The Critique of Pure Reason

Immanuel Kant
by Immanuel Kant
translated by J. M. D. Meiklejohn

Human reason, in one sphere of its cognition, is called upon to consider
questions, which it cannot decline, as they are presented by its own
nature, but which it cannot answer, as they transcend every faculty of
the mind.
It falls into this difficulty without any fault of its own. It begins with
principles, which cannot be dispensed with in the field of experience,
and the truth and sufficiency of which are, at the same time, insured by
experience. With these principles it rises, in obedience to the laws of its
own nature, to ever higher and more remote conditions. But it quickly
discovers that, in this way, its labours must remain ever incomplete,
because new questions never cease to present themselves; and thus it
finds itself compelled to have recourse to principles which transcend
the region of experience, while they are regarded by common sense
without distrust. It thus falls into confusion and contradictions, from
which it conjectures the presence of latent errors, which, however, it is
unable to discover, because the principles it employs, transcending the
limits of experience, cannot be tested by that criterion. The arena of
these endless contests is called Metaphysic.
Time was, when she was the queen of all the sciences; and, if we take
the will for the deed, she certainly deserves, so far as regards the high
importance of her object-matter, this title of honour. Now, it is the
fashion of the time to heap contempt and scorn upon her; and the
matron mourns, forlorn and forsaken, like Hecuba:

Modo maxima rerum, Tot generis, natisque potens... Nunc trahor exul,
inops. -- Ovid, Metamorphoses. xiii
At first, her government, under the administration of the dogmatists,
was an absolute despotism. But, as the legislative continued to show
traces of the ancient barbaric rule, her empire gradually broke up, and
intestine wars introduced the reign of anarchy; while the sceptics, like
nomadic tribes, who hate a permanent habitation and settled mode of
living, attacked from time to time those who had organized themselves
into civil communities. But their number was, very happily, small; and
thus they could not entirely put a stop to the exertions of those who
persisted in raising new edifices, although on no settled or uniform plan.
In recent times the hope dawned upon us of seeing those disputes
settled, and the legitimacy of her claims established by a kind of
physiology of the human understanding--that of the celebrated Locke.
But it was found that--although it was affirmed that this so-called
queen could not refer her descent to any higher source than that of
common experience, a circumstance which necessarily brought
suspicion on her claims--as this genealogy was incorrect, she persisted
in the advancement of her claims to sovereignty. Thus metaphysics
necessarily fell back into the antiquated and rotten constitution of
dogmatism, and again became obnoxious to the contempt from which
efforts had been made to save it. At present, as all methods, according
to the general persuasion, have been tried in vain, there reigns nought
but weariness and complete indifferentism--the mother of chaos and
night in the scientific world, but at the same time the source of, or at
least the prelude to, the re-creation and reinstallation of a science, when
it has fallen into confusion, obscurity, and disuse from ill directed
For it is in reality vain to profess indifference in regard to such
inquiries, the object of which cannot be indifferent to humanity.
Besides, these pretended indifferentists, however much they may try to
disguise themselves by the assumption of a popular style and by
changes on the language of the schools, unavoidably fall into
metaphysical declarations and propositions, which they profess to
regard with so much contempt. At the same time, this indifference,

which has arisen in the world of science, and which relates to that kind
of knowledge which we should wish to see destroyed the last, is a
phenomenon that well deserves our attention and reflection. It is plainly
not the effect of the levity, but of the matured judgement* of the age,
which refuses to be any longer entertained with illusory knowledge, It
is, in fact, a call to reason, again to undertake the most laborious of all
tasks--that of self-examination, and to establish a tribunal, which may
secure it in its well-grounded claims, while it pronounces against all
baseless assumptions and pretensions, not in an arbitrary manner, but
according to its own eternal and unchangeable laws. This tribunal is
nothing less than the critical investigation of pure reason.
[*Footnote: We very often hear complaints of the shallowness of the
present age, and of the decay of profound science. But I do not think
that those
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