Emauel Kant

P 384





WE have shown in the introduction to this part of our work

that all transcendental illusion of pure reason rests on dia-

lectical inferences whose schema is supplied by logic in the

three formal species of syllogisms -- just as the categories find

their logical schema in the four functions of all judgments. The

first type of these pseudo-rational inferences deals with the

unconditioned unity of the subjective conditions of all repre-

sentations in general (of the subject or soul), in correspondence

with the categorical syllogisms, the major premiss of which is

a principle asserting the relation of a predicate to a subject. 

The second type of dialectical argument follows the analogy

of the hypothetical syllogisms. It has as its content the un-

conditioned unity of the objective conditions in the [field of]

appearance. In similar fashion, the third type, which will be

dealt with in the next chapter, has as its theme the un-

conditioned unity of the objective conditions of the possibility

of objects in general. 

But there is one point that calls for special notice. 

Transcendental paralogism produced a purely one-sided

illusion in regard to the idea of the subject of our thought. 

No illusion which will even in the slightest degree support the

opposing assertion is caused by the concepts of reason. Con-

sequently, although transcendental paralogism, in spite of a

favouring illusion, cannot disclaim the radical defect through

which in the fiery ordeal of critical investigation it dwindles

P 385

into mere semblance, such advantage as it offers is altogether

on the side of pneumatism. 

A completely different situation arises when reason is ap-

plied to the objective synthesis of appearances. For in this

domain, however it may endeavour to establish its principle

of unconditioned unity, and though it indeed does so with

great though illusory appearance of success, it soon falls into

such contradictions that it is constrained, in this cosmological

field, to desist from any such pretensions. 

We have here presented to us a new phenomenon of human

reason -- an entirely natural antithetic, in which there is no

need of making subtle enquiries or of laying snares for the

unwary, but into which reason of itself quite unavoidably falls. 

It certainly guards reason from the slumber of fictitious con-

viction such as is generated by a purely one-sided illusion, but

at the same time subjects it to the temptation either of aban-

doning itself to a sceptical despair, or of assuming an ob-

stinate attitude, dogmatically committing itself to certain

assertions, and refusing to grant a fair hearing to the argu-

ments for the counter-position. Either attitude is the death

of sound philosophy, although the former might perhaps be

entitled the euthanasia of pure reason. 

Before considering the various forms of opposition and

dissension to which this conflict or antinomy of the laws of

pure reason gives rise, we may offer a few remarks in explana-

tion and justification of the method which we propose to

employ in the treatment of this subject. I entitle all tran-

scendental ideas, in so far as they refer to absolute totality in

the synthesis of appearances, cosmical concepts, partly be-

cause this unconditioned totality also underlies the concept

-- itself only an idea -- of the world-whole; partly because

they concern only the synthesis of appearances, therefore

only empirical synthesis When, on the contrary, the abso-

lute totality is that of the synthesis of the conditions of

all possible things in general, it gives rise to an ideal of

pure reason which, though it may indeed stand in a certain

relation to the cosmical concept, is quite distinct from it. 

Accordingly, just as the paralogisms of pure reason formed

the basis of a dialectical psychology, so the antinomy of

pure reason will exhibit to us the transcendental principles

P 386

of a pretended pure rational cosmology. But it will not do

so in order to show this science to be valid and to adopt it. 

As the title, conflict of reason, suffices to show, this pretended

science can be exhibited only in its bedazzling but false

illusoriness, as an idea which can never be reconciled with



Section I


In proceeding to enumerate these ideas with systematic

precision according to a principle, we must bear in mind two

points. In the first place we must recognise that pure and

transcendental concepts can issue only from the understand-

ing. Reason does not really generate any concept. The most

it can do is to free a concept of understanding from the

unavoidable limitations of possible experience, and so to en-

deavour to extend it beyond the limits of the empirical, though

still, indeed, in terms of its relation to the empirical. This is

achieved in the following manner. For a given conditioned,

reason demands on the side of the conditions -- to which as

the conditions of synthetic unity the understanding subjects

all appearances -- absolute totality, and in so doing converts

the category into a transcendental idea. For only by carrying

the empirical synthesis as far as the unconditioned is it en-

abled to render it absolutely complete; and the unconditioned

is never to be met with in experience, but only in the idea. 

Reason makes this demand in accordance with the principle

that if the conditioned is given, the entire sum of conditions,

and consequently the absolutely unconditioned (through which

alone the conditioned has been possible) is also given. The

transcendental ideas are thus, in the first place, simply cate-

gories extended to the unconditioned, and can be reduced to

a table arranged according to the [fourfold] headings of the

latter. In the second place, not all categories are fitted for such

employment, but only those in which the synthesis constitutes

a series of conditions subordinated to, not co-ordinated with,

P 387

one another, and generative of a [given] conditioned. Ab-

solute totality is demanded by reason only in so far as the

ascending series of conditions relates to a given conditioned. 

It is not demanded in regard to the descending line of con-

sequences, nor in reference to the aggregate of co-ordinated

conditions of these consequences. For in the case of the given

conditioned, conditions are presupposed, and are considered

as given together with it. On the other hand, since conse-

quences do not make their conditions possible, but rather

presuppose them, we are not called upon, when we advance

to consequences or descend from a given condition to the con-

ditioned, to consider whether the series does or does not cease;

the question as to the totality of the series is not in any way a

presupposition of reason. 

Thus we necessarily think time as having completely

elapsed up to the given moment, and as being itself given in

this completed form. This holds true, even though such com-

pletely elapsed time is not determinable by us. But since the

future is not the condition of our attaining to the present, it is

a matter of entire indifference, in our comprehension of the

latter, how we may think of future time, whether as coming

to an end or as flowing on to infinity. We have, as it were, the

series m, n, o, in which n is given as conditioned by m, and

at the same time as being the condition of o. The series ascends

from the conditioned n to m (l, k, i, etc. ), and also descends

from the condition n to the conditioned o (p, q, r, etc. ). Now

I must presuppose the first series in order to be able to view

n as given. According to reason, with its demand for totality

of conditions, n is possible only by means of that series. Its

possibility does not, however, rest upon the subsequent series,

o, p, q, r. This latter series may not therefore be regarded as

given, but only as allowing of being given (dabilis). 

I propose to name the synthesis of a series which begins, on

the side of the conditions, from the condition which stands near-

est to the given appearance and so passes to the more remote

conditions, the regressive synthesis; and that which advances,

on the side of the conditioned, from the first consequence to

the more distant, the progressive. The first proceeds in ante-

cedentia, the second in consequentia. The cosmological ideas

deal, therefore, with the totality of the regressive synthesis

P 388

proceeding in antecedentia, not in consequentia. The problem

of pure reason suggested by the progressive form of totality

is gratuitous and unnecessary, since the raising of it is not

required for the complete comprehension of what is given in

appearance. For that we require to consider only the grounds,

not the consequences. 

In arranging the table of ideas in accordance with the

table of categories, we first take the two original quanta of

all our intuition, time and space. Time is in itself a series, and

indeed the formal condition of all series. In it, in regard to a

given present, the antecedents can be a priori distinguished as

conditions (the past) from the consequents (the future). The

transcendental idea of the absolute totality of the series of con-

ditions of any given conditioned therefore refers only to all

past time; and in conformity with the idea of reason past time,

as condition of the given moment, is necessarily thought as

being given in its entirety. Now in space, taken in and by itself,

there is no distinction between progress and regress. For as its

parts are co-existent, it is an aggregate, not a series. The present

moment can be regarded only as conditioned by past time,

never as conditioning it, because this moment comes into exist-

ence only through past time, or rather through the passing of

the preceding time. But as the parts of space are co-ordinated

with, not subordinated to, one another, one part is not the con-

dition of the possibility of another; and unlike time, space does

not in itself constitute a series. Nevertheless the synthesis of

the manifold parts of space, by means of which we apprehend

space, is successive, taking place in time and containing a

series. And since in this series of the aggregated spaces (as for

instance of the feet in a rood) of the given space, those which

are thought in extension of the given space are always the con-

dition of the limits of the given space, the measuring of a space

is also to be regarded as a synthesis of a series of the conditions

of a given conditioned, only with this difference that the side of

the conditions is not in itself distinct from that of the condi-

tioned, and that in space regressus and progressus would there-

fore seem to be one and the same. Inasmuch as one part of

space is not given through the others but only limited by them,

we must consider each space, in so far as it is limited, as being

also conditioned, in that it presupposes another space as the

P 389

condition of its limits, and so on. In respect of limitation the

advance in space is thus also a regress, and the transcendental

idea of the absolute totality of the synthesis in the series of con-

ditions likewise applies to space. I can as legitimately enquire

regarding the absolute totality of appearance in space as of

that in past time. Whether an answer to this question is ever

possible, is a point which will be decided later. 

Secondly, reality in space, i.e. matter, is a conditioned. Its

internal conditions are its parts, and the parts of these parts its

remote conditions. There thus occurs a regressive synthesis,

the absolute totality of which is demanded by reason. This can

be obtained only by a completed division in virtue of which the

reality of matter vanishes either into nothing or into what is

no longer matter -- namely, the simple. Here also, then, we have

a series of conditions, and an advance to the unconditioned. 

Thirdly, as regards the categories of real relation between

appearances, that of substance with its accidents is not adapted

to being a transcendental idea. That is to say, in it reason

finds no ground for proceeding regressively to conditions. Acci-

dents, in so far as they inhere in one and the same substance,

are co-ordinated with each other, and do not constitute a series. 

Even in their relation to substance they are not really subordi-

nated to it, but are the mode of existence of the substance

itself. What in this category may still, however, seem to be an

idea of transcendental reason, is the concept of the substantial. 

But since this means no more than the concept of object in

general, which subsists in so far as we think in it merely the

transcendental subject apart from all predicates, whereas

we are here dealing with the unconditioned only as it may

exist in the series of appearances, it is evident that the sub-

stantial cannot be a member of that series. This is also true

of substances in community. They are mere aggregates, and

contain nothing on which to base a series. For we cannot say

of them, as we can of spaces, whose limits are never deter-

mined in and by themselves but only through some other space,

that they are subordinated to each other as conditions of the

possibility of one another. There thus remains only the cate-

gory of causality. It presents a series of causes of a given

P 390

effect such that we can proceed to ascend from the latter as the

conditioned to the former as conditions, and so to answer the

question of reason. 

 Fourthly, the concepts of the possible, the actual, and the

necessary do not lead to any series, save in so far as the acci-

dental in existence must always be regarded as conditioned,

and as pointing in conformity with the rule of the understand-

ing to a condition under which it is necessary, and this latter in

turn to a higher condition, until reason finally attains uncondi-

tioned necessity in the totality of the series. 

When we thus select out those categories which necessarily

lead to a series in the synthesis of the manifold, we find that

there are but four cosmological ideas, corresponding to the

four titles of the categories:

1. Absolute completeness

of the Composition

of the given whole of all appearances. 

2. Absolute completeness

in the Division

of a given whole in the [field of] appearance. 

3. Absolute completeness

in the Origination

of an appearance. 

4. Absolute completeness

as regards Dependence of Existence

of the changeable in the [field of] appearance. 

 There are several points which here call for notice. In the

first place, the idea of absolute totality concerns only the ex-

position of appearances, and does not therefore refer to the

pure concept, such as the understanding may form, of a total-

ity of things in general. Appearances are here regarded as

given; what reason demands is the absolute completeness of the

conditions of their possibility, in so far as these conditions con-

stitute a series. What reason prescribes is therefore an abso-

lutely (that is to say, in every respect) complete synthesis,

whereby the appearance may be exhibited in accordance with

the laws of understanding. 

P 391

Secondly, what reason is really seeking in this serial, re-

gressively continued, synthesis of conditions, is solely the un-

conditioned. What it aims at is, as it were, such a completeness

in the series of premisses as will dispense with the need of pre-

supposing other premisses. This unconditioned is always con-

tained in the absolute totality of the series as represented in

imagination. But this absolutely complete synthesis is again

only an idea; for we cannot know, at least at the start of this

enquiry, whether such a synthesis is possible in the case of ap-

pearance. If we represent everything exclusively through pure

concepts of understanding, and apart from conditions of sen-

sible intuition, we can indeed at once assert that for a given con-

ditioned, the whole series of conditions subordinated to each

other is likewise given. The former is given only through the

latter. When, however, it is with appearances that we are deal-

ing, we find a special limitation due to the manner in which

conditions are given, namely, through the successive synthesis

of the manifold of intuition -- a synthesis which has to be

made complete through the regress. Whether this complete-

ness is sensibly possible is a further problem; the idea of it

lies in reason, independently alike of the possibility or of the

impossibility of our connecting with it any adequate empirical

concepts. Since, then, the unconditioned is necessarily con-

tained in the absolute totality of the regressive synthesis of

the manifold in the [field of] appearance -- the synthesis being

executed in accordance with those categories which represent

appearance as a series of conditions to a given conditioned --

reason here adopts the method of starting from the idea of

totality, though what it really has in view is the unconditioned,

whether of the entire series or of a part of it. Meantime, also,

it leaves undecided whether and how this totality is attain-


This unconditioned may be conceived in either of two

ways. It may be viewed as consisting of the entire series in

which all the members without exception are conditioned and

only the totality of them is absolutely unconditioned. This

regress is to be entitled infinite. Or alternatively, the absolutely

unconditioned is only a part of the series -- a part to which the

other members are subordinated, and which does not itself stand

P 392

under any other condition. On the first view, the series a parte -

priori is without limits or beginning, i.e. is infinite, and at the

same time is given in its entirety. But the regress in it is never

completed, and can only be called potentially infinite. On the

second view, there is a first member of the series which in

respect of past time is entitled, the beginning of the world, in

respect of space, the limit of the world, in respect of the parts

of a given limited whole, the simple, in respect of causes,

absolute self-activity (freedom), in respect of the existence of

alterable things, absolute natural necessity. 

We have two expressions, world and nature, which some-

times coincide. The former signifies the mathematical sum-

total of all appearances and the totality of their synthesis, alike

in the great and in the small, that is, in the advance alike through

composition and through division. This same world is entitled

nature when it is viewed as a dynamical whole. We are not

then concerned with the aggregation in space and time, with

a view to determining it as a magnitude, but with the unity in

the existence of appearances. In this case the condition of that

which happens is entitled the cause. Its unconditioned caus-

ality in the [field of] appearance is called freedom, and its

conditioned causality is called natural cause in the narrower

[adjectival] sense. The conditioned in existence in general is

termed contingent and the unconditioned necessary. 

++ The absolute totality of the series of conditions to a given con-

ditioned is always unconditioned, since outside it there are no further

conditions in respect of which it could be conditioned. But this

absolute totality of such a series is only an idea, or rather a problem-

atic concept, the possibility of which has to be investigated, especi-

ally in regard to the manner in which the unconditioned (the tran-

scendental idea really at issue) is involved therein. 

++ Nature, taken adjectivally (formaliter), signifies the connec-

tion of the determinations of a thing according to an inner principle

of causality. By nature, on the other hand, taken substantivally

(materialiter), is meant the sum of appearances in so far as they

stand, in virtue of an inner principle of causality, in thorough-

going interconnection. In the first sense we speak of the nature of

fluid matter, of fire, etc. The word is then employed in an adjectival

manner. When, on the other hand, we speak of the things of nature,

we have in mind a self-subsisting whole. 

P 393

The unconditioned necessity of appearances may be entitled natural


The ideas with which we are now dealing I have above

entitled cosmological ideas, partly because by the term 'world'

we mean the sum of all appearances, and it is exclusively

to the unconditioned in the appearances that our ideas are

directed, partly also because the term 'world', in the tran-

scendental sense, signifies the absolute totality of all existing

things, and we direct our attention solely to the completeness

of the synthesis, even though that is only attainable in the

regress to its conditions. Thus despite the objection that these

ideas are one and all transcendent, and that although they do

not in kind surpass the object, namely, appearances, but are

concerned exclusively with the world of sense, not with nou-

mena, they yet carry the synthesis to a degree which tran-

scends all possible experience, I none the less still hold that

they may quite appropriately be entitled cosmical concepts. In

respect of the distinction between the mathematically and the

dynamically unconditioned at which the regress aims, I might,

however, call the first two concepts cosmical in the narrower

sense, as referring to the world of the great and the small, and

the other two transcendent concepts of nature. This distinction

has no special immediate value; its significance will appear



Section 2


If thetic be the name for any body of dogmatic doctrines,

antithetic may be taken as meaning, not dogmatic assertions of

the opposite, but the conflict of the doctrines of seemingly dog-

matic knowledge (thesis cum antithesi) in which no one asser-

tion can establish superiority over another. The antithetic does

not, therefore, deal with one-sided assertions. It treats only

the conflict of the doctrines of reason with one another and the

causes of this conflict. The transcendental antithetic is an en-

quiry into the antinomy of pure reason, its causes and out-

P 394

come. If in employing the principles of understanding we do

not merely apply our reason to objects of experience, but

venture to extend these principles beyond the limits of experi-

ence, there arise pseudo-rational doctrines which can neither

hope for confirmation in experience nor fear refutation by it. 

Each of them is not only in itself free from contradiction, but

finds conditions of its necessity in the very nature of reason --

only that, unfortunately, the assertion of the opposite has, on

its side, grounds that are just as valid and necessary. 

The questions which naturally arise in connection with

such a dialectic of pure reason are the following: (1) In what

propositions is pure reason unavoidably subject to an anti-

nomy? (2) On what causes does this antinomy depend? (3)

Whether and in what way, despite this contradiction, does

there still remain open to reason a path to certainty? 

A dialectical doctrine of pure reason must therefore be

distinguished from all sophistical propositions in two respects. 

It must not refer to an arbitrary question such as may be raised

for some special purpose, but to one which human reason

must necessarily encounter in its progress. And secondly, both

it and its opposite must involve no mere artificial illusion such

as at once vanishes upon detection, but a natural and un-

avoidable illusion, which even after it has ceased to beguile

still continues to delude though not to deceive us, and which

though thus capable of being rendered harmless can never be


Such dialectical doctrine relates not to the unity of under-

standing in empirical concepts, but to the unity of reason in

mere ideas. Since this unity of reason involves a synthesis ac-

cording to rules, it must conform to the understanding; and

yet as demanding absolute unity of synthesis it must at the

same time harmonise with reason. But the conditions of this

unity are such that when it is adequate to reason it is too great

for the understanding; and when suited to the understanding,

too small for reason. There thus arises a conflict which cannot

be avoided, do what we will. 

These pseudo-rational assertions thus disclose a dialectical

battlefield in which the side permitted to open the attack is

invariably victorious, and the side constrained to act on the

defensive is always defeated. Accordingly, vigorous fighters, no

P 395

matter whether they support a good or a bad cause, if only they

contrive to secure the right to make the last attack, and are

not required to withstand a new onslaught from their oppo-

nents, may always count upon carrying off the laurels. We can

easily understand that while this arena should time and again

be contested, and that numerous triumphs should be gained

by both sides, the last decisive victory always leaves the

champion of the good cause master of the field, simply be-

cause his rival is forbidden to resume the combat. As im-

partial umpires, we must leave aside the question whether it

is for the good or the bad cause that the contestants are

fighting. They must be left to decide the issue for themselves. 

After they have rather exhausted than injured one another,

they will perhaps themselves perceive the futility of their

quarrel, and part good friends. 

This method of watching, or rather provoking, a conflict

of assertions, not for the purpose of deciding in favour of one

or other side, but of investigating whether the object of con-

troversy is not perhaps a deceptive appearance which each

vainly strives to grasp, and in regard to which, even if there

were no opposition to be overcome, neither can arrive at any

result, -- this procedure, I say, may be entitled the sceptical

method. It is altogether different from scepticism -- a principle

of technical and scientific ignorance, which undermines the

foundations of all knowledge, and strives in all possible ways

to destroy its reliability and steadfastness. For the sceptical

method aims at certainty. It seeks to discover the point of

misunderstanding in the case of disputes which are sincerely

and competently conducted by both sides, just as from the

embarrassment of judges in cases of litigation wise legislators

contrive to obtain instruction regarding the defects and am-

biguities of their laws. The antinomy which discloses itself in

the application of laws is for our limited wisdom the best

criterion of the legislation that has given rise to them. Reason,

which does not in abstract speculation easily become aware

of its errors, is hereby awakened to consciousness of the

factors [that have to be reckoned with] in the determination

of its principles

P 396

But it is only for transcendental philosophy that this scep-

tical method is essential. Though in all other fields of enquiry

it can, perhaps, be dispensed with, it is not so in this field. 

In mathematics its employment would, indeed, be absurd; for

in mathematics no false assertions can be concealed and ren-

dered invisible, inasmuch as the proofs must always proceed

under the guidance of pure intuition and by means of a syn-

thesis that is always evident. In experimental philosophy the

delay caused by doubt may indeed be useful; no misunder-

standing is, however, possible which cannot easily be re-

moved; and the final means of deciding the dispute, whether

found early or late, must in the end be supplied by experience. 

