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SECTION II. Of the Supreme Principle of all Synthetical Judgements.

The explanation of the possibility of synthetical judgements is a task with which general logic has nothing to do; indeed she needs not even be acquainted with its name. But in transcendental logic it is the most important matter to be dealt with- indeed the only one, if the question is of the possibility of synthetical judgements a priori, the conditions and extent of their validity. For when this question is fully decided, it can reach its aim with perfect ease, the determination, to wit, of the extent and limits of the pure understanding.

In an analytical judgement I do not go beyond the given conception, in order to arrive at some decision respecting it. If the judgement is affirmative, I predicate of the conception only that which was already cogitated in it; if negative, I merely exclude from the conception its contrary. But in synthetical judgements, I must go beyond the given conception, in order to cogitate, in relation with it, something quite different from that which was cogitated in it, a relation which is consequently never one either of identity or contradiction, and by means of which the truth or error of the judgement cannot be discerned merely from the judgement itself.

Granted, then, that we must go out beyond a given conception, in order to compare it synthetically with another, a third thing is necessary, in which alone the synthesis of two conceptions can originate. Now what is this tertium quid that is to be the medium of all synthetical judgements? It is only a complex in which all our representations are contained, the internal sense to wit, and its form a priori, time.

The synthesis of our representations rests upon the imagination; their synthetical unity (which is requisite to a judgement), upon the unity of apperception. In this, therefore, is to be sought the possibility of synthetical judgements, and as all three contain the sources of a priori representations, the possibility of pure synthetical judgements also; nay, they are necessary upon these grounds, if we are to possess a knowledge of objects, which rests solely upon the synthesis of representations.

If a cognition is to have objective reality, that is, to relate to an object, and possess sense and meaning in respect to it, it is necessary that the object be given in some way or another. Without this, our conceptions are empty, and we may indeed have thought by means of them, but by such thinking we have not, in fact, cognized anything, we have merely played with representation. To give an object, if this expression be understood in the sense of "to present" the object, not mediately but immediately in intuition, means nothing else than to apply the representation of it to experience, be that experience real or only possible. Space and time themselves, pure as these conceptions are from all that is empirical, and certain as it is that they are represented fully a priori in the mind, would be completely without objective validity, and without sense and significance, if their necessary use in the objects of experience were not shown. Nay, the representation of them is a mere schema, that always relates to the reproductive imagination, which calls up the objects of experience, without which they have no meaning. And so it is with all conceptions without distinction.

The possibility of experience is, then, that which gives objective reality to all our a priori cognitions. Now experience depends upon the synthetical unity of phenomena, that is, upon a synthesis according to conceptions of the object of phenomena in general, a synthesis without which experience never could become knowledge, but would be merely a rhapsody of perceptions, never fitting together into any connected text, according to rules of a thoroughly united (possible) consciousness, and therefore never subjected to the transcendental and necessary unity of apperception. Experience has therefore for a foundation, a priori principles of its form, that is to say, general rules of unity in the synthesis of phenomena, the objective reality of which rules, as necessary conditions even of the possibility of experience can which rules, as necessary conditions- even of the possibility of experience- can always be shown in experience. But apart from this relation, a priori synthetical propositions are absolutely impossible, because they have no third term, that is, no pure object, in which the synthetical unity can exhibit the objective reality of its conceptions.

Although, then, respecting space, or the forms which productive imagination describes therein, we do cognize much a priori in synthetical judgements, and are really in no need of experience for this purpose, such knowledge would nevertheless amount to nothing but a busy trifling with a mere chimera, were not space to be considered as the condition of the phenomena which constitute the material of external experience. Hence those pure synthetical judgements do relate, though but mediately, to possible experience, or rather to the possibility of experience, and upon that alone is founded the objective validity of their synthesis.

While then, on the one hand, experience, as empirical synthesis, is the only possible mode of cognition which gives reality to all other synthesis; on the other hand, this latter synthesis, as cognition a priori, possesses truth, that is, accordance with its object, only in so far as it contains nothing more than what is necessary to the synthetical unity of experience.

Accordingly, the supreme principle of all synthetical judgements is: "Every object is subject to the necessary conditions of the synthetical unity of the manifold of intuition in a possible experience."

A priori synthetical judgements are possible when we apply the formal conditions of the a priori intuition, the synthesis of the imagination, and the necessary unity of that synthesis in a transcendental apperception, to a possible cognition of experience, and say: "The conditions of the possibility of experience in general are at the same time conditions of the possibility of the objects of experience, and have, for that reason, objective validity in an a priori synthetical judgement."


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first edition 1994/12/23 last modified 1999/8/29