On Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Judgement’​: A Glimpse of Eternity — part four

‘Burnt Norton’ (excerpt)

by T. S. Eliot, (1888–1965)

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

… Desire itself is movement

Not in itself desirable;

Love is itself unmoving,

Only the cause and end of movement,

Timeless, and undesiring

Except in the aspect of time

Caught in the form of limitation

Between un-being and being.

Immanuel Kant, (1724–1804), in the ‘Critique of Judgement’, presents us with an antinomy (real or apparent mutual incompatibility of two laws, a contradiction) of teleological judgement wherein he contends that ‘all semblance [Anschein] of an antinomy’ between the mechanistic principles (explaining phenomena in purely physical or deterministic terms) and teleological principles (explaining phenomena in terms of the purpose they serve rather than of the cause by which they arise) stems from the confusion of a principle of reflective judgement (‘the faculty of thinking the particular as contained under the universal’ or the ‘faculty for subsumption. of the particular under the universal’) with one of determinative judgement (a judgement that proceeds from a general concept or universal principle and designates the particulars which are to be subsumed under the general).

‘The first maxim of the power of judgment is the thesis: All generation of material things and their forms must be judged as possible in accordance with merely mechanical laws. The second maxim is the antithesis: Some products of material nature cannot be judged as possible according to merely mechanical laws (judging them requires an entirely different law of causality, namely that of final causes)’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

It may be supposed that the antinomy can be resolved through demoting these principles from constitutive principles of determinative judgment to merely regulative principles of reflective judgment. (Constitutive principles determine the way things must be, and derive from insight into their nature. Regulative principles govern our theoretical activities but offer no (constitutive) guarantees about the objects under investigation). Problems though. If we assume that the principle of mechanism of the ‘Critique of Judgement’ is equivalent to the causal principle of the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ this implies a turnaround in Kant’s thinking with regard to the status of this principle, and not to put too fine a point on it in demoting the causal principle to merely regulative status could undermine the coherence of the critical philosophy, albeit he does claim in the first Critique that the Analogies in contrast to the Mathematical Principles, are regulative but this has a completely different sense than the claim that the transcendental ideas are merely regulative, since it is compatible with their objective validity as necessary conditions of the possibility of experience. And furthermore, in the light of Kant’s views regarding the requirements for an antinomy it remains something of a mystery on this reading why Kant should have considered that there was even the appearance of an antinomy of judgement (an antinomy between constitutive principles would not pertain to judgment). And even further, the assumption that merely appealing to the regulative status of the apparently conflicting principles is sufficient to resolve the antinomy presents us with great difficulty in interpreting what is going on here.

Support for such an interpretation may be located in the Critique in Kant’s discussion of the presentation (Vorstellung) of the antinomy and preparation (Vorbereitung) of its resolution:

‘… with respect to our cognitive faculty, it is just as indubitably certain that the mere mechanism of nature is also incapable of providing an explanatory ground for the generation of organized beings. It is therefore an entirely correct fundamental principle for the reflecting power of judgment that for the evident connection of things in accordance with final causes we must conceive of a causality different from mechanism, namely that of an (intelligent) world-cause acting in accordance with ends, no matter how rash and indemonstrable that would be for the determining power of judgment. In the first case, the principle is a mere maxim of the power of judgment, in which the concept of that causality is a mere idea, to which one by no means undertakes to concede reality, but uses only as a guideline for reflection, which thereby always remains open for any mechanical explanatory grounds, and never strays from the sensible world; in the second case, the fundamental principle would be an objective principle, which would be prescribed by reason and to which the power of judgment would be subjected as determining, in which case, however, it would stray beyond the sensible world into that which transcends it, and would perhaps be led astray’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

Perhaps there is a possible reading of the text that places the assignment of regulative status to the principles within the overall structure of the resolution of the antinomy while finding room for a genuine antinomy of reflective judgment (between merely regulative principles), and accounts for the role in the argument played by the mysterious notions of an intuitive intellect and a super-sensible ground. But we need to be clear about Kant’s conception of mechanism in particular with the way in which it is construed in the ‘Critique of Judgement’.

‘In the studio’, 1888, Alfred Stevens

In the ‘Dialectic of Teleological Judgment’ we encounter the claim that the principle of mechanism has merely regulative status, and that the constitutive or determinative version of this principle: ‘All production of material things is possible on mere mechanical laws’ is not demonstrable by reason. And yet with the Second Analogy of the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ , Kant argued that we must presuppose, a priori, that each event is determined to occur by some preceding event in accordance with a causal law, that all occurrences in the phenomenal world are causally determined according to universal laws, and Kant not infrequently equates this system of universal law with the mechanism of nature.

Perhaps it is a misreading to suppose that Kant is now claiming that this is merely a regulative principle and that it cannot be established by reason. Rather, the attribution to Kant of a change in the status of the Second Analogy displays a failure to grasp the conception of mechanism to which he is now appealing. Prior to the writing of the third Critique Kant used the term ‘mechanism’ and its cognates in at least two distinct senses. First, there is the narrow or technical sense, sometimes termed material mechanism, which refers to causality by means of interaction between moving particles in space (matter in motion). Mechanism in this sense is closely related to the science of mechanics, which holds, as its fundamental principle, that all change must have an external cause, (this is equivalent to the principle of inertia). As such, it is contrasted with psychological explanation, in which the causes are non-material and internal. The key point, however, is that both of these modes of causation and explanation fall within the scope of mechanism in the extended sense.

The latter, which Kant characterizes in the ‘Critique of Practical Reason’ as ‘mechanism of nature’ is also described as ‘all necessity of events in time according to natural law’. Only mechanism in this sense is equivalent to the transcendental principle of causality and as such it is contrasted with transcendental freedom and not with psychological causation. Although there are important similarities the argument of the antinomy turns largely upon an appeal to two senses of mechanism that cannot simply be identified with those noted above. Mechanism, in the main sense in which it is used here refers to the explanation of wholes solely in terms of the causal interaction of their component parts.

