Friday, December 23, 2022

Twelve Rounds with Kant (part thirteen)

Well, here we are—about to take a look at the second division of Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgement, the Critique of Teleological Judgement. When I say "let's take a look at," I mean "let me reread, take notes, and summarize it for myself because a Kant critique makes Ulysses seem like light reading." After this there will be one more Kantpost where I'll try and figure out whether the third critique really contains kernels of valuable wisdom, of if the heautonomy of the faculty of judgement is really the friends we make along the way. 

Let's begin with a few excerpts of some things Kant says in this section that must strike the twenty-first century reader as embarrassingly outmoded. Might as well it out of the way now.

Nothing in it [an organism] is vain, purposeless, or to be ascribed to a blind mechanism of nature.

My tailbone and appendix say otherwise, chum. I'd include my wisdom teeth, but I had them pulled out of my head because they'd have deformed the rest of my teeth if they'd been left in. Lost track of 'em afterwards. Pretty sure they're blocking me on the Face Book.

It is well known that the anatomists of of plants and animals, in order to investigate their structure and to understand for what reason and to what end they have been given such a disposition and combination of parts and precisely this internal form, assume as indispensably necessary the maxim that nothing in such a creature is in vain, and likewise adopt it as the fundamental principle of the general doctrine of nature that nothing happens by chance.

The processes of natural selection and evolution are catalyzed precisely "by chance." The hatching of a bird with a somewhat unusually shaped beak that turns out to be better suited to the selective pressures of its environment than its nestmates' occurs precisely by chance. Chemistry, whose laws govern the behavior of nucleotides, is a science of probabilities. 

[I]t is quite certain that we can never adequately come to know the organized beings [organisms] and their internal possibility in accordance with merely mechanical principles of nature, let alone explain them; and indeed this is so certain that we can boldly say that it would be absurd...to hope there may yet arise a Newton who could make comprehensible even the generation of a blade of grass that no intention has ordered...

You mean to tell me the smartest boy in K√∂nigsberg didn't foresee genome sequencing? Well then, how smart could he have really been? Dummkopf!

Strictly speaking, the organization of nature is...not analogous with any causality that we know.

ever hear of mitosis lolol chromatids from the window to da wall lol

But if one leaves this aside and looks only to the use that other natural beings make of [grass], then one abandons the contemplation of its internal organization and looks only at its external purposive relations, where the grass is necessary to the livestock, just as the latter is necessary to the human being as the means for his existence; yet one does not see why it is necessary that human beings exist (a question which, if one thinks about the New Hollanders or the Fuegians, might not be so easy to answer)....

Immanuel, you racist prick.

There. Now that we can set all that aside...

As I've been making my way through Kant, every so often I consult secondary sources for guidance, and sometimes I look up lectures on YouTube. I remember in one of them—it was at a university in the United Kingdom, though I don't recall which—the professor basically said "well, Charles Darwin rather took the piss out of the Critique of Teleological Judgement, so we'll just focus on the Critique of Aesthetic Judgement for the next forty-five minutes."

I'm not so sure I agree. Not entirely. Certainly there's material in the Critique of the Power of Judgement's second half that hasn't aged well, but the reshaping of the science of biology around the work of Darwin and Mendel in the nineteenth century detracts less from Kant's its overall argument than may be immediately apparent.

Ernst Haeckel, "Box Jellyfish" from Art Forms in Nature
(1899–1904)

Let's do a quick recap by taking another look at the Introduction. The nominal subject of the book is the power of judgement, the faculty responsible for subsuming particulars under general concepts or laws. In its determining mode, the power of judgement works with concepts already "given" to it by the understanding. In its reflecting mode, the power of judgement "finds" them for itself. What's its procedure for doing so, then?

The reflecting power of judgement, which is under the obligation of ascending from the particular in nature to the universal, therefore requires a principle that it cannot borrow from experience, precisely because it is supposed to ground the unity of all empirical principles under equally empirical but higher principles, and is thus to ground the possibility of the systematic subordination of empirical principles under one another. The reflecting power of judgement, therefore, can only give itself such a transcendental principle as a law, and cannot derive it from anywhere else (for then it would be the determining power of judgement), nor can it prescribe it to nature: for reflection on the laws of nature is directed by nature, and nature is not directed by the conditions in terms of which we attempt to develop a concept of it and is in this regard entirely contingent.

This is part of Kant's justification for the introduction of a principle of purposiveness as the power of judgement's transcendental arbitrator (though at this point he has only argued for the necessity of some unspecified a priori legislative principle over our faculty of judgement). He's saying that the power of judgement, in its reflective mode, employs a fundamental rubric that it can't extrapolate from experience, and must precede experience.

Now this principle can be nothing more than this: that since universal laws of nature have their ground in our understanding, which prescribes them to nature (although only in accordance with the universal concept of it as nature) [as per the system of transcendental idealism laid out in the first critique], the particular empirical laws, in regard to that which is left undetermined in them by the former, must be considered in terms of the sort of unity they would have if an understanding (even if not ours) had likewise given them for the sake of our faulty of cognition, in order to make possible a system of experience in accordance with particular laws of nature. Not as if in this way such an understanding must really be assumed (for it is only the reflecting power of judgement for which this idea serves as a principle, for reflecting, not for determining); rather this faculty thereby gives a law only to itself, and not to nature.

Kant recurs to this proviso throughout the Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgement. It's practically a theme.

We're sometimes constrained to think of the existence or relation of things in a particular way, even though it's either not necessarily factual or provable. In a way, he's prefiguring Alfred North Whitehead's warning against fallacies of misplaced concreteness. We might rely on an abstract framework to make an event intelligible, but we mustn't get that framework confused with the reality to which we apply it.

Now since the concept of an object insofar as it at the same time contains the ground of the reality of this object is called an end, and the correspondence of a thing with that constitution of things that is possible only in accordance with ends is called the purposiveness of its form, thus the principle of the power of judgement in regard to the form of things of nature under empirical laws in general is the purposiveness of nature in its multiplicity. I.e., nature is represented through this concept as if an understanding contained the ground of the unity of the manifold of its empirical laws.

I've hard a hard time processing Kant's definition of ends, and it doesn't help that his terminology is inconsistent throughout the third critique. In the Critique of Teleological Judgement, he more helpfully describes a situation where the effect defines the idea of its cause.

Ernst Haeckel, "Siphonophorae" from Art Forms in Nature
(1899–1904)

The point that he's getting to here, however, is that there are things in nature we can't make sense of unless we think of them in terms of design. Again, that's not to say that "created by god" is a fundamental, definite attribute of anything in the world, but that our investigations into nature presuppose the kind of rationality or intention we usually associate with human artifice, and there's no getting away from it.

The Critique of Aesthetic Judgement dealt with subjective purposiveness. The Critique of Teleological Judgement deals with objective purposiveness in nature.

Kant says that we come to the concept of objective material purposiveness in one of two ways. In one case we (or some other active entity) find an advantageousness in the effect of some natural cause; in the other the effect is in itself "immediately a product of art." The first is a relative purposiveness, and the second an internal purposiveness.

Internal purposiveness is a quality of natural ends, whose defining characteristic is being their own cause and effect. Only organisms (which Kant usually calls "organized beings") fit the bill here. ("Organism," like "aesthetics," has been through a referential shift since the eighteenth century. Back then one would have said that the defining characteristic of animals and plants is organism.) Kant uses trees as an example. A pitch pine comes from other pitch pines, and it makes other pitch pines. Its biological processes sustain and augment its form, while its form perpetuates its biological processes. It is its own cause, and the effect of that cause, and hence a natural end in itself.

For a body, therefore, which is to be judged as a natural end in itself an in accordance with its internal possibility, it is required that its parts reciprocally produce each other, as far as both their form and their combination is concerned, and thus produce a whole out of their own causality, the concept of which, conversely, is in turn the cause (in a being that would possess the causality according to concepts appropriate for such a product) of it in accordance with a principle; consequently the connection of efficient causes could at the same time be judged as an effect through final causes.

