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On the Apodictic Proof and

Validation of Kants Revolutionary


Hypothesis
Brett A. Fulkerson-Smith
Illinois Institute of Technology

I.
The second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason (hereafter,
Critique) contains several major and myriad minor emendations.
The revision of the mode of presentation is apparent in four
sections of the Critique: the Aesthetic; the Doctrine of the Concepts
of the Understanding; the Principles of Pure Understanding; and
the paralogisms advanced against rational psychology (Bxxxviii).
A new refutation of psychological idealism begins at B274. Perhaps
most importantly, a new Preface frames the Critique.
In this new Preface, Kant not only introduces his revolutionary
hypothesis, namely that what can be known a priori about objects
as appearances is only what can be put into them by the knower or
that objects as appearances conform to human cognition, but also
indicates that the first main part of the Critique contains not only
its apodictic proof, but also its validation.1 Though Kant is clear
about this point, he is less clear regarding how the first main part
of the Critique accomplishes both tasks. This raises two important
questions relating to Kants method therein that, to my knowledge,
have been largely neglected in the secondary literature: in what does
the apodictic proof that a judgement may serve as an hypothesis
consist?; and how is such validated? In this essay, I offer answers to
both of these questions based on an analysis of Kants lectures on
logic.

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II.2
In nearly all of his lectures on logic, Kant discusses the possibility
of providing apodictic proof that, on the one hand, a given
hypothesis, formulated as a judgement, is certain and, on the other
hand, a judgement may serve as an hypothesis. In these lectures,
an hypothesis is understood as an explanation of something in
general, which may arise from reason, or from experience, or from
appearance (24: 220). Since these discussions consider in some
detail the necessary requirements of each kind of apodictic proof, as
part and parcel of their possibility, they shed considerable light on
the apodictic proof that the judgement what can be known a priori
about objects as appearances is only what is put into them by the
knower or that objects as appearances conform to human cognition
may serve as an hypothesis in the first main part of the Critique. It
is, therefore, profitable to survey them, emphasizing the similarities
they have with each other, and with the Critique.
Necessary Requirements for the Apodictic Proof of an
Hypothesis
Among the earliest of Kants discussions of hypotheses are those
in the Blomberg Logic, a set of lecture notes from the early 1770s.
This set of notes focuses on the necessary requirements that a
given hypothesis, formulated as a judgement, is certain. If all of
the consequences that follow from an assumed hypothesis are true
and agree with what is given, then it is not an opinion anymore
but instead is a certain judgement; as certain as the judgement,
for example, that snow is white (24: 220). Nevertheless, it is
practically impossible to demonstrate every consequence for an
hypothesis. Hence, we must say that if all the consequences that
we have been able to draw from an hypothesis are true, then I
have great cause to conclude that the hypothesis itself is certain
and true as a judgement (24: 220). Kant continues to develop this
line of argument throughout his lectures on logic, namely that it is
impossible to prove apodictically that a given hypothesis, formulated
as a judgement, is certain. Nevertheless, he affirms at least by 1780
that it is possible to prove apodictically that a judgement may serve
as an hypothesis, and thereby serve at least to explain something in
general, even if the (empirical) truth of the hypothesis cannot be
established.3
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Kants Revolutionary Hypothesis

The Vienna Logic, a collection of notes from Kants lectures


dating from around 1780, records Kant as claiming:
All holding-to-be-true of an hypothesis is grounded on the fact that through
it as a ground other cognitions are to be explained as consequences. I
actually infer, then, from the truth of the consequences to the ground,
and thus I infer the truth of the cognition [i.e., the hypothesis] from the
consequences. (24: 887)

As in the Blomberg Logic Kant recognizes in this place that this


inductive mode of inference precludes the possibility of apodictically
proving the truth of the hypothesis as a certain judgement or
cognition. Through induction it is only possible to cognize the
sufficiency of the cognition for some consequences, and only the
sufficiency of the cognition for all possible consequences would
produce apodictic certainty (24: 887).
Kant illustrates his point with a favourite example. He asks his
auditors to consider the hypothesis that a subterranean fire causes
earthquakes or volcanoes. The apodictic proof that this hypothesis,
formulated as a judgement, is certain requires demonstrating, for
every possible earthquake or volcano, a subterranean fire as its
cause. While such a demonstration is possible for a few, or even
very many, earthquakes or volcanoes, it is practically impossible to
exhibit for every earthquake or volcano a subterranean fire as its
cause. Hence, induction can never apodictically prove the given
hypothesis, namely a subterranean fire causes earthquakes or
volcanoes, is certain.
It is nevertheless possible to prove apodictically that a judgement
may serve as an hypothesis. The Vienna Logic provides two necessary
requirements for such a proof (24: 888). First, the possibility of the
assumed ground must be fully certain; otherwise, the hypothesis
is a pure fabrication, like, for example, any hypothesis for which
the assumed ground is the commercium pneumaticum, i.e., the
power through which a person can affect other minds. Second, the
consequence must be fully certain, i.e., if I hold something to be
certain, then the outcome that I infer from it must be fully certain.
Consider again Kants favourite example. The apodictic proof
that the judgement a subterranean fire causes earthquakes or
volcanoes may serve as an hypothesis requires two things. First, the
proof requires the demonstration that earthquakes or volcanoes are
possible. Empirical observation satisfies this necessary requirement:
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both are possible because both are actual, as empirical observation


evidences. Second, the proof requires the demonstration of
subterranean fires. Again, empirical observation satisfies this
requirement. Although in this example the proof is a posteriori,
Kant allows for the possibility of an a priori proof.
The Dohna-Wundlacken Logic contains a similar, though much
shorter, discussion of the necessary requirements of the apodictic
proof that a given hypothesis, formulated as a judgement, is certain.
It also identifies the same two necessary conditions for the apodictic
proof that a judgement may serve as an hypothesis identified and
considered in the Vienna Logic. Importantly, however, the DohnaWundlacken Logic identifies another necessary condition for this
proof. Accordingly:
| 1. | The ground that I accept per hypothesin, of this the possibility
must be certain {otherwise one proceeds with just empty fictions}, e.g.,
a central fire ...
2. The consequence [Die Folge] from the assumed ground must be given,
hence it must be actual the cause need only be possible.
3. The implication <of the consequence> [Die Konsequenz <der
Folgen>] from the cause must be wholly certain as well. Otherwise, how
can one infer from it? (24: 746)4

The condition listed third is of particular interest as it is a new


requirement. According to this requirement, the apodictic proof
that a judgement may serve as an hypothesis requires demonstration
of the necessary connection between the ground whose possibility
is certain and the actual consequence. This requirement is different
from the second, which requires, for the apodictic proof that the
judgement a subterranean fire causes earthquakes or volcanoes
may serve as an hypothesis, demonstration that earthquakes or
volcanoes are actual events.
The Introduction to the Jsche Logic presents only in outline
both the necessary requirements for the apodictic proof that a given
hypothesis, formulated as a judgement, is certain and the necessary
requirements for the apodictic proof that a judgement may serve
as an hypothesis. The Jsche Logic does not identify as a necessary
requirement for the latter, as the Dohna-Wundlacken Logic does, the
demonstration of the actuality of the consequence of the possible
ground. Rather, the Jsche Logic, with the Vienna Logic, notes only

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Kants Revolutionary Hypothesis

the certainty of the possibility of the presupposition itself and the


consequentia (9:85).
In the Transcendental Doctrine of Method in the Critique,
Kant provides what amounts to the necessary requirements for
the apodictic proof that a judgement may serve as an adequate
explanation, not of something in general, as in the Blomberg
Logic, but of nature.5 In this place, Kant identifies two necessary
requirements that are very similar to those enumerated in many
transcripts of his lectures on logic. The first of these requirements is
given at A770/B798.
If the imagination is not simply to enthuse but is, under the strict
oversight of reason, to invent, there must first be something that is fully
certain, and not invented as a mere opinion, and that is the possibility
of the object itself. With this it is possible to take refuge in opinion
concerning the actuality of the object, which opinion, however, in order
not to be groundless, must be connected as a ground of explanation with
that which is actually given and consequently certain, and then the object
as ground of explanation is called an hypothesis.

In addition, a second point ... is requisite to make an hypothesis


worthy of being assumed, namely its adequacy for determining
[bestimmen] a priori the given consequences (A774/B802).
Although Kant explicitly identifies two necessary requirements
for the apodictic proof that a judgement may serve as an hypothesis
in these pages, Robert Butts claims that the two conditions for an
adequate hypothesis that Kant lists are actually only one, since the
explication that he gives for the notion of establishing as a certainty
the possibility of the object itself is indistinguishable from the
account he gives of accounting a priori for an event.6 Buttss
argument can be reconstructed from the following passage:
An hypothesis about the course of nature is allowable if (1) we know at
least something by means of which the judgment ... secures connection
with truth, and if we can establish something as certain, namely, the
possibility of the object itself. In addition, the hypothesis must account
for what is given, that is, must explain this given. Furthermore, (2) the
explanation must rest on an a priori basis, since only a priori explanatory
principles are universal and necessary, the distinguishing marks of truth
lacking in merely inductive generalizations.7

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Accordingly:
1 According to Kant, an hypothesis must meet two conditions in
order to be worthy of being assumed.
2 The first is that an hypothesis must establish with certainty the
possibility of an object.
3 The second is that an hypothesis must account a priori for an
event.
4 Accounting for something a priori is to show that it is determinable
by the synthetic a priori principles of the understanding.
5 But this is just to establish with certainty that something is a
possible experience.
6 Hence, to establish with certainty the possibility of an object is
to account for it a priori.
7 Therefore, the two conditions that Kant lists are indistinguishable.
The nerve of this argument is the second premise, namely that an
adequate hypothesis establishes with certainty the possibility of an
object. On Buttss view, an adequate hypothesis explains a priori
what is given, the explanandum, which is an object of possible
experience, or what is the same, an event.
This is not Kants view. Kants view is rather that the object of
possible experience is the explanans of an event, which is, in turn,
the explanandum. An adequate hypothesis, then, explains an event
a priori in terms of an object of possible experience. For this, it
must be demonstrated that the connection between the object of
possible experience that is the ground of explanation and the given
consequences is certain. While Kant does not here indicate how
such a demonstration proceeds, perhaps it proceeds by linking the
explanans and explanandum through the dynamical principles of
the understanding, namely the synthetic a priori principles that are
used to regulate the interaction of objects of possible experience (cf.
A148/B187A162/B202; A176/B218A226/B274).
In addition, Kant claims that the apodictic proof that a judgement
may serve as an hypothesis must demonstrate that the ground of
explanation is an object of possible experience. As Kant succinctly
explains:
It is only possible for our reason to use the conditions of possible
experience as conditions of the possibility of things; but it is by no means
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Kants Revolutionary Hypothesis

possible for reason as it were to create new ones, independent of these


conditions, for concepts of this sort, although free of contradiction,
would nevertheless also be without any object. (A771/B799)