Moral philosophy can also present its principles, together

with their practical consequences, one and all in concreto, in

what are at least possible experiences; and the misunder-

standing due to abstraction is thereby avoided. But it is quite

otherwise with transcendental assertions which lay claim to

insight into what is beyond the field of all possible experiences. 

Their abstract synthesis can never be given in any a priori

intuition, and they are so constituted that what is erroneous

in them can never be detected by means of any experience. 

Transcendental reason consequently admits of no other test

than the endeavour to harmonise its various assertions. But

for the successful application of this test the conflict into

which they fall with one another must first be left to develop

free and untrammelled. This we shall now set about arranging. 




The world has a beginning

in time, and is also limited as

regards space. 

++ The antinomies follow one another in the order of the tran-

scendental ideas above enumerated. 

P 396a


The world has no begin-

ning, and no limits in space;

it is infinite as regards both

time and space. 

P 397


If we assume that the world

has no beginning in time,

then up to every given mo-

ment an eternity has elapsed,

and there has passed away in

the world an infinite series of

successive states of things. 

Now the infinity of a series

consists in the fact that it can

never be completed through

successive synthesis. It thus

follows that it is impossible for

an infinite world-series to have

passed away, and that a be-

ginning of the world is there-

fore a necessary condition of

the world's existence. This was

the first point that called for


 As regards the second point,

let us again assume the oppo-

site, namely, that the world is

an infinite given whole of co-

existing things. Now the mag-

nitude of a quantum which is

not given in intuition as

within certain limits, can be

thought only through the

synthesis of its parts, and the

totality of such a quantum

only through a synthesis that

is brought to completion

through repeated addition of unit to unit. 

++ An indeterminate quantum can be intuited as a whole when it

is such that though enclosed within limits we do not require to con-

struct its totality through measurement, that is, through the success-

ive synthesis of its parts. For the limits, in cutting off anything

further, themselves determine its completeness. 

P 397a


 For let us assume that it

has a beginning. Since the

beginning is an existence

which is preceded by a time

in which the thing is not,

there must have been a

preceding time in which the

world was not, i.e. an empty

time. Now no coming to be

of a thing is possible in an

empty time, because no part

of such a time possesses, as

compared with any other, a

distinguishing condition of

existence rather than of non-

existence; and this applies

whether the thing is sup-

posed to arise of itself or

through some other cause. In

the world many series of

things can, indeed, begin;

but the world itself cannot

have a beginning, and is

therefore infinite in respect

of past time. 

 As regards the second

point, let us start by assum-

ing the opposite, namely, that

the world in space is finite

and limited, and consequently

exists in an empty space

which is unlimited. 

P 398

In order, there-

fore, to think, as a whole, the

world which fills all spaces,

the successive synthesis of

the parts of an infinite world

must be viewed as completed,

that is, an infinite time must

be viewed as having elapsed

in the enumeration of all co-

existing things. This, how-

ever, is impossible. An in-

finite aggregate of actual

things cannot therefore be

viewed as a given whole, nor

consequently as simultane-

ously given. The world is,

therefore, as regards exten-

sion in space, not infinite, but

is enclosed within limits. This

was the second point in


++ The concept of totality is in this case simply the representa-

tion of the completed synthesis of its parts; for, since we cannot

obtain the concept from the intuition of the whole -- that being in

this case impossible -- we can apprehend it only through the syn-

thesis of the parts viewed as carried, at least in idea, to the comple-

tion of the infinite. 

P 397a


will therefore not only be

P 398a

related in space but also

related to space. Now since

the world is an absolute whole

beyond which there is no

object of intuition, and there-

fore no correlate with which

the world stands in relation,

the relation of the world

to empty space would be a

relation of it to no object. 

But such a relation, and con-

sequently the limitation of

the world by empty space, is

nothing. The world cannot,

therefore, be limited in space;

that is, it is infinite in respect

of extension. 

++ Space is merely the form of outer intuition (formal intuition). 

It is not a real object which can be outwardly intuited. Space, as

prior to all things which determine (occupy or limit) it, or rather

which give an empirical intuition in accordance with its form, is,

under the name of absolute space, nothing but the mere possibility

of outer appearances in so far as they either exist in themselves or

can be added to given appearances. Empirical intuition is not, there-

fore, a composite of appearances and space (of perception and empty

intuition). The one is not the correlate of the other in a synthesis;

they are connected in one and the same empirical intuition as

matter and form of the intuition. If we attempt to set one of these

two factors outside the other, space outside all appearances, there

arise all sorts of empty determinations of outer intuition, which yet

are not possible perceptions. For example, a determination of the

relation of the motion (or rest) of the world to infinite empty space

P 398n

is a determination which can never be perceived, and is therefore

the predicate of a mere thought-entity. 

P 399


I. On the Thesis 

 In stating these conflicting

arguments I have not sought

to elaborate sophisms. That

is to say, I have not resorted

to the method of the special

pleader who attempts to take

advantage of an opponent's

carelessness -- freely allowing

the appeal to a misunderstood

law, in order that he may be

in a position to establish his

own unrighteous claims by

the refutation of that law. 

Each of the above proofs

arises naturally out of the

matter in dispute, and no ad-

vantage has been taken of

the openings afforded by er-

roneous conclusions arrived

at by dogmatists in either


 I might have made a

pretence of establishing the

thesis in the usual manner of

the dogmatists, by starting

from a defective concept of

the infinitude of a given mag-

nitude. I might have argued

that a magnitude is infinite

if a greater than itself, as

determined by the multipli-

city of given units which it contains, is not possible. 

P 399a

II. On the Antithesis

 The proof of the infinitude

of the given world-series and

of the world-whole, rests upon

the fact that, on the contrary

assumption, an empty time

and an empty space, must

constitute the limit of the

world. I am aware that

attempts have been made to

evade this conclusion by argu-

ing that a limit of the world

in time and space is quite

possible without our having

to make the impossible as-

sumption of an absolute

time prior to the beginning

of the world, or of an absolute

space extending beyond the

real world. With the latter

part of this doctrine, as held

by the philosophers of the

Leibnizian school, I am en-

tirely satisfied. Space is merely

the form of outer intuition;

it is not a real object which

can be outwardly intuited; it

is not a correlate of the ap-

pearances, but the form of

the appearances themselves. 

And since space is thus no

object but only the form of

possible objects, it cannot be

P 400a

regarded as something abso-

lute in itself that determines

the existence of things. 

P 400


no multiplicity is the great-

est, since one or more units

can always be added to it. 

Consequently an infinite given

magnitude, and therefore an

infinite world (infinite as re-

gards the elapsed series or as

regards extension) is impos-

sible; it must be limited in

both respects. Such is the

line that my proof might have

followed. But the above con-

cept is not adequate to what

we mean by an infinite whole. 

It does not represent how

great it is, and consequently

is not the concept of a maxi-

mum. Through it we think

only its relation to any assign-

able unit in respect to which

it is greater than all num-

ber. According as the unit

chosen is greater or smaller,

the infinite would be greater

or smaller. Infinitude, how-

ever, as it consists solely

in the relation to the given

unit, would always remain

the same. The absolute mag-

nitude of the whole would

not, therefore, be known in

this way; 

P 400a


as appearances, determine

space, that is, of all its pos-

sible predicates of magnitude

and relation they determine

this or that particular one to

belong to the real. Space, on

the other hand, viewed as a

self-subsistent something, is

nothing real in itself; and can-

not, therefore, determine the

magnitude or shape of real

things. Space, it further fol-

lows, whether full or empty,

may be limited by appear-

ances, but appearances can-

not be limited by an empty

space outside them. This is

likewise true of time. But

while all this may be granted,

it yet cannot be denied that

these two non-entities, empty

space outside the world and

empty time prior to it, have

to be assumed if we are to

assume a limit to the world

in space and in time. 

++ It will be evident that what we here desire to say is that empty

space, so far as it is limited by appearances, that is, empty space

within the world, is at least not contradictory of transcendental

principles and may therefore, so far as they are concerned, be

admitted. This does not, however, amount to an assertion of its


P 401

indeed, the above concept does not really deal

with it. 

The true transcendental

concept of infinitude is this,

that the successive synthesis

of units required for the enu-

meration of a quantum can

never be completed. Hence

it follows with complete cer-

tainty that an eternity of

actual successive states lead-

ing up to a given (the pre-

sent) moment cannot have

elapsed, and that the world

must therefore have a begin-


In the second part of the

thesis the difficulty involved

in a series that is infinite and

yet has elapsed does not arise,

since the manifold of a world

which is infinite in respect of

extension is given as co-exist-

ing. But if we are to think the

totality of such a multiplicity,

and yet cannot appeal to

limits that of themselves con-

stitute it a totality in intuition,

we have to account for a con-

cept which in this case cannot

proceed from the whole to

the determinate multiplicity

of the parts, but which must

demonstrate the possibility of

a whole by means of the

successive synthesis of the


++ This quantum therefore contains a quantity (of given units)

which is greater than any number -- which is the mathematical con-

cept of the infinite. 

P 400a

 The method of argument

which professes to enable us

to avoid the above conse-

quence (that of having to

P 401a

assume that if the world has

limits in time and space, the

infinite void must determine

the magnitude in which actual

things are to exist) consists

in surreptitiously substituting

for the sensible world some

intelligible world of which

we know nothing; for the

first beginning (an exist-

ence preceded by a time of

non-existence) an existence

in general which presupposes

no other condition whatso-

ever; and for the limits of

extension boundaries of the

world-whole -- thus getting

rid of time and space. But we

are here treating only of the

mudus phaenomenon and

its magnitude, and cannot

therefore abstract from the

aforesaid conditions of sensi-

bility without destroying the

very being of that world. If

the sensible world is limited,

it must necessarily lie in the

infinite void. If that void, and

consequently space in general

as a priori condition of the

possibility of appearances, be

set aside, the entire sensible

world vanishes. This world

is all that is given us in

our problem. 

P 402

 Now since this synthesis must constitute a never

to be completed series, I can-

not think a totality either

prior to the synthesis or by

means of the synthesis. For

the concept of totality is in

this case itself the representa-

tion of a completed synthesis

of the parts. And since this

completion is impossible, so

likewise is the concept of it. 




Every composite substance

in the world is made up of

simple parts, and nothing any-

where exists save the simple

or what is composed of the



Let us assume that com-

posite substances are not

made up of simple parts. If

all composition be then re-

moved in thought, no com-

posite part, and (since we

admit no simple parts) also

no simple part, that is to say,

nothing at all, will remain,

and accordingly no substance

will be given. Either, there-

fore, it is impossible to remove

in thought all composition,

or after its removal there

must remain something which

P 403

exists without composition,

that is, the simple. 

P 401a

The mundus

intelligibilis is nothing but

the general concept of a

P 402a

world in general, in which

abstraction is made from all

conditions of its intuition,

and in reference to which,

therefore, no synthetic pro-

position, either affirmative

or negative, can possibly be



No composite thing in the

world is made up of simple

parts, and there nowhere

exists in the world anything



Assume that a composite

thing (as substance) is made

up of simple parts. Since all

external relation, and there-

fore all composition of sub-

stances, is possible only in

space, a space must be made

up of as many parts as are

contained in the composite

which occupies it. Space,

however, is not made up of

simple parts, but of spaces. 

Every part of the composite

must therefore occupy a space. 

But the absolutely first parts

P 403a

of every composite are simple. 

P 403

In the for-

mer case the composite would

not be made up of substances;

composition, as applied to

substances, is only an acci-

dental relation in independ-

ence of which they must

still persist as self-subsistent

beings. Since this contradicts

our supposition, there remains

only the original supposition,

that a composite of sub-

stances in the world is made

up of simple parts. 

If follows, as an immediate

consequence, that the things

in the world are all, without

exception, simple beings; that

composition is merely an

external state of these beings;

and that although we can

never so isolate these ele-

mentary substances as to

take them out of this state

of composition, reason must

think them as the primary

subjects of all composition,

and therefore, as simple be-

ings, prior to all composition. 

P 403a

The simple therefore occupies

a space. Now since every-

thing real, which occupies a

space, contains in itself a

manifold of constituents ex-

ternal to one another, and is

therefore composite; and since

a real composite is not made

up of accidents (for accidents

could not exist outside one

another, in the absence of

substance) but of substances,

it follows that the simple

would be a composite of

substances -- which is self-


The second proposition of

the antithesis, that nowhere

in the world does there exist

anything simple, is intended

to mean only this, that the

existence of the absolutely

simple cannot be established

by any experience or percep-

tion, either outer or inner;

and that the absolutely simple

is therefore a mere idea, the

objective reality of which can

never be shown in any pos-

sible experience, and which,

as being without an object,

has no application in the

explanation of the appear-

ances. For if we assumed

that in experience an object

might be found for this tran-

scendental idea, the empiri-

cal intuition of such an object

P 404a

would have to be known as

one that contains no manifold

[factors] external to one an-

other and combined into

unity. But since from the

non-consciousness of such a

manifold we cannot conclude

to its complete impossibility

in every kind of intuition of

an object; and since without

such proof absolute simplicity

can never be established, it

follows that such simplicity

cannot be inferred from any

perception whatsoever. An

absolutely simple object can

never be given in any pos-

sible experience. And since

by the world of sense we

must mean the sum of all

possible experiences, it follows

that nothing simple is to be

found anywhere in it. 

This second proposition of

the antithesis has a much

wider application than the

first. Whereas the first pro-

position banishes the simple

only from the intuition of the

composite, the second ex-

cludes it from the whole of

nature. Accordingly it has

not been possible to prove

this second proposition by

reference to the concept of

a given object of outer in-

tuition (of the composite), but

only by reference to its rela-

tion to a possible experience

in general. 

P 405


I. On the Thesis 

When I speak of a whole

as necessarily made up of

simple parts I am referring

only to a substantial whole

that is composite in the strict

sense of the term 'composite',

that is, to that accidental

unity of the manifold which,

given as separate (at least in

thought), is brought into a

mutual connection, and there-

by constitutes a unity. Space

should properly be called not

compositum but totum, since

its parts are possible only in

the whole, not the whole

through the parts. It might,

indeed, be called a composi-

tum ideale, but not reale. 

This, however, is a mere

subtlety. Since space is not

a composite made up of

substances (nor even of

real accidents), if I remove

all compositeness from it,

nothing remains, not even the

point. For a point is possible

only as the limit of a space,

and so of a composite. Space

and time do not, therefore,

consist of simple parts. What

belongs only to the state of a

substance, even though it has

a magnitude, e.g. alteration,

does not consist of the simple; 

P 405a

II. On the Antithesis

Against the doctrine of the

infinite divisibility of matter,

the proof of which is purely

mathematical, objections have

been raised by the monadists. 

These objections, however, at

once lay the monadists open to

suspicion. For however evi-

dent mathematical proofs

may be, they decline to recog-

nise that the proofs are based

upon insight into the constitu-

tion of space, in so far as space

is in actual fact the formal

condition of the possibility of

all matter. They regard them

merely as inferences from ab-

stract but arbitrary concepts,

and so as not being applicable

to real things. How can it be

possible to invent a different

kind of intuition from that

given in the original intuition

of space, and how can the a -

priori determinations of space

fail to be directly applicable

to what is only possible in so

far as it fills this space! Were

we to give heed to them,

then beside the mathematical

point, which, while simple,

is not a part but only the

limit of a space, we should

have to conceive physical

points as being likewise

P 406a


P 406

that is to say, a certain degree

of alteration does not come

about through the accretion

of many simple alterations. 

Our inference from the com-

posite to the simple applies

only to self-subsisting things. 

Accidents of the state [of a

thing] are not self-subsisting. 

Thus the proof of the neces-

sity of the simple, as the con-

stitutive parts of the sub-

stantially composite, can easily

be upset (and therewith the

thesis as a whole), if it be

extended too far and in the

absence of a limiting qualifi-

cation be made to apply to

everything composite -- as has

frequently happened. 

Moreover I am here speak-

ing only of the simple in so

far as it is necessarily given

in the composite -- the latter

being resolvable into the

simple, as its constituent

parts. The word monas, in the

strict sense in which it is em-

ployed by Leibniz, should refer

only to the simple which is

immediately given as simple

substance e.g. in self-con-

sciousness), and not to an

element of the composite. 

This latter is better entitled

atomus. As I am seeking

to prove the [existence of]

simple substances only as

elements in the composite, I

P 407

might entitle the thesis of

the second antinomy, tran-

scendental atomistic. 

P 406a

and yet as having the

distinguishing characteristic

of being able, as parts of

space, to fill space through

their mere aggregation. With-

out repeating the many fa-

miliar and conclusive refuta-

tions of this absurdity -- it

being quite futile to attempt

to reason away by sophistical

manipulation of purely dis-

cursive concepts the evident

demonstrated truth of mathe-

matics -- I make only one ob-

servation, that when philo-

sophy here plays tricks with

mathematics, it does so be-

cause it forgets that in this

discussion we are concerned

only with appearances and

their condition. Here it is

not sufficient to find for the

pure concept of the com-

posite formed by the under-

standing the concept of the

simple; what has to be found

is an intuition of the simple

for the intuition of the com-

posite (matter). But by the

laws of sensibility, and there-

fore in objects of the senses,

this is quite impossible. 

Though it may be true that

when a whole, made up of

substances, is thought by the

pure understanding alone, we

must, prior to all composi-

tion of it, have the simple, 

P 407

But as

this word has long been ap-

propriated to signify a parti-

cular mode of explaining

bodily appearances (mole-

culae), and therefore pre-

supposes empirical concepts,

the thesis may more suitably

be entitled the dialectical

principle of monadology. 

P 406a

 this does not hold of the

P 407a

totum substantiale phaeno-

menon which, as empirical

intuition in space, carries

with it the necessary char-

acteristic that no part of it

is simple, because no part of

space is simple. The monad-

ists have, indeed, been suffi-

ciently acute to seek escape

from this difficulty by refusing

to treat space as a condition

of the possibility of the objects

of outer intuition (bodies),

and by taking instead these

and the dynamical relation of

substances as the condition of

the possibility of space. But

we have a concept of bodies

only as appearances; and as

such they necessarily pre-

suppose space as the condi-

tion of the possibility of all

outer appearance. This eva-

sion of the issue is therefore

futile, and has already been

sufficiently disposed of in

the Transcendental Aesthetic. 

The argument of the monad-

ists would indeed be valid if

bodies were things in them-


The second dialectical as-

sertion has this peculiarity,

that over against it stands

a dogmatic assertion which

is the only one of all the

pseudo-rational assertions that

undertakes to afford mani-

fest evidence, in an empirical

P 408a

object, of the reality of that

which we have been ascrib-

ing only to transcendental

ideas, namely, the absolute

simplicity of substance -- I

refer to the assertion that

the object of inner sense,

the 'I' which there thinks,

is an absolutely simple sub-

stance. Without entering upon

this question (it has been

fully considered above), I

need only remark, that if (as

happens in the quite bare

representation, 'I') anything

is thought as object only,

without the addition of any

synthetic determination of its

intuition, nothing manifold

and no compositeness can be

perceived in such a representa-

tion. Besides, since the predi-

cates through which I think

this object are merely intui-

tions of inner sense, nothing

can there be found which

shows a manifold [of ele-

ments] external to one an-

other, and therefore real com-

positeness. Self-consciousness

is of such a nature that since

the subject which thinks is

at the same time its own

object, it cannot divide itself,

though it can divide the de-

terminations which inhere in

it; for in regard to itself

every object is absolute unity. 

Nevertheless, when this sub-

ject is viewed outwardly, as

P 409a

an object of intuition, it must

exhibit [some sort of] com-

positeness in its appearance; 

P 409




Causality in accordance

with laws of nature is not the

only causality from which the

appearances of the world can

one and all be derived. To

explain these appearances it

is necessary to assume that

there is also another causality,

that of freedom. 


Let us assume that there

is no other causality than that

in accordance with laws of

nature. This being so, every-

thing which takes place pre-

supposes a preceding state

upon which it inevitably fol-

lows according to a rule. But

the preceding state must it-

self be something which has

taken place (having come to

be in a time in which it

previously was not); 

P 409a

and it must always be viewed

in this way if we wish to

know whether or not there

be in it a manifold [of ele-

ments] external to one an-



There is no freedom; every-

thing in the world takes place

solely in accordance with

laws of nature. 


Assume that there is free-

dom in the transcendental

sense, as a special kind of

causality in accordance with

which the events in the

world can have come about,

namely, a power of absolutely

beginning a state, and there-

fore also of absolutely begin-

ning a series of consequences

of that state;

P 410

for if it had always existed, its con-

sequence also would have

always existed, and would

not have only just arisen. 

The causality of the cause

through which something

takes place is itself, therefore,

something that has taken

place, which again presup-

poses, in accordance with

the law of nature, a pre-

ceding state and its causality,

and this in similar manner a

still earlier state, and so on. 

If, therefore, everything takes

place solely in accordance

with laws of nature, there

will always be only a relative

and never a first beginning,

and consequently no com-

pleteness of the series on the

side of the causes that arise

the one from the other. But

the law of nature is just this,

that nothing takes place with-

out a cause sufficiently deter-

mined a priori. The proposi-

tion that no causality is pos-

sible save in accordance with

laws of nature, when taken

in unlimited universality, is

therefore self-contradictory;

and this cannot, therefore,

be regarded as the sole kind

of causality. 