Kant issued this pronouncement in the late eighteenth century. DNA wasn't discovered until 1953. It's perfectly understandable that he should watch a tulip growing from a seed, try to conceive of the event in terms of bits of matter mechanistically bumping into each other, and concede that it can't be done. He stresses the difficulty of accepting that a "blind mechanism" of nature should have worked upon a clump of material such that it became a bunny rabbit that went on to propagate a whole world's worth of leporids. 

He grants the the possibility of an undiscovered efficient causality by which the self-regulating structures of organisms can be explained, but in a weaselly sort of way. He seems to be of the mind that if organisms can be attributed to "the mere mechanism of nature," the physical processes therein must be so obscure and intricate as to always lie outside our powers of observation.

Nevertheless, he also stresses that we can only turn to final causes as a heuristic for our scientific investigations into nature. If we (or, rather, eighteenth-century men of science) can't satisfactorily account for organism in terms of matter unintentionally (even oafishly) acting upon other matter, the alternative is to presuppose a technical purposiveness in living beings only to the extent that it makes them intelligible. We cannot make any determining judgements on this front: under the definite attributes of a horseshoe crab, we can't list "designed by an intelligent agent." We simply don't—and can't—know that to be true. However, in a reflective mode of judgement, where we simply conceive of a purposiveness at play in an organism's physiology and life-processes, without positively attributing that purposiveness to any source, we assume a perspective wherein we can fruitfully study and better understand a specimen in ways we could not if we excluded ends from the analysis.

I don't think Kant is wholly wrong here. Teleology is anathema to scientific materialism, but in our thinking about nature—especially organic nature—we can't seem to get away from it.

Imagine you're trying to teach a child about the human eye, the heart and lungs, and reproductive organs. You want to be as comprehensive as possible, but you don't want to overwhelm the learner with abstruse technical concepts. You want to make sure they know how these organs are structured and understand what they do.

How far do you think you'd get without saying "in order to," "because," "the reason for that is," "it needs to," and other like terms?

In other words, how much could you explain without saying that an organ or what it does is for something?

Ernst Haeckel, "Moss" from Art Forms in Nature
(1899–1904)

Clearly it's exceedingly difficult to talk about anatomy and physiology without the language of purposiveness. Earlier today, while googling something entirely unrelated to any of this, I found a University of Wisconsin-Madison article from the last decade describing the Cambrian explosion as being when "most of the current animal designs appeared" (emphasis mine). Ecology does this, too. It is one thing to say that ecosystem tends to develop in such-and-such direction given such-and-such conditions, but we're usually more disposed to consider the stability of late-stage succession as the goal of an ecological community.

Scientific materialism can't admit for-ness. The Earth is an immense, multitudinous weave of brute matter and evanescent energy, driven along the arrow of time by blind, inexorable contingency. That's the worldview given to us by empiricism, and Kant doesn't accuse it of yielding an inaccurate image. He accepts the mechanism of nature, insofar as we're dealing with a mechanism of appearances.

Like any artist who's been at it for a long time, Kant is prone to falling into patterns. HP Lovecraft couldn't get away from grandiloquent passages about the brutal impersonality of the cosmos, and Kant can't conduct a critique without a chapter on an antinomy native to the subject as hand. In the Dialectic of the Teleological Power of Judgement, he presents two arguments:

Thesis: All generation of material things is possible in accordance with merely mechanical laws.

Antithesis: Some generation of such things is not possible in accordance with merely mechanical laws.

He's already told us that he holds both to be true—but that's a contradiction. How do we get around it?

In a series of sections that almost read like a reprise of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant examines four philosophical doctrine, each characterized as a permutation of lifeless/living matter paired with lifeless/living god. He brings up Epicurus (lifeless matter, lifeless god), Spinoza (lifeless matter, living god), hylozoism (living matter, lifeless god), and theism (living matter, living god). To Kant's mind, it is necessary that a creator deity enter into the equation, if only problematically, insofar as the concept of a rationality in nature can imply arrangement by a rational entity.