As Kant puts it:

‘Now if we consider a material whole, as far as its form is concerned, as a product of the parts and of their forces and their capacity to combine by themselves (including as parts other materials that they add to themselves), we represent a mechanical kind of generation. But from this there arises no concept of a whole as an end, whose internal possibility presupposes throughout the idea of a whole on which even the constitution and mode of action of the parts depends, which is just how we must represent an organized body. But from this, as has just been shown, it does not follow that the mechanical generation of such a body is impossible; for that would be to say the same as that it is impossible (i.e., self-contradictory) to represent such a unity in the connection of the manifold for every understanding without the idea of that connection being at the same time its generating cause, i.e., without intentional production’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

Mechanism thus described is assuredly closely related to the notion of a material mechanism, indeed it consists in the application of this conception of mechanism to the specific task of explaining natural wholes. At times Kant designates this physical-mechanical explanation yet whereas in his earlier discussions of mechanism in the narrow sense the contrast is with psychological causation (the underlying assumption being that both belong to the mechanism of nature in the broad sense), the contrast now is with a teleological mode of explanation that makes an essential appeal to the idea of the whole as the ground or condition of the parts. This latter mode of explanation Kant sometimes designates as the ‘technic of nature’ and is significant for the estimation of living organisms. Mechanism in this sense is quite evidently a regulative principle in virtue of there being nothing in the Second Analogy requiring all causal explanation to be of this sort. The concept of causality involves a succession in time but not an enclosure in space. Against this it might be argued that Kant indicates that the principle of mechanism is provided to judgment by the mere understanding a priori (ihr der blosse Verstand a priori an die Hand giebt) and that he further insists that ‘unless I make it the basis of my research there can be no knowledge of nature in the true sense at all’.

‘Blonde Woman Before an Easel’, ca. 1903–1906, Edward Hopper

Such claims may suggest that Kant is still linking mechanism closely to, if not quite identifying it with, the principle of causality and therefore has to allow it more than a merely regulative status. But this is another misreading, for in his account of the peculiarity of the human understanding Kant makes it clear that the reason why we are constrained to understand nature in mechanistic terms has nothing directly to do with the constitutive role in experience of the principle of causality but is rather that because of the discursive nature of our understanding that requires us to move from the ‘analytic universal’ to particulars (from concepts to intuitions), we are incapable of understanding a ‘real whole in nature’ other than as ‘the effect of the concurrent dynamical forces of the parts’.

Mechanism in this sense certainly presupposes the Second Analogy but it is neither entailed by nor equivalent to it, and so granting it regulative status does not entail any change in status of the causal principle. And further, this connection of mechanism in the narrow sense with the discursivity of the human understanding enables us to understand the extended sense of mechanism to which Kant also appeals in the third Critique. Mechanism in this sense encompasses any mode of causality that operates non-purposively, and Kant introduces this conception in connection with his appeal to the problematic idea of an intuitive (non-discursive) intellect. The basic idea is that such an intellect could cognize mechanistically what we, because of our discursive intellect, can only conceive as the product of an intelligent causality, that is, in terms of a purpose.

And given that the concept of causality and the corresponding principle like all the pure concepts and principles are merely rules for a discursive understanding they obviously cannot be associated with a non-discursive intellect, and so this extended sense of mechanism, which, since it is characterized in purely negative terms, might be termed ‘transcendental mechanism’, (cf. the analogous notion of a ‘transcendental materialism’, also called ‘materialism in an extended sense’), cannot be equated with the ‘mechanism of nature’ of the first two Critiques. But are there not three senses of mechanism in the ‘Critique of Judgment’? The first consists in the conception of the determination of a particular through the concept of causality, entirely apart from the question of the nature of the understanding involved. Characterizing the conception in this way may well ground its connection with an intuitive or non-discursive intellect but ex hypothesi such an intellect would not make use of the concept of causality (or any other concept) and, therefore, this would not count as a mechanism in any but a Pickwickian sense.

‘MR. BLOTTON (of Aldgate) rose to order. Did the honourable Pickwickian allude to him? (Cries of ‘Order’, ‘Chair’, ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Go on’, ‘Leave off’, etc.)

‘MR. PICKWICK would not put up to be put down by clamour. He had alluded to the honourable gentleman. (Great excitement.)

‘MR. BLOTTON would only say then, that he repelled the hon. gent.‘s false and scurrilous accusation, with profound contempt. (Great cheering.) The hon. gent. was a humbug. (Immense confusion, and loud cries of ‘Chair’, and ‘Order’.)

‘Mr. A. SNODGRASS rose to order. He threw himself upon the chair. (Hear.) He wished to know whether this disgraceful contest between two members of that club should be allowed to continue. (Hear, hear.)

‘The CHAIRMAN was quite sure the hon. Pickwickian would withdraw the expression he had just made use of.

‘MR. BLOTTON, with all possible respect for the chair, was quite sure he would not.

‘The CHAIRMAN felt it his imperative duty to demand of the honourable gentleman, whether he had used the expression which had just escaped him in a common sense.

‘MR. BLOTTON had no hesitation in saying that he had not — he had used the word in its Pickwickian sense. (Hear, hear.) He was bound to acknowledge that, personally, he entertained the highest regard and esteem for the honourable gentleman; he had merely considered him a humbug in a Pickwickian point of view. (Hear, hear.)

‘MR. PICKWICK felt much gratified by the fair, candid, and full explanation of his honourable friend. He begged it to be at once understood, that his own observations had been merely intended to bear a Pickwickian construction. (Cheers.)’

- Charles Dickens, (1812–1870), ‘The Pickwick Papers’

Resorting to a Pickwickian construction is always a good move when you find yourself in a corner.

Furthermore, Kant neglects to include on his list the main sense of mechanism in the third Critique, both oversights the consequence of an understanding of mechanism primarily in terms of the causal concept of the Second Analogy.

Kant starts off the ‘Dialectic of Teleological Judgement’ by considering the conditions under which the faculty of judgement might yield an antinomy and, therefore, a dialectic. First we are informed that judgement in its determinative capacity cannot produce an antinomy because it does not have any principles of its own capable of generating one. Hence if there is to be an antinomy of judgement it must pertain to it in its reflective capacity, in which judgement serves as a principle to itself. Kant’s procedure here parallels his procedure in the ‘Dialectic of Aesthetic Judgment’ where he contends that an antinomy could arise only at the metalevel and that it must concern the principles of a critique of taste rather than taste itself. Yet given that the function of reflective judgement is to provide maxims or subjective principles of reflection that enable judgement to find universals (concepts and laws) for given particulars (thereby making possible the comprehension of nature in terms of empirical laws), it follows that there can be an antinomy of judgement if an only if it turns out that there is a conflict between equally necessary maxims both of which have their ground in our cognitive capacities.

The latter condition is necessary in order to ensure that the illusion generated by the conflict (or appearance thereof) is natural and unavoidable thereby requiring a transcendental critique to expose and resolve it. Such a task is evidently enough to locate two equally necessary maxims both of which are required for the unification of nature in accordance with empirical laws. Kant asserts that there are, indeed, two such maxims presupposed by judgment, that they do not seem to be compatible with one another (nicht wohl neben einander bestehen zu konnen den Anschein haben), and, finally, that this apparent incompatibility casts judgment into a real muddle with regard to its principles of reflection.

These are: ‘All production of material things and their forms must be estimated as possible on mere mechanical laws’, and: ‘Some products of material nature cannot be estimated as possible on mere mechanical laws (that is, for estimating them quite a different law of causality is required, namely, that of final causes)’. Thus formulated these two maxims do not merely appear to be incompatible with one another but are indeed incompatible. This was noted by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770–1831):

‘Where purposiveness is discerned, an intelligence [Verstand] is assumed as its author, and for the end we therefore demand the Notion’s own free Existence. Teleology is especially contrasted with mechanism, in which the determinateness posited in the object, being external, is essentially one in which no self-determination is manifested. The opposition between causae effidentes and causae finales, between merely efficient and final causes, relates to this distinction; and this distinction, taken in a concrete form, is also made the criterion for deciding whether the absolute essence of the world is to be conceived as blind natural mechanism or as an intelligence that determines itself in accordance with ends. The antinomy between fatalism, along with determinism and freedom, is likewise concerned with the opposition of mechanism and teleology; for the free is the Notion in its Existence’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Kant first maintains that all production of material things must be estimated mechanically and the second that some cannot be. This is a direct contradiction, yet Kant suggests that a contradiction arises only when these maxims are converted into the corresponding objective (constitutive) principles of determinative judgment: ‘All production of material things is possible on mere mechanical laws’, and ‘some production of such things is not possible on mere mechanical laws’.

‘Woman with the Easel’, 1936, Georges Braque

In that event Kant insists there would be an antinomy, albeit one pertaining to reason and not judgment, and conversely the two above-mentioned maxims of judgment do not contradict each other because to claim that I must estimate all production of material beings as possible only in accordance with mechanical laws is not to claim that they are possible in terms of such laws alone. This suggests that the contradiction is to be removed by converting ontological claims about conditions under which things are possible into epistemic claims about the conditions under which they may be conceived or estimated as possible. Alas this will not remove the contradiction but merely relocate from the ontological realm to the epistemological realm.

Why does Kant seemingly believe that the contradiction van be removed by converting the propositions from constitutive to regulative status? What has become of the sought-for antinomy of reflective judgment? Initially we were informed that such an antinomy would require the possibility of specifying two incompatible but equally necessary maxims, both of which have their ground in our cognitive capacities (in this case the nature of judgment). Now we are informed that precisely because the principles in question are merely maxims of reflective judgment they do not conflict and, therefore, there is no antinomy. Perhaps a distinction can be made between the apparent but resolvable conflict between the maxims of reflective judgment and the real unresolvable conflict between the constitutive principles that would not be an antinomy of judgment. Kant thereby seems at once to have disregarded the antinomy that he does in fact describe and to have denied the possibility of the antinomy that he attempts to present.

Well according to Kant’s analysis the import of the claim that the principles in question are mere maxims of reflection is that they are to be considered as guidelines or directives rather than assertions of either ontological or epistemic possibility. Regulative principles cannot logically contradict one another because they are bereft of propositional form albeit this is insufficient to resolve the antinomy. The thesis properly construed states merely that ‘I ought at all times to reflect upon these things according to the principle of the simple mechanism of nature’ and since this requires only that we investigate nature as far as possible in accordance with the principle of mechanism it leaves sufficient room for the appeal to an alternative principle, ‘when a proper occasion for its employment suggests itself’. Correlatively the second assumes that the search for mechanistic explanation be carried as far as possible while affirming the necessity of appealing to the teleological principles for the understanding of a range of biological phenomena (natural purposes). This in no way conflicts with the maxim of mechanism because, as Kant explains:

‘It is not asserted that these forms [biological phenomena] are not possible on the mechanism of nature. It is only maintained that human reason, adhering to this maxim and proceeding on these lines, could never discover a particle of foundation for what constitutes the specific character of a natural purpose’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

However upon resolving the issues with the first part of the conundrum issues with the second become more pressing, for in virtue of the guidelines or recommendations as described evidently not in a state of conflict it becomes hard to see how even the semblance of an antinomy could arise for judgment. In brief we need an account of how judgment in its reflective capacity could fall victim to illusion and hence succumb to a natural and inevitable dialectic. The core of Kant’s response to this problem clearly lies in his contention that the antinomy arises from the confusion of a principle of reflective with one of determinative judgment. To put it another way, Kant’s assertion is that an antinomy or at least the appearance of on is engendered by the failure to recognize that these principles have merely regulative status as maxims of reflection. The antinomy emerges in virtue of each maxim involving a claim of objective validity though depending on the nature and conditions of Kantian antinomies it is unclear whether this can be connected with Kant’s general theory of antinomies according to which such a claim must be demonstrated to be natural and inevitable aside from a transcendental critique. Of itself this appears insufficient to produce anything resembling an antinomy and given Kant’s general conception of an antinomy this would require both that the confusion be natural and hence undetectable without a transcendental critique and that it rest upon the implicit presupposition of some principle that generates two equally compelling but apparently incompatible alternatives. With regard to the first point the essential factor is that regulative maxims or guidelines such as the two at issue appear to involve some kind of ontological commitment. Which is to say that were one committed to the search for mechanistic explanation as a single and sufficient research strategy one is not only presupposing that all phenomena in nature can be accounted for in mechanistic terms one is also committed to the belief that they were in fact produced mechanistically or at least in a manner compatible with their being explicated in these terms. Correlatively if one held that certain classes of phenomena (organic beings) require a different mode of estimation it is because one is committed to a belief about how such phenomena are possible. More specifically one is committed to the view that the purposiveness of organic beings is comprehensible only as the product of an ‘architectonic understanding’ (clearly defined structure) or equivalently an intelligent world cause that acts according to purposes’.

In both cases the movement from (or confusion between) the methodological and ontological levels appears to be natural in the sense that it is based on assumptions that one would normally make, unless instructed otherwise by a transcendental critique. Indeed Kant claims that if we were to regard material things as things in themselves the dogmatic teleologist’s anti-mechanistic claim would follow. It should also be apparent that this move engenders a conflict at the ontological level (between two views regarding possibility) that does not occur when the principles are construed purely methodologically, and furthermore, as is requisite for an antinomial dispute, both parties share a common assumption, which they interpret in contradictory ways. In the present instance, the assumption is that purposiveness entails intelligent causality or design.