Again, Kant does not here indicate in what this proof consists.
Perhaps it proceeds by showing that the ground of explanation is
determinable by the mathematical principles of the understanding,
namely the synthetic a priori principles of the understanding that
are used to constitute objects of possible experience (cf. esp. A162/
B202A176/B218).
In the final analysis, pace Butts, there are, in fact, two necessary
requirements for the apodictic proof that a judgement may serve as
an adequate explanation of nature. Furthermore, these necessary
requirements are the same as those enumerated in both the Vienna
Logic and the Jsche Logic. This link between the Critique and these
transcripts makes it possible to determine in what the apodictic
proof of Kants revolutionary hypothesis most likely consists.
The Apodictic Proof of Kants Revolutionary Hypothesis
The hypothesis that Kant proposes in his new Preface offers an
explanation of something in general, namely the possibility of
synthetic a priori cognition. Although he claims that the hypothesis
is apodictically proved in the Transcendental Aesthetic and the
Transcendental Analytic, Kant offers no comment regarding how
the constitution of our representations of space and time and the
elementary concepts of the understanding constitute such a proof
of the hypothesis that what can be known a priori about objects as
appearances is only what is put into them by the knower or that
objects as appearances conform to human cognition. Given the
framework provided by Kants lectures on logic, the Transcendental
Aesthetic and Transcendental Analytic satisfy the necessary
requirements for the apodictic proof that a judgement may serve as
an hypothesis, thereby apodictically proving the hypothesis.
According to the first requirement, what is expressed in the
judgement must be possible. This requires, on the one hand, proof
of the possibility of objects as appearances. The apodictic proof of
the revolutionary hypothesis must demonstrate, then, the possibility
of objects as appearances. According to Kant, the Transcendental
Aesthetic as a whole proves that objects as appearances are possible:

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We have sufficiently proved in the Transcendental Aesthetic that


everything intuited in space or time, hence all objects of an experience
possible for us, are nothing but appearances, i.e., mere representations,
which, as they are represented, as extended beings or series of alterations,
have outside our thoughts no existence grounded in themselves. (A490/
B518A491/B519)

On the other hand, it must be possible that what is known a priori


about objects as appearances is only what is put into them by the
knower. Both the Transcendental Aesthetic and the Transcendental
Analytic prove this possibility. The Transcendental Aesthetic proves
that objects as appearances can be known in terms of space and
time, the forms of human intuition (A42/B60). The Transcendental
Analytic proves that objects as appearances can be known in terms
of the concepts of the understanding, the forms of human thinking.
In particular, in the transcendental deduction the possibility of the
pure concepts of the understanding in general as a priori cognitions
of objects of an intuition in general was exhibited (20, 21) (B159).
According to the second necessary requirement, the connection
between the hypothesis and its consequent must be certain.8 Since
Kants hypothesis explains the possibility of synthetic a priori
cognition, its apodictic proof must demonstrate the connection
between synthetic a priori cognition and objects as appearances
that conform to human cognition. The Transcendental Analytic
proves this necessary connection. This is especially evident in the
Second Chapter of the Analytic of Principles, which deals with
those synthetic judgements that flow a priori from pure concepts of
the understanding under [sensible] conditions and ground all other
cognitions a priori, i.e., with the principles of pure understanding
(A136/B175). In this place, Kant exhibits the judgements that
the understanding actually brings about a priori about objects as
appearances (A148/B187). For example, the Axioms of Intuition
exhibits the judgement that all appearances are, as regards their
intuition, extensive magnitudes, as in the first edition, or all
intuitions are extensive magnitudes, as in the second (A162/B202).9
III.
In the new Preface Kant indicates that his hypothesis requires
validation in addition to apodictic proof. In distinguishing between
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Kants Revolutionary Hypothesis