P 409a

 it then follows

that not only will a series

have its absolute beginning

P 410a

in this spontaneity, but that

the very determination of

this spontaneity to originate

the series, that is to say,

the causality itself, will have

an absolute beginning; there

will be no antecedent through

which this act, in taking

place, is determined in ac-

cordance with fixed laws. 

But every beginning of action

presupposes a state of the

not yet acting cause; and a

dynamical beginning of the

action, if it is also a first be-

ginning, presupposes a state

which has no causal con-

nection with the preceding

state of the cause, that is to

say, in nowise follows from

it. Transcendental freedom

thus stands opposed to the

law of causality; and the kind

of connection which it as-

sumes as holding between the

successive states of the active

causes renders all unity of

experience impossible. It is

not to be met with in any

experience, and is therefore

an empty thought-entity. 

In nature alone, therefore,

[not in freedom], must we

seek for the connection and

order of cosmical events. 

Freedom (independence) from

the laws of nature is no doubt

a liberation from compulsion,

but also from the guidance

P 411a

of all rules. 

P 410

 We must, then, assume a

causality through which some-

thing takes place, the cause

of which is not itself

P 411

determined, in accordance with

necessary laws, by another

cause antecedent to it, that is

to say, an absolute spontaneity

of the cause, whereby a series

of appearances, which pro-

ceeds in accordance with laws

of nature, begins of itself. 

This is transcendental free-

dom, without which, even in

the [ordinary] course of na-

ture, the series of appearances

on the side of the causes can

never be complete. 

P 411a

For it is not

permissible to say that the

laws of freedom enter into

the causality exhibited in the

course of nature, and so take

the place of natural laws. 

If freedom were determined

in accordance with laws,

it would not be freedom;

it would simply be nature

under another name. Nature

and transcendental freedom

differ as do conformity to

law and lawlessness. Nature

does indeed impose upon the

understanding the exacting

task of always seeking the

origin of events ever higher

in the series of causes, their

causality being always condi-

tioned. But in compensation

it holds out the promise of

thoroughgoing unity of ex-

perience in accordance with

laws. The illusion of freedom,

on the other hand, offers a

point of rest to the enquiring

understanding in the chain

of causes, conducting it to

an unconditioned causality

which begins to act of itself. 

This causality is, however,

blind, and abrogates those

rules through which alone

a completely coherent ex-

perience is possible. 

P 412


I. On the Thesis

The transcendental idea of

freedom does not by any

means constitute the whole

content of the psychological

concept of that name, which

is mainly empirical. The tran-

scendental idea stands only

for the absolute spontaneity

of an action, as the proper

ground of its imputability. 

This, however, is, for philo-

sophy, the real stumbling-

block; for there are insur-

mountable difficulties in the

way of admitting any such

type of unconditioned caus-

ality. What has always so

greatly embarrassed specula-

tive reason in dealing with

the question of the freedom

of the will, is its strictly

transcendental aspect. The

problem, properly viewed, is

solely this: whether we must

admit a power of spontane-

ously beginning a series of

successive things or states. 

How such a power is possible

is not a question which re-

quires to be answered in this

case, any more than in regard

to causality in accordance

with the laws of nature. For,

[as we have found], we have

to remain satisfied with the

P 413

a priori knowledge that this

latter type of causality must be


P 412a

II. On the Antithesis

The defender of an om-

nipotent nature (transcend-

ental physiocracy), in main-

taining his position against

the pseudo-rational argu-

ments offered in support of the

counter-doctrine of freedom,

would argue as follows. If

you do not, as regards time,

admit anything as being

mathematically first in the

world, there is no necessity,

as regards causality, for seek-

ing something that is dynamic-

ally first. What authority

have you for inventing an

absolutely first state of the

world, and therefore an abso-

lute beginning of the ever-

flowing series of appearances,

and so of procuring a resting-

place for your imagination

by setting bounds to limitless

nature? Since the substances

in the world have always

existed -- at least the unity of

experience renders necessary

such a supposition -- there is

no difficulty in assuming that

change of their states, that is,

a series of their alterations, has

likewise always existed, and

therefore that a first begin-

ning, whether mathematical

or dynamical, is not to be looked for. 

P 413

we are not in the

least able to comprehend how

it can be possible that through

one existence the existence

of another is determined, and

for this reason must be guided

by experience alone. The

necessity of a first beginning,

due to freedom, of a series of

appearances we have demon-

strated only in so far as it

is required to make an origin

of the world conceivable; for

all the later following states

can be taken as resulting ac-

cording to purely natural

laws. But since the power

of spontaneously beginning

a series in time is thereby

proved (though not under-

stood), it is now also per-

missible for us to admit

within the course of the

world different series as cap-

able in their causality of

beginning of themselves, and

so to attribute to their sub-

stances a power of acting

from freedom. And we must

not allow ourselves to be

prevented from drawing this

conclusion by a misapprehen-

sion, namely that, as a series

occurring in the world can

have only a relatively first

beginning, being always pre-

ceded in the world by some

other state of things, no

P 414

absolute first beginning of a

series is possible during the

course of the world. 

P 413a

The possibility of

such an infinite derivation,

without a first member to

which all the rest is merely a

sequel, cannot indeed, in re-

spect of its possibility, be ren-

dered comprehensible. But

if for this reason you refuse

to recognise this enigma in

nature, you will find yourself

compelled to reject many

fundamental synthetic pro-

perties and forces, which as

little admit of comprehension. 

The possibility even of altera-

tion itself would have to be

denied. For were you not

assured by experience that

alteration actually occurs,

you would never be able to

excogitate a priori the pos-

sibility of such a ceaseless

sequence of being and not-


Even if a transcendental

power of freedom be allowed,

as supplying a beginning of

happenings in the world, this

power would in any case have

to be outside the world

(though any such assump-

tion that over and above the

sum of all possible intuitions

there exists an object which

cannot be given in any pos-

sible perception, is still a very

bold one). But to ascribe to

substances in the world itself

such a power, can never be


P 414

For the

absolutely first beginning of

which we are here speaking

is not a beginning in time,

but in causality. If, for in-

stance, I at this moment

arise from my chair, in com-

plete freedom, without being

necessarily determined thereto

by the influence of natural

causes, a new series, with all

its natural consequences in

infinitum, has its absolute

beginning in this event, al-

though as regards time this

event is only the continuation

of a preceding series. For this

resolution and act of mine do

not form part of the succession

of purely natural effects, and

are not a mere continuation

of them. In respect of its

happening, natural causes

exercise over it no determin-

ing influence whatsoever. It

does indeed follow upon them,

but without arising out of

them; and accordingly, in

respect of causality though

not of time, must be entitled

an absolutely first beginning

of a series of appearances. 

P 414a

 for, should this be done, that connection of

appearances determining one

another with necessity ac-

cording to universal laws,

which we entitle nature, and

with it the criterion of em-

pirical truth, whereby experi-

ence is distinguished from

dreaming, would almost en-

tirely disappear. Side by side

with such a lawless faculty

of freedom, nature [as an

ordered system] is hardly

thinkable; the influences of

the former would so un-

ceasingly alter the laws of

the latter that the appear-

ances which in their natural

course are regular and uni-

form would be reduced to

disorder and incoherence. 

P 414

 This requirement of reason,

that we appeal in the series

of natural causes to a first

beginning, due to freedom,

is amply confirmed when

we observe that all the

P 415

philosophers of antiquity, with the

sole exception of the Epi-

curean School, felt them-

selves obliged, when explain-

ing cosmical movements, to

assume a prime mover, that

is, a freely acting cause, which

first and of itself began this

series of states. They made

no attempt to render a first be-

ginning conceivable through

nature's own resources. 




There belongs to the world,

either as its part or as its

cause, a being that is abso-

lutely necessary. 


The sensible world, as the

sum-total of all appearances,

contains a series of alterations. 

For without such a series even

the representation of serial

time, as a condition of the

possibility of the sensible

world, would not be given us. 

++ Time, as the formal condition of the possibility of changes, is

indeed objectively prior to them; subjectively, however, in actual

consciousness, the representation of time, like every other, is given

only in connection with perceptions. 

P 415a


An absolutely necessary

being nowhere exists in the

world, nor does it exist out-

side the world as its cause. 


If we assume that the

world itself is necessary, or

that a necessary being exists

in it, there are then two alter-

natives. Either there is a be-

ginning in the series of alter-

ations which is absolutely

necessary, and therefore with-

out a cause, or the series it-

self is without any beginning,

and although contingent and

P 416a

conditioned in all its parts,

none the less, as a whole, is

absolutely necessary and un-


P 415

But every alteration stands

under its condition, which pre-

cedes it in time and renders

P 416

it necessary. Now every con-

ditioned that is given pre-

supposes, in respect of its

existence, a complete series of

conditions up to the uncon-

ditioned, which alone is abso-

lutely necessary. Alteration

thus existing as a consequence

of the absolutely necessary,

the existence of something

absolutely necessary must

be granted. But this neces-

sary existence itself belongs

to the sensible world. For if

it existed outside that world,

the series of alterations in the

world would derive its begin-

ning from a necessary cause

which would not itself belong

to the sensible world. This,

however, is impossible. For

since the beginning of a series

in time can be determined

only by that which precedes

it in time, the highest condi-

tion of the beginning of a

series of changes must exist

in the time when the series

as yet was not (for a begin-

ning is an existence preceded

by a time in which the thing

that begins did not yet exist). 

P 416a

The former

alternative, however, conflicts

with the dynamical law of the

determination of all appear-

ances in time; and the latter

alternative contradicts itself,

since the existence of a series

cannot be necessary if no

single member of it is neces-


If, on the other hand, we

assume that an absolutely

necessary cause of the world

exists outside the world, then

this cause, as the highest

member in the series of the

causes of changes in the

world, must begin the exist-

ence of the latter and their

series. Now this cause must

itself begin to act, and its

causality would therefore be

in time, and so would be-

long to the sum of appear-

ances, that is, to the world. It

follows that it itself, the cause,

would not be outside the

world -- which contradicts our


++ The word 'begin' is taken in two senses; first as active, signify-

ing that as cause it begins (infit) a series of states which is its effect;

secondly as passive, signifying the causality which begins to operate

(fit) in the cause itself. I reason here from the former to the latter


P 416

Accordingly the causality

of the necessary cause of

P 417

alterations, and therefore the

cause itself, must belong to

time and so to appearance --

time being possible only as

the form of appearance. Such

causality cannot, therefore,

be thought apart from that

sum of all appearances which

constitutes the world of sense. 

Something absolutely neces-

sary is therefore contained in

the world itself, whether this

something be the whole series

of alterations in the world or

a part of the series. 


I. On the Thesis

In proving the existence of

a necessary being I ought

not, in this connection, to

employ any but the cosmo-

logical argument, that,

namely, which ascends from

the conditioned in the [field

of] appearance to the un-

conditioned in concept, this

latter being regarded as the

necessary condition of the

absolute totality of the series. 

To seek proof of this from the

mere idea of a supreme being

belongs to another principle

of reason, and will have to

be treated separately. 

The pure cosmological

proof, in demonstrating the

existence of a necessary being,

P 418

has to leave unsettled whether

this being is the world itself

or a thing distinct from it. 

P 416a

Therefore neither

in the world, nor outside the

world (though in causal

P 417a

connection with it), does there

exist any absolutely necessary


II. On the Antithesis

The difficulties in the way

of asserting the existence of

an absolutely necessary high-

est cause, which we suppose

ourselves to meet as we

ascend in the series of appear-

ances, cannot be such as

arise in connection with mere

concepts of the necessary

existence of a thing in general. 

The difficulties are not, there-

fore, ontological, but must

concern the causal connection

of a series of appearances for

which a condition has to be

assumed that is itself un-

conditioned, and so must be

cosmological, and relate to

empirical laws. 

P 418

To establish the latter view,

we should require principles

which are no longer cosmo-

logical and do not continue in

the series of appearances. For

we should have to employ

concepts of contingent beings

in general (viewed as objects

of the understanding alone)

and a principle which will

enable us to connect these,

by means of mere concepts,

with a necessary being. But

all this belongs to a tran-

scendent philosophy; and

that we are not yet in a

position to discuss. 

If we begin our proof

cosmologically, resting it upon

the series of appearances and

the regress therein according

to empirical laws of causality,

we must not afterwards sud-

denly deviate from this mode

of argument, passing over to

something that is not a mem-

ber of the series. Anything

taken as condition must be

viewed precisely in the same

manner in which we viewed

the relation of the condi-

tioned to its condition in the

series which is supposed to

carry us by continuous ad-

vance to the supreme condi-


P 417

It must be

shown that regress in the

P 418a

series of causes (in the

sensible world) can never

terminate in an empirically

unconditioned condition, and

that the cosmological argu-

ment from the contingency

of states of the world, as

evidenced by their alterations,

does not support the assump-

tion of a first and absolutely

originative cause of the series. 

A strange situation is dis-

closed in this antinomy. 

From the same ground on

which, in the thesis, the ex-

istence of an original being

was inferred, its non-exist-

ence is inferred in the anti-

thesis, and this with equal

stringency. We were first

assured that a necessary being

exists because the whole of

past time comprehends the

series of all conditions and

therefore also the uncondi-

tioned (that is, the necessary);

we are now assured that there

is no necessary being, and

precisely for the reason that

the whole of past time com-

prehends the series of all

conditions (which therefore

are one and all themselves

conditioned). The explana-

tion is this. The former argu-

ment takes account only of

the absolute totality of the

series of conditions deter-

mining each other in time,

P 419a

and so reaches what is un-

conditioned and necessary. 

P 419

If, then, this relation is sensible and falls within the

province of the possible em-

pirical employment of under-

standing, the highest condi-

tion or cause can bring the

regress to a close only in

accordance with the laws of

sensibility, and therefore only

in so far as it itself belongs

to the temporal series. The

necessary being must there-

fore be regarded as the highest

member of the cosmical series. 

Nevertheless certain think-

ers have allowed themselves

the liberty of making such a

saltus (metabasis eis allo

genos. From the alterations

in the world they have in-

ferred their empirical con-

tingency, that is, their de-

pendence on empirically de-

termining causes, and so have

obtained an ascending series

of empirical conditions. And

so far they were entirely in

the right. But since they

could not find in such a

series any first beginning, or

any highest member, they

passed suddenly from the

empirical concept of con-

tingency, and laid hold upon

the pure category, which then

gave rise to a strictly intelli-

gible series the completeness

of which rested on the exist-

ence of an absolutely neces-

sary cause. 

P 419a

The latter argument, on the

other hand, takes into con-

sideration the contingency of

everything which is deter-

mined in the temporal series

(everything being preceded

by a time in which the condi-

tion must itself again be

determined as conditioned),

and from this point of view

everything unconditioned and

all absolute necessity com-

pletely vanish. Nevertheless,

the method of argument in

both cases is entirely in con-

formity even with ordinary

human reason, which fre-

quently falls into conflict with

itself through considering its

object from two different

points of view. M. de Mairan

regarded the controversy be-

tween two famous astrono-

mers, which arose from a

similar difficulty in regard to

choice of standpoint, as a

sufficiently remarkable phe-

nomenon to justify his writing

a special treatise upon it. The

one had argued that the

moon revolves on its own

axis, because it always turns

the same side towards the

earth. The other drew the

opposite conclusion that the

moon does not revolve on its

own axis, because it always

P 420a

turns the same side towards

the earth. 

P 420

Since this cause was not bound down to any

sensible conditions, it was

freed from the temporal con-

dition which would require

that its causality should itself

have a beginning. But such

procedure is entirely illegiti-

mate, as may be gathered

from what follows. 

In the strict meaning of the

category, the contingent is

so named because its contra-

dictory opposite is possible. 

Now we cannot argue from

empirical contingency to in-

telligible contingency. When

anything is altered, the op-

posite of its state is actual

at another time, and is there-

fore possible. This present

state is not, however, the

contradictory opposite of the

preceding state. To obtain

such a contradictory opposite

we require to conceive, that

in the same time in which the

preceding state was, its op-

posite could have existed in

its place, and this can never

be inferred from [the fact of]

the alteration. A body which

was in motion (= A) comes

to rest (= non-A). Now from

the fact that a state opposite

to the state A follows upon

the state A, we cannot argue

that the contradictory op-

posite of A is possible, and

that A is therefore con-


P 420a

Both inferences

were correct, according to the

point of view which each

chose in observing the moon's


P 421

To prove such a conclusion, it would have to

be shown that in place of the

motion, and at the time at

which it occurred, there could

have been rest. All that we

know is that rest was real in

the time that followed upon

the motion, and was therefore

likewise possible. Motion at

one time and rest at another

time are not related as contra-

dictory opposites. Accord-

ingly the succession of op-

posite determinations, that is,

alteration, in no way estab-

lishes contingency of the type

represented in the concepts of

pure understanding; and can-

not therefore carry us to the

existence of a necessary being,

similarly conceived in purely

intelligible terms. Alteration

proves only empirical con-

tingency; that is, that the

new state, in the absence of

a cause which belongs to the

preceding time, could never

of itself have taken place. 

Such is the condition pre-

scribed by the law of causal-

ity. This cause, even if it be

viewed as absolutely neces-

sary, must be such as can be

thus met with in time, and

must belong to the series of


P 422


Section 3


We have now completely before us the dialectic play of

cosmological ideas. The ideas are such that an object congruent

with them can never be given in any possible experience, and

that even in thought reason is unable to bring them into har-

mony with the universal laws of nature. Yet they are not

arbitrarily conceived. Reason, in the continuous advance of

empirical synthesis, is necessarily led up to them whenever

it endeavours to free from all conditions and apprehend in

its unconditioned totality that which according to the rules

of experience can never be determined save as conditioned. 

These pseudo-rational assertions are so many attempts to

solve four natural and unavoidable problems of reason. There

are just so many, neither more nor fewer, owing to the fact that

there are just four series of synthetic presuppositions which

impose a priori limitations on the empirical synthesis. 

The proud pretensions of reason, when it strives to extend

its domain beyond all limits of experience, we have represented

only in dry formulas that contain merely the ground of their

legal claims. As befits a transcendental philosophy, they have

been divested of all empirical features, although only in con-

nection therewith can their full splendour be displayed. But

in this empirical application, and in the progressive extension

of the employment of reason, philosophy, beginning with the

field of our experiences and steadily soaring to these lofty ideas,

displays a dignity and worth such that, could it but make good

its pretensions, it would leave all other human science far

behind. For it promises a secure foundation for our high-

est expectations in respect of those ultimate ends towards

which all the endeavours of reason must ultimately converge. 

Whether the world has a beginning [in time] and any limit to

its extension in space; whether there is anywhere, and perhaps

in my thinking self, an indivisible and indestructible unity,

or nothing but what is divisible and transitory; whether I am

free in my actions or, like other beings, am led by the hand of

P 423

nature and of fate; whether finally there is a supreme cause

of the world, or whether the things of nature and their order

must as the ultimate object terminate thought -- an object that

even in our speculations can never be transcended: these are

questions for the solution of which the mathematician would

gladly exchange the whole of his science. For mathematics

can yield no satisfaction in regard to those highest ends that

most closely concern humanity. And yet the very dignity of

mathematics (that pride of human reason) rests upon this,

that it guides reason to knowledge of nature in its order and

regularity -- alike in what is great in it and in what is small --

and in the extraordinary unity of its moving forces, thus

rising to a degree of insight far beyond what any philosophy

based on ordinary experience would lead us to expect; and

so gives occasion and encouragement to an employment of

reason that is extended beyond all experience, and at the same

time supplies it with the most excellent materials for support-

ing its investigations -- so far as the character of these permits

-- by appropriate intuitions. 

Unfortunately for speculation, though fortunately perhaps

for the practical interests of humanity, reason, in the midst of

its highest expectations, finds itself so compromised by the

conflict of opposing arguments, that neither its honour nor

its security allows it to withdraw and treat the quarrel with

indifference as a mere mock fight; and still less is it in a posi-

tion to command peace, being itself directly interested in the

matters in dispute. Accordingly, nothing remains for reason

save to consider whether the origin of this conflict, whereby

it is divided against itself, may not have arisen from a mere

misunderstanding. In such an enquiry both parties, per chance,

may have to sacrifice proud claims; but a lasting and peaceful

reign of reason over understanding and the senses would

thereby be inaugurated. 

For the present we shall defer this thorough enquiry, in

order first of all to consider upon which side we should prefer

to fight, should we be compelled to make choice between

the opposing parties. The raising of this question, how we

should proceed if we consulted only our interest and not

the logical criterion of truth, will decide nothing in regard to

P 424

the contested rights of the two parties, but has this advantage,

that it enables us to comprehend why the participants in this

quarrel, though not influenced by any superior insight into the

matter under dispute, have preferred to fight on one side

rather than on the other. It will also cast light on a number of

incidental points, for instance, the passionate zeal of the one

party and the calm assurance of the other; and will explain

why the world hails the one with eager approval, and is im-

placably prejudiced against the other. 