Two of these, Kant says—Epicureanism and Spinozism—explain away ends and intention in nature as illusory ideas. Hylozoism and theism hold that natural ends are real, but neither provides the determining power of judgement with the means of categorically ascribing objective purposiveness to nature. Kant notes that theism "has the advantage," but for the time being he deems it insufficient grounds for a dogmatic certainty of the reality of natural ends.

Kant argues that any doctrine asserting the reality of natural ends suffers from the inexplicability of natural ends themselves. In an earlier remark that seems to augur Wittgenstein, Kant declares that "the end of the existence of nature must be sought beyond nature." If we assume that organisms are natural ends, we insinuate an ultimate end. No organism exists in isolation: plants are ends in themselves, but they are means to animals; butterflies are ends in themselves, but they are means to insectivorous birds; sparrows are ends in themselves, but they are means to falcons and foxes; and so on. Granting a purposive existence to any of these species prompts our faculty of reason to ascend the conceptual ladder and assume the entire system must be purposive. But in seeking its intention or or the state of perfection which the whole of nature seems to be driving toward, we have to take our inquiry outside of nature—which we can't do. Not for the purpose of attaining objectively true knowledge of the situation, anyway.

To say the generation of certain things in nature or even of nature as a whole is possible only through a cause that is determined to be act in accordance with intentions is quite different from saying that because of the peculiar constitution of my cognitive faculties I cannot judge about the possibility of those things and their generation except by thinking of a cause for these that acts in accordance with intentions, and thus by thinking of a being that is productive in accordance with the analogy with the causality of understanding....

[S]ince it is still...possible to consider the material world as a mere appearance, and to conceive of something as a thing in itself (which is not an appearance) as substratum, and to correlate with this a corresponding intellectual intuition...there would then be a supersensible real ground for nature, although it is unknowable for us, to which we ourselves belong, and in which that which is necessary in it as object of the senses can be considered in accordance with mechanical laws, while the agreement and unity of the particular laws and corresponding forms, which in regard to the mechanical laws we must judge as contingent, can at the same time be considered in it, as objects of reason (indeed the whole of nature as a system) in accordance with teleological laws, and the material world would thus be judged in accordance with two kinds of principles, without the mechanical mode of explanation being excluded by the teleological mode, as if they contradicted each other.

There's the loophole, the resolution of the antinomy. Kant's transcendental idealistic framework provides for the truth of both propostions: the reflecting power of judgement's supposition of natural ends is subjectively valid, insofar as they serve the regulative function of reason, whereas the material facts of mechanistic natural law (whose original source lies in the categories of pure understanding) are the only suitable grounds for determining judgements.

There is thus left nothing but a proposition resting only on subjective conditions, namely those of a reflecting power of judgement appropriate to our cognitive faculties, which, if one were to express it as objectively and dogmatically valid, would say: There is a God; but all that is allowed to us humans is the restricted formula: We cannot conceive of the purposiveness which must be made the basis of our cognition of the internal possibility of many things in nature and make it comprehensible except by representing them and the world in general as a product of an intelligent cause (a God).

We'll get more into the god question in a sec. But concerning Kant's insistence on an intelligent original cause, he's already called god an essential postulate of pure practical reason in the second critique. The third critique comes at the question not from the standpoint of practical reason, but theoretical reason. And it's here that matters appropriate to one become the concern of the other.

What is the origin of the order of the universe? Why should the fundamental forces behave how they do? Where did matter originally come from? If it all began with the big bang, what was the provenance of the cosmic egg? At some point, our surmises about first causes or regression unto infinity, even when supported by circumstantial evidence and plausible-seeming physical theory, cross over in a field where "possibility and actuality can no longer be distinguished at all." 