the apodictic proof and the validation of an hypothesis, the new


Preface follows the Blomberg Logic. Nevertheless, the new Preface
does not indicate in what the validation of an hypothesis consists,
noting only that an experiment of pure reason validates the
hypothesis (cf. BxviiiBxxi). The Blomberg Logic does indicate in
what the validation of an hypothesis consists, illuminating the role
of the experiment of pure reason in the Critique in validating Kants
hypothesis.
According to the Blomberg Logic, if an hypothesis, in addition
to its adequacy for what follows from it, is strengthened by other
assurances [Versicherungen] about it, then the hypothesis is validated
[Bestttiget] (24: 220). Since an hypothesis is strong just in case
it is adequate for the consequence for which it is assumed, an
hypothesis is strengthened just in case it is adequate as a ground for
at least one other additional consequence. Hence, demonstrating
that at least one other consequence, beyond the one for which it is
initially assumed, follows from an hypothesis strengthens it; and, if
strengthened, then validated.
The experiment of pure reason in the Critique directly demonstrates
that only by presupposing the revolutionary hypothesis is it possible
to determine in thought and without contradiction the objects of
cosmology in answer to any of the following questions: (1) Does the
world have a spatial and a temporal boundary? (2) Are things in the
world ultimately made of simple substances? (3) Is there freedom in
the world? (4) Is the world dependent on a necessary being for its
existence? The experiment of pure reason also implies that only on
its presupposition is a unified system of philosophy possible. Since
it establishes at least one additional certainty about the judgement,
objects as appearances conform to human cognition or what is
known a priori about objects as appearances is only what is put
into them by the knower, beyond its adequacy for explaining the
possibility of synthetic a priori cognition, the experiment of pure
reason strengthens and so validates Kants revolutionary hypothesis.
The experiment of pure reason is discussed in three different
places in the new Preface. I contend that, despite their considerable
similarities, there are subtle though important shifts in emphasis
between these three discussions. In the first discussion, Kant
emphasizes the condition necessary for the possibility of the
experiment of pure reason. When Kant returns to the experiment
of pure reason his discussion identifies the necessary facts that the
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experiment of pure reason must establish in order to validate the


revolutionary hypothesis. His final discussion of the experiment of
pure reason identifies its ultimate implication.
On the Necessary Condition of the Experiment of Pure
Reason
According to Kant in the new Preface, attempts to think [objects
through mere reason] will provide a splendid touchstone
[Probierstein] of what we assumed as the altered method of our
way of thinking, namely that we can cognize of things a priori
only what we ourselves have put into them (Bxviii). In classical
metallurgy, the touchstone was used to validate the identity of a
sample metal: rubbing a sample metal on the touchstone produces
a coloured stripe the identity of which is determined by comparing
the coloured stripe of the sample metal to the coloured stripes of
metals of known identity. Similarly, Kant uses the term to refer to
that upon which an experimental test is conducted to validate this
revolutionary hypothesis. His footnote to this remark identifies this
touchstone.10
In the first sentence of the footnote, Kant underscores that the
way he will validate his revolutionary hypothesis only imitates the
way natural scientists validate hypotheses: it does not follow exactly
the procedure in natural science. The independent clause of the
second sentence explains why this is the case: now the propositions
of pure reason, in particular when they venture beyond all
boundaries of possible experience, admit of no test by experiment
with their objects (as in natural science). The propositions made
in natural science are about objects of possible experience; hence,
the propositions can be validated with an experiment conducted
on the objects that the propositions are about. As Kant famously
claims, the propositions of pure reason are about God, freedom
and immortality: objects that cannot be given in any experience (cf.
B395). Although a test by experiment can be conducted in order to
validate these propositions of pure reason, it cannot be conducted
with their objects.
The dependent clause of the second sentence explains how the
experiment of pure reason may be conducted: thus to experiment
will be feasible only with concepts and principles that we adopt
[annehmen] a priori, putting in place [einrichtet] those that allow the
same objects to be considered from two different sides; on the one
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Kants Revolutionary Hypothesis

side as objects of the senses and the understanding for experience,


and on the other side as objects that are merely thought at most for
an isolated reason striving beyond the bounds of experience.11 In
the experiment of pure reason, each set of a priori concepts and
principles is used to consider or determine in thought objects.
The use of one set allows an object to be determined only as an
object beyond experience, while the use of the other allows objects
to be determined as both objects of experience and objects beyond
experience. Hence, the possibility of the experiment of pure reason
requires the establishment of each set of a priori concepts and
principles.
In other words, the sine qua non of the experiment of pure reason
is at least the metaphysical exposition or deduction of each set of a
priori concepts and principles. According to Kant, a metaphysical
exposition is the distinct (even if not complete) representation of
that which belongs to a concept ... as given a priori (A23/B38).
More specifically, a metaphysical deduction establishes the origin a
priori of concepts and principles (cf. B159).
The requisite metaphysical deductions or expositions occur in
the Critique. As Norman Kemp Smith has persuasively argued, the
metaphysical deduction of the a priori concepts and principles
that pure reason uses to determine objects from a single standpoint
occurs in the First Book of the Transcendental Dialectic (A310/
B366A338/B396).12 The metaphysical deduction of the a priori
concepts and principles that allow objects to be considered as
both objects of experience and objects beyond experience is
divided between two parts of the Transcendental Doctrine of the
Elements. The metaphysical exposition of the a priori concepts
and principles of sensibility that allow objects to be considered
as both objects of experience and objects beyond experience is
given in the Transcendental Aesthetic (A19/B33A49/B73); the
metaphysical deduction of the a priori concepts and principles of
the understanding is found in the Second and Third Sections of the
First Chapter of the Analytic of Concepts (A70/B95A90/B109).
The final sentence of the footnote identifies the necessary facts
that the experiment of pure reason must establish. If we now find
that there is agreement with the principle of pure reason when things
are considered from this twofold perspective [aus jenem doppelten
Gesichtspunkte], but that an unavoidable conflict of reason with
itself arises with a single standpoint [bei einerlei Gesichtspunkte],
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then the experiment decides for the correctness of that distinction


of things into objects of experience and objects beyond experience
(BxviiiBxix). Kant discusses the facts necessary to validate his
revolutionary hypothesis specifically at Bxx.
The Facts Established by the Experiment of Pure Reason
Because the apodictic proof of Kants hypothesis, in part, explains
the possibility of synthetic a priori cognition, it promises to
metaphysics the secure course of a science in its first part, where it
concerns itself with concepts a priori to which the corresponding
objects appropriate to them can be given in experience (Bxviii
Bxix). But, as Kant continues:
from this deduction of our faculty of cognizing a priori in the first part
of metaphysics, there emerges a very strange result, and one that appears
very disadvantageous to the whole purpose with which the second part
of metaphysics concerns itself, namely that with this faculty we can never
get beyond the boundaries of possible experience, which is nevertheless
precisely the most essential occupation of this science. (Bxix)