Comparison of the principles which form the starting-

points of the two parties is what enables us, as we shall find,

to determine the standpoint from which alone this preliminary

enquiry can be carried out with the required thoroughness. In

the assertions of the antithesis we observe a perfect uniformity

in manner of thinking and complete unity of maxims, namely

a principle of pure empiricism, applied not only in explana-

tion of the appearances within the world, but also in the

solution of the transcendental ideas of the world itself, in its

totality. The assertions of the thesis, on the other hand, pre-

suppose, in addition to the empirical mode of explanation

employed within the series of appearances, intelligible begin-

nings; and to this extent its maxim is complex. But as its

essential and distinguishing characteristic is the presupposi-

tion of intelligible beginnings, I shall entitle it the dogmatism

of pure reason. 

In the determination of the cosmological ideas, we find on

the side of dogmatism, that is, of the thesis:

First, a certain practical interest in which every right-

thinking man, if he has understanding of what truly concerns

him, heartily shares. That the world has a beginning, that my

thinking self is of simple and therefore indestructible nature,

that it is free in its voluntary actions and raised above the

compulsion of nature, and finally that all order in the things

constituting the world is due to a primordial being, from which

everything derives its unity and purposive connection -- these

are so many foundation stones of morals and religion. The

antithesis robs us of all these supports, or at least appears to

do so. 

Secondly, reason has a speculative interest on the side of

P 425

the thesis. When the transcendental ideas are postulated and

employed in the manner prescribed by the thesis, the entire

chain of conditions and the derivation of the conditioned can

be grasped completely a priori. For we then start from the

unconditioned. This is not done by the antithesis, which for

this reason is at a very serious disadvantage. To the question

as to the conditions of its synthesis it can give no answer which

does not lead to the endless renewal of the same enquiry. 

According to the antithesis, every given beginning compels us

to advance to one still higher; every part leads to a still smaller

part; every event is preceded by another event as its cause; and

the conditions of existence in general rest always again upon

other conditions, without ever obtaining unconditioned foot-

ing and support in any self-subsistent thing, viewed as prim-

ordial being. 

Thirdly, the thesis has also the advantage of popularity;

and this certainly forms no small part of its claim to favour. 

The common understanding finds not the least difficulty in the

idea of the unconditioned beginning of all synthesis. Being

more accustomed to descend to consequences than to ascend

to grounds, it does not puzzle over the possibility of the abso-

lutely first; on the contrary, it finds comfort in such concepts,

and at the same time a fixed point to which the thread by

which it guides its movements can be attached. In the restless

ascent from the conditioned to the condition, always with one

foot in the air, there can be no satisfaction. 

In the determination of the cosmological ideas we find on

the side of empiricism, that is, of the antithesis: first, no such

practical interest (due to pure principles of reason) as is pro-

vided for the thesis by morals and religion. On the contrary,

pure empiricism appears to deprive them of all power and in-

fluence. If there is no primordial being distinct from the world,

if the world is without beginning and therefore without an

Author, if our will is not free, and the soul is divisible and

perishable like matter, moral ideas and principles lose all

validity, and share in the fate of the transcendental ideas

which served as their theoretical support. 

But secondly, in compensation, empiricism yields advan-

tages to the speculative interest of reason, which are very

P 426

attractive and far surpass those which dogmatic teaching

bearing on the ideas of reason can offer. According to the

principle of empiricism the understanding is always on its own

proper ground, namely, the field of genuinely possible experi-

ences, investigating their laws, and by means of these laws

affording indefinite extension to the sure and comprehensible

knowledge which it supplies. Here every object, both in itself

and in its relations, can and ought to be represented in in-

tuition, or at least in concepts for which the corresponding

images can be clearly and distinctly provided in given similar

intuitions. There is no necessity to leave the chain of the

natural order and to resort to ideas, the objects of which are

not known, because, as mere thought-entities, they can never

be given. Indeed, the understanding is not permitted to leave

its proper business, and under the pretence of having brought

it to completion to pass over into the sphere of idealising

reason and of transcendent concepts -- a sphere in which it

is no longer necessary for it to observe and investigate in

accordance with the laws of nature, but only to think and to

invent in the assurance that it cannot be refuted by the facts

of nature, not being bound by the evidence which they yield,

but presuming to pass them by or even to subordinate them

to a higher authority, namely, that of pure reason. 

The empiricist will never allow, therefore, that any epoch

of nature is to be taken as the absolutely first, or that any

limit of his insight into the extent of nature is to be regarded

as the widest possible. Nor does he permit any transition from

the objects of nature -- which he can analyse through observa-

tion and mathematics, and synthetically determine in intuition

(the extended) -- to those which neither sense nor imagination

can ever represent in concreto (the simple). Nor will he admit

the legitimacy of assuming in nature itself any power that

operates independently of the laws of nature (freedom), and

so of encroaching upon the business of the understanding,

which is that of investigating, according to necessary rules,

the origin of appearances. And, lastly, he will not grant

that a cause ought ever to be sought outside nature, in an

original being. We know nothing but nature, since it alone can

present objects to us and instruct us in regard to their laws. 

P 427

If the empirical philosopher had no other purpose in pro-

pounding his antithesis than to subdue the rashness and pre-

sumption of those who so far misconstrue the true vocation of

reason as to boast of insight and knowledge just where true in-

sight and knowledge cease, and to represent as furthering spec-

ulative interests that which is valid only in relation to practical

interests (in order, as may suit their convenience, to break the

thread of physical enquiries, and then under the pretence of ex-

tending knowledge to fasten it to transcendental ideas, through

which we really know only that we know nothing); if, I say,

the empiricist were satisfied with this, his principle would be

a maxim urging moderation in our pretensions, modesty in

our assertions, and yet at the same time the greatest possible

extension of our understanding, through the teacher fittingly

assigned to us, namely, through experience. If such were our

procedure, we should not be cut off from employing intel-

lectual presuppositions and faith on behalf of our practical

interest; only they could never be permitted to assume the

title and dignity of science and rational insight. Knowledge,

which as such is speculative, can have no other object than

that supplied by experience; if we transcend the limits thus

imposed, the synthesis which seeks, independently of experi-

ence, new species of knowledge, lacks that substratum of

intuition upon which alone it can be exercised. 

But when empiricism itself, as frequently happens, be-

comes dogmatic in its attitude towards ideas, and confidently

denies whatever lies beyond the sphere of its intuitive know-

ledge, it betrays the same lack of modesty; and this is all the

more reprehensible owing to the irreparable injury which is

thereby caused to the practical interests of reason. 

 The contrast between the teaching of Epicurus and that of

Plato is of this nature. 

++ It is, however, open to question whether Epicurus ever pro-

pounded these principles as objective assertions. If perhaps they

were for him nothing more than maxims for the speculative employ-

ment of reason, then he showed in this regard a more genuine philo-

sophical spirit than any other of the philosophers of antiquity. That,

in explaining the appearances, we must proceed as if the field of our

enquiry were not circumscribed by any limit or beginning of the

world; that we must assume the material composing the world to

be such as it must be if we are to learn about it from experience; 

P 428

 Each of the two types of philosophy says more than it

knows. The former encourages and furthers knowledge,

though to the prejudice of the practical; the latter supplies

excellent practical principles, but it permits reason to indulge

in ideal explanations of natural appearances, in regard to

which a speculative knowledge is alone possible to us -- to the

neglect of physical investigation. 

Finally, as regards the third factor which has to be con-

sidered in a preliminary choice between the two conflicting

parties, it is extremely surprising that empiricism should be so

universally unpopular. The common understanding, it might

be supposed, would eagerly adopt a programme which pro-

mises to satisfy it through exclusively empirical knowledge

and the rational connections there revealed -- in preference to

the transcendental dogmatism which compels it to rise to

concepts far outstripping the insight and rational faculties

of the most practised thinkers. But this is precisely what com-

mends such dogmatism to the common understanding. For it

then finds itself in a position in which the most learned can

claim no advantage over it. If it understands little or nothing

about these matters, no one can boast of understanding much

more; and though in regard to them it cannot express itself in

so scholastically correct a manner as those with special train-

ing, nevertheless there is no end to the plausible arguments

which it can propound, wandering as it does amidst mere ideas,

about which no one knows anything, and in regard to which

it is therefore free to be as eloquent as it pleases; 

++ that we must postulate no other mode of the production of events

than one which will enable them to be [regarded as] determined

through unalterable laws of nature; and finally that no use must be

made of any cause distinct from the world -- all these principles still

[retain their value]. They are very sound principles (though seldom

observed) for extending the scope of speculative philosophy, while

at the same time [enabling us] to discover the principles of morality

without depending for this discovery upon alien [i.e. non-moral,

theoretical] sources; and it does not follow in the least that those

who require us, so long as we are occupied with mere speculation,

to ignore these dogmatic propositions [that there is a limit and

beginning to the world, a Divine Cause, etc. ], can justly be accused

of wishing to deny them. 

P 429

whereas when matters that involve the investigation of nature are in

question, it has to stand silent and to admit its ignorance. Thus

indolence and vanity combine in sturdy support of these prin-

ciples. Besides, although the philosopher finds it extremely

hard to accept a principle for which he can give no justifica-

tion, still more to employ concepts the objective reality of which

he is unable to establish, nothing is more usual in the case of

the common understanding. It insists upon having something

from which it can make a confident start. The difficulty of even

conceiving this presupposed starting-point does not disquiet

it. Since it is unaware what conceiving really means, it never

occurs to it to reflect upon the assumption; it accepts as known

whatever is familiar to it through frequent use. For the

common understanding, indeed, all speculative interests pale

before the practical; and it imagines that it comprehends and

knows what its fears or hopes incite it to assume or to believe. 

Thus empiricism is entirely devoid of the popularity of tran-

scendentally idealising reason; and however prejudicial such

empiricism may be to the highest practical principles, there

is no need to fear that it will ever pass the limits of the Schools,

and acquire any considerable influence in the general life or

any real favour among the multitude. 

Human reason is by nature architectonic. That is to say, it

regards all our knowledge as belonging to a possible system,

and therefore allows only such principles as do not at any rate

make it impossible for any knowledge that we may attain to

combine into a system with other knowledge. But the proposi-

tions of the antithesis are of such a kind that they render the

completion of the edifice of knowledge quite impossible. They

maintain that there is always to be found beyond every state

of the world a more ancient state, in every part yet other parts

similarly divisible, prior to every event still another event

which itself again is likewise generated, and that in existence

in general everything is conditioned, an unconditioned and

first existence being nowhere discernible. Since, therefore,

the antithesis thus refuses to admit as first or as a beginning

anything that could serve as a foundation for building, a

P 430

complete edifice of knowledge is, on such assumptions, alto-

gether impossible. Thus the architectonic interest of reason --

the demand not for empirical but for pure a priori unity of

reason -- forms a natural recommendation for the assertions

of the thesis. 

If men could free themselves from all such interests, and

consider the assertions of reason irrespective of their conse-

quences, solely in view of the intrinsic force of their grounds,

and were the only way of escape from their perplexities to

give adhesion to one or other of the opposing parties, their

state would be one of continuous vacillation. To-day it would

be their conviction that the human will is free; to-morrow,

dwelling in reflection upon the indissoluble chain of nature,

they would hold that freedom is nothing but self-deception,

that everything is simply nature. If, however, they were

summoned to action, this play of the merely speculative

reason would, like a dream, at once cease, and they would

choose their principles exclusively in accordance with practi-

cal interests. Since, however, it is fitting that a reflective and

enquiring being should devote a certain amount of time to

the examination of his own reason, entirely divesting himself

of all partiality and openly submitting his observations to the

judgment of others, no one can be blamed for, much less pro-

hibited from, presenting for trial the two opposing parties,

leaving them, terrorised by no threats, to defend themselves as

best they can, before a jury of like standing with themselves,

that is, before a jury of fallible men. 


Section 4



To profess to solve all problems and to answer all questions

would be impudent boasting, and would argue such extrava-

gant self-conceit as at once to forfeit all confidence. Neverthe-

less there are sciences the very nature of which requires that

every question arising within their domain should be com-

P 431

pletely answerable in terms of what is known, inasmuch as the

answer must issue from the same sources from which the

question proceeds. In these sciences it is not permissible to

plead unavoidable ignorance; the solution can be demanded. 

We must be able, in every possible case, in accordance with a

rule, to know what is right and what is wrong, since this con-

cerns our obligation, and we have no obligation to that which

we cannot know. In the explanation of natural appearances,

on the other hand, much must remain uncertain and many

questions insoluble, because what we know of nature is by no

means sufficient, in all cases, to account for what has to be ex-

plained. The question, therefore, is whether in transcendental

philosophy there is any question relating to an object pre-

sented to pure reason which is unanswerable by this reason,

and whether we may rightly excuse ourselves from giving a

decisive answer. In thus excusing ourselves, we should have

to show that any knowledge which we can acquire still leaves

us in complete uncertainty as to what should be ascribed to

the object, and that while we do indeed have a concept suffi-

cient to raise a question, we are entirely lacking in materials

or power to answer the same. 

Now I maintain that transcendental philosophy is unique

in the whole field of speculative knowledge, in that no ques-

tion which concerns an object given to pure reason can be

insoluble for this same human reason, and that no excuse of

an unavoidable ignorance, or of the problem's unfathomable

depth, can release us from the obligation to answer it thor-

oughly and completely. That very concept which puts us in a

position to ask the question must also qualify us to answer it,

since, as in the case of right and wrong, the object is not to be

met with outside the concept. 

In transcendental philosophy, however, the only questions

to which we have the right to demand a sufficient answer

bearing on the constitution of the object, and from answering

which the philosopher is not permitted to excuse himself on

the plea of their impenetrable obscurity, are the cosmological. 

These questions [bearing on the constitution of the object]

must refer exclusively to cosmological ideas. For the object

must be given empirically, the question being only as to its

conformity to an idea. If, on the other hand, the object is

P 432

transcendental, and therefore itself unknown; if, for instance,

the question be whether that something, the appearance of

which (in ourselves) is thought (soul), is in itself a simple being,

whether there is an absolutely necessary cause of all things,

and so forth, what we have then to do is in each case to seek

an object for our idea; and we may well confess that this object

is unknown to us, though not therefore impossible. The cos-

mological ideas alone have the peculiarity that they can pre-

suppose their object, and the empirical synthesis required for

its concept, as being given. The question which arises out of

these ideas refers only to the advance in this synthesis, that

is, whether it should be carried so far as to contain absolute

totality -- such totality, since it cannot be given in any experi-

ence, being no longer empirical. Since we are here dealing

solely with a thing as object of a possible experience, not as a

thing in itself, the answer to the transcendent cosmological

question cannot lie anywhere save in the idea. We are not

asking what is the constitution of any object in itself, nor

as regards possible experience are we enquiring what can

be given in concreto in any experience. Our sole question

is as to what lies in the idea, to which the empirical synthesis

can do no more than merely approximate; the question must

therefore be capable of being solved entirely from the idea. 

Since the idea is a mere creature of reason, reason cannot

disclaim its responsibility and saddle it upon the unknown


++ Although to the question, what is the constitution of a tran-

scendental object, no answer can be given stating what it is, we can

yet reply that the question itself is nothing, because there is no

given object [corresponding] to it. Accordingly all questions dealt

with in the transcendental doctrine of the soul are answerable in

this latter manner, and have indeed been so answered; its

questions refer to the transcendental subject of all inner appear-

ances, which is not itself appearance and consequently not given

as object, and in which none of the categories (and it is to them

that the question is really directed) meet with the conditions re-

quired for their application. We have here a case where the com-

mon saying holds, that no answer is itself an answer. A question

as to the constitution of that something which cannot be thought

through any determinate predicate -- inasmuch as it is completely

outside the sphere of those objects which can be given to us -- is

entirely null and void. 

P 433

It is not so extraordinary as at first seems the case, that a

science should be in a position to demand and expect none but

assured answers to all the questions within its domain (quae-

stiones domesticae), although up to the present they have per-

haps not been found. In addition to transcendental philosophy,

there are two pure rational sciences, one purely speculative,

the other with a practical content, namely, pure mathematics

and pure ethics. Has it ever been suggested that, because of

our necessary ignorance of the conditions, it must remain un-

certain what exact relation, in rational or irrational numbers,

a diameter bears to a circle? Since no adequate solution in

terms of rational numbers is possible, and no solution in terms

of irrational numbers has yet been discovered, it was con-

cluded that at least the impossibility of a solution can be

known with certainty, and of this impossibility Lambert has

given the required proof. In the universal principles of morals

nothing can be uncertain, because the principles are either

altogether void and meaningless, or must be derived from

the concepts of our reason. In natural science, on the other

hand, there is endless conjecture, and certainty is not to be

counted upon. For the natural appearances are objects which

are given to us independently of our concepts, and the key to

them lies not in us and our pure thinking, but outside us; and

therefore in many cases, since the key is not to be found, an

assured solution is not to be expected. I am not, of course, here

referring to those questions of the Transcendental Analytic

which concern the deduction of our pure knowledge; we are

at present treating only of the certainty of judgments with

respect to their objects and not with respect to the source of

our concepts themselves. 

The obligation of an at least critical solution of the ques-

tions which reason thus propounds to itself, we cannot, there-

fore, escape by complaints of the narrow limits of our reason,

and by confessing, under the pretext of a humility based on self-

knowledge, that it is beyond the power of our reason to deter-

mine whether the world exists from eternity or has a begin-

ning; whether cosmical space is filled with beings to infinitude,

P 434

or is enclosed within certain limits; whether anything in the

world is simple, or everything such as to be infinitely divisible;

whether there is generation and production through freedom,

or whether everything depends on the chain of events in the

natural order; and finally whether there exists any being com-

pletely unconditioned and necessary in itself, or whether every-

thing is conditioned in its existence and therefore dependent on

external things and itself contingent. All these questions refer

to an object which can be found nowhere save in our thoughts,

namely, to the absolutely unconditioned totality of the syn-

thesis of appearances. If from our own concepts we are unable

to assert and determine anything certain, we must not throw

the blame upon the object as concealing itself from us. Since

such an object is nowhere to be met with outside our idea, it is

not possible for it to be given. The cause of failure we must

seek in our idea itself. For so long as we obstinately persist

in assuming that there is an actual object corresponding to

the idea, the problem, as thus viewed, allows of no solution. A

clear exposition of the dialectic which lies within our concept

itself would soon yield us complete certainty how we ought

to judge in reference to such a question. 

The pretext that we are unable to obtain certainty in regard

to these problems can be at once met with the following question

which certainly calls for a clear answer: Whence come those

ideas, the solution of which involves us in such difficulty? Is it,

perchance, appearances that demand explanation, and do we,

in accordance with these ideas, have to seek only the principles

or rules of their exposition? Even if we suppose the whole of

nature to be spread out before us, and that of all that is pre-

sented to our intuition nothing is concealed from our senses and

consciousness, yet still through no experience could the object

of our ideas be known by us in concreto. For that purpose, in

addition to this exhaustive intuition, we should require what

is not possible through any empirical knowledge, namely, a

completed synthesis and the consciousness of its absolute

totality. Accordingly our question does not require to be raised

in the explanation of any given appearance, and is therefore

not a question which can be regarded as imposed on us by

the object itself. The object can never come before us, since

it cannot be given through any possible experience. In all

P 435

possible perceptions we always remain involved in conditions,

whether in space or in time, and come upon nothing un-

conditioned requiring us to determine whether this uncondi-

tioned is to be located in an absolute beginning of synthesis,

or in an absolute totality of a series that has no beginning. 

In its empirical meaning, the term 'whole' is always only com-

parative. The absolute whole of quantity (the universe), the

whole of division, of derivation, of the condition of existence

in general, with all questions as to whether it is brought about

through finite synthesis or through a synthesis requiring infinite

extension, have nothing to do with any possible experience. 

We should not, for instance, in any wise be able to explain the

appearances of a body better, or even differently, in assuming

that it consisted either of simple or of inexhaustibly com-

posite parts; for neither a simple appearance nor an infinite

composition can ever come before us. Appearances demand

explanation only so far as the conditions of their explanation

are given in perception; but all that may ever be given in this

way, when taken together in an absolute whole, is not itself

a perception. Yet it is just the explanation of this very

whole that is demanded in the transcendental problems of


Thus the solution of these problems can never be found

in experience, and this is precisely the reason why we should

not say that it is uncertain what should be ascribed to the

object [of our idea]. For as our object is only in our brain,

and cannot be given outside it, we have only to take care to

be at one with ourselves, and to avoid that amphiboly which

transforms our idea into a supposed representation of an

object that is empirically given and therefore to be known

according to the laws of experience. The dogmatic solution is

therefore not only uncertain, but impossible. The critical solu-

tion, which allows of complete certainty, does not consider the

question objectively, but in relation to the foundation of the

knowledge upon which the question is based. 

