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Abstract: Kant’s Transcendental Ideal (TI) is presented in a notoriously obscure section of the Critique of Pure Reason. Many readers know that Kant’s principal purpose in the TI is to show how reason fallaciously derives its concept of God from its idea of the world. But this argument is clothed in a language that is unfamiliar even to skilled commentators on Kant’s work. In this essay, I present the historical context of the proof, conduct a detailed exegesis of the proof, and argue that Kant formulated the Transcendental Ideal in such a way as to avoid Spinozism—a point Kant later seems to have doubted could be avoided. I develop my case in light of some comments made in a lesser-known essay that Kant wrote for the 1795 contest of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin.
In the “Ideal of Pure Reason” of Book 2 of the Transcendental Dialectic Kant develops an account of how reason comes to its idea of God. This is the first time Kant shows his own fully developed critical method brought to bear upon the problem of the existence of God. The Transcendental Ideal (TI) presents a host of interpretive difficulties since Kant is not explicit about his purpose in the TI, nor is it clear what kind of “reason” is deployed in the account. With respect to the question of purpose, I think that Kant’s aim is to describe the fundamental error of reason’s transition from a concept of the sum-total of reality to the idea of an independently existing God. This serves the general purpose of the Critique, which is to chasten reason’s speculative flights of fancy. Indeed, Kant’s critique of the speculative proofs of the existence of God which follow the TI are specific reinforcements of this lesson.1 With respect to the question of what (or whose) “reason” Kant is describing here, most commentators suggest that it is a syncretistic blend of his own early Dilucidatio and Beweisgrund reasoning derived from his own Wolffian and Leibnizian training. While it is generally recognized that within the TI Kant’s model of predicative determination owes much to his Leibnizian-Wolffian schooling, it is not so clear in what relation the TI stands to the Spinozism that Kant elsewhere and always eschewed. A fresh reading of the Transcendental Ideal is in order which develops that relation and it is precisely this reading that I explore in the following Spinozist interpretation of the Transcendental Ideal.
© 2002. Idealistic Studies, Volume 32, Issue 3. ISSN 0046-8541.
his view of the transcendental ideal evolved. One of the chief sources of the TI comes from Kant’s earlier work. 4 Along with other forms of dogmatism. In light of some comments Kant makes about the ens realissimum in a later essay I would like to develop the case for why a new interpretation for the TI with reference to Spinoza’s concept of substance and modification is warranted. There. the regulative function of the transcendental ideal becomes. Kant is optimistic that he has found the necessary ground for the most real being—a determining ground which must obtain if there is to be any determination whatsoever. the intention is precisely what is at issue. In the case of the TI. for example. a moral postulate which grounds the supreme principle of morality. Prior to that. however. Kant’s concept of the transcendental ideal is.2 From his earliest formulation of the ens realissimum in the Nova Dilucidatio (1755) and Beweisgrund (1763). In the Critique of Practical Reason. in the context of practical reasoning. such that any interpretation of the TI section in the Critique not only needs to pay attention to Kant’s preceding views from which he now prescinds. Kant has become skeptical of the possibility of having determinate knowledge of the most real being and argues instead that such a transcendental ideal can be at most a regulative idea for reason—an idea which is not entirely without warrant given the natural patterns of our human reasoning. when reason fancies itself to have a determinate knowledge of its concept of God from concepts alone. in the Critique of Judgment. if we are to understand why Kant thinks the former illegitimate while the latter legitimate (within certain bounds) in the new critical philosophy. Kant is already articulating the explanation of how reason comes to its idea of God by means of the requirements of any predicative determination at all. but it is illegitimately conceived when reason uses it transcendently—that is. legitimate as a regulative ideal for reason. Spinozism can be identified as transcendent because of its claims to determinate . Kant continually develops the implications for this critically chastened concept of the transcendental ideal. some of the background of the TI and Kant’s use of that concept needs to be given. in each case. What makes the transcendental ideal “transcendental” and not “transcendent” in the TI is the epistemic distinction between viewing the concept of God as a regulative ideal (a legitimate transcendental application) and viewing the concept of God as a reality of which human reason can possess determinate knowledge (an illegitimate transcendent application). but also needs to take into account Kant’s later views about the transcendental ideal as well. the transcendental ideal has a regulative function in serving reason’s interests to ground the purposive unity of nature. but Kant’s view of the epistemological status of his argument has changed in accordance with the views of the grounds of knowledge as outlined in the Transcendental Analytic. From the first Critique to the Opus Postumum. Likewise. Throughout Kant’s writings.222 IDEALISTIC STUDIES Is Spinoza Important to the Transcendental Ideal? One of the chief goals of interpretation is to make the best possible sense of the text along the lines of what the author had intended through his written words. It is important to note the differences between the concept of a transcendent and a transcendental theology.3 This reasoning is deployed yet again in the first Critique in the section concerning the TI.
To explain affirmative reality. Kant’s purpose there is to argue that his own critical philosophy is the “progress” made since the time of Leibniz and Wolff with respect to the problem of God. ”7 But these remarks are from lectures given in 1784 and it is important to remember that these are lectures on the set text of Baumgarten’s Metaphysica . in fact. God.. reason derives a concept of the most real being as the determining ground of thinghood in general.SPINOZISM AND KANT’S TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAL 223 knowledge of what is supersensible such as when it claims that we may have knowledge (achieved via the geometric method) that all beings are but modes of the one true substance. surprisingly. It may be the case that Kant came to think (as many of his contemporaries did) that transcendent theology is ultimately reducible to a kind of Spinozism.” Kant addresses the issue of “Transcendent Theology. reason attempts to derive the concept of the primordial being from the concept of thinghood in general. in the context of metaphysics.”10 But Kant is keen to point out that our “determinate knowledge” of this realissimum describes rather our own conceptual needs and not the order of objective reality: “metaphysics would do . account. “What Real Progress Has Metaphysics Made In Germany since the Time of Leibniz and Wolff?” 8 In a section of the prize essay entitled “What Progress Can Metaphysics Make in Regard to the Supersensible. the model of predicative determination in the TI section of the first Critique and in the earlier Beweisgrund essay). reason needs to posit a supreme being containing “the totality (omnitudo) of reality (ens realissimum). In the prize essay Kant describes how. driven by a need to distinguish his own critical philosophy from any association with Spinozism. the ens realissimum is. The identification of rational theology with Spinozism was common in German philosophical circles in the later eighteenth century. from a speculative standpoint. than Spinoza’s “atheistic” God.”9 That section may be read as a palimpsest over the Transcendental Ideal since it offers an almost identical. as he is in the later prize essay. Kant suggests that the realissimum is a lot like Spinozism in his unpublished prize essay for the 1795 contest of Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin. where “God and the world are one. In following this procedure (viz. The concept of the ens realissimum is thus no more certain.6 In fact. Kant is not entirely free from that text. That criticism asserts that reason is always in error when it exceeds the bounds of sense. albeit more compressed. The greatest problem that faces an identification of the two concepts is the preponderance of Kant’s statements which distinguish the realissimum from Spinozism.5 Kant’s own writing shows a growing interest in refuting Spinozism which is. I will show that the very reasoning which Kant had outlined in the Transcendental Ideal is later identified by him with a Spinozistic conception of God. declared by Kant to look a lot like the totality of beings in the world (Spinozism). