its broadest sense, the term "cognition" for Kant refers to any act of understanding that can be expressed in the form of a judgment. In the Architectonic of Pure Reason Kant distinguishes between historical and rational cognition:
   If I abstract from all content of cognition, objectively
   considered, then all cognition, considered subjectively, is either
   historical or rational. Historical cognition is cognitio ex datis,
   rational cognition, however, cognitio ex principiis. However a
   cognition may have been given originally, it is still historical
   for him who possesses it if he cognizes it only to the degree and
   extent that it has been given to him from elsewhere.... (68)

Historical cognition has its source in something that is merely given, whether in one's immediate experience or in the testimony of another's experience. The essential feature of historical cognition is that one cognizes of something merely that it is the case. Rational cognition, on the other hand, is cognition from principles. When one cognizes from principles, one cognizes not merely that something is the case, but also why it is the case. To cognize from principles means to grasp the explanatory conditions or grounds of the targeted judgment, such that one sees how this judgment follows necessarily from those explanatory conditions--hence, the (conditional) necessity attributed to the judgment. (69) Thus, we may say that while the understanding is aimed at grasping intelligibility and the power of judgment at delivering true judgments, reason is aimed at grasping the explanations of such true judgments. Put another way, theoretical reason as a whole is progressively aimed at problematic, assertoric, and apodictic judgments. Finally, if we combine this result with Kant's claims about the natural demand of reason discussed above in section III, we can add that theoretical reason does not rest with any local explanatory conditions of judgments, but rather seeks unconditioned conditions. The ultimate end or final cause of theoretical reason is thus to reach apodictic judgments in this sense.

With this last point we conclude our case that Kant conceives of the principles of the first Critique in terms of material, formal, efficient, and final causes, and that the unity of this science is to be found in the underlying aim of theoretical reason to judge. There are, to be sure, further questions about the relations between the various kinds of principles here exposited, about how they constitute theoretical reason's self-legislative capacity, and thus about how their normative character is grounded. Moreover, I have not in the present paper taken up questions regarding Kant's justification for the picture he presents. (70) What I have done is offered a view of Kant's principles of reason that seems to follow from a systematic analysis of Kant's understanding and use of the term. Accordingly, we can at this point also conclude that, whatever the fate of metaphysics turns out to be on the Critical view, Kant would seem to support his verdicts with an underlying theory of reason that involves commitments to the various principles of theoretical reason as a whole. What the implications of these commitments turn out to be for Kant--especially the implications of his commitment to the ends of theoretical reason--is yet a further topic for another day. (71)

Saint Joseph's University

(1) Unless otherwise noted, all citations to the first Critique are from the Critique of Pure Reason, trans, and ed. Paul Guyer and Allen Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Henceforth, "KrV." The cited pagination utilizes the customary first (A) and second (B) edition format. All other citations to Kant are to Kant's gesammelte Schriften, ed. Koniglich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1900-), given with volume and page number. Henceforth, "AK." Translations used are noted. KrV, Axii.

(2) By "principle" I refer to Kant's use of the Latinate "Princip" and "Principium" and the German "Grundsatz," which at least in the present context I see no reason to differentiate.

(3) Kant speaks of this "special science" of reason at KrV, A11-13/B24-7.

(4) While there are interpretive questions concerning which claims in Kant's recorded lectures are to be attributed to Kant and which to Alexander Baumgarten, the philosopher on whom Kant models his lectures, the issue that interests us here can largely ignore these matters. We are interested in understanding a notion that Kant seems to share with his philosophical predecessors and that he seems to take for granted with his students. Indeed, the very fact that Kant nowhere in his published work thematizes the notion of a principle is itself evidence that Kant is operating with a conception that he simply takes over from the tradition within which he is working.

(5) Kant's Metaphysik [L.sub.2] lecture course is thought to have been given in 1790-91.

(6) All citations of Kant's lectures on metaphysics are taken from Lectures on Metaphysics/Immanuel Kant, ed. and trans. Karl Ameriks and Steve Naragon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). AK, 28:571; Lectures on Metaphysics, 334.

(7) AK, 28:575; Lectures on Metaphysics, 338.

(8) AK, 28:571; Lectures on Metaphysics, 334.

(9) AK, 28:572; Lectures on Metaphysics, 336.

(10) AK, 28:574; Lectures on Metaphysics, 337.

(11) Kant's Metaphysik Mrongovius lecture course is thought to have been given in 1782-83.

(12) AK, 29:845; Lectures on Metaphysics, 202. See also AK, 29:823-24; Lectures on Metaphysics, 182.

(13) See, for example, Metaphysik [L.sub.2], AK, 28:572.