P 436


Section 5



We should of ourselves desist from the demand that our

questions be answered dogmatically, if from the start we

understood that whatever the dogmatic answer might turn out

to be it would only increase our ignorance, and cast us from

one inconceivability into another, from one obscurity into

another still greater, and perhaps even into contradictions. If

our question is directed simply to a yes or no, we are well

advised to leave aside the supposed grounds of the answer, and

first consider what we should gain according as the answer is

in the affirmative or in the negative. Should we then find that

in both cases the outcome is mere nonsense, there will be good

reason for instituting a critical examination of our question, to

determine whether the question does not itself rest on a ground-

less presupposition, in that it plays with an idea the falsity of

which can be more easily detected through study of its applica-

tion and consequences than in its own separate representation. 

This is the great utility of the sceptical mode of dealing with

the questions which pure reason puts to pure reason. By its

means we can deliver ourselves, at but a small cost, from a

great body of sterile dogmatism, and set in its place a sober

critique, which as a true cathartic will effectively guard us

against such groundless beliefs and the supposed polymathy

to which they lead. 

If therefore, in dealing with a cosmological idea, I were

able to appreciate beforehand that whatever view may be

taken of the unconditioned in the successive synthesis of ap-

pearances, it must either be too large or too small for any con-

cept of the understanding, I should be in a position to under-

stand that since the cosmological idea has no bearing save

upon an object of experience which has to be in conformity

with a possible concept of the understanding, it must be

P 437

entirely empty and without meaning; for its object, view it as

we may, cannot be made to agree with it. This is in fact the

case with all cosmical concepts; and this is why reason, so

long as it holds to them, is involved in an unavoidable

antinomy. For suppose: --

First, that the world has no beginning: it is then too large

for our concept, which, consisting as it does in a successive

regress, can never reach the whole eternity that has elapsed. 

Or suppose that the world has a beginning, it will then, in the

necessary empirical regress, be too small for the concept of

the understanding. For since the beginning still presupposes a

time which precedes it, it is still not unconditioned; and the law

of the empirical employment of the understanding therefore

obliges us to look for a higher temporal condition; and the

world [as limited in time] is therefore obviously too small for

this law. 

This is also true of the twofold answer to the question

regarding the magnitude of the world in space. If it is infinite

and unlimited, it is too large for any possible empirical con-

cept. If it is finite and limited, we have a right to ask what

determines these limits. Empty space is no self-subsistent

correlate of things, and cannot be a condition at which we

could stop; still less can it be an empirical condition, forming

part of a possible experience. (For how can there be any ex-

perience of the absolutely void? ) And yet to obtain absolute

totality in the empirical synthesis it is always necessary that

the unconditioned be an empirical concept. Consequently, a

limited world is too small for our concept. 

Secondly, if every appearance in space (matter) consists of

infinitely many parts, the regress in the division will always

be too great for our concept; while if the division of space is

to stop at any member of the division (the simple), the regress

will be too small for the idea of the unconditioned. For this

member always still allows of a regress to further parts con-

tained in it. 

Thirdly, if we suppose that nothing happens in the world

save in accordance with the laws of nature, the causality of

the cause will always itself be something that happens, making

necessary a regress to a still higher cause, and thus a con-

tinuation of the series of conditions a parte priori without end. 

P 438

Nature, as working always through efficient causes, is thus

too large for any of the concepts which we can employ in the

synthesis of cosmical events. 

If, in certain cases, we admit the occurrence of self-caused

events, that is, generation through freedom, then by an un-

avoidable law of nature the question 'why' still pursues us,

constraining us, in accordance with the law of causality

[which governs] experience, to pass beyond such events; and

we thus find that such totality of connection is too small for

our necessary empirical concept. 

Fourthly, if we admit an absolutely necessary being

(whether it be the world itself, or something in the world, or

the cause of the world), we set it in a time infinitely remote

from any given point of time, because otherwise it would be

dependent upon another and antecedent being. But such an

existence is then too large for our empirical concept, and is

unapproachable through any regress, however far this be


 If, again, we hold that everything belonging to the world

(whether as conditioned or as condition) is contingent, any

and every given existence is too small for our concept. For

we are constrained always still to look about for some other

existence upon which it is dependent. 

We have said that in all these cases the cosmical idea is

either too large or too small for the empirical regress, and

therefore for any possible concept of the understanding. We

have thus been maintaining that the fault lies with the idea, in

being too large or too small for that to which it is directed,

namely, possible experience. Why have we not expressed our-

selves in the opposite manner, saying that in the former case

the empirical concept is always too small for the idea, and in

the latter too large, and that the blame therefore attaches to

the empirical regress? The reason is this. Possible experience

is that which can alone give reality to our concepts; in its

absence a concept is a mere idea, without truth, that is, without

relation to any object. The possible empirical concept is there-

fore the standard by which we must judge whether the idea

is a mere idea and thought-entity, or whether it finds its object

in the world. For we can say of anything that it is too large

P 439

or too small relatively to something else, only if the former is

required for the sake of the latter, and has to be adapted to it. 

Among the puzzles propounded in the ancient dialectical

Schools was the question, whether, if a ball cannot pass

through a hole, we should say that the ball is too large or the

hole too small. In such a case it is a matter of indifference

how we choose to express ourselves, for we do not know which

exists for the sake of the other. In the case, however, of a man

and his coat, we do not say that a man is too tall for his coat,

but that the coat is too short for the man. 

We have thus been led to what is at least a well-grounded

suspicion that the cosmological ideas, and with them all the

mutually conflicting pseudo-rational assertions, may perhaps

rest on an empty and merely fictitious concept of the manner

in which the object of these ideas is given to us; and this sus-

picion may set us on the right path for laying bare the illusion

which has so long led us astray. 


Section 6



We have sufficiently proved in the Transcendental Aesthetic

that everything intuited in space or time, and therefore all

objects of any experience possible to us, are nothing but ap-

pearances, that is, mere representations, which, in the manner

in which they are represented, as extended beings, or as series of

alterations, have no independent existence outside our thoughts. 

This doctrine I entitle transcendental idealism. The realist, in

the transcendental meaning of this term, treats these modifica-

tions of our sensibility as self-subsistent things, that is, treats

mere representations as things in themselves. 

++ I have also, elsewhere, sometimes entitled it formal idealism,

to distinguish it from material idealism, that is, from the usual type

of idealism which doubts or denies the existence of outer things


P 439

It would be unjust to ascribe to us that long-decried

P 440

empirical idealism, which, while it admits the genuine reality

of space, denies the existence of the extended beings in it, or

at least considers their existence doubtful, and so does not

in this regard allow of any properly demonstrable distinction

between truth and dreams. As to the appearances of inner

sense in time, empirical idealism finds no difficulty in regard-

ing them as real things; indeed it even asserts that this inner

experience is the sufficient as well as the only proof of the

actual existence of its object (in itself, with all this time-


 Our transcendental idealism, on the contrary, admits the

reality of the objects of outer intuition, as intuited in space, and

of all changes in time, as represented by inner sense. For since

space is a form of that intuition which we entitle outer, and

since without objects in space there would be no empirical re-

presentation whatsoever, we can and must regard the extended

beings in it as real; and the same is true of time. But this space

and this time, and with them all appearances, are not in them-

selves things; they are nothing but representations, and cannot

exist outside our mind. Even the inner and sensible intuition

of our mind (as object of consciousness) which is represented

as being determined by the succession of different states in

time, is not the self proper, as it exists in itself -- that is, is not

the transcendental subject -- but only an appearance that has

been given to the sensibility of this, to us unknown, being. 

This inner appearance cannot be admitted to exist in any such

manner in and by itself; for it is conditioned by time, and time

cannot be a determination of a thing in itself. The empirical

truth of appearances in space and time is, however, sufficiently

secured; it is adequately distinguished from dreams, if both

dreams and genuine appearances cohere truly and completely

in one experience, in accordance with empirical laws. 

 The objects of experience, then, are never given in them-

selves, but only in experience, and have no existence outside it. 

That there may be inhabitants in the moon, although no one

has ever perceived them, must certainly be admitted. This,

however, only means that in the possible advance of experi-

ence we may encounter them. For everything is real which

stands in connection with a perception in accordance with the

P 441

laws of empirical advance. They are therefore real if they

stand in an empirical connection with my actual consciousness,

although they are not for that reason real in themselves, that

is, outside this advance of experience. 

Nothing is really given us save perception and the empiri-

cal advance from this to other possible perceptions. For the

appearances, as mere representations, are in themselves real

only in perception, which perception is in fact nothing but the

reality of an empirical representation, that is, appearance. To

call an appearance a real thing prior to our perceiving it, either

means that in the advance of experience we must meet with

such a perception, or it means nothing at all. For if we were

speaking of a thing in itself, we could indeed say that it exists

in itself apart from relation to our senses and possible experi-

ence. But we are here speaking only of an appearance in space

and time, which are not determinations of things in them-

selves but only of our sensibility. Accordingly, that which is in

space and time is an appearance; it is not anything in itself

but consists merely of representations, which, if not given in

us -- that is to say, in perception -- are nowhere to be met with. 

The faculty of sensible intuition is strictly only a recep-

tivity, a capacity of being affected in a certain manner with

representations, the relation of which to one another is a pure

intuition of space and of time (mere forms of our sensibility),

and which, in so far as they are connected in this manner in

space and time, and are determinable according to laws of the

unity of experience, are entitled objects. The non-sensible cause

of these representations is completely unknown to us, and cannot

therefore be intuited by us as object. For such an object would

have to be represented as neither in space nor in time (these

being merely conditions of sensible representation), and apart

from such conditions we cannot think any intuition. We may,

however, entitle the purely intelligible cause of appearances in

general the transcendental object, but merely in order to have

something corresponding to sensibility viewed as a receptivity. 

To this transcendental object we can ascribe the whole extent

and connection of our possible perceptions, and can say that it

is given in itself prior to all experience. But the appearances,

P 442

while conforming to it, are not given in themselves, but only in

this experience, being mere representations, which as percep-

tions can mark out a real object only in so far as the perception

connects with all others according to the rules of the unity of

experience. Thus we can say that the real things of past time

are given in the transcendental object of experience; but they

are objects for me and real in past time only in so far as I repre-

sent to myself (either by the light of history or by the guiding-

clues of causes and effects) that a regressive series of possible

perceptions in accordance with empirical laws, in a word, that

the course of the world, conducts us to a past time-series as con-

dition of the present time -- a series which, however, can be re-

presented as actual not in itself but only in the connection of a

possible experience. Accordingly, all events which have taken

place in the immense periods that have preceded my own ex-

istence mean really nothing but the possibility of extending the

chain of experience from the present perception back to the

conditions which determine this perception in respect of time. 

If, therefore, I represent to myself all existing objects of

the senses in all time and in all places, I do not set them in

space and time [as being there] prior to experience. This

representation is nothing but the thought of a possible ex-

perience in its absolute completeness. Since the objects are

nothing but mere representations, only in such a possible

experience are they given. To say that they exist prior to

all my experience is only to assert that they are to be met

with if, starting from perception, I advance to that part of

experience to which they belong. The cause of the empirical

conditions of this advance (that which determines what mem-

bers I shall meet with, or how far I can meet with any such

in my regress) is transcendental, and is therefore necessarily

unknown to me. We are not, however, concerned with this

transcendental cause, but only with the rule of the advance in

the experience in which objects, that is to say, appearances,

are given to me. Moreover, in outcome it is a matter of in-

difference whether I say that in the empirical advance in

space I can meet with stars a hundred times farther removed

than the outermost now perceptible to me, or whether I say

that they are perhaps to be met with in cosmical space even

P 443

though no human being has ever perceived or ever will per-

ceive them. For even supposing they were given as things in

themselves, without relation to possible experience, it still

remains true that they are nothing to me, and therefore are

not objects, save in so far as they are contained in the series of

the empirical regress. Only in another sort of relation, when

these appearances would be used for the cosmological idea of

an absolute whole, and when, therefore, we are dealing with a

question which oversteps the limits of possible experience,

does distinction of the mode in which we view the reality of

those objects of the senses become of importance, as serving

to guard us against a deceptive error which is bound to arise

if we misinterpret our empirical concepts. 


Section 7



The whole antinomy of pure reason rests upon the dia-

lectical argument: If the conditioned is given, the entire series

of all its conditions is likewise given; objects of the senses are

given as conditioned; therefore, etc. Through this syllogism,

the major premiss of which appears so natural and evident, as

many cosmological ideas are introduced as there are differ-

ences in the conditions (in the synthesis of appearances) that

constitute a series. The ideas postulate absolute totality of

these series; and thereby they set reason in unavoidable

conflict with itself. We shall be in a better position to detect

what is deceptive in this pseudo-rational argument, if we first

correct and define some of the concepts employed in it. 

In the first place, it is evident beyond all possibility of

doubt, that if the conditioned is given, a regress in the series of

all its conditions is set us as a task. For it is involved in the

very concept of the conditioned that something is referred to a

condition, and if this condition is again itself conditioned, to a

more remote condition, and so through all the members of the

P 444

series. The above proposition is thus analytic, and has nothing

to fear from a transcendental criticism. It is a logical postulate

of reason, that through the understanding we follow up and

extend as far as possible that connection of a concept with its

conditions which directly results from the concept itself. 

Further, if the conditioned as well as its condition are

things in themselves, then upon the former being given, the

regress to the latter is not only set as a task, but therewith

already really given. And since this holds of all members of

the series, the complete series of the conditions, and therefore

the unconditioned, is given therewith, or rather is presupposed

in view of the fact that the conditioned, which is only possible

through the complete series, is given. The synthesis of the

conditioned with its condition is here a synthesis of the mere

understanding, which represents things as they are, without

considering whether and how we can obtain knowledge of

them. If, however, what we are dealing with are appearances

-- as mere representations appearances cannot be given save

in so far as I attain knowledge of them, or rather attain them

in themselves, for they are nothing but empirical modes of

knowledge -- I cannot say, in the same sense of the terms, that

if the conditioned is given, all its conditions (as appearances)

are likewise given, and therefore cannot in any way infer the

absolute totality of the series of its conditions. The appear-

ances are in their apprehension themselves nothing but an

empirical synthesis in space and time, and are given only in

this synthesis. It does not, therefore, follow, that if the con-

ditioned, in the [field of] appearance, is given, the synthesis

which constitutes its empirical condition is given therewith

and is presupposed. This synthesis first occurs in the regress,

and never exists without it. What we can say is that a regress

to the conditions, that is, a continued empirical synthesis, on

the side of the conditions, is enjoined or set as a task, and that

in this regress there can be no lack of given conditions. 

These considerations make it clear that the major premiss

of the cosmological inference takes the conditioned in the

transcendental sense of a pure category, while the minor pre-

miss takes it in the empirical sense of a concept of the under-

standing applied to mere appearances. The argument thus

commits that dialectical fallacy which is entitled sophisma

P 445

figurae dictionis. This fallacy is not, however, an artificial

one; a quite natural illusion of our common reason leads

us, when anything is given as conditioned, thus to assume in

the major premiss, as it were without thought or question, its

conditions and their series. This assumption is indeed simply

the logical requirement that we should have adequate pre-

misses for any given conclusion. Also, there is no reference to a

time-order in the connection of the conditioned with its con-

dition; they are presupposed as given together with it. Further,

it is no less natural, in the minor premiss, to regard appear-

ances both as things in themselves and as objects given to the

pure understanding, than to proceed as we have done in the

major, in which we have [similarly] abstracted from all those

conditions of intuition under which alone objects can be given. 

Yet in so doing we have overlooked an important distinction

between the concepts. The synthesis of the conditioned with

its conditions (and the whole series of the latter) does not in

the major premiss carry with it any limitation through time

or any concept of succession. The empirical synthesis, on the

other hand, that is, the series of the conditions in appearance,

as subsumed in the minor premiss, is necessarily successive,

the members of the series being given only as following upon

one another in time; and I have therefore, in this case, no right

to assume the absolute totality of the synthesis and of the

series thereby represented. In the major premiss all the mem-

bers of the series are given in themselves, without any condi-

tion of time, but in this minor premiss they are possible only

through the successive regress, which is given only in the

process in which it is actually carried out. 

When this error has thus been shown to be involved in the

argument upon which both parties alike base their cosmo-


unable to offer any sufficient title in support of their claims. 

But the quarrel is not thereby ended -- as if one or both of the

parties had been proved to be wrong in the actual doctrines

they assert, that is, in the conclusions of their arguments. For

although they have failed to support their contentions by valid

grounds of proof, nothing seems to be clearer than that since

one of them asserts that the world has a beginning and the

other that it has no beginning and is from eternity, one of the

P 446

two must be in the right. But even if this be so, none the less,

since the arguments on both sides are equally clear, it is im-

possible to decide between them. The parties may be com-

manded to keep the peace before the tribunal of reason; but the

controversy none the less continues. There can therefore be no

way of settling it once for all and to the satisfaction of both

sides, save by their becoming convinced that the very fact of

their being able so admirably to refute one another is evidence

that they are really quarrelling about nothing, and that a

certain transcendental illusion has mocked them with a reality

where none is to be found. This is the path which we shall now

proceed to follow in the settlement of a dispute that defies all

attempts to come to a decision. 

* * *

Zeno of Elea, a subtle dialectician, was severely repri-

manded by Plato as a mischievous Sophist who, to show his

skill, would set out to prove a proposition through convincing

arguments and then immediately overthrow them by other

arguments equally strong. Zeno maintained, for example, that

God (probably conceived by him as simply the world) is

neither finite nor infinite, neither in motion nor at rest, neither

similar nor dissimilar to any other thing. To the critics of his

procedure he appeared to have the absurd intention of denying

both of two mutually contradictory propositions. But this ac-

cusation does not seem to me to be justified. The first of his

propositions I shall consider presently more in detail. As re-

gards the others, if by the word 'God' he meant the universe, he

would certainly have to say that it is neither abidingly present

in its place, that is, at rest, nor that it changes its place, that is,

is in motion; because all places are in the universe, and the

universe is not, therefore, itself in any place. Again, if the

universe comprehends in itself everything that exists, it cannot

be either similar or dissimilar to any other thing, because

there is no other thing, nothing outside it, with which it could

be compared. If two opposed judgments presuppose an inad-

missible condition, then in spite of their opposition, which does

not amount to a contradiction strictly so-called, both fall to the

ground, inasmuch as the condition, under which alone either

of them can be maintained, itself falls. 

P 447

If it be said that all bodies have either a good smell or a

smell that is not good, a third case is possible, namely, that

a body has no smell at all; and both the conflicting proposi-

tions may therefore be false. If, however, I say: all bodies are

either good-smelling or not good-smelling (vel suaveolens vel

non suaveolens), the two judgments are directly contradictory

to one another, and the former only is false, its contradictory

opposite, namely, that some bodies are not good-smelling,

comprehending those bodies also which have no smell at all. 

Since, in the previous opposition (per disparata), smell, the

contingent condition of the concept of the body, was not

removed by the opposed judgment, but remained attached

to it, the two judgments were not related as contradictory


If, therefore, we say that the world is either infinite in

extension or is not infinite (non est infinitus), and if the former

proposition is false, its contradictory opposite, that the world

is not infinite, must be true. And I should thus deny the exist-

ence of an infinite world, without affirming in its place a finite

world. But if we had said that the world is either infinite or finite

(non-infinite), both statements might be false. For in that case

we should be regarding the world in itself as determined in its

magnitude, and in the opposed judgment we do not merely

remove the infinitude, and with it perhaps the entire separate

existence of the world, but attach a determination to the world,

regarded as a thing actually existing in itself. This assertion

may, however, likewise be false; the world may not be given

as a thing in itself, nor as being in its magnitude either infinite

or finite. I beg permission to entitle this kind of opposition

dialectical, and that of contradictories analytical. Thus of

two dialectically opposed judgments both may be false; for

the one is not a mere contradictory of the other, but says

something more than is required for a simple contradiction. 

If we regard the two propositions, that the world is infinite

in magnitude and that it is finite in magnitude, as contra-

dictory opposites, we are assuming that the world, the com-

plete series of appearances, is a thing in itself that remains

even if I suspend the infinite or the finite regress in the series

of its appearances. If, however, I reject this assumption, or

P 448

rather this accompanying transcendental illusion, and deny

that the world is a thing in itself, the contradictory opposition

of the two assertions is converted into a merely dialectical

opposition. Since the world does not exist in itself, independ-

ently of the regressive series of my representations, it exists

in itself neither as an infinite whole nor as a finite whole. It

exists only in the empirical regress of the series of appear-

ances, and is not to be met with as something in itself. If, then,

this series is always conditioned, and therefore can never be

given as complete, the world is not an unconditioned whole,

and does not exist as such a whole, either of infinite or of

finite magnitude. 

What we have here said of the first cosmological idea,

that is, of the absolute totality of magnitude in the [field

of] appearance, applies also to all the others. The series of

conditions is only to be met with in the regressive synthesis

itself, not in the [field of] appearance viewed as a thing given

in and by itself, prior to all regress. We must therefore say that

the number of parts in a given appearance is in itself neither

finite nor infinite. For an appearance is not something existing

in itself, and its parts are first given in and through the regress

of the decomposing synthesis, a regress which is never given

in absolute completeness, either as finite or as infinite. This

also holds of the series of subordinated causes, and of the

series that proceeds from the conditioned to unconditioned

necessary existence. These series can never be regarded as

being in themselves in their totality either finite or infinite. 

Being series of subordinated representations, they exist only

in the dynamical regress, and prior to this regress can have no

existence in themselves as self-subsistent series of things. 

Thus the antinomy of pure reason in its cosmological ideas

vanishes when it is shown that it is merely dialectical, and

that it is a conflict due to an illusion which arises from our

applying to appearances that exist only in our representations,

and therefore, so far as they form a series, not otherwise than

in a successive regress, that idea of absolute totality which

holds only as a condition of things in themselves. From this

antinomy we can, however, obtain, not indeed a dogmatic, but

a critical and doctrinal advantage. It affords indirect proof of

P 449

the transcendental ideality of appearances -- a proof which

ought to convince any who may not be satisfied by the direct

proof given in the Transcendental Aesthetic. This proof would

consist in the following dilemma. If the world is a whole exist-

ing in itself, it is either finite or infinite. But both alternatives

are false (as shown in the proofs of the antithesis and thesis

respectively). It is therefore also false that the world (the

sum of all appearances) is a whole existing in itself. From this

it then follows that appearances in general are nothing outside

our representations -- which is just what is meant by their

transcendental ideality. 

This remark is of some importance. It enables us to see

that the proofs given in the fourfold antinomy are not merely

baseless deceptions. On the supposition that appearances, and

the sensible world which comprehends them all, are things

in themselves, these proofs are indeed well-grounded. The

conflict which results from the propositions thus obtained

shows, however, that there is a fallacy in this assumption, and

so leads us to the discovery of the true constitution of things,

as objects of the senses. While the transcendental dialectic does

not by any means favour scepticism, it certainly does favour

the sceptical method, which can point to such dialectic as an

example of its great services. For when the arguments of

reason are allowed to oppose one another in unrestricted

freedom, something advantageous, and likely to aid in the

correction of our judgments, will always accrue, though it

may not be what we set out to find. 


Section 8



Since no maximum of the series of conditions in a sensible

world, regarded as a thing in itself, is given through the cos-

mological principle of totality, but can only be set as a task

that calls for regress in the series of conditions, the principle

of pure reason has to be amended in these terms; and it

P 450

then preserves its validity, not indeed as the axiom that we

think the totality as actually in the object, but as a problem for

the understanding, and therefore for the subject, leading it to

undertake and to carry on, in accordance with the completeness

prescribed by the idea, the regress in the series of conditions of

any given conditioned. For in our sensibility, that is, in space

and time, every condition to which we can attain in the

exposition of given appearances is again conditioned. For

they are not objects in themselves -- were they such, the abso-

lutely unconditioned might be found in them -- but simply

empirical representations which must always find in intui-

tion the condition that determines them in space and time. 

The principle of reason is thus properly only a rule, pre-

scribing a regress in the series of the conditions of given

appearances, and forbidding it to bring the regress to a close

by treating anything at which it may arrive as absolutely un-

conditioned. It is not a principle of the possibility of experience

and of empirical knowledge of objects of the senses, and there-

fore not a principle of the understanding; for every experience,

in conformity with the given [forms of] intuition, is enclosed

within limits. Nor is it a constitutive principle of reason, en-

abling us to extend our concept of the sensible world beyond all

possible experience. It is rather a principle of the greatest pos-

sible continuation and extension of experience, allowing no em-

pirical limit to hold as absolute. Thus it is a principle of reason

which serves as a rule, postulating what we ought to do in the

regress, but not anticipating what is present in the object as

it is in itself, prior to all regress. Accordingly I entitle it a

regulative principle of reason, to distinguish it from the prin-

ciple of the absolute totality of the series of conditions, viewed

as actually present in the object (that is, in the appearances),

which would be a constitutive cosmological principle. I have

tried to show by this distinction that there is no such con-

stitutive principle, and so to prevent what otherwise, through

a transcendental subreption, inevitably takes place, namely,

the ascribing of objective reality to an idea that serves merely

as a rule. 

In order properly to determine the meaning of this rule of

P 451

pure reason, we must observe, first, that it cannot tell us what

the object is, but only how the empirical regress is to be carried

out so as to arrive at the complete concept of the object. If it

attempted the former task, it would be a constitutive principle,

such as pure reason can never supply. It cannot be regarded

as maintaining that the series of conditions for a given con-

ditioned is in itself either finite or infinite. That would be to

treat a mere idea of absolute totality, which is only produced

in the idea, as equivalent to thinking an object that cannot be

given in any experience. For in terms of it we should be as-

cribing to a series of appearances an objective reality which

is independent of empirical synthesis. This idea of reason can

therefore do no more than prescribe a rule to the regressive

synthesis in the series of conditions; and in accordance with

this rule the synthesis must proceed from the conditioned,

through all subordinate conditions, up to the unconditioned. 

Yet it can never reach this goal, for the absolutely un-

conditioned is not to be met with in experience. 

We must therefore first of all determine what we are to

mean by the synthesis of a series, in cases in which the syn-

thesis is never complete. In this connection two expressions

are commonly employed, which are intended to mark a dis-

tinction, though without correctly assigning the ground of the

distinction. Mathematicians speak solely of a progressus in

infinitum. Philosophers, whose task it is to examine concepts,

refuse to accept this expression as legitimate, substituting for

it the phrase progressus in indefinitum. We need not stop to

examine the reasons for such a distinction, or to enlarge upon

its useful or useless employment. We need only determine

these concepts with such accuracy as is required for our par-

ticular purposes. 

Of a straight line we may rightly say that it can be pro-

duced to infinity. In this case the distinction between an in-

finite and an indeterminately great advance (progressus in in-

definitum) would be mere subtlety. When we say, ' Draw a line',

it sounds indeed more correct to add in indefinitum than in

infinitum. Whereas the latter means that you must not cease

producing it -- which is not what is intended -- the former means

only, produce it as far as you please; and if we are referring

only to what it is in our power to do, this expression is quite

P 452

correct, for we can always make the line longer, without end. 

So is it in all cases in which we speak only of the progress, that

is, of the advance from the condition to the conditioned: this

possible advance proceeds, without end, in the series of ap-

pearances. From a given pair of parents the descending line

of generation may proceed without end, and we can quite

well regard the line as actually so continuing in the world. 

For in this case reason never requires an absolute totality

of the series, since it does not presuppose that totality as a

condition and as given (datum), but only as something con-

ditioned, that allows of being given (dabile), and is added to

without end. 

Quite otherwise is it with the problem: how far the regress

extends, when it ascends in a series from something given as

conditioned to its conditions. Can we say that the regress is in

infinitum, or only that it is indeterminately far extended (in

indefinitum)?  Can we, for instance, ascend from the men now

living, through the series of their ancestors, in infinitum; or

can we only say that, so far as we have gone back, we have

never met with an empirical ground for regarding the series as

limited at any point, and that we are therefore justified and at

the same time obliged, in the case of every ancestor, to search

further for progenitors, though not indeed to presuppose them? 

We answer: when the whole is given in empirical intui-

tion, the regress in the series of its inner conditions pro-

ceeds in infinitum; but when a member only of the series is

given, starting from which the regress has to proceed to abso-

lute totality, the regress is only of indeterminate character (in

indefinitum). Accordingly, the division of a body, that is, of a

portion of matter given between certain limits, must be said to

proceed in infinitum. For this matter is given as a whole, and

therefore with all its possible parts, in empirical intuition. 

Since the condition of this whole is its part, and the condition

of this part is the part of the part, and so on, and since in

this regress of decomposition an unconditioned (indivisible)

member of this series of conditions is never met with, not only

is there never any empirical ground for stopping in the divi-

sion, but the further members of any continued division are

themselves empirically given prior to the continuation of the

division. The division, that is to say, goes on in infinitum. On

P 453

the other hand, since the series of ancestors of any given man

is not given in its absolute totality in any possible experience,

the regress proceeds from every member in the series of genera-

tions to a higher member, and no empirical limit is encoun-

tered which exhibits a member as absolutely unconditioned. 

And since the members, which might supply the condition, are

not contained in an empirical intuition of the whole, prior to

the regress, this regress does not proceed in infinitum, by divi-

sion of the given, but only indefinitely far, searching for further

members additional to those that are given, and which are

themselves again always given as conditioned. 

In neither case, whether the regress be in infinitum or in

indefinitum, may the series of conditions be regarded as being

given as infinite in the object. The series are not things in

themselves, but only appearances, which, as conditions of one

another, are given only in the regress itself. The question,

therefore, is no longer how great this series of conditions may

be in itself, whether it be finite or infinite, for it is nothing in

itself; but how we are to carry out the empirical regress, and

how far we should continue it. Here we find an important dis-

tinction in regard to the rule governing such procedure. When

the whole is empirically given; it is possible to proceed back in

the series of its inner conditions in infinitum. When the whole

is not given, but has first to be given through empirical regress,

we can only say that the search for still higher conditions of the

series is possible in infinitum. In the former case we could say:

there are always more members, empirically given, than I can

reach through the regress of decomposition; in the latter case,

however, the position is this: we can always proceed still further

in the regress, because no member is empirically given as abso-

lutely unconditioned; and since a higher member is therefore

always possible, the enquiry regarding it is necessary. In the

one case we necessarily find further members of the series; in

the other case, since no experience is absolutely limited, the

necessity is that we enquire for them. For either we have no

perception which sets an absolute limit to the empirical re-

gress, in which case we must not regard the regress as com-

pleted, or we have a perception limiting our series, in which

case the perception cannot be part of the series traversed

(for that which limits must be distinct from that which is

P 454

thereby limited), and we must therefore continue our regress

to this condition also, and the regress is thus again resumed. 

These observations will be set in their proper light by

their application in the following section. 


Section 9




We have already, on several occasions, shown that no trans-

cendental employment can be made of the pure concepts either

of the understanding or of reason; that the [assertion of] abso-

lute totality of the series of conditions in the sensible world

rests on a transcendental employment of reason in which reason

demands this unconditioned completeness from what it assumes

to be a thing in itself; and that since the sensible world contains

no such completeness, we are never justified in enquiring, as

regards the absolute magnitude of the series in the sensible

world, whether it be limited or in itself unlimited, but only

how far we ought to go in the empirical regress, when we trace

experience back to its conditions, obeying the rule of reason,

and therefore resting content with no answer to its questions

save that which is in conformity with the object. 

What therefore alone remains to us is the validity of the

principle of reason as a rule for the continuation and magnitude

of a possible experience; its invalidity as a constitutive prin-

ciple of appearances [viewed as things] in themselves has been

sufficiently demonstrated. If we can keep these conclusions

steadily in view, the self-conflict of reason will be entirely at an

end. For not only will this critical solution destroy the illusion

which set reason at variance with itself, but will replace it by

teaching which, in correcting the misinterpretation that has

been the sole source of the conflict, brings reason into agree-

ment with itself. A principle which otherwise would be dialec-

tical will thus be converted into a doctrinal principle. In fact,

if this principle can be upheld as determining, in accordance

P 455

with its subjective significance, and yet also in conformity with

the objects of experience, the greatest possible empirical use of

understanding, the outcome will be much the same as if it

were -- what is impossible from pure reason -- an axiom which

determined a priori the objects in themselves. For only in pro-

portion as the principle is effective in directing the widest

possible empirical employment of the understanding, can it

exercise, in respect of the objects of experience, any influence

in extending and correcting our knowledge. 


Solution of the Cosmological Idea of the Totality of the

Composition of the Appearances of a Cosmic Whole 

Here, as in the other cosmological questions, the regula-

tive principle of reason is grounded on the proposition that in

the empirical regress we can have no experience of an absolute

limit, that is, no experience of any condition as being one

that empirically is absolutely unconditioned. The reason is

this: such an experience would have to contain a limitation

of appearances by nothing, or by the void, and in the con-

tinued regress we should have to be able to encounter this

limitation in a perception -- which is impossible. 

This proposition, which virtually states that the only con-

ditions which we can reach in the empirical regress are con-

ditions which must themselves again be regarded as empiric-

ally conditioned, contains the rule in terminis, that however

far we may have advanced in the ascending series, we must

always enquire for a still higher member of the series, which

may or may not become known to us through experience. 

For the solution, therefore, of the first cosmological prob-

lem we have only to decide whether in the regress to the un-

conditioned magnitude of the universe, in time and space, this

never limited ascent can be called a regress to infinity, or only

an indeterminately continued regress (in indefinitum). 

The quite general representation of the series of all past

states of the world, as well as of all the things which coexist

in cosmic space, is itself merely a possible empirical regress

which I think to myself, though in an indeterminate manner. 

Only in this way can the concept of such a series of conditions

P 456

for a given perception arise at all. Now we have the cosmic

whole only in concept, never, as a whole, in intuition. We

cannot, therefore, argue from the magnitude of the cosmic

whole to the magnitude of the regress, determining the

latter in accordance with the former; on the contrary, only

by reference to the magnitude of the empirical regress am I

in a position to make for myself a concept of the magnitude of

the world. But of this empirical regress the most that we can

ever know is that from every given member of the series of

conditions we have always still to advance empirically to a

higher and more remote member. The magnitude of the

whole of appearances is not thereby determined in any abso-

lute manner; and we cannot therefore say that this regress

proceeds to infinity. In doing so we should be anticipating

members which the regress has not yet reached, represent-

ing their number as so great that no empirical synthesis could

attain thereto, and so should be determining the magnitude of

the world (although only negatively) prior to the regress --

which is impossible. Since the world is not given me, in its

totality, through any intuition, neither is its magnitude given

me prior to the regress. We cannot, therefore, say anything at

all in regard to the magnitude of the world, not even that there

is in it a regress in infinitum. All that we can do is to seek

for the concept of its magnitude according to the rule which

determines the empirical regress in it. This rule says no more

than that, however far we may have attained in the series of

empirical conditions, we should never assume an absolute

limit, but should subordinate every appearance, as con-

ditioned, to another as its condition, and that we must

advance to this condition. This is the regressus in indefini-

tum, which, as it determines no magnitude in the object,

is clearly enough distinguishable from the regressus in infini-


++ This cosmic series can, therefore, be neither greater nor smaller

than the possible empirical regress upon which alone its concept

rests. And since this regress can yield neither a determinate infinite

nor a determinate finite (that is, anything absolutely limited), it is

evident that the magnitude of the world can be taken neither as

finite nor as infinite. The regress, through which it is represented,

allows of neither alternative. 

P 457

I cannot say, therefore, that the world is infinite in space

or as regards past time. Any such concept of magnitude, as

being that of a given infinitude, is empirically impossible, and

therefore, in reference to the world as an object of the senses,

also absolutely impossible. Nor can I say that the regress from

a given perception to all that limits it in a series, whether in

space or in past time, proceeds to infinity; that would be to

presuppose that the world has infinite magnitude. I also can-

not say that the regress is finite; an absolute limit is likewise

empirically impossible. Thus I can say nothing regarding the

whole object of experience, the world of sense; I must limit

my assertions to the rule which determines how experience,

in conformity with its object, is to be obtained and further


Thus the first and negative answer to the cosmological

problem regarding the magnitude of the world is that the

world has no first beginning in time and no outermost limit

in space. 

For if we suppose the opposite, the world would be limited

on the one hand by empty time and on the other by empty

space. Since, however, as appearance, it cannot in itself be

limited in either manner -- appearance not being a thing in

itself -- these limits of the world would have to be given in a

possible experience, that is to say, we should require to have

a perception of limitation by absolutely empty time or space. 

But such an experience, as completely empty of content, is

impossible. Consequently, an absolute limit of the world is

impossible empirically, and therefore also absolutely. 

The affirmative answer likewise directly follows, namely,

that the regress in the series of appearances, as a determina-

tion of the magnitude of the world, proceeds in indefinitum. 

++ It may be noted that this proof is presented in a very different

manner from the dogmatic proof of the antithesis of the first

antinomy. In that argument we regarded the sensible world, in

accordance with the common and dogmatic view, as a thing given

in itself, in its totality, prior to any regress; and we asserted that

unless it occupies all time and all places, it cannot have any deter-

minate position whatsoever in them. The conclusion also was there-

fore different from that given above; for in the dogmatic proof we

inferred the actual infinity of the world. 

P 458

This is equivalent to saying that, although the sensible world

has no absolute magnitude, the empirical regress (through

which alone it can be given on the side of its conditions) has

its own rule, namely, that it must always advance from every

member of the series, as conditioned, to one still more remote;

doing so by means either of our own experience, or of the

guiding-thread of history, or of the chain of effects and causes. 

And as the rule further demands, our sole and constant aim

must be the extension of the possible empirical employment

of the understanding, this being the only proper task of reason

in the application of its principles. 

This rule does not prescribe a determinate empirical regress

that must proceed without end in some one kind of appearance,

e.g. that in proceeding from a living person through a series

of progenitors we must never expect to meet with a first pair,

or that in the series of cosmic bodies we must never admit an

outermost sun. All that the rule requires is that the advance

from appearances be to appearances; for even if these latter

yield no actual perception (as is the case when for our con-

sciousness they are too weak in degree to become experience),

as appearances they none the less still belong to a possible


All beginning is in time and all limits of the extended are

in space. But space and time belong only to the world of sense. 

Accordingly, while appearances in the world are conditionally

limited, the world itself is neither conditionally nor uncon-

ditionally limited. 

Similarly, since the world can never be given as complete,

and since even the series of conditions for that which is given

as conditioned cannot, as a cosmic series, be given as complete,

the concept of the magnitude of the world is given only through

the regress and not in a collective intuition prior to it. But the

regress consists only in the determining of the magnitude, and

does not give any determinate concept. It does not, therefore,

yield any concept of a magnitude which, in relation to a certain

[unit-] measure, can be described as infinite. In other words,

the regress does not proceed to the infinite, as if the infinite

could be given, but only indeterminately far, in order [by

means of the regress] to give that empirical magnitude which

first becomes actual in and through this very regress. 

P 459


Solution of the Cosmological Idea of the Totality of

Division of a Whole given in Intuition 

If we divide a whole which is given in intuition, we pro-

ceed from something conditioned to the conditions of its pos-

sibility. The division of the parts (subdivisio or decompositio)

is a regress in the series of these conditions. The absolute

totality of this series would be given only if the regress could

reach simple parts. But if all the parts in a continuously pro-

gressing decomposition are themselves again divisible, the

division, that is, the regress from the conditioned to its con-

ditions, proceeds in infinitum. For the conditions (the parts)

are themselves contained in the conditioned, and since this

is given complete in an intuition that is enclosed between

limits the parts are one and all given together with the con-

ditioned. The regress may not, therefore, be entitled merely

a regress in indefinitum. This was permissible in regard to the

first cosmological idea, since it required an advance from the

conditioned to its conditions, which, as outside it, were not given

through and along with it, but were first added to it in the em-

pirical regress. We are not, however, entitled to say of a whole

which is divisible to infinity, that it is made up of infinitely

many parts. For although all parts are contained in the intuition

of the whole, the whole division is not so contained, but consists

only in the continuous decomposition, that is, in the regress

itself, whereby the series first becomes actual. Since this regress

is infinite, all the members or parts at which it arrives are

contained in the given whole, viewed as an aggregate. But the

whole series of the division is not so contained, for it is a

successive infinite and never whole, and cannot, therefore,

exhibit an infinite multiplicity, or any combination of an

infinite multiplicity in a whole. 

This general statement is obviously applicable to space. 

Every space intuited as within limits is such a whole, the parts

of which, as obtained by decomposition, are always themselves

spaces. Every limited space is therefore infinitely divisible. 

From this a second application of the statement quite

naturally follows, namely, to an outer appearance enclosed

P 460

within limits, that is, to body. Its divisibility is grounded in

the divisibility of space, which constitutes the possibility of the

body as an extended whole. Body is therefore infinitely divis-

ible, without consisting, however, of infinitely many parts. 

It may seem, indeed, that a body, since it has to be repre-

sented in space as substance, will, as regards the law of the

divisibility of space, differ from space. We may certainly grant

that decomposition can never remove all compositeness from

space; for that would mean that space, in which there is

nothing self-subsistent, had ceased to be space, which is impos-

sible. On the other hand, the assertion that if all compositeness

of matter be thought away nothing at all will remain, does not

appear to be compatible with the concept of a substance which

is meant to be the subject of all compositeness, and which

must persist in the elements of the composite, even although

the connection in space, whereby they constitute a body, be

removed. But while this is true of a thing in itself, as thought

through a pure concept of the understanding, it does not hold

of that which we entitle substance in the [field of] appearance. 

For this latter is not an absolute subject, but only an abiding

image of sensibility; it is nothing at all save as an intuition,

in which unconditionedness is never to be met with. 

But although this rule of progress in infinitum undoubtedly

applies to the subdivision of an appearance, viewed as a mere

filling of space, it cannot be made to apply to a whole in which

already, as given, the parts are so definitely distinguished off

from one another that they constitute a quantum discretum. 