Important for understanding Kants discussions of the experiment


of pure reason at Bxx and Bxxi is the identification of the parts of
metaphysics to which Kant refers in this passage with vagueness:
it seems that he identifies two different sciences as the first part
of metaphysics, thereby rendering problematic the corresponding
second part of metaphysics. As Giorgio Tonellis exquisitely detailed
analysis of the classification of the sciences in the Architectonic of
Pure Reason reveals, the term metaphysics has several different
referents at various levels of abstraction (cf. A840/B868A857/
B879).13
Philosophy is either cognition from pure reason (pure
philosophy) or cognition from empirical principles (empirical
philosophy). Pure philosophy (metaphysics1) consists of critique
and metaphysics2. Metaphysics2 consists of the metaphysics3a of
nature (metaphysics3a in the narrower sense), namely speculative
philosophy, and the metaphysics3b of morals, namely practical
philosophy. The metaphysics3a of nature consists of transcendental
philosophy (ontology) and physiology of pure reason. Physiology of
pure reason consists of immanent physiology (rational physiology)
and transcendent physiology.14 Transcendent physiology consists of
rational cosmology and rational theology.15
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Kants Revolutionary Hypothesis

According to Kant at Bxix, the first part of pure philosophy


contains a deduction of the human faculty of cognition. The Critique
does contain a deduction of the human faculty of cognition in the
Transcendental Analytic. Hence, since the Critique is a critique of
pure speculative reason, which investigates the faculty of reason
in regard to all pure a priori cognition, it is the first part of pure
philosophy or metaphysics1. This classification is consistent with
that given in the Architectonic of Pure Reason.
On this interpretation, the Critique yields a very strange result,
namely that with the faculty of theoretical cognition a priori we
can never get beyond the boundaries of possible experience (Bxix).
Nevertheless, it also contains the experiment of a validation by
other means [das Experiment einer Gegenprobe] of the truth of this
strange result:
For that which necessarily drives us to go beyond the boundaries of
experience and all appearances is the unconditioned, which reason
necessarily and with every right demands in things in themselves for
everything that is conditioned, thereby demanding the series of conditions
as something completed. Now if we find that on the assumption that our
cognition from experience conforms to the objects as things in themselves,
the unconditioned cannot be thought at all without conflict, but on the
contrary, if we assume that our representation of things as they are given
to us does not conform to these things as they are in themselves but rather
that these objects as appearances conform to our way of representing,
then the conflict disappears; and consequently that the unconditioned
must not be present in things insofar as we are acquainted with them
(insofar as they are given to us), but rather in things insofar as we are not
acquainted with them, as things in themselves: then this would show that
what we initially assumed only for a test is well grounded. (BxixBxxi)

This passage, as does the last sentence to the footnote at Bxviii,


identifies the facts the experiment of pure reason must provide
in order to validate the revolutionary hypothesis of the Critique.
Importantly, in the latter Kant refers to things [Dinge] as that
which pure theoretical reason determines in thought; by contrast, in
the passage under consideration Kant refers to the unconditioned
[das Unbedingte] as that which pure theoretical reason determines in
thought. Although the unconditioned is a thing, namely the absolute
totality of any serial relation, it is not necessarily an object: all objects
are things, but some things are not objects (cf. A324/B381A332/

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B389; A416/B443A420/B448; A482/B510A484/B512). Indeed,


when pure theoretical reason takes it merely as the absolute totality
of any logical serial relation, the unconditioned is determined in
thought merely as a cosmological concept; nevertheless, when pure
theoretical reason takes it as the absolute totality of any real serial
relation, as happens in dogmatic metaphysics, the unconditioned is
determined in thought as a cosmological object given in experience.
Therefore, the identification of the facts that the experiment of pure
reason must establish at Bxx is consistent with, though more specific
than, that given at Bxviii.
Accordingly, on the one hand, the experiment of pure reason
must establish that, on the assumption that human cognition
conforms to objects as things in themselves, it is impossible for pure
reason to determine in thought without conflict the unconditioned
as a cosmological object given in experience. On the other hand, the
experiment of pure reason must establish that, on the assumption
that objects as appearances conform to human cognition, pure
reason can determine in thought the unconditioned without conflict,
though not as a cosmological object of possible experience. The
experiment of pure reason must establish both results in order to
validate the revolutionary hypothesis, which was initially assumed
only for a test.16
The Ultimate Implication of the Experiment of Pure
Reason
Corresponding to critique as the first part of pure philosophy
is metaphysics2 as the second part. Metaphysics2 consists of the
metaphysics3a of nature and the metaphysics3b of morals. The
success of the apodictic proof of Kants hypothesis promises to the
first part of metaphysics2 the proper method of a science. This is the
metaphysics of nature, consisting of ontology, rational physiology,
rational cosmology, and rational theology.
On this view, Kants description of the concern of the first part
of metaphysics in the new Preface is congruous with his description
of the concern of the metaphysics of nature in the Architectonic
of Pure Reason. Kant claims in the new Preface that the first part
of metaphysics concerns itself with concepts a priori to which
the corresponding objects appropriate to them can be given
in experience (Bxix). In describing the concern of theoretical
philosophy, Kant claims that it considers everything in so far as
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Kants Revolutionary Hypothesis