Rejecting on a priori grounds any explanatory role for such a conception of causality in the investigation of nature, the (dogmatic) mechanist naturally assumes a reductive strategy in dealing with apparent purposiveness, and correlatively operating with the same assumption the (dogmatic) teleologist takes the same apparent purposiveness as evidence of a distinct type of causality. Thus the antinomial conflict arises and if this diagnosis is correct, then a successful resolution of the antinomial conflict would at least require showing both that neither form of dogmatism is capable of accounting for the apparent purposiveness exhibited by organic phenomena and that it can be accounted for in a manner that avoids any ontological commitment. And this would support the assertion that the two principles in question have merely regulative status, which in the preparation is merely asserted rather than demonstrated. Kant’s endeavour to establish these points starts with the apparently paradoxical contention that: ‘No one has ever yet questioned the correctness of the principle that when judging certain things in nature, namely organisms and their possibility, we must appeal to the concept of final causes’. Since the rejection of the concept of final causes lies at the very heart of the scientific revolution of the 17th century and with the notable exception of Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz, (1646–1716), is a virtual commonplace in the philosophy of the time one understandably enough wonders what Kant is getting at.

Nor is this quandary dispensed with by the assertion that the concept of final causality is universally recognized to be necessary at least as a guideline (Leitfaden) and hence that the only question is whether or not it has merely subjective validity as a maxim of judgment or is an ‘objective principle of nature’. To be sure several philosophers, René Descartes, (1596–1650), Thomas Hobbes, (1588–1679), and Baruch Spinoza, (1632–1677), for instance, explicitly denied any epistemic significance to this concept or principle. But Kant makes it clear that he has precisely such views in mind, indeed Spinoza is one of the philosophers whom he explicitly discusses in this context. Accordingly, the most reasonable course is to interpret Kant’s contention to be that no one had denied the apparent significance of the concept of final causes for the investigation of nature.

This certainly has an air of plausibility for even Spinoza found it necessary to offer an explanation of the confused belief in final causes. So construed, the issue is whether some things in nature (living organisms) merely seem purposive or whether this is an objective feature of them. As one might expect, common to both alternatives is the assumption that real purposiveness entails designed hence one position denies such purposiveness because it rejects design while the other appeals to some version of design to explicate this very purposiveness. The former Kant designates the idealism of purposiveness and the latter the realism thereof.

‘Mrs Mary Milnes Gaskell’, 1838, Christina Robertson

Given that Kant employs both terms pejoratively it is evident that we are to construe them as analogues of empirical idealism and transcendental realism both of which Kant lays siege to in the first Critique, rather than of the transcendental idealism and empirical realism that he endorses. The intent of the argument is to demonstrate that neither form of dogmatism is able to account for the phenomenon of purposiveness which in some form or other is universally acknowledged. The idealism of purposiveness (whether construed with Greek mechanism and its modern day versions as the causality of purposiveness or with Spinoza as the fatality thereof fails to do the job because it cannot provide a viable alternative to the notion of an intelligent cause. To appeal to pure chance in the manner of the Epicureans is to abandon the endeavour to render the phenomenon intelligible rather than to provide an explanation. Furthermore, Spinoza’s endeavour to derive it from a first cause that acts by virtue of the necessity of its nature fares only slightly better. Correlatively the realism of purposiveness which can take the form either of theism or hylozoism (the doctrine that all matter has life) likewise fails because it cannot establish the (real) possibility of the super-sensible principle to which it appeals. Since, ex hypothesi, we must conceive of living organisms as purposive (natural purposes) and since we have seen that no dogmatic position (whether it be idealist or realist) can account for the possibility of this conception, Kant concludes that only the critical path remains.

As Kant here describes this path it consists in the consideration of a concept ‘in relation to our cognitive faculties and, consequently, to the subjective conditions of thinking it, without undertaking to decide anything as to its object’. In the present instance the consequence is that the necessity of considering the purposive arrangement as the product of design (an intelligent cause) is purely a subjective one, due to the peculiar nature of our cognitive capacities. By this move Kant in one fell swoop both accounts for the key assumption underlying the whole debate and demonstrates that properly construed it does not bring with it any ontological commitment. It is evident enough however if this is to be at all convincing Kant must indicate this mysterious peculiar feature of our cognitive capacity and demonstrate just how it makes the appeal to design subjectively (but merely subjectively) necessary for the estimation of living organisms.

Kant’s account is somewhat murky largely owing to his speculations regarding the problematic notion of an intuitive intellect, albeit his response to the first question is relatively clear. The relevant feature of our cognitive capacities is the discursivity of our understanding. In brief, it is the same discursivity which underlies the necessity of estimating natural wholes mechanistically, that accounts for the necessity of regarding living organisms in light of the idea of an intelligent cause. The contention that our intellect is discursive is equivalent to the claim that human cognition depends upon the subsumption of sensibly intuited particulars under concepts and this is the picture of cognition that underlies the fundamental distinction in the first Critique between sensibility and understanding as well the corresponding insistence that knowledge requires the unification of both factors. In the present instance, however, Kant is concerned with the conditions of the possibility of the subsumption of given particulars under the universals of the understanding. And the basic problem that is central to the ‘Critique of Judgement’ as a whole is that the universal principles underdetermine the particulars falling under them, hence on the one hand cognition is in need of a harmony or fit between the universals and the particulars to be subsumed under them while on the other hand when one goes beyond the transcendental conditions of experience to which particulars necessarily conform this fit turns out to be a completely contingent matter.

Kant addresses this general problem y providing what amounts to a transcendental deduction of the formal purposiveness of nature, that is to say, of the (subjective) necessity for judgement in its reflective capacity to presuppose that nature is specified in its empirical laws in a manner consonant with the requirements of the understanding and in the present context he appeals to the same contingency in order to argue for the subjective necessity of a very different conception of purposiveness (real or material intrinsic purposiveness) albeit there are differing senses of purposiveness. The main points of the argument are as follows. To begin with, as discursive, our understanding must proceed from what Kant calls the analytic universal to particulars, that is to say, from abstract, generic concepts to the concrete objects of empirical intuition. And it follows from this that the understanding cannot, of itself, determine what is specific in these particulars, so we have the familiar contingency of fit problem. The new contention is that this contingency determines the way in which our understanding is constrained to think of wholes in nature.