(14) The fact that Kant notes this transcendental application also shows that in the material of this lecture Kant is not merely repeating the views of Baumgarten but presenting his own philosophical views.

(15) AK, 28:575; Lectures on Metaphysics, 338-9.

(16) An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed. L.A. Selby-Bigge and P.H. Nidditch, third edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 14-15. Henceforth, "Enquiry."

(17) Enquiry, 19.

(18) Enquiry, 23-24.

(19) Enquiry, 41, emphasis is mine.

(20) Enquiry, 43.

(21) Enquiry, 48.

(22) Enquiry, 46-7.

(23) See also Enquiry, 108: "experimental reasoning itself ... is nothing but a species of instinct or mechanical power."

(24) Sir Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, trans. Andrew Motte, revised by Florian Cajori (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1946), 397.

(25) KrV, A78-9/B104. Here and below, translation of Einbildungskraft is emended to "power of imagination."

(26) See, for example, KrV, A76-7/B102.

(27) There is of course a history of Kant scholarship that focuses on the significance of Kant's talk of powers in the Critique and thinks of them in terms of an efficient causality. What I regard as new in my reading is the claim that these cognitive powers should be considered rightfully as principles for Kant. Furthermore, against much of this literature, I do not think that Kant did, must, or should think of these transcendental powers as causes in a psychological sense. This topic warrants full discussion elsewhere, but here we can at least say that what justifies the positive characterization of any principle as "transcendental" is that it plays a necessary, normative role in the operation of pure or a priori forms of thought in acts of cognition--that is, in the representation of objects. For a documentation of the history of Kant scholarship that focuses on Kant's talk of cognitive powers, as well as for a reading of Kant that treats such powers as psychological, see Patricia Kitcher, Kant's Transcendental Psychology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990). For another leading study of Kant's theory of mind that focuses extensively on cognitive powers and their operations, especially as they relate to cognitive science, see Andrew Brook, Kant and the Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). For a shorter, more recent study that relates a psychological interpretation of the subjective deduction of the Critique to debates in Kant's time about fundamental forces, see Corey W. Dyck, "The Subjective Deduction and the Search for a Fundamental Force," Kant-Studien 99 (2008): 152-79.

28 KrV, A78/B103.

(29) See Guyer and Wood's footnote "b" at A78/B103 of their translation.

(30) As will be shown below, what for Kant ensures the legitimate status of the power of imagination as a principle of reason--an efficient principle, in our terms--is the fact that it can be guided by and thus brought under the aims of the understanding. There is, however, a history of Kant interpretation that suspects the power of imagination to be the "common, but to us unknown root" of the capacities of sensibility and understanding, and thus not a function of the understanding in the aforementioned sense. On this reading, the power of imagination can be no such principle; moreover, on such a reading the very possibility of any purportedly transcendental principle--and thus of transcendental philosophy itself--is brought into question. For an influential reading of this kind, see Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, fourth edition, trans. Richard Taft (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990). For a potent criticism of this reading, see Dieter Henrich, "On the Unity of Subjectivity" in The Unity of Reason: Essays on Kant's Philosophy, ed. Richard Velkley (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).

(31) KrV, B167, emphasis is mine.

(32) Kant does however refer to the "power of cognition" belonging to pure reason as a "principle." We shall return to this below.

(33) It is worth noting here that in his description of the "supreme principles of the possibility of all intuition" in relation to sensibility and to the understanding, respectively, in [section]17 of the Transcendental Deduction, Kant refers to the "formal conditions of space and time" and then to the mere "conditions of the original synthetic unity of apperception." On our reading this is no accident. Whereas space and time constitute only formal conditions or principles and can thus be described as such, the conditions or principles constituted by original apperception are of multiple kinds and thus cannot be so simply described. That there should be such a reason for Kant's omission of the adjective "formal" in the latter case is strongly suggested by the fact that he formulates otherwise perfectly parallel statements of the these two supreme principles. See KrV, B136.

(34) See AK, 4:544.

(35) Citation is to Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Mary J. Gregor, in Practical Philosophy/Immanuel Kant, ed. Mary J. Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 236; AK, 5:119-20; second emphasis is mine.

(36) KrV, A77/B102.

(37) KrV, A314/B371.

(38) See, for example, A309/B365, A332/B389 and A666/B694, respectively.

(39) KrV, A307/B364.

(40) KrV, A305-9/B362-6.

(41) This designation of theoretical reason as "teleological" is to be understood differently from the sense of the term employed in orthodox Aristotelianism, medieval systems, and so forth. It assigns purposive activity to cognitive faculties and not to things of nature, for example, human beings.