it is (not that which ought to be) on the basis of a priori concepts


and so contains all rational principles from mere concepts ... for
the theoretical determination of all things (A845/B873 and A841/
B869). Both descriptions emphasize that a given object or given
thing is cognized through a priori concepts and principles.
If theoretical philosophy is the first part of metaphysics2 that Kant
refers to at Bxix, then practical philosophy is the second part.17 The
Critique seems, then, to have a disadvantageous result for practical
philosophy. As Kant explains, however, the fact that in theoretical
philosophy rational cognition reaches appearances only, leaving the
thing in itself as something actual for itself but uncognized by us, is
not disadvantageous to practical philosophy at all. In fact, precisely
because the experiment of pure reason decisively determines the
correctness of the doctrine of transcendental idealism, effectively
denying to pure theoretical reason any advance in the field of the
supersensible, pure practical reason is summoned [aufgefordert]
to attempt cognition a priori beyond the bounds of sense and in
accordance with the wishes of metaphysics, but from a practical
point of view, determining the concept of the unconditioned
through data from the practical cognition of reason (Bxxi). This is
because, although synthetic a priori cognition of the unconditioned
as an object of possible experience is impossible through the use
of pure theoretical reason, synthetic a priori cognition of the
unconditioned, understood as an object that is not given in sensible
intuition, is possible through the use of pure practical reason.
Kant answers this call in 1797 with the publication of the
Metaphysics of Morals. This text presents a system of synthetic
a priori judgements about the will [Wille] as the unconditioned
condition of action that, it is important to note, is not given in any
sensible intuition. In particular, the first part of the text considers
the metaphysical first principles of the doctrine of right that apply
to the will in the determination of right actions; the second part of
the text considers the metaphysical first principles of the doctrine of
virtue that applies to the will in the determination of good actions.
In his footnote to Bxxi in the Critique, Kant identifies the ultimate
implication of the experiment of pure reason: the possibility of
a unified system of philosophy. In this place, Kant remarks, this
experiment of pure reason is similar to what in chemistry is sometimes
called the experiment of reduction, or more usually the synthetic
procedure. This is because the experiment of pure reason brings
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together the two kinds of synthetic a priori cognition: synthetic a


priori cognition of appearances within theoretical philosophy and
synthetic a priori cognition of things in themselves within practical
philosophy. The experiment of pure reason shows, on the one hand,
that, in pure theoretical philosophy, synthetic a priori cognition is
possible only of appearances; on the other hand, it shows that, in
pure practical philosophy, synthetic a priori cognition is possible
of the unconditioned precisely as a thing in itself. Therefore, the
ultimate implication of the experiment of pure reason is a unified
system of philosophy.
IV.
In his new Preface Kant asserts but does not explain that the first
main part of the Critique offers both the apodictic proof and
validation that his revolutionary hypothesis that what can be known
a priori about objects as appearances is what is put into them by the
knower or that objects as appearances conform to human cognition
may serve as an hypothesis. This essay, exploiting the framework
provided by Kants lectures on logic, offers answers to two questions
naturally arising from this lacuna.
First, in what does the apodictic proof of Kants revolutionary
hypothesis consist? The Transcendental Aesthetic and Transcendental
Analytic apodictically prove the hypothesis by satisfying the
necessary requirements for such a proof. The Transcendental
Aesthetic demonstrates that objects as appearances are possible,
while the Transcendental Analytic demonstrates the necessary
connection between the hypothesis and its consequent. Both
sections demonstrate that what is known a priori about objects as
appearances is only what is put into them by the knower.
Second, in what does the validation of the revolutionary
hypothesis consist? The validation of the hypothesis consists in
demonstrating its adequacy for at least one other consequence
beyond that for which it is assumed. The experiment of pure reason
directly demonstrates that only by presupposing the revolutionary
hypothesis is it possible to determine in thought without conflict
or contradiction the objects of cosmology in answer to any of its
questions. The experiment of pure reason also implies that only on
its presupposition is a unified system of philosophy possible.
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Kants Revolutionary Hypothesis