We cannot assume that every part of an organised whole is

itself again so organised that, in the analysis of the parts to

infinity, still other organised parts are always to be met with;

in a word, that the whole is organised to infinity. This is not a

thinkable hypothesis. It is true, indeed, that the parts of matter,

[as found] in their decomposition in infinitum, may be organ-

ised. The infinitude of the division of a given appearance in

space is grounded solely on the fact that, through this infini-

tude, only the divisibility (in itself, as regards the number of its

parts, absolutely indeterminate) is given -- the parts themselves

being given and determined only through the subdivision. In

a word, the whole is not in itself already divided. The number

P 461

of parts, therefore, which a division may determine in a whole,

will depend upon how far we care to advance in the regress of

the division. On the other hand, in the case of an organic body

conceived as organised in infinitum the whole is represented

as already divided into parts, and as yielding to us, prior to all

regress, a determinate and yet infinite number of parts. This,

however, is self-contradictory. This infinite involution is re-

garded as an infinite (that is, never to be completed) series,

and yet at the same time as completed in a [discrete] com-

plex. Infinite divisibility belongs to appearance only in so

far as it is a quantum continuum; it is inseparable from the

occupation of space, which is indeed its ground. To view any-

thing as being a quantum discretum, is to take the number of

units in it as being determined, and therefore as being in every

case equal to some number. How far organisation can go in an

organised body, only experience can show; and although, so

far as our experience has gone, we may not have arrived with

certainty at any inorganic part, the possibility of experiencing

such parts must at least be recognised. When, however, we

have in mind the transcendental division of an appearance

in general, the question how far it may extend does not await

an answer from experience; it is decided by a principle of

reason which prescribes that, in the decomposition of the ex-

tended, the empirical regress, in conformity with the nature of

this appearance, be never regarded as absolutely completed. 

Concluding Note on the Solution of the Mathematical - trans-

cendental Ideas, and Preliminary Observation on the Solution of

the Dynamical - transcendental Ideas. 

In representing the antinomy of pure reason, through all

the transcendental ideas, in tabular form, and in showing that

the ground of this conflict and the only means of removing it

is by declaring both the opposed assertions to be false, we have

represented the conditions as, in all cases, standing to the con-

ditioned in relations of space and time. This is the assumption

ordinarily made by the common understanding, and to it the

conflict is exclusively due. On this view all the dialectical

representations of totality, in the series of conditions for a

given conditioned, are throughout of the same character. The

P 462

condition is always a member of a series along with the con-

ditioned, and so is homogeneous with it. In such a series

the regress was never thought as completed, or if it had to be

so thought, a member, in itself conditioned, must have been

falsely supposed to be a first member, and therefore to be

unconditioned; the object, that is, the conditioned, might not

always be considered merely according to its magnitude, but at

least the series of its conditions was so regarded. Thus arose the

difficulty -- a difficulty which could not be disposed of by any

compromise but solely by cutting the knot -- that reason made

the series either too long or too short for the understanding, so

that the understanding could never be equal to the prescribed


But in all this we have been overlooking an essential dis-

tinction that obtains among the objects, that is, among those

concepts of understanding which reason endeavours to raise

to ideas. According to the table of categories given above, two

of these concepts imply a mathematical, the other two a

dynamical synthesis of appearances. Hitherto it has not been

necessary to take account of this distinction; for just as in the

general representation of all transcendental ideas we have

been conforming to conditions within the [field of] appearance,

so in the two mathematical - transcendental ideas the only

object we have had in mind is object as appearance. But now

that we are proceeding to consider how far dynamical con-

cepts of the understanding are adequate to the idea of reason,

the distinction becomes of importance, and opens up to us an

entirely new view of the suit in which reason is implicated. 

This suit, in our previous trial of it, has been dismissed as

resting, on both sides, on false presuppositions. But since in

the dynamical antinomy a presupposition compatible with the

pretensions of reason may perhaps be found, and since the

judge may perhaps make good what is lacking in the pleas

which both sides have been guilty of misstating, the suit may

be settled to the satisfaction of both parties, a procedure im-

possible in the case of the mathematical antinomies. 

If we consider solely the extension of the series of condi-

tions, and whether the series are adequate to the idea, or the

idea too large or too small for the series, the series are indeed in

P 463

these respects all homogeneous. But the concept of the under-

standing, which underlies these ideas, may contain either a

synthesis solely of the homogeneous (which is presupposed

alike in the composition and in the division of every magni-

tude), or a synthesis of the heterogeneous. For the hetero-

geneous can be admitted as at least possible in the case of

dynamical synthesis, alike in causal connection and in the

connection of the necessary with the contingent. 

Hence in the mathematical connection of the series of

appearances no other than a sensible condition is admissible,

that is to say, none that is not itself a part of the series. On the

other hand, in the dynamical series of sensible conditions, a

heterogeneous condition, not itself a part of the series, but

purely intelligible, and as such outside the series, can be

allowed. In this way reason obtains satisfaction and the

unconditioned is set prior to the appearances, while yet the

invariably conditioned character of the appearances is not

obscured, nor their series cut short, in violation of the

principles prescribed by the understanding. 

Inasmuch as the dynamical ideas allow of a condition of

appearances outside the series of the appearances, that is, a

condition which is not itself appearance, we arrive at a con-

clusion altogether different from any that was possible in the

case of the mathematical antinomy. In it we were obliged

to denounce both the opposed dialectical assertions as false. 

In the dynamical series, on the other hand, the completely

conditioned, which is inseparable from the series considered

as appearances, is bound up with a condition which, while

indeed empirically unconditioned, is also non-sensible. We

are thus able to obtain satisfaction for understanding on

the one hand and for reason on the other. 

++ Understanding does not admit among appearances any condi-

tion which can itself be empirically unconditioned. But if for some

conditioned in the [field of] appearance we can conceive an intellig-

ible condition, not belonging to the series of appearances as one of

its members, and can do so without in the least interrupting the

series of empirical conditions, such a condition may be accepted as

empirically unconditioned, without prejudice to the continuity of the

empirical regress. 

P 464

The dialectical arguments, which in one or other way sought unconditioned

totality in mere appearances, fall to the ground, and the pro-

positions of reason, when thus given this more correct inter-

pretation, may both alike be true. This can never be the case

with those cosmological ideas which refer only to a mathe-

matically unconditioned unity; for in them no condition of the

series of appearances can be found that is not itself appear-

ance, and as appearance one of the members of the series. 


Solution of the Cosmological Idea of Totality in the

Derivation of Cosmical Events from their Causes 

When we are dealing with what happens there are only two

kinds of causality conceivable by us; the causality is either

according to nature or arises from freedom. The former is

the connection in the sensible world of one state with a pre-

ceding state on which it follows according to a rule. Since the

causality of appearances rests on conditions of time, and the

preceding state, if it had always existed, could not have pro-

duced an effect which first comes into being in time, it follows

that the causality of the cause of that which happens or comes

into being must itself also have come into being, and that in

accordance with the principle of the understanding it must

in its turn itself require a cause. 

 By freedom, on the other hand, in its cosmological mean-

ing, I understand the power of beginning a state spontane-

ously. Such causality will not, therefore, itself stand under

another cause determining it in time, as required by the law of

nature. Freedom, in this sense, is a pure transcendental idea,

which, in the first place, contains nothing borrowed from ex-

perience, and which, secondly, refers to an object that cannot

be determined or given in any experience. That everything

which happens has a cause is a universal law, conditioning the

very possibility of all experience. Hence the causality of the

cause, which itself happens or comes to be, must itself in turn

have a cause; and thus the entire field of experience, however

far it may extend, is transformed into a sum-total of the

merely natural. But since in this way no absolute totality of

P 465

conditions determining causal relation can be obtained, reason

creates for itself the idea of a spontaneity which can begin to

act of itself, without requiring to be determined to action by

an antecedent cause in accordance with the law of causality. 

It should especially be noted that the practical concept of

freedom is based on this transcendental idea, and that in the

latter lies the real source of the difficulty by which the ques-

tion of the possibility of freedom has always been beset. 

Freedom in the practical sense is the will's independence of

coercion through sensuous impulses. For a will is sensuous, in

so far as it is pathologically affected, i.e. by sensuous motives;

it is animal (arbitrium brutum), if it can be pathologically

necessitated. The human will is certainly an arbitrium sensi-

tivum, not, however, brutum but liberum. For sensibility does

not necessitate its action. There is in man a power of self-

determination, independently of any coercion through sensuous


Obviously, if all causality in the sensible world were mere

nature, every event would be determined by another in time,

in accordance with necessary laws. Appearances, in determin-

ing the will, would have in the actions of the will their natural

effects, and would render the actions necessary. The denial of

transcendental freedom must, therefore, involve the elimina-

tion of all practical freedom. For practical freedom presup-

poses that although something has not happened, it ought to

have happened, and that its cause, [as found] in the [field of]

appearance, is not therefore, so determining that it excludes a

causality of our will -- a causality which, independently of those

natural causes, and even contrary to their force and influence,

can produce something that is determined in the time-order

in accordance with empirical laws, and which can therefore

begin a series of events entirely of itself. 

Here then, as always happens when reason, in venturing

beyond the limits of possible experience, comes into conflict

with itself the problem is not really physiological but trans-

cendental. The question as to the possibility of freedom

does indeed concern psychology; since it rests on dialectical

arguments of pure reason, its treatment and solution belong

exclusively to transcendental philosophy. Before attempting

P 466

this solution, a task which transcendental philosophy cannot

decline, I must define somewhat more accurately the procedure

of transcendental philosophy in dealing with the problem. 

If appearances were things in themselves, and space and

time forms of the existence of things in themselves, the condi-

tions would always be members of the same series as the con-

ditioned; and thus, in the present case, as in the other transcen-

dental ideas, the antinomy would arise, that the series must be

too large or too small for the understanding. But the dynami-

cal concepts of reason, with which we have to deal in this and

the following section, possess this peculiarity that they are not

concerned with an object considered as a magnitude, but only

with its existence. Accordingly we can abstract from the mag-

nitude of the series of conditions, and consider only the dynami-

cal relation of the condition to the conditioned. The difficulty

which then meets us, in dealing with the question regarding

nature and freedom, is whether freedom is possible at all, and

if it be possible, whether it can exist along with the universality

of the natural law of causality. Is it a truly disjunctive propo-

sition to say that every effect in the world must arise either

from nature or from freedom; or must we not rather say that

in one and the same event, in different relations, both can be

found? That all events in the sensible world stand in thorough-

going connection in accordance with unchangeable laws of

nature is an established principle of the Transcendental Ana-

lytic, and allows of no exception. The question, therefore, can

only be whether freedom is completely excluded by this inviol-

able rule, or whether an effect, notwithstanding its being thus

determined in accordance with nature, may not at the same

time be grounded in freedom. The common but fallacious pre-

supposition of the absolute reality of appearances here mani-

fests its injurious influence, to the confounding of reason. For

if appearances are things in themselves, freedom cannot be up-

held. Nature will then be the complete and sufficient deter-

mining cause of every event. The condition of the event will be

such as can be found only in the series of appearances; both it

and its effect will be necessary in accordance with the law of

nature. If, on the other hand, appearances are not taken for

more than they actually are; if they are viewed not as things in

themselves, but merely as representations, connected accord-

P 467

ing to empirical laws, they must themselves have grounds

which are not appearances. The effects of such an intelligible

cause appear, and accordingly can be determined through

other appearances, but its causality is not so determined. 

While the effects are to be found in the series of empirical con-

ditions, the intelligible cause, together with its causality, is

outside the series. Thus the effect may be regarded as free in

respect of its intelligible cause, and at the same time in respect

of appearances as resulting from them according to the neces-

sity of nature. This distinction, when stated in this quite general

and abstract manner, is bound to appear extremely subtle and

obscure, but will become clear in the course of its application. 

My purpose has only been to point out that since the thorough-

going connection of all appearances, in a context of nature, is

an inexorable law, the inevitable consequence of obstinately

insisting upon the reality of appearances is to destroy all

freedom. Those who thus follow the common view have never

been able to reconcile nature and freedom. 

Possibility of Causality through Freedom, in Harmony with the

Universal Law of Natural Necessity. 

Whatever in an object of the senses is not itself appearance,

I entitle intelligible. If, therefore, that which in the sensible

world must be regarded as appearance has in itself a faculty

which is not an object of sensible intuition, but through which

it can be the cause of appearances, the causality of this being

can be regarded from two points of view. Regarded as the

causality of a thing in itself, it is intelligible in its action; re-

garded as the causality of an appearance in the world of sense,

it is sensible in its effects. We should therefore have to form both

an empirical and an intellectual concept of the causality of the

faculty of such a subject, and to regard both as referring to one

and the same effect. This twofold manner of conceiving the

faculty possessed by an object of the senses does not contradict

any of the concepts which we have to form of appearances and

of a possible experience. For since they are not things in them-

selves, they must rest upon a transcendental object which deter-

mines them as mere representations; and consequently there is

nothing to prevent us from ascribing to this transcendental

P 468

object, besides the quality in terms of which it appears, a

causality which is not appearance, although its effect is to be

met with in appearance. Every efficient cause must have a

character, that is, a law of its causality, without which it

would not be a cause. On the above supposition, we should,

therefore, in a subject belonging to the sensible world have,

first, an empirical character, whereby its actions, as appear-

ances, stand in thoroughgoing connection with other appear-

ances in accordance with unvarying laws of nature. And since

these actions can be derived from the other appearances, they

constitute together with them a single series in the order of

nature. Secondly, we should also have to allow the subject an

intelligible character, by which it is indeed the cause of those

same actions [in their quality] as appearances, but which does

not itself stand under any conditions of sensibility, and is not

itself appearance. We can entitle the former the character of

the thing in the [field of] appearance, and the latter its char-

acter as thing in itself. 

Now this acting subject would not, in its intelligible

character, stand under any conditions of time; time is only a

condition of appearances, not of things in themselves. In this

subject no action would begin or cease, and it would not, there-

fore, have to conform to the law of the determination of all that

is alterable in time, namely, that everything which happens

must have its cause in the appearances which precede it. In

a word, its causality, so far as it is intelligible, would not have

a place in the series of those empirical conditions through

which the event is rendered necessary in the world of sense. 

This intelligible character can never, indeed, be immediately

known, for nothing can be perceived except in so far as it

appears. It would have to be thought in accordance with the

empirical character-- just as we are constrained to think a

transcendental object as underlying appearances, though we

know nothing of what it is in itself. 

In its empirical character, therefore, this subject, as ap-

pearance, would have to conform to all the laws of causal

determination. To this extent it could be nothing more than

a part of the world of sense, and its effects, like all other

P 469

appearances, must be the inevitable outcome of nature. In

proportion as outer appearances are found to influence it, and

in proportion as its empirical character, that is, the law of its

causality, becomes known through experience, all its actions

must admit of explanation in accordance with the laws of

nature. In other words, all that is required for their complete

and necessary determination must be found in a possible


In its intelligible character (though we can only have a

general concept of that character) this same subject must be

considered to be free from all influence of sensibility and from

all determination through appearances. Inasmuch as it is

noumenon, nothing happens in it; there can be no change

requiring dynamical determination in time, and therefore no

causal dependence upon appearances. And consequently,

since natural necessity is to be met with only in the sensible

world, this active being must in its actions be independent

of, and free from all such necessity. No action begins in this

active being itself; but we may yet quite correctly say that the

active being of itself begins its effects in the sensible world. In

so doing, we should not be asserting that the effects in the

sensible world can begin of themselves; they are always prede-

termined through antecedent empirical conditions, though

solely through their empirical character (which is no more

than the appearance of the intelligible), and so are only pos-

sible as a continuation of the series of natural causes. In this

way freedom and nature, in the full sense of these terms, can

exist together, without any conflict, in the same actions, accord-

ing as the actions are referred to their intelligible or to their

sensible cause. 

Explanation of the Cosmological Idea of Freedom in its con-

nection with Universal Natural Necessity. 

I have thought it advisable to give this outline sketch of

the solution of our transcendental problem, so that we may

be the better enabled to survey the course which reason has

to adopt in arriving at the solution. I shall now proceed to set

forth the various factors involved in this solution, and to con-

sider each in detail. 

That everything which happens has a cause, is a law of

nature. Since the causality of this cause, that is, the action of

P 470

the cause, is antecedent in time to the effect which has ensued

upon it, it cannot itself have always existed, but must have

happened, and among the appearances must have a cause by

which it in turn is determined. Consequently, all events are

empirically determined in an order of nature. Only in virtue

of this law can appearances constitute a nature and become

objects of experience. This law is a law of the understanding,

from which no departure can be permitted, and from which

no appearance may be exempted. To allow such exemption

would be to set an appearance outside all possible experience,

to distinguish it from all objects of possible experience, and so

to make of it a mere thought-entity, a phantom of the brain. 

This would seem to imply the existence of a chain of causes

which in the regress to their conditions allows of no absolute tot-

ality. But that need not trouble us. The point has already been

dealt with in the general discussion of the antinomy into which

reason falls when in the series of appearances it proceeds to the

unconditioned. Were we to yield to the illusion of transcendental

realism, neither nature nor freedom would remain. The only

question here is this: -- Admitting that in the whole series of

events there is nothing but natural necessity, is it yet possible

to regard one and the same event as being in one aspect merely

an effect of nature and in another aspect an effect due to free-

dom; or is there between these two kinds of causality a direct


Among the causes in the [field of] appearance there cer-

tainly cannot be anything which could begin a series abso-

lutely and of itself. Every action, [viewed] as appearance, in so

far as it gives rise to an event, is itself an event or happening,

and presupposes another state wherein its cause is to be found. 

Thus everything which happens is merely a continuation of

the series, and nothing that begins of itself is a possible mem-

ber of the series. The actions of natural causes in the time-

sequence are thus themselves effects; they presuppose causes

antecedent to them in the temporal series. An original act,

such as can by itself bring about what did not exist before, is

not to be looked for in the causally connected appearances. 

Now granting that effects are appearances and that their

cause is likewise appearance, is it necessary that the causality

of their cause should be exclusively empirical? May it not

P 471

rather be, that while for every effect in the [field of] appear-

ance a connection with its cause in accordance with the

laws of empirical causality is indeed required, this empirical

causality, without the least violation of its connection with

natural causes, is itself an effect of a causality that is not

empirical but intelligible? This latter causality would be the

action of a cause which, in respect of appearances, is original,

and therefore, as pertaining to this faculty, not appearance but

intelligible; although it must otherwise, in so far as it is a link

in the chain of nature, be regarded as entirely belonging to

the world of sense. 

The principle of the causal connection of appearances is

required in order that we may be able to look for and to

determine the natural conditions of natural events, that is to

say, their causes in the [field of] appearance. If this principle

be admitted, and be not weakened through any exception,

the requirements of the understanding, which in its empirical

employment sees in all happenings nothing but nature, and is

justified in so doing, are completely satisfied; and physical ex-

planations may proceed on their own lines without interference. 

These requirements are not in any way infringed, if we assume,

even though the assumption should be a mere fiction, that some

among the natural causes have a faculty which is intelligible

only, inasmuch as its determination to action never rests upon

empirical conditions, but solely on grounds of understanding. 

We must, of course, at the same time be able to assume that

the action of these causes in the [field of] appearance is in con-

formity with all the laws of empirical causality. In this way

the acting subject, as causa phaenomenon, would be bound up

with nature through the indissoluble dependence of all its

actions, and only as we ascend from the empirical object to

the transcendental should we find that this subject, together

with all its causality in the [field of] appearance, has in its

noumenon certain conditions which must be regarded as

purely intelligible. For if in determining in what ways appear-

ances can serve as causes we follow the rules of nature, we

need not concern ourselves what kind of ground for these

appearances and their connection may have to be thought as

existing in the transcendental subject, which is empirically

P 472

unknown to us. This intelligible ground does not have to be

considered in empirical enquiries; it concerns only thought

in the pure understanding; and although the effects of this

thought and action of the pure understanding are to be met

with in the appearances, these appearances must none the less

be capable of complete causal explanation in terms of other

appearances in accordance with natural laws. We have to take

their strictly empirical character as the supreme ground of

explanation, leaving entirely out of account their intelligible

character (that is, the transcendental cause of their empirical

character) as being completely unknown, save in so far as the

empirical serves for its sensible sign. 

Let us apply this to experience. Man is one of the appear-

ances of the sensible world, and in so far one of the natural

causes the causality of which must stand under empirical

laws. Like all other things in nature, he must have an em-

pirical character. This character we come to know through

the powers and faculties which he reveals in his actions. In

lifeless, or merely animal, nature we find no ground for

thinking that any faculty is conditioned otherwise than in a

merely sensible manner. Man, however, who knows all the

rest of nature solely through the senses, knows himself also

through pure apperception; and this, indeed, in acts and inner

determinations which he cannot regard as impressions of the

senses. He is thus to himself, on the one hand phenomenon,

and on the other hand, in respect of certain faculties the

action of which cannot be ascribed to the receptivity of

sensibility, a purely intelligible object. We entitle these

faculties understanding and reason. The latter, in particular,

we distinguish in a quite peculiar and especial way from all

empirically conditioned powers. For it views its objects ex-

clusively in the light of ideas, and in accordance with them

determines the understanding, which then proceeds to make

an empirical use of its own similarly pure concepts. 