(42) This is not to claim that Kant argues from these elemental principles to the principles of possible experience.

(43) KrV, A158/B197.

(44) KrV, Axiii.

(45) KrV, Axix.

(46) KrV, Axx.

(47) See, for example, A648-50/B676-8.

(48) That Kant in general thinks of a systematic whole of cognition, or science, as organized under a final principle is evidenced in his discussion at A832/B860: "I understand by a system, however, the unity of the manifold cognitions under one idea. This is the rational concept of the form of the whole, insofar as through this the domain of the manifold as well as tile position of the parts with respect to each other is determined a priori. The scientific rational concept thus contains the end and the form of the whole that is congruent to it." Emphasis is mine.

(49) While I take this comparison to be the most significant and sustained evidence for the view that Kant conceives of theoretical reason as purposive, we can find Kant making use of teleological language in his descriptions of theoretical reason and its activity throughout the Critique. See, for example, his remark at Axiv about the "ends" that are "set up for us by the nature of cognition itself"; at B128 about the field of human reason's "purposive activity"; at A19/B33 about intuition as that "at which all thought as a means is directed as an end"; at B141-142 about the "aim of the copula is" in judgments; and at A564/B592 about the pure use of reason "in regard to its ends."

(50) All citations to the third Critique are taken from the Critique of the Power of Judgment, ed. Paul Guyer, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). AK, 5:373-74; Critique of the Power o f Judgment, 245.

(51) For a helpful discussion of the exact status of this "requirement," see Hannah Ginsborg, "Kant on Understanding Organisms as Natural Purposes," in Kant and the Sciences, ed. Eric Watkins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 231-58. There is much controversy about how to understand Kant's claims about organisms in the third Critique with regard to their status as natural ends. In the present context we need not pursue a close analysis of these claims, since my use of Kant's discussion does not depend on the specifics of Kant's view in this regard.

(52) AK, 5:374.

(53) See Kant's repeated use of the term "forms of nature [Naturformen]" in the third Critique to refer to such natures or "forms" as a distinct kind of cause, for example, at 5:387, 5:393, 5:411, 5:421, and 5:480.

(54) KrV, Bxxiii.

(55) KrV, Bxxxvii-xxxviii. See also KrV, A833/B861.

(56) AK, 5:377; Critique of the Power of Judgment, 248.

(57) Such an idea is not just any hypothetical thought but an idea in Kant's technical sense--a notion that refers to a ground of unity or comprehension that reason demands even if it exceeds our capacity for insight.

(58) AK, 5:389; Critique of the Power of Judgment, 261.

(59) KrV, Axx.

(60) KrV, A65/B89-90.

(61) KrV, A80-1/B106-7. See also Kant's appeal in the A Preface to common logic, which provides us with an "example of how the simple acts of reason may be fully and systematically enumerated"; KrV, Axiv. If making judgments is the aim of reason, then common logic, which gives us insight into the different forms of judgment, can offer us insight into the structure of reason.

(62) For the importance of Kant's focus on judgment instead of Humean impressions or Cartesian ideas as a decisive methodological break that Kant makes with traditional representationalists, see Karl Ameriks, Kant and the Fate of Autonomy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 55-63.

(63) See Kant's "metaphysical deduction" of the categories, KrV, A66--83/B91-109.

(64) KrV, A74-5/B100-1.

(65) KrV, A75/B100, footnote. "Reason" here refers to reason in the narrow sense as an independent intellectual faculty. This remark is in the subjunctive mood because Kant does not support or explain it here. The footnote continues by noting that "this is a remark the elucidation of which can be expected only in the sequel." See, for example, A218-19/B265-7.

(66) KrV, A76/B101.

(67) Here I can only sketch one essential aspect of that sense of necessity with which Kant is typically concerned, a topic that warrants full discussion elsewhere.

(68) KrV, A835-6/B863-4.

(69) See also Kant's description of the task of reason at KrV, A304/B361: "If, as happens for the most part, the conclusion is a judgment given as the problem, in order to see whether it flows from already given judgments, through which, namely, a wholly different object is thought, then I seek whether the assertion of this conclusion is not to be found in the understanding under certain conditions according to a universal rule."

(70) For a general overview of the problem of reason's justification of its own principles and for a helpful account of how Kant approaches this problem, see Onora O'Neill, "Vindicating Reason" in The Cambridge Companion to Kant, ed. Paul Guyer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), ch. 9.

(71) I am grateful to Karl Ameriks for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Correspondence to: Department of Philosophy, Saint Joseph's University, 5600 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131.
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Author:Hebbeler, James C.
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Date:Mar 1, 2012
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