In brief, there are two ways in which a discursive understanding can comprehend the possibility of such wholes. The first is the mechanistic way and the only one which yields genuine scientific explanation and this involves regarding natural wholes as composed of and conditioned by their parts. Since any whole mechanistically conceived is, therefore, a mere aggregate, the obvious limitation of mechanism is its inability to account for wholes that are not mere aggregates, that is, those in which the whole is thought as somehow prior to and conditioning its parts and their internal arrangement. Such wholes, Kant maintains, can be conceived as possible only by considering the representation of the whole as containing the ground of the possibility of its parts, that is to say, by considering the whole as the product of an intelligent cause or design. This, then, is the second available way of conceiving of wholes, one based upon the model of intentional production or art and yet Kant claims to have shown in the ‘Analytic of Teleological Judgment’ that because of their epigenetic features (non-genetic influences) living organisms must be regarded as just such wholes. This has importance with regard to contemporary views in biology and the philosophy of biology. And consequently given the peculiarity of our understanding it likewise follows that we can only represent such beings to ourselves as products of design.

Assuming the argument of the ‘Analytic of Teleological Judgment’ and the basic outlines of Kant’s theory of the human understanding this suffices to establish the first part of the desired result, namely that our representation of living organisms as purposive reflects a peculiarity of our understanding. It is not sufficient, however, to demonstrate that this is due merely to a peculiarity of our understanding, for all that we have seen thus far it remains possible that every conceivable understanding (including God’s) must conceive living organisms in precisely the same manner. Furthermore, if this were the case it would follow (according to Kant) that the principle of purposiveness is objectively valid as a constitutive principle. It is essential to Kant’s project to show that this peculiarity does not attach to every conceivable understanding.

Since this peculiarity was shown to be a consequence of the discursiveness of our understanding Kant’s strategy is to conduct a thought experiment in which we conceive of the possibility of a non-discursive understanding or intuitive intellect which would be an understanding ‘in the widest sense of the term’. Our conception of such an intellect is completely negative and, as such, parasitic upon that of the familiar discursive variety with which it is contrasted, the salient point, however, is that such an intellect would not move from the abstract (‘analytic’) universal to the particular and hence would not experience the contingency of fit that is endemic to our way of knowing. Instead it would operate by means of a ‘synthetic universal, or intuition of the whole as a whole’, and proceed from this whole to the parts. Consequently, it would not need to appeal to the idea of an intelligent cause in order to represent to itself the parts as dependent on the whole, which is to say that it would conceive of natural products in light of the extended and purely negative sense of mechanism noted earlier.

Kant takes the bare conceivability of such an intellect to show both that our discursive understanding is not the only (logically) possible form of understanding and that our peculiar manner of estimating living organisms reflects a merely subjective necessity, which, as such, cannot lay claim to objectivity, even with respect to appearances. Since in the first Critique Kant in effect regards space, time and the categories as grounded in the peculiarity of our understanding (and sensibility) while still affirming their objective reality with respect to the phenomenal realm this disclaimer of all objectivity may seem odd but one must bear in mind that purposiveness (like mechanism) is a principle of reflective judgment which functions regulatively in light of the governing ideal of formal purposiveness or systematically. Accordingly, here as elsewhere in the ‘Critique of Judgment’, it is a matter of judgment legislating to itself, not to nature, that is to say, of the heautonomy rather than the autonomy of judgment. (Heautonomy, the unique law-giving activity of the power of judgement).

This connection with formal purposiveness or systematicity is also the central reason why Kant insists that the resolution of the antinomy requires not merely showing that the mechanistic and teleological principles are, in the capacity of maxims, logically compatible but also that they are unifiable (vereinbar) in a single, higher order principle. As Kant sees it, if this were not the case, they could not both enter consistently into the same survey of nature (sie sonst in der Naturbetrachtung nicht neben einander bestehen konnten). In other words, without such unifiability, at least in principle, the regulative idea that empirical laws cohere in a system would have to be abandoned in the biological domain since mechanistic and teleological modes of estimation could not be combined in a single research program.

‘Interior with a young woman at an easel’, 1821, Frederik Lange

Furthermore, the systematicity requirement cannot be met simply by eliminating mechanism completely from biology. Unlike products of art, biological phenomena are parts of nature (natural products) and, as such, must be susceptible to mechanistic explanation and since mechanism cannot be eliminated, while teleological reflection is required if one is even to begin to conceptualize biological phenomena (grasp them as organized), the only alternative is to subordinate the mechanistic to the teleological principle. Clearly this requires that the two principles somehow be unifiable, and Kant concludes that our warrant to assume this is provided by the governing transcendental principle of purposiveness. The question, then, is how this unifying of the teleological and mechanistic principles is to be conceived. Since both must be preserved it clearly cannot be by means of a reductive strategy, which would seek to explain organic phenomena entirely in mechanistic terms.This corresponds to an explanatory reductionism a view that Kant rejects and to be distinguished from both an ontological reductionism or physicalism, which maintains that biological processes are describable and have causes that are describable in physiochemical terms and a methodological reductionism which requires us to investigate nature as if it were explicable in purely mechanistic terms. To each of these, of course, there corresponds a form of anti-reductionism and Kant’s explanatory anti-reductionism does not commit him to either the ontological or the methodological varieties. Kant is not an ontological anti-reductionist since this would amount to the kind of dogmatic view he critiques and that he is to some degree a methodological reductionist since he maintains that we should always reflect upon vital phenomena as far as possible in accordance with the principle of the mere mechanism of nature. However it may be that Kant is an ontological anti-reductionist even granting the distinction between a methodological and an explanatory reductionism attributing to Kant even a weak form of the former raises issues for after all Kant claims that we ought to proceed in our investigation of nature as far as possible in accordance with the principle of mechanism and this already suggests the possible need for another principle.

In spite of the indispensability of the principle of mechanism, Kant remarks that going to the extreme of trying to explain everything in such terms leads reason to lose itself in fanciful postulations that are no better grounded than those suggested by a teleological approach that simply ignores the mechanism of nature. Nor can unification be achieved by treating the two principles as conjointly constitutive, that is, as both involved in the explanation of the production of a given object. As Kant indicates by appealing to the classical example of a maggot, each of these principles, taken constitutively, is incompatible with the other, since they would yield conflicting accounts of how the genesis of an organism is possible:

‘The two principles cannot be united in one and the same thing in nature as fundamental principles for the explanation (deduction) of one from the other, i.e., as dogmatic and constitutive principles of insight into nature for the determining power of judgment. If, e.g., I assume that a maggot can be regarded as a product of the mere mechanism of matter (a new formation that it produces for itself when its elements are set free by putrefaction), I cannot derive the very same product from the very same matter as a causality acting according to ends. Conversely, if I assume that the same product is a natural end, I cannot count on a mechanical mode of generation for it and take that as a constitutive principle for the judging of its possibility, thus uniting both principles. For one kind of explanation excludes the other, even on the supposition that objectively both grounds of the possibility rest on a single one, but one of which we take no account’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

From this Kant concludes that the only way in which we can regard these two principles as unifiable is to think them as jointly derivable from some higher order principle that underlies but is distinct from both of them. But such a principle would, by definition, have to be something super-sensible. As Kant points out, however, the only conception of the super-sensible that is available for theoretical purposes is the ‘indeterminate conception of a ground that makes possible the estimate of nature according to empirical laws’. As super-sensible and completely indeterminate it clearly cannot be employed to explain how the teleological and mechanistic principles can be unified. Nonetheless it does allow room for the conceivability of their unification, which is all that is needed.

Thus, the resolution of this antinomy, like that of the antinomy of taste in the ‘Dialectic of Aesthetic Judgment’ and the third antinomy in the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ culminates in an appeal to a super-sensible ground. At least in the present instance however this ground appears to be little more than the principle of purposiveness itself. Once again, the key is the contingency of fit. To claim that nature, in its empirical lawfulness, is contingent with respect to the transcendental conditions of experience is just to say that such lawfulness is not a function of these conditions, which means that it cannot be regarded as a ‘contribution of the subject’ but since this lawfulness is necessarily presupposed by the subject as a condition of the possibility of empirical knowledge, it likewise cannot be regarded as a merely empirical matter that might break down at any moment.

Consequently the only way in which we can think of it is to attribute it to some super-sensible ground, which, as in all Kant’s talk about the noumenal (at least from the theoretical point of view), functions merely as a placeholder for our ignorance. It is worth noting, however, that a super-sensible ground would be accessible only to an intuitive intellect, which suggests that the conception of such an intellect functions at two points and in two quite different ways in the overall argument. Its initial function is completely negative. By providing an alternative to our discursive understanding it enables Kant to drive a conceptual wedge between the peculiarities (or conditions) of our understanding and those of any understanding, which, ex hypothesi, would also be conditions of things as they are in themselves. By contrast in its role as correlate to a super-sensible ground it functions positively to license the thought of the unifying of mechanism and teleology in a higher common ground, a twofold function of the intuitive intellect. Now we can survey the complex relationship between the transcendental principle of the formal purposiveness or systematicity of nature and the teleological principle. As Kant insists the presupposition of formal purposiveness does not of itself justify the quite intrinsic and extrinsic purposiveness. Nonetheless it does require an investigation into organic beings in light of the model of purposiveness because only in this way can we even begin to conceptualize them.The essential point here is that the idea of purposiveness is needed even to acquire empirical concepts of organic beings, and the acquisition of such concepts is, of course, one of the essential functions of reflective judgment. In addition the same transcendental principle both requires us to assume that the mechanistic and teleological principles are unifiable and provides whatever content that may be given to the indeterminate idea of the super-sensible ground of nature in which they conceivably cohere. Problems remain however, including the connections between this antinomy and the antinomy of taste on the one hand and the third antinomy of the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ on the other.

‘Portrait of Caroline Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt’, 1745, Jean-Étienne Liotard

Kant may well have breathed life into discussion of teleology in modern philosophy but he construed all teleology according to one model, an intentional model of teleology, whereby he denied teleological judgments (and inevitably teleological explanations) objective status, they could have only the heuristic status of a regulative ideal. Hegel disagrees both with Kant’s assessment of the status of teleological judgments and with his analysis, albeit he does accept the usefulness of the intentional model for judgments about the teleology involved in human agency and artifacts but argues that it actually presupposes a more fundamental form of teleology, a functional model. That is to say, the intentional model presupposes that there are some things in the world that are directly responsive to purposes without taking a roundabout route through beliefs and desires. Hegel thus is better able to take account of organisms than Kant and ultimately he argues that teleology is a matter of self-realizing objects and processes, organisms and, in the end, the world itself.

Kant’s principle of teleology is purely conceptual and is not synthesized with sensible intuitions hence teleology is restricted to the sphere of possibility, and what this means is that teleological judgments are not propositions about the thing itself, that is to say, they do not concern the actual determination of the object. Teleology remains entirely independent (that is external) from nature. Since no synthesizing activity takes place, (since teleology is not balanced by an objective world), unity of nature is merely thought, not actually known. For the intuitive intellect, however, since concepts and sensible intuitions are one, possibility and actuality are also one. The objects of the intuitive intellect are not merely possible, they are necessarily actual. For the intuitive intellect there is no need for concepts (that is theories limited to mere possibility) concerning nature because it generates nature from mere intuition (that is., self-determination). All concepts/theories are necessarily actual for this intellect because all objects that it thinks necessarily exist and in order to conceive of nature as purposeful, Kant appeals to the idea of God or an intuitive intellect but this appeal to an intuitive intellect is only used as a guide for research and hence is a theory concerning mere possibility of unity in the object.

Teleology is a transcendental maxim imposed by judgement, an appeal to a cause outside of nature in a super-sensible intelligent being to guide theoretical inquiry, but Kant considers the super-sensible substrate to be beyond sensibility and therefore beyond human understanding so it can only allow us to postulate systematic unity as a possible object of experience (not a real or actual object). That is to say, when we think the object under the subjective principle of teleology, we are not making any assertions about the unity of the object, only about the possibility of unity. Hegel posits teleology as not merely existing within another understanding totally transcendent and ungraspable (God or a super-sensible being), but rather, existing as a thing [Ding], immanent in nature. God’s Reason is immanent in nature, within organic life, which essentially means that Reason exits in (or as) nature. as Hegel puts it the concept of purpose is not existing elsewhere in some intellect but exists here as a thing:

‘Examined more closely, this determination of End lies just as much in the Notion of the thing, that of being in its own self an End. That is to say, it preserves itself; i.e. it is at one and the same time its nature to conceal the necessity, and to exhibit it in the form of a contingent relation. For its freedom or its being-for-self is just this, to treat the necessity [of the relation] as of no importance. Thus it presents itself as something whose Notion falls outside of its being. Similarly, Reason has of necessity to look on its own Notion as falling outside of it, hence as a Thing, as something towards which it is indifferent and which is therefore reciprocally indifferent towards Reason and its Notion. As instinct, Reason also remains at the level of [mere] being and a state of indifference, and the Thing expressing the Notion remains for it something other than this Notion, and the Notion other than the Thing. Thus, for Reason, the organic thing is in its own self an End only in the sense that the necessity which presents itself as hidden in the action of the thing-for this behaves as an indifferent being-for-self-falls outside of the organism itself. Since, however, the organism as an End in its own self cannot behave in any other way than as an organism, the fact that it is an End in itself is also manifest and present in sensuous fashion, and it is as such that it is observed. The organism shows itself to be a being that preserves itself, that returns and has returned into itself. But this observing consciousness does not recognize in this being the Notion of End, or that the Notion of End exists just here and in the form of a Thing, and not elsewhere in some other intelligence. It makes a distinction between the Notion of End and being-forself and self-preservation, a distinction which is none. That it is in fact no distinction is something of which this consciousness is not aware; on the contrary, the making of the distinction appears to it as a contingent act having no essential connection with what is brought about by that act; and the unity which links the two together, viz. the said act and the End, falls asunder for this consciousness’.

- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’

Hegel contends that we should regard teleology from the point of view of an intuitive intellect and not distinguish between possibility and actuality and as a consequence the concept of teleology would be a theory about the determination of the actual object and not just about the possibility of the object. Hegel’s concept of teleology implies the idea of an intuitive intellect not just as a guide for research but as feature of human cognition albeit he adopts Kant’s idea of an intuitive intellect in his development of the concept of teleology since he granted powers of an intuitive intellect to human cognition. Hegel assimilates teleological judging with the powers of the intuitive intellect because it is capable of eliminating contingency in nature, not just in the idea of nature.

Kant approaches Hegel’s theory of teleology through envisioning the elimination of contingency in the intuitive intellect. Kant postulated the elimination of contingency in nature, for the intuitive intellect there is no contingency between ‘the way natures products in terms of particular laws harmonize with [it]’. But instead of granting human powers the ability to view nature in this way he restricted human powers to discursive thinking which proceeds from parts to whole and not from whole to parts. Kant envisioned an external principle which determined the object (that is external purposiveness) but this external determination only concerned the possibility of the object and therefore could not deliver insight into reality.

If the principle of inner purposiveness had been adhered to and developed in its scientific application it would have brought about a completely different, much higher way of envisioning this purposiveness. Hegel is contending that if Kant had envisioned teleology as part of the nature of things (internal purposiveness) rather than distinct from nature and imposed on it by external means (external purposiveness) it could have counted as a scientific theory, but in the passage cited above Hegel is contending that if we were to count teleology as a scientific theory, that is, if we were to count teleology as a concept which is internal to nature and determines nature, we would be able to conceive of nature’s products as necessarily related.

‘Portrait of a Woman at her Easel’, c. 1660, Gabriel Metsu

Hegel’s critique of subjective teleology occurs in the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ in the section on ‘Observing Reason’ where he starts off by formulating a theory for the objective law of teleology based upon the idea of the intuitive intellect in which there is no contingency between concepts and nature. Hegel formulates his theory of internal teleology in reaction to Kant’s external teleology in which the concept of purpose and thing-hood remain opposed and unrelated terms. Hegel discovers issues with external teleology in virtue of the fact that it remains entirely disconnected from thing-hood. Theoretical unity of nature (that is, external teleology) engendered by the subject remains an abstraction, that is to say, a suppositional activity lacking determination.

Hegel’s critique of Kant’s principle of teleology is about Kant’s recourse to subjective maxims which are used to entertain mere possibilities instead of making teleology an objective principle which describes actuality. Kant’s principle of Reason does not count as an explanation about the construction of objects themselves. Since Kant establishes human intellect as discursive, which posits a contingent relationship between concepts and nature’s products, teleology and nature remain external unrelated terms, and hence, teleology cannot yield objectivity, necessity or universality. Hegel argues that if teleology remains a theoretical construct and subjective addition, then it cannot serve as an adequate ground for natural science. Furthermore, in order to count as a scientific theory (that is an objective, universal and necessary law) it cannot be an external form and subjective addition but must be a determinate concept in order to count as a proposition about the thing-itself. Hegel considers teleology to be a theory of the universal system of nature, a universal that is not just an abstraction, but that is also determined. The theory of teleology would have no force (it would not be an adequate explanation of nature) if we did not assume that nature itself contained unity.

Hegel contends that we must go beyond the abstraction in order to prove that teleology exists in nature and proof must be extracted from observation of nature in order for it to be a scientific theory, otherwise, if it were not scientific, it would not be useful at all. A Hegel puts it, what does not appear, is for consciousness nothing at all:

‘To the observing consciousness, the truth of the law is found in experience, in the same way that sensuous being is [an object] for consciousness; is not in and for itself. But if the law does not have its truth in the Notion, it is a contingency, not a necessity, not, in fact, a law. But the fact that it is essentially in the form of Notion, not only does not conflict with its being accessible to observation, but rather for that very reason gives its necessary existence, and makes it [an object] for observation. The universal, in the sense of the universality of Reason, is also universal in the sense implied in the above Notion, viz. that it is for consciousness, that it displays itself as something present and actual. In other words, the Notion displays itself in the form of thing-hood and sensuous being; but it does not on that account lose its nature, nor relapse into an inert subsistence or an indifferent succession. What is universally valid is also universally effective; what ought to be, in fact also is, and what only ought to he without [actually] being, has no truth. The instinct of Reason, for its part, rightly holds firmly to this standpoint, and refuses to be led astray by figments of thought which only ought to be and, as ‘oughts’, are credited with truth, although they are nowhere met with in experience; or by hypotheses as little as by all the other invisible entities of a perennial ‘ought’. For Reason is just this certainty of possessing reality; and what is not present for consciousness as something existing in its own right [Selbstwesen], i.e. what does not appear, is for consciousness nothing at all’.

- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’

‘At the same time however this portrayal of nature remains merely teleological [nur teleologisch], meaning valid only as a maxim of our limited discursive thinking human understanding, in whose general concepts the particular appearances of nature are not contained. From this human point of view nothing about the reality of nature is supposed to be said, this standpoint remains through and through something subjective and nature a pure objective, something merely thought’.

- ‘The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s System of Philosophy’.

Hegel target here is of course Kant for maintaining the subject-object distinction. Kant limited human thought to discursive thinking, so the concept of teleology remains a subjective construct, and nature an objective thing and in so doing the concept of teleology is not capable of explaining the particular appearances of nature. Instead of limiting teleology to discursive thinking as Kant had by deriving unity from a mere idea determined by external purposes (from the maxims of human reason), Hegel removed the restrictions Kant placed upon human understanding so that the concept of teleology could be conceived as part of the construction of nature. The concept of teleology considered as a scientific theory means that it explains the determination of objects themselves, including nature’s appearances.

Teleology for Hegel is not a transcendental principle which extends beyond our understanding, but rather, is immanent and observable in nature’s products. The subject-object distinction is thereby eliminated in Hegel’s understanding of teleology. Teleology counts as an absolute judgment, that is to say, a proposition about the thing-itself because the concept and the intuition are one. Furthermore, Hegel does not consider Kant’s principle to be a law at all because its referent is not objective reality, but instead, something wholly separate from reality. The law of teleology must be objective, that is, discoverable in nature in order to be considered a law and to be scientific. Hegel considers Kant’s concept of teleology to be a limited insight since the theory does not go beyond the subject, that is, it does not extend beyond the subject into nature.