That our reason has causality, or that we at least represent

it to ourselves as having causality, is evident from the impera-

tives which in all matters of conduct we impose as rules upon

our active powers. 'Ought' expresses a kind of necessity and of

connection with grounds which is found nowhere else in the

P 473

whole of nature. The understanding can know in nature only

what is, what has been, or what will be. We cannot say that

anything in nature ought to be other than what in all these

time-relations it actually is. When we have the course of

nature alone in view, 'ought' has no meaning whatsoever. It

is just as absurd to ask what ought to happen in the natural

world as to ask what properties a circle ought to have. All

that we are justified in asking is: what happens in nature? 

what are the properties of the circle? 

This 'ought' expresses a possible action the ground of

which cannot be anything but a mere concept; whereas in the

case of a merely natural action the ground must always be an

appearance. The action to which the 'ought' applies must in-

deed be possible under natural conditions. These conditions,

however, do not play any part in determining the will itself,

but only in determining the effect and its consequences in the

[field of] appearance. No matter how many natural grounds

or how many sensuous impulses may impel me to will, they

can never give rise to the 'ought', but only to a willing which,

while very far from being necessary, is always conditioned; and

the 'ought' pronounced by reason confronts such willing with a

limit and an end -- nay more, forbids or authorises it. Whether

what is willed be an object of mere sensibility (the pleasant) or

of pure reason (the good),reason will not give way to any ground

which is empirically given. Reason does not here follow the

order of things as they present themselves in appearance, but

frames to itself with perfect spontaneity an order of its own ac-

cording to ideas, to which it adapts the empirical conditions,

and according to which it declares actions to be necessary,

even although they have never taken place, and perhaps never

will take place. And at the same time reason also presupposes

that it can have causality in regard to all these actions, since

otherwise no empirical effects could be expected from its ideas. 

Now, in view of these considerations, let us take our

stand, and regard it as at least possible for reason to have

causality with respect to appearances. Reason though it be,

it must none the less exhibit an empirical character. For every

cause presupposes a rule according to which certain appear-

ances follow as effects; and every rule requires uniformity in

the effects. This uniformity is, indeed, that upon which the

P 474

concept of cause (as a faculty) is based, and so far as it must

be exhibited by mere appearances may be named the em-

pirical character of the cause. This character is permanent,

but its effects, according to variation in the concomitant and

in part limiting conditions, appear in changeable forms. 

Thus the will of every man has an empirical character,

which is nothing but a certain causality of his reason, so far as

that causality exhibits, in its effects in the [field of] appearance,

a rule from which we may gather what, in their kind and de-

grees, are the actions of reason and the grounds thereof, and so

may form an estimate concerning the subjective principles of

his will. Since this empirical character must itself be dis-

covered from the appearances which are its effect and from

the rule to which experience shows them to conform, it

follows that all the actions of men in the [field of] appear-

ance are determined in conformity with the order of nature,

by their empirical character and by the other causes which co-

moderate with that character; and if we could exhaustively in-

vestigate all the appearances of men's wills, there would not

be found a single human action which we could not predict

with certainty, and recognise as proceeding necessarily from

its antecedent conditions. So far, then, as regards this em-

pirical character there is no freedom; and yet it is only in the

light of this character that man can be studied -- if, that is to

say, we are simply observing, and in the manner of anthro-

pology seeking to institute a physiological investigation into

the motive causes of his actions. 

But when we consider these actions in their relation to

reason -- I do not mean speculative reason, by which we en-

deavour to explain their coming into being, but reason in so

far as it is itself the cause producing them -- if, that is to say,

we compare them with [the standards of] reason in its practical

bearing, we find a rule and order altogether different from the

order of nature. For it may be that all that has happened in the

course of nature, and in accordance with its empirical grounds

must inevitably have happened, ought not to have happened. 

Sometimes, however, we find, or at least believe that we find,

that the ideas of reason have in actual fact proved their caus-

ality in respect of the actions of men, as appearances; and

that these actions have taken place, not because they were

P 475

determined by empirical causes, but because they were deter-

mined by grounds of reason. 

Granted, then, that reason may be asserted to have caus-

ality in respect of appearance, its action can still be said to

be free, even although its empirical character (as a mode of

sense) is completely and necessarily determined in all its

detail. This empirical character is itself determined in the in-

telligible character (as a mode of thought). The latter, how-

ever, we do not know; we can only indicate its nature by

means of appearances; and these really yield an immediate

knowledge only of the mode of sense, the empirical char-

acter. The action, in so far as it can be ascribed to a mode

of thought as its cause, does not follow therefrom in accord-

ance with empirical laws; that is to say, it is not preceded

by the conditions of pure reason, but only by their effects in

the [field of] appearance of inner sense. Pure reason, as a

purely intelligible faculty, is not subject to the form of time,

nor consequently to the conditions of succession in time. The

causality of reason in its intelligible character does not, in pro-

ducing an effect, arise or begin to be at a certain time. For in

that case it would itself be subject to the natural law of appear-

ances, in accordance with which causal series are determined

in time; and its causality would then be nature, not freedom. 

Thus all that we are justified in saying is that, if reason can

have causality in respect of appearances, it is a faculty through

which the sensible condition of an empirical series of effects

first begins. For the condition which lies in reason is not

sensible, and therefore does not itself begin to be. And thus

what we failed to find in any empirical series is disclosed as

being possible, namely, that the condition of a successive

series of events may itself be empirically unconditioned. 

++ The real morality of actions, their merit or guilt, even that of

our own conduct, thus remains entirely hidden from us. Our im-

putations can refer only to the empirical character. How much of

this character is ascribable to the pure effect of freedom, how much

to mere nature, that is, to faults of temperament for which there is

no responsibility, or to its happy constitution (merito fortunae), can

never be determined; and upon it therefore no perfectly just judg-

ments can be passed. 

P 476

For here the condition is outside the series of appearances (in the

intelligible), and therefore is not subject to any sensible con-

dition, and to no time-determination through an antecedent


The same cause does, indeed, in another relation, belong

to the series of appearances. Man is himself an appearance. 

His will has an empirical character, which is the empirical

cause of all his actions. There is no condition determining

man in accordance with this character which is not contained

in the series of natural effects, or which is not subject to their

law -- the law according to which there can be no empirically

unconditioned causality of that which happens in time. There-

fore no given action (since it can be perceived only as appear-

ance) can begin absolutely of itself. But of pure reason we

cannot say that the state wherein the will is determined is

preceded and itself determined by some other state. For since

reason is not itself an appearance, and is not subject to any

conditions of sensibility, it follows that even as regards its

causality there is in it no time-sequence, and that the dyna-

mical law of nature, which determines succession in time in

accordance with rules, is not applicable to it. 

Reason is the abiding condition of all those actions of the

will under [the guise of] which man appears. Before ever they

have happened, they are one and all predetermined in the

empirical character. In respect of the intelligible character, of

which the empirical character is the sensible schema, there can

be no before and after; every action, irrespective of its relation

in time to other appearances, is the immediate effect of the

intelligible character of pure reason. Reason therefore acts

freely; it is not dynamically determined in the chain of natural

causes through either outer or inner grounds antecedent in

time. This freedom ought not, therefore, to be conceived only

negatively as independence of empirical conditions. The

faculty of reason, so regarded, would cease to be a cause of

5852)appearances. It must also be described in positive terms, as

the power of originating a series of events. In reason itself

nothing begins; as unconditioned condition of every voluntary

act, it admits of no conditions antecedent to itself in time. Its

effect has, indeed, a beginning in the series of appearances,

but never in this series an absolutely first beginning. 

P 477

In order to illustrate this regulative principle of reason by

an example of its empirical employment -- not, however, to con-

firm it, for it is useless to endeavour to prove transcendental

propositions by examples -- let us take a voluntary action, for

example, a malicious lie by which a certain confusion has been

caused in society. First of all, we endeavour to discover the

motives to which it has been due, and then, secondly, in the

light of these, we proceed to determine how far the action and

its consequences can be imputed to the offender. As regards the

first question, we trace the empirical character of the action to

its sources, finding these in defective education, bad company,

in part also in the viciousness of a natural disposition insensitive

to shame, in levity and thoughtlessness, not neglecting to take

into account also the occasional causes that may have inter-

vened. We proceed in this enquiry just as we should in ascer-

taining for a given natural effect the series of its determining

causes. But although we believe that the action is thus deter-

mined, we none the less blame the agent, not indeed on account

of his unhappy disposition, nor on account of the circum-

stances that have influenced him, nor even on account of his

previous way of life; for we presuppose that we can leave out of

consideration what this way of life may have been, that we can

regard the past series of conditions as not having occurred and

the act as being completely unconditioned by any preceding

state, just as if the agent in and by himself began in this action

an entirely new series of consequences. Our blame is based on

a law of reason whereby we regard reason as a cause that

irrespective of all the above-mentioned empirical conditions

could have determined, and ought to have determined, the

agent to act otherwise. This causality of reason we do not re-

gard as only a co-operating agency, but as complete in itself,

even when the sensuous impulses do not favour but are directly

opposed to it; the action is ascribed to the agent's intelligible

character; in the moment when he utters the lie, the guilt is

entirely his. Reason, irrespective of all empirical conditions of

the act, is completely free, and the lie is entirely due to its


Such imputation clearly shows that we consider reason to

be unaffected by these sensible influences, and not liable to

alteration. Its appearances -- the modes in which it manifests

P 478

itself in its effects -- do alter; but in itself [so we consider] there

is no preceding state determining the state that follows. That

is to say, it does not belong to the series of sensible conditions

which render appearances necessary in accordance with laws

of nature. Reason is present in all the actions of men at all

times and under all circumstances, and is always the same;

but it is not itself in time, and does not fall into any new state

in which it was not before. In respect to new states, it is deter-

mining, not determinable. We may not, therefore, ask why

reason has not determined itself differently, but only why it

has not through its causality determined the appearances differ-

ently. But to this question no answer is possible. For a different

intelligible character would have given a different empirical

character. When we say that in spite of his whole previous

course of life the agent could have refrained from lying, this

only means that the act is under the immediate power of reason,

and that reason in its causality is not subject to any conditions

of appearance or of time. Although difference of time makes a

fundamental difference to appearances in their relations to one

another -- for appearances are not things in themselves and

therefore not causes in themselves -- it can make no difference

to the relation in which the action stands to reason. 

 Thus in our judgments in regard to the causality of free

actions, we can get as far as the intelligible cause, but not be-

yond it. We can know that it is free, that is, that it is deter-

mined independently of sensibility, and that in this way it may

be the sensibly unconditioned condition of appearances. But

to explain why in the given circumstances the intelligible char-

acter should give just these appearances and this empirical

character transcends all the powers of our reason, indeed all

its rights of questioning, just as if we were to ask why the trans-

cendental object of our outer sensible intuition gives intuition

in space only and not some other mode of intuition. But the

problem which we have to solve does not require us to raise any

such questions. Our problem was this only: whether freedom

and natural necessity can exist without conflict in one and the

same action; and this we have sufficiently answered. We have

shown that since freedom may stand in relation to a quite

different kind of conditions from those of natural necessity,

the law of the latter does not affect the former, and that both

P 479

may exist, independently of one another and without inter-

fering with each other. 

* * *

The reader should be careful to observe that in what has

been said our intention has not been to establish the reality

of freedom as one of the faculties which contain the cause of

the appearances of our sensible world. For that enquiry, as it

does not deal with concepts alone, would not have been trans-

cendental. And further, it could not have been successful,

since we can never infer from experience anything which can-

not be thought in accordance with the laws of experience. It

has not even been our intention to prove the possibility of

freedom. For in this also we should not have succeeded, since

we cannot from mere concepts a priori know the possibility

of any real ground and its causality. Freedom is here being

treated only as a transcendental idea whereby reason is led to

think that it can begin the series of conditions in the [field of]

appearance by means of the sensibly unconditioned, and so

becomes involved in an antinomy with those very laws which

it itself prescribes to the empirical employment of the under-

standing. What we have alone been able to show, and what we

have alone been concerned to show, is that this antinomy rests

on a sheer illusion, and that causality through freedom is at

least not incompatible with nature. 


Solution of the Cosmological Idea of the Totality of the De-

pendence of Appearances as regards their Existence in


In the preceding subsection we have considered the changes

of the sensible world in so far as they form a dynamical

series, each member being subordinate to another as effect to

cause. We shall now employ this series of states merely to

guide us in our search for an existence that may serve as

the supreme condition of all that is alterable, that is, in

our search for necessary being. We are concerned here, not

with unconditioned causality, but with the unconditioned

existence of substance itself. The series which we have in

P 480

view is, therefore, really a series of concepts, not a series

of intuitions in which one intuition is the condition of the


But it is evident that since everything in the sum-total

of appearances is alterable, and therefore conditioned in its

existence, there cannot be in the whole series of dependent ex-

istence any unconditioned member the existence of which can

be regarded as absolutely necessary. Hence, if appearances

were things in themselves, and if, as would then follow, the

condition and the conditioned always belonged to one and the

same series of intuitions, by no possibility could a necessary

being exist as the condition of the existence of appearances in

the world of sense. 

The dynamical regress is distinguished in an important re-

spect from the mathematical. Since the mathematical regress

is concerned only with the combining of parts to form a whole,

or the division of a whole into parts, the conditions of this

series must always be regarded as parts of the series, and there-

fore as homogeneous and as appearances. In the dynamical

regress, on the other hand, we are concerned, not with the pos-

sibility of an unconditioned whole of given parts, or with an

unconditioned part for a given whole, but with the derivation

of a state from its cause, or of the contingent existence of sub-

stance itself from necessary existence. In this latter regress, it

is not, therefore, necessary that the condition should form part

of an empirical series along with the conditioned. 

A way of escape from this apparent antinomy thus lies

open to us. Both of the conflicting propositions may be true,

if taken in different connections. All things in the world of

sense may be contingent, and so have only an empirically

conditioned existence, while yet there may be a non-empirical

condition of the whole series; that is, there may exist an un-

conditionally necessary being. This necessary being, as the

intelligible condition of the series, would not belong to it as a

member, not even as the highest member of it, nor would it

render any member of the series empirically unconditioned. 

The whole sensible world, so far as regards the empirically

conditioned existence of all its various members, would be left

unaffected. This way of conceiving how an unconditioned

P 481

being may serve as the ground of appearance differs from that

which we followed in the preceding subsection, in dealing with

the empirically unconditioned causality of freedom. For there

the thing itself was as cause (substantia phaenomenon) con-

ceived to belong to the series of conditions, and only its

causality was thought as intelligible. Here, on the other hand,

the necessary being must be thought as entirely outside the

series of the sensible world (as ens extramundanum), and as

purely intelligible. In no other way can it be secured against

the law which renders all appearances contingent and de-


The regulative principle of reason, so far as it bears upon

our present problem, is therefore this, that everything in the

sensible world has an empirically conditioned existence, and

that in no one of its qualities can it be unconditionally neces-

sary; that for every member in the series of conditions we must

expect, and as far as possible seek, an empirical condition in

some possible experience; and that nothing justifies us in

deriving an existence from a condition outside the empirical

series or even in regarding it in its place within the series as

absolutely independent and self-sufficient. At the same time

this principle does not in any way debar us from recognis-

ing that the whole series may rest upon some intelligible being

that is free from all empirical conditions and itself contains

the ground of the possibility of all appearances. 

In these remarks we have no intention of proving the un-

conditionally necessary existence of such a being, or even of

establishing the possibility of a purely intelligible condition of

the existence of appearances in the sensible world. Just as, on

the one hand, we limit reason, lest in leaving the guiding-

thread of the empirical conditions it should go straying into

the transcendent, adopting grounds of explanation that are

incapable of any representation in concreto, so, on the other

hand, we limit the law of the purely empirical employment of

the understanding, lest it should presume to decide as to the

possibility of things in general, and should declare the in-

telligible to be impossible, merely on the ground that it is

not of any use in explaining appearances. Thus all that we

have shown is that the thoroughgoing contingency of all

natural things, and of all their empirical conditions, is quite

P 482

consistent with the optional assumption of a necessary, though

purely intelligible, condition; and that as there is no real con-

tradiction between the two assertions, both may be true. Such

an absolutely necessary being, as conceived by the under-

standing, may be in itself impossible, but this can in no wise

be inferred from the universal contingency and dependence of

everything belonging to the sensible world, nor from the prin-

ciple which interdicts us from stopping at any one of its con-

tingent members and from appealing to a cause outside the

world. Reason proceeds by one path in its empirical use, and

by yet another path in its transcendental use. 

The sensible world contains nothing but appearances, and

these are mere representations which are always sensibly con-

ditioned; in this field things in themselves are never objects to

us. It is not therefore surprising that in dealing with a member

of the empirical series, no matter what member it may be, we

are never justified in making a leap out beyond the context

of sensibility. To do so is to treat the appearances as if they

were things in themselves which exist apart from their tran-

scendental ground, and which can remain standing while we

seek an outside cause of their existence. This certainly would

ultimately be the case with contingent things, but not with

mere representations of things, the contingency of which is

itself merely phenomenon, and can lead to no other regress

than that which determines the phenomena, that is, solely to

the empirical regress. On the other hand, to think an intelli-

gible ground of the appearances, that is, of the sensible world,

and to think it as free from the contingency of appearances,

does not conflict either with the unlimited empirical regress in

the series of appearances nor with their thoroughgoing con-

tingency. That, indeed, is all that we had to do in order to

remove the apparent antinomy; and it can be done in this way

only. If for everything conditioned in its existence the con-

dition is always sensible, and therefore belongs to the series,

it must itself in turn be conditioned, as we have shown in the

antithesis of the fourth antinomy. Either, therefore, reason

through its demand for the unconditioned must remain in

conflict with itself, or this unconditioned must be posited out-

side the series, in the intelligible. Its necessity will not then

P 483

require, or allow of, any empirical condition; so far as appear-

ances are concerned, it will be unconditionally necessary. 

The empirical employment of reason, in reference to the

conditions of existence in the sensible world, is not affected by

the admission of a purely intelligible being; it proceeds, in

accordance with the principle of thoroughgoing contingency,

from empirical conditions to higher conditions which are

always again empirical. But it is no less true, when what we

have in view is the pure employment of reason, in reference

to ends, that this regulative principle does not exclude the

assumption of an intelligible cause which is not in the series. 

For the intelligible cause then signifies only the purely tran-

scendental and to us unknown ground of the possibility of the

sensible series in general. Its existence as independent of all

sensible conditions and as in respect of these conditions un-

conditionally necessary, is not inconsistent with the unlimited

contingency of appearances, that is to say, with the never-

ending regress in the series of empirical conditions. 

Concluding Note on the whole Antinomy of Pure Reason. 

So long as reason, in its concepts, has in view simply the

totality of conditions in the sensible world, and is considering

what satisfaction in this regard it can obtain for them, our

ideas are at once transcendental and cosmological. Immedi-

ately, however, the unconditioned (and it is with this that we

are really concerned) is posited in that which lies entirely outside

the sensible world, and therefore outside all possible experi-

ence, the ideas become transcendent. They then no longer serve

only for the completion of the empirical employment of reason

-- an idea [of completeness] which must always be pursued,

though it can never be completely achieved. On the contrary,

they detach themselves completely from experience, and make

for themselves objects for which experience supplies no

material, and whose objective reality is not based on comple-

tion of the empirical series but on pure a priori concepts. Such

transcendent ideas have a purely intelligible object; and this

object may indeed be admitted as a transcendental object, but

only if we likewise admit that, for the rest, we have no know-

P 484

ledge in regard to it, and that it cannot be thought as a deter-

minate thing in terms of distinctive inner predicates. As it is

independent of all empirical concepts, we are cut off from any

reasons that could establish the possibility of such an object,

and have not the least justification for assuming it. It is a mere

thought-entity. Nevertheless the cosmological idea which has

given rise to the fourth antinomy impels us to take this step. For

the existence of appearances, which is never self-grounded but

always conditioned, requires us to look around for something

different from all appearances, that is, for an intelligible object

in which this contingency may terminate. But once we have

allowed ourselves to assume a self-subsistent reality entirely

outside the field of sensibility, appearances can only be viewed

as contingent modes whereby beings that are themselves intelli-

gences represent intelligible objects. Consequently, the only

resource remaining to us is the use of analogy, by which we

employ the concepts of experience in order to form some

sort of concept of intelligible things -- things of which as

they are in themselves we have yet not the least knowledge. 

Since the contingent is not to be known save through ex-

perience, and we are here concerned with things which are

not to be in any way objects of experience, we must derive

the knowledge of them from that which is in itself necessary,

that is, from pure concepts of things in general. Thus the

very first step which we take beyond the world of sense

obliges us, in seeking for such new knowledge, to begin with

an enquiry into absolutely necessary being, and to derive from

the concepts of it the concepts of all things in so far as they

are purely intelligible. This we propose to do in the next