Either we can presuppose, in a problematic, provisional way, an absolute point of origin, and some unknowable rational agent (or principle?) that determined the ways in which stuff behaves with regard to other stuff. That gives us some cause, at least as a matter of subjective belief, to anchor our own existence in the context of narrative that we can make intelligible to ourselves, even though we're stuffing a whole universe of the inconceivable in a black box and slapping a label we can read on its lid.

Otherwise we're left with an existence that's altogether unintelligible, has no intrinsic meaning, and is utterly without purpose. 

That kind of worldview can make it hard to get out of bed. (I should know.) It also can lead to the law of the jungle as a practical conclusion: if my existence is pointless, and everyone else's existence is also pointless, and nothing matters, why shouldn't I make myself happy at the expense of others?

In the first and second critiques, Kant provided for the existence of god in much the same way as he makes accommodations for teleology without gainsaying scientific materialism in the present text: the existence of god is a subjective necessity, ensuring the internal consistency of the moral law. We can't make claim to possess any knowledge of a deity (who he is, where he comes from, what he looks like, what he wants, etc.), but the moral interest demands we act as though our black box with the "god" label has something inside it. In the third critique, Kant asserts the same necessity with regard to our conception of certain objects and events in nature, should we wish to improve our methods of investigating and understanding them.

However—between the mechanistic and teleological "narratives" of nature, Kant gives precedence to the latter on the basis that he sees no possibility that scientific materialism will ever disclose a comprehensive description of how "even a little blade of grass" might have come to be through merely efficient causes. Depending on how heavy a load this pillar bears in the Critique of Teleological Judgement's architecture, Kant may have blundered into a fatal error.

But I'll admit—I'm not sure just yet. I'm still withholding judgement.  

Victor Gruen, "Organization of a New City" (ca. 1955)

We're going to skip over all the pages in the Methodology of the Teleological Power of Judgement where Kant weighs the various scientific hypotheses regarding the provenance of organic forms, since they're beside the point here in the twenty-first century.

Things get interesting again when Kant ponders the external purposiveness of organic entities—those ways in which living things serve other living things as means to ends. He asks: might the whole of nature have an ultimate end?

Yes, he says.

The human being is...always only a link in the chain of natural ends; a principle, to be sure, with regard to many ends which nature seems to have determined for him in its predispositions, since he himself makes those ends; yet also a means for the preservation of the purposiveness in the mechanism of the other members. As the sole being on earth who has reason, and thus a capacity to set voluntary ends for himself, he is certainly the titular lord of nature, and, if nature is regarded as a teleological system, then it is his vocation to be the ultimate end of nature; but always only conditionally, that is, subject to the condition that he has the understanding and the will to give to nature and to himself a relation to an end that can be sufficient for itself independently of nature, which can thus be a final end, which, however, must not be sought in nature at all...

The production of the aptitude of a rational being for any ends in general (thus those of his freedom) is culture. Thus only culture can be the ultimate end that one has cause to ascribe to nature in regard to the human species (not its own earthly happiness or even being the foremost instrument for establishing order and consensus in irrational nature outside of him).

The margins in my copy of the book are filled with obscenities throughout these pages. Reading through all this again, I'm a little more inclined to give Kant the benefit of the doubt, or at least not to feel like he should be throttled for spouting anthropocentric gibberish.

Humankind assigns itself its status as the final end of nature on supersensible grounds. Considered as animal life, we can only include ourselves as part of the mindless universal grind—so much matter scurrying about, behaving more or less automatically. But as noumenal subjects endowed with free will, existing in a natural teleological system, we can make choices independently of mere causal connection or basic animal instinct. Our faculty of reason plugs us into the intelligible world of the supersensible, by virtue of which we are simultaneously made free agents and existents in a teleological universe. The first proposition is the grounds for the second. (In supersensible substratum of the sensible world, nature-as-mechanism and nature-as-teleological-system can be thought of as two sides of a coin that will never stop spinning. We're at liberty to call heads and act as though it came up as such, provided we do nothing contrary to how we could behave if it actually came up tails.)

When Kant says that human culture is the ultimate end of nature, he's talking about social institutions that expand our capabilities and make us fit for our true vocation as rational beings: to adhere to moral duty.

That's the catch. Did you notice the phrase "subject to the condition" in the wall of text up above? Humanity is the final end of nature to the extent that we aspire to ends that exceed the capacities of either brute matter or animal instinct, and as per the second critique, these must be moral ends. The highest good towards which pure practical reason would have us strive is the correspondence of human happiness to moral worth, and culture is the final end of nature because only it can develop subjects capable of furthering human progress in this regard. 

Now if things in the world, as dependent beings as far as their existence is concerned, need a supreme cause acting in accordance with ends, then the human being is the final end of creation; for without him the chain of ends subordinated to one another would not be completely grounded; and only in the human being, although in him only as a subject of morality, is unconditional legislation with regard to ends to be found, which therefore alone makes him capable of being a final end, to which the whole of nature is teleologically subordinated.

Emphases mine.

Hubert Blanz (2010)

Next Kant, compares the virtues of what he calls physicotheology and ethicotheology. That's theology, not teleology. Since religion won custody of teleology during the post-Scholastic divorce of natural science and theology, the explicit consideration of theology is germane to the topic at hand.

Physicotheology endeavors to rationally follow the appearance of natural ends back to a creator god, while ethicotheology attempts the same goal by making the moral ends of rational beings the basis of its inferences. If you've been reading along, you shouldn't be surprised that Kant champions the latter over the former.

Physicotheology can certainly make reasonable speculations as to the technical design of nature by an obscure transcendent architect (partly because we're disposed to attribute physical order to some intelligible cause), though Kant has repeatedly asserted that any such attempts can never yield any definite knowledge of him/it.

But if reason compels us to think of the end of nature in moral terms for the sake of its own internal consistency, a designer to whom we can only attribute technical intelligence—as though he or it were a cosmic AI procedurally generating the physical laws and contents of a universe—is inadequate to our needs. We must rather assume a supremely wise and just being as creator, which is the direction in which ethicotheology leads.

Which brings us to the audaciously titled section "On the Moral Proof of the Existence of God."

Kant's proof runs like this:

A moral teleology is somewhat axiomatic to us. We have the moral law programmed into us (as per the second critique), and neither its practical coherence nor binding power require an explanatory narrative of an intelligent original cause.

But since we are after all of this world, and our practical judgements and actions concern other things of this world, we need to take into account how the world itself (nature) relates to the final end which Kant articulated above.

Moral teleology thus concerns "the relation of nature to what is moral in us." We see natural purposiveness in the world insofar as we're given to seeing the moldings of technical design (I would say "intelligent design," but...) in physical laws, organic forms, and so on, but reason prompts us to seek out "an intelligent supreme principle" that squares the world of things with the world of noumena, and affirms the possibility of ends prescribed by what is supersensible in being realized within the mechanistic order of appearances.

Kant has already proved (at least to his own satisfaction) that the find end reason designates us us is "the human being (every rational being) under moral laws." After all, what interest or value would there be in a lifeless universe, or one in which the most evolved form of life was moss? No reasoning beings means no freedom, no value in choice, no concept of final ends. Just matter moving about, photons zipping to and fro, and quiet, indeliberate photosynthesis.

The existence of rational beings gives the world a final end, since they (we) are the only entities that can conceive of such things, let along work towards their actualization.

The highest physical good for us is happiness—and yet as rational beings subject to moral laws, we can only count happiness as the supreme good when it is deserved, when its apportionment corresponds to an individual's worthiness of it.

Though we can't represent this crucial requirement or its possibility within the bounds of scientific materialism (which deals only with the world of appearances), practical necessity pushes us to look beyond the possibilities conceivable in terms of mere physical causality. We must ascribe the creation and maintenance of nature to an original being that isn't simply a cosmic watchmaker, but an entity with a moral interest in "his" work—otherwise any concept of a final end would be bereft of the absoluteness which pure practical reason imposes on us, and practical reason itself loses its defense against the antinomy described in the second critique.

The concept of an original being that is both a cosmic technician and supremely wise and benevolent reconciles the necessities of pure practical reason with the "purposeless chaos of matter" and indeed fortifies the purpose we give to that chaos.

I must emphasize once again that I'm not going to weigh in until I'm sure I understand Kant here. Take this paraphrasing with a grain of salt. Summarizing Kant ain't easy, and I may have fudged something somewhere, emphasizing relatively insignificant details or overlooking something of central importance.

I'm going to end this with a hefty block quote from the end of the Critique of Teleological Judgement that's sort of like a Kant megamix, recapitulating material from all three critiques. I believe it's here that he tries to say he's made good on his introductory claim of bridging the territories of theoretical and moral philosophy through an investigation into the power of judgement. For now I'll let him speak for himself. (For the reader's convenience, I broke up the excerpt's first paragraph, adding line breaks where Kant just places stray em dashes. You're welcome.)

God, freedom, and immortality of the soul are those problems at the solution of which all of the apparatus of metaphysics aims as its final and sole end. Now it was believed that the doctrine of freedom is necessary for practical philosophy only as a negative condition, while the doctrine of God and of the constitution of the soul, belonging to theoretical philosophy, would have to be demonstrated by themselves and separately in order to be subsequently connected with that which the moral law (which is possible only under the condition of freedom) commands, in order to establish a religion. But one can immediately see that these attempts had to go wrong. For absolutely no concept of an original being determined by means of predicates that can be given in experience and thus serve for cognition can be formed from merely ontological concepts of things in general or of the existence of a necessary being; but that concept which would be grounded on the experience of the physical purposiveness of nature could not in turn provide a sufficient proof for morals and hence for the cognition of a God. Just as little could knowledge of the soul provide a concept of its spiritual, immortal nature, adequate for morals, by means of experience (which we have only in this life). Theology and pneumatology [the study of spiritual beings], as problems for the sciences of speculative reason, cannot be established by means of any empirical data and concepts, because their concept exceeds all of our cognitive faculties.

The determination of both concepts, the concept of God as well as that of the soul (with respect to its immortality) can only come about by means of predicates which, although they are themselves only possible on the basis of a supersensible ground, must nevertheless have their reality proven in experience; for only in this way can they make possible any cognition of an entirely supersensible being.

Now the only concept of this sort to be encountered in human reason is the concept of the freedom of human beings under moral laws, together with the final end that reason prescribes by means of this law, the first of which is suitable for ascribing to the author of nature and the second of which is suitable for ascribing to human beings those properties that contain the necessary condition for the possibility of both——so that the existence and the constitution of this being who is otherwise entirely hidden from us can be inferred from this very idea.

Thus the reason for the failure of the attempt to prove God and immortality by a merely theoretical route lies in the fact that by this route (that of all concepts of nature) no cognition of the supersensible is possible at all. The reason that it succeeds in the moral route (that of the concept of freedom), by contrast, lies in the fact that in this case the supersensible that is the ground (freedom), by means of determinate law of causality arising in it, not only provides matter for the cognition of the other supersensible things (the moral final purpose and the conditions of its realizability), but also demonstrates the fact of its reality in actions, although for that very reason it cannot yield a basis for any proof except one that is valid from a practical point of view (which is also the only one that religion needs).

It remains quite remarkable in this that among the three pure ideas of reason, God, freedom, and immortality, that of freedom is the only concept of the supersensible that proves its objective reality (by means of the causality that is thought in it) in nature, through its effect which is possible in the latter, and thereby makes possible the connection of the other two things to nature, as well as the connection of all three to each other in a religion; and that we thus have in ourselves a principle that is capable of determining the idea of the supersensible in us and by that means also the idea of the supersensible outside us into one cognition, although one that is possible only in a practical respect, of which merely speculative philosophy (which can also provide a merely negative concept of freedom) had to despair: hence the concept of freedom (as the foundational concept for all unconditionally practical laws) can extend reason beyond those boundaries within which every (theoretical) concept of nature had to remain restricted without hope.

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