Notes
Cf. Bxvi and Bxviii. Following A73/B98, the hypothesis may be
formulated as follows: if objects as appearances conform to human
cognition or what is known about objects as appearances is only what
is put into them by the knower, then synthetic a priori cognition is
possible.
The first main part of the Critique, namely the Transcendental
Doctrine of Elements, contains two parts: the Transcendental Aesthetic
and the Transcendental Logic. The Transcendental Logic contains the
Transcendental Analytic and the Transcendental Dialectic. The second
main part of the Critique, namely the Transcendental Doctrine of
Elements, contains four chapters, each with its own subdivisions: The
Discipline of Pure Reason; The Canon of Pure Reason; The Architectonic
of Pure Reason; The History of Pure Reason. References to Kants works
other than the first Critique are given by volume and page number to the
Akademie edition (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter 1902 ).
2
I am especially grateful to Michael Davis, Christopher DiTeresi,
Warren Schmaus, John Snapper and the anonymous reviewer for
helpful comments on this section.
3
If this is the correct interpretation of Kants distinction, then it is possible
that an hypothesis, formulated as a judgement, is true, although such
can never be proved, let alone apodictically. It is also possible that the
same hypothesis may serve as an explanation of something in general.
As Kant insists, the latter may be proved apodictically.
Although he is not explicit on this point, Kant seems to allow that
a judgement may serve as an hypothesis in either natural science, as an
explanation of something given in nature or appearance, or metaphysics,
as an explanation of something given in reason. Moreover, it seems to
be Kants position that the use of an hypothesis in either metaphysics or
natural science is for the more general purpose of making progress. In this
he follows Christian Wolff s Commentary on the Institution of the Rules
for the Study of Mathematics cf. J.E. Hofmannus, ed., Gesammelte
Werke, vol. 33 (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1971),
165526. Kant would have been familiar with this work, as it is appended
to Wolff s Elements of Mechanics, the textbook used for at least one of
the two courses on mechanics that Kant taught. Cf. Erich Adickes, Kant
als Naturforscher, vol. 1 (Berlin: W. De Gruyter, 1942), p.11.
Wolff discusses hypotheses as an important means to progress in
science in 309, noting the contribution of Copernicus hypothesis in the
progress of science beyond Ptolemy and through Johannes Kepler, who
discovered the three fundamental laws of planetary motion that bear his
name, to Newton, who in 1687 described universal gravitation and the
three fundamental laws of motion that bear his name. Kants Preface to
the second edition of the Critique is similar, noting explicitly Copernicus
use of an hypothesis to make progress in the science of astronomy (cf.
Bxvi and Bxxii); it is therefore plausible that Kant had Wolff s discussion
in mind when he penned the new Preface in which he announces his
1

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4
5

7
8

imitation of Copernicus in order to make progress in the science of


metaphysics. The same thrust is also evident in Kants discussion of the
legitimate use of hypotheses in natural science in the Critique (cf. A769/
B797A782/B810). A good discussion of the latter is found in Gerd
Buchdahl, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science (Cambridge: MIT
Press, 1969), esp. pp.51016. See also Robert Butts, Hypothesis and
explanation in Kants philosophy of science, Archiv fr Geschichte der
Philosophie 43: 153170 (1961), which is, however, flawed in the way
indicated below. For a more general discussion of Kants philosophy of
science, see Michael Friedman, Kant and the Exact Sciences (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1992); for what is in effect a redaction of
much of the latter see Michael Friedman, Philosophy of natural science,
in The Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy, ed. P.
Guyer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp.30341.
The original punctuation has been preserved.
In these pages, Kant also identifies a polemical use of an hypothesis as
a weapon of war, not for grounding a right but only for defending it
(A777/B805).
Robert E. Butts, Kant on hypotheses in the Doctrine of Method and
the Logik, Archiv fr Geschichte der Philosophie, 44 (1962), p.189.
See also Butts, Hypothesis and explanation, pp.1648.
Butts, Kant on hypotheses, p.189.
Demonstration that the consequence is actual does not make up part
of the apodictic proof in the Critique because such has been already
proved in the Prolegomena, and so would be redundant (cf. 4: 26773).
In the Introduction to the Critique Kant adapts this discussion from the
Prolegomena, proving synthetic a priori judgments are contained as
principles in all theoretical sciences of reason, including mathematics
and natural science (B14; cf. B15B24).
Even in outline, this account of the apodictic proof of Kants hypothesis
seems to undermine Robert Hahns account of the same in Kants
Newtonian Revolution in Philosophy (Carbondale: Southern Illinois
University Press, 1988), esp. chapter 9. On his view, the apodictic
proof of Kants revolutionary hypothesis, which he identifies as the
fundamental judgments to which any meaningful claim to knowledge
must refer are synthetic a priori, that occurs in the Metaphysical
Deduction and the Transcendental Deduction of the Transcendental
Analytic (op. cit., p.101) is an adaptation of the so-called hypotheticodeductive method that Sir Isaac Newton describes and employs in
Opticks: Or a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections &
Colours of Light, 2nd Ediction (London: W. and J. Innys, 1718), cf.
pp.35082).
Granted ex hypothesi that he correctly identifies Kants revolutionary
hypothesis, Hahns account is nevertheless flawed in at least one
important respect. Hahn incorrectly locates the apodictic proof of Kants
hypothesis in the Critique. Kant clearly indicates in his new Preface that
the proof occurs not only in the Transcendental Analytic, but also in
the Transcendental Aesthetic. Hahn gives no consideration whatsoever