And so, what of an objective law of teleology then? Hegel regards the concept of teleology from the point of view of an intuitive understanding in the sense that teleology is both conceptual and sensuous. The concepts of teleology and nature do not have a separate and isolated content matter, their form differs, but their content is the same. The form of teleology takes the shape of a concept and also as an object in nature. In other words, the content of the theory is expressed as nature because concept and object are one and the same. Hegel describes the objective law of teleology as a non-sensuous sensuosity (unsinnliches Sinnliches):

‘Matter, on the contrary, is not an existent thing, but is being in the form of a universal, or in the form of a Notion. Reason which is still instinctive makes this correct distinction, without being aware that just by testing the law on all sensuous being, it gets rid of the merely sensuous being of the law, and when it interprets the moments of the law as ‘matters’, their essential nature has become for Reason a universal, and as such is expressed as a non·sensuous thing of sense, as an incorporeal and yet objective being’.

- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’

The law exhibits itself in nature as two related moments.First, sensuous, empirical being (empirical and particular), and second sublation of sensuous being (necessary and universal). The concept of teleology first appears from the point of view of observation as empirical and particular being. As it first appears to observation the concept turns out to ‘exist in the mode of thing-hood and sensuous being’. Hegel contends that the law of teleology must have sensuous existence and be available to experience, that is, available for observation in order to count as an objective and scientific law. ‘It [the organic as purpose] is phenomenally and sensuously present that it is a purpose in itself and is thus observed’.

As the law first appears it exhibits itself impurely, as enveloped in individual sensuous being, and the concept which constitutes its nature exhibits itself as sunken in empirical material. The sensuous stage of the law has the same limits as the point of view of a discursive understanding which posits empirical particulars as contingently related. Contingency of particulars is seen as the most uncertain form of knowledge of nature. When objects are viewed as isolated things which are contingently related (that is difference), nature is not yet conceived as a unified whole, nature is viewed as contingent. It only partially exhibits the concept of teleology. ‘Isolated things have no actuality’, says Hegel. In this phase of knowledge of nature it is not yet understood how the parts relate to the whole.

As a result of contingency of particulars consciousness is impelled to move to the second stage, the universal aspect of the law whereby the isolated objects are seen as necessarily related (that is identity). Consciousness moves to the point of view of the intuitive understanding and intuits nature as a whole instead of an aggregate of unrelated parts. Consciousness shifts its point of view away from the contingency of particularity, and instead, finds the necessity of the concept of teleology expressed as an organic whole whereby purposiveness is saturated in every part of nature.

The inner significance of this research is that it finds the pure conditions of the law, and even if the consciousness expressing this should think that by doing so it is saying something different, it in fact is saying nothing else than that it is supposed to elevate the law entirely into the concept and to do away with all the link its moments have to determinate being. Consciousness instinctively elevates the sensuous being of the law into a concept in order to make particulars a comprehensible system (that is, to eliminate contingency remaining in observation). Hegel had made a parallel argument in the previous section on ‘Sense- Certainty’ in the Phenomenology where he argues that when we perceive things by means of sensibility, consciousness is perceiving things in their immediate state as individual properties with no relationship to one another. Things are a series of ‘thises’, ‘heres’ or ‘nows’ with no connection. But he continues, that things do not have truth at this stage of thinking.

Particulars by themselves are the poorest form of truth because they are detached, unrelated things. Consciousness instinctually moves from the standpoint of viewing nature in terms of particulars, to viewing them as concepts, since ‘things have truth only as concepts’. The richest understanding of nature would be to postulate particulars in the form of a universal concept, that is the universal concept of teleology. In the parallel argument dealing with the law of teleology in the section on ‘Reason’, Reason sublates the sensuous being of the law of teleolog, and isolated things in nature are conceived conceptually as a whole system of interrelated parts. The concept of the organic whole, or the objective law of teleology, is thus when consciousness views the relation of natural objects as one purposeful concept.

‘Self portrait at her easel’, Maria Schalcken, (1645–1699)


by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, (1788–1805)

Ah, from this valley’s depths

that cold mists are pressing,

if I could only find a way out,

ah, how lucky I would feel!

Over there I glimpse pretty hills,

ever young and ever green!

If I had pinions, if I had wings,

I would soar over to those hills.

Harmonies I hear tinkling,

tones of sweet, heavenly peace;

and light winds bring

to me the scent of balsam.

Golden fruit I see glowing,

beckoning between dark leaves;

and the flowers that bloom there,

will never become Winter’s prey.

Ah, how fine it must be to wander

there in eternal sunshine,

and the air on those heights —

O how refreshing it must be!

Yet I am stymied by the charging river,

that roars between us in rage;

its waves are so high

that my soul is horrified.

I see a small boat rocking there,

but ah! the ferryman is missing.

Go briskly to it and without hesitation:

his sails are ready.

You must believe, you must dare it,

for the Gods make no pledges.

Only a miracle can carry you

into that fair land of wonder.


Ach, aus dieses Thales Gründen,

Die der kalte Nebel drückt,

Könnt’ ich doch den Ausgang finden,

Ach, wie fühlt’ ich mich beglückt!

Dort erblick’ ich schöne Hügel,

Ewig jung und ewig grün!

Hätt’ ich Schwingen, hätt’ ich Flügel,

Nach den Hügeln zög ich hin.

Harmonieen hör’ ich klingen,

Töne süßer Himmelsruh,

Und die leichten Winde bringen

Mir der Düfte Balsam zu,

Gold’ne Früchte seh ich glühen,

Winkend zwischen dunkelm Laub,

Und die Blumen, die dort blühen,

Werden keines Winters Raub.

Ach wie schön muß sich’s ergehen

Dort im ew’gen Sonnenschein,

Und die Luft auf jenen Höhen

O wie labend muß sie seyn!

Doch mir wehrt des Stromes Toben,

Der ergrimmt dazwischen braußt,

Seine Wellen sind gehoben,

Daß die Seele mir ergraußt.

Einen Nachen seh ich schwanken,

Aber ach! der Fährmann fehlt.

Frisch hinein und ohne Wanken,

Seine Segel sind beseelt.

Du mußt glauben, du mußt wagen,

Denn die Götter leihn kein Pfand,

Nur ein Wun

der kann dich tragen

In das schöne Wunderland.

To be continued …



David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.

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David Proud

David Proud

David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.