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ON THE ANTITHESIS

The proof in favour of the infinity of the cosmical succession and the cosmical content is based upon the consideration that, in the opposite case, a void time and a void space must constitute the limits of the world. Now I am not unaware, that there are some ways of escaping this conclusion. It may, for example, be alleged, that a limit to the world, as regards both space and time, is quite possible, without at the same time holding the existence of an absolute time before the beginning of the world, or an absolute space extending beyond the actual world- which is impossible. I am quite well satisfied with the latter part of this opinion of the philosophers of the Leibnitzian school. Space is merely the form of external intuition, but not a real object which can itself be externally intuited; it is not a correlate of phenomena, it is the form of phenomena itself. Space, therefore, cannot be regarded as absolutely and in itself something determinative of the existence of things, because it is not itself an object, but only the form of possible objects. Consequently, things, as phenomena, determine space; that is to say, they render it possible that, of all the possible predicates of space (size and relation), certain may belong to reality. But we cannot affirm the converse, that space, as something self-subsistent, can determine real things in regard to size or shape, for it is in itself not a real thing. Space (filled or void)* may therefore be limited by phenomena, but phenomena cannot be limited by an empty space without them. This is true of time also. All this being granted, it is nevertheless indisputable, that we must assume these two nonentities, void space without and void time before the world, if we assume the existence of cosmical limits, relatively to space or time.

*It is evident that what is meant here is, that empty space, in so far as it is limited by phenomena- space, that is, within the world- does not at least contradict transcendental principles, and may therefore, as regards them, be admitted, although its possibility cannot on that account be affirmed.

For, as regards the subterfuge adopted by those who endeavour to evade the consequence- that, if the world is limited as to space and time, the infinite void must determine the existence of actual things in regard to their dimensions- it arises solely from the fact that instead of a sensuous world, an intelligible world- of which nothing is known- is cogitated; instead of a real beginning (an existence, which is preceded by a period in which nothing exists), an existence which presupposes no other condition than that of time; and, instead of limits of extension, boundaries of the universe. But the question relates to the mundus phaenomenon, and its quantity; and in this case we cannot make abstraction of the conditions of sensibility, without doing away with the essential reality of this world itself. The world of sense, if it is limited, must necessarily lie in the infinite void. If this, and with it space as the a priori condition of the possibility of phenomena, is left out of view, the whole world of sense disappears. In our problem is this alone considered as given. The mundus intelligibilis is nothing but the general conception of a world, in which abstraction has been made of all conditions of intuition, and in relation to which no synthetical proposition- either affirmative or negative- is possible.


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