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Kants Revolutionary Hypothesis

to the role of the Transcendental Aesthetic in the apodictic proof of


Kants hypothesis. For this reason, Hahns account cannot possibly be
correct. Although the account of the roles of both the Transcendental
Aesthetic and the Transcendental Analytic in the apodictic proof of Kants
hypothesis offered herein may require further development, it is at least
preferable to Hahns account inasmuch it is sensitive to this interpretative
requirement.
10
In this place Kant notes: Diese dem Naturforscher nachgeahmte
Methode besteht also darin: die Elemente der reinen Vernunft in dem
zu suchen, was sich durch ein Experiment besttigen oder widerlegen
lt. Nun lt sich zur Prfung der Stze der reinen Vernunft,
vornehmlich wenn sie ber alle Grenze mglicher Erfahrung hinaus
gewagt werden, kein Experiment mit ihren Objekten machen (wie in der
Naturwissenschaft): also wird es nur mit Begriffen und Grundstzen,
die wir a priori annehmen, tunlich sein, indem man sie nmlich so
einrichtet, da dieselben Gegenstnde einerseits als Gegenstnde der
Sinne und des Verstandes fr die Erfahrung, andererseits aber doch
als Gegenstnde, die man bloss denkt, allenfalls fr die isolierte
und ber Erfahrungsgrenze hinausstrebende Vernunft, mithin von
zwei verschiedenen Seiten betrachtet werden knnen. Findet es sich
nun, da, wenn man die Dinge aus jenem doppelten Gesichtspunkte
betrachtet, Einstimmung mit dem Prinzip der reinen Vernunft stattfinde,
bei einerlei Gesichtspunkte aber ein unvermeidlicher Widerstreit der
Vernunft mit sich selbst entspringe, so entscheidet das Experiment fr
die Richtigkeit jener Unterscheidung.
11
On this, I disagree with Hans Seigfried, according to whom the
dependent clause of the second sentence identifies the touchstone
on which the experiment of pure reason is conducted. It is the
following proposition of pure reason: we must contrive the
concepts and principles which we adopt a priori such that they be
used for viewing objects from two different points of view, namely,
as objects of experience and as objects which are thought merely, as
appearances and as things in themselves [B XVIIIf.] Hans Seigfried,
Transcendental experiments, in G. Funke and T.M. Seebohm, eds,
Proceedings of the Sixth International Kant Congress (Washington, DC:
University Press of America, 1989), pp.3423. On this view, then,
Kants claim in the footnote is that in order to validate this proposition
an experiment of pure reason is conducted to find out what happens
if we try to conceive the possibility of the experience of objects either
with it or without it (op. cit., p.344).
12
Cf. Norman Kemp Smith, Commentary to Kants Critique of Pure
Reason (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanity Books, 1999), p.450.
13
Giorgio Tonelli, Kants Critique of Pure Reason within the Tradition
of Modern Logic (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1994), esp. Part
Two, chapter III, which situates the classification of the sciences in the
Critique within the evolution of Kants plan for a system of philosophy
from 1769.

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Rational physiology consists of rational physics, whose object is


corporeal nature, and rational psychology, whose object is thinking
nature.
15
Cf. Tonelli, Modern Logic, pp.3378 (Table XIII).
16
In his Preface to the second edition of the Critique, Kant identifies
the location of the experiment of pure reason as the Transcendental
Dialectic. According to the discussion at Bxx, the experiment of
pure reason demonstrates that the unconditioned, understood as the
completion of the series of conditioned things, can be thought without
contradiction only on the assumption that our representation of
things as they are given to us does not conform to these things as they
are in themselves but rather that these objects as appearances conform
to our way of representing (Bxx). The unconditioned is the object of
inquiry only of the Transcendental Dialectic of the Critique (cf. A321/
B377A332/B390).
Moreover, a series of manuscripts Kant began six years after the
publication of the second edition of the Critique identifies the location of
the experiment of pure reason more specifically within the Transcendental
Dialectic. These manuscripts were composed by Kant in answer to the
question of the prize essay competition sponsored by the Acadmie
Royal des Sciences et des Belles-Lettres in Berlin: What real progress
has metaphysics made in Germany since the time of Leibniz and Wolff?
Friedrich Theodor Rink eventually published this series of manuscripts in
1804 and after Kants death.
The manuscript consists, in part, of a discussion of what Kant
identifies as the second stage of metaphysics. This stage of metaphysics is
the result of the transition from the conditioned in the objects of possible
experience to the unconditioned, and of extending its knowledge to the
completion of this series [of conditions] by means of reason (20: 287).
Distinct from the first stage of metaphysics, namely ontology, the second
stage of metaphysics is transcendental cosmology.
It is in this context that Kant summarizes the main parts of the Critique.
In particular, he notes, the Antinomy of Pure Reason leads inevitably
back to that limiting of our knowledge, and what was previously proved
in the Analytic, in dogmatic a priori fashion, is here likewise incontestably
verified [besttigt] in the Dialectic, by an experiment of reason
[Experiment der Vernunft], which [reason] performs on its own powers
(20: 291). This passage explicitly establishes that the experiment of pure
reason occurs only in the Antinomy of Pure Reason of the Transcendental
Dialectic.
17
According to Kemp Smith, the two parts of metaphysics are
immanent metaphysics and transcendent metaphysics (Kemp Smith,
Commentary, p.22; see also pp.liv, 33, 56 and 66). Kemp Smith
is clearly incorrect in this, as immanent metaphysics is no part of
metaphysics at all. Nor is transcendent metaphysics a kind of
metaphysics, as he eventually recognizes: it is never possible (op. cit.,
p.33).
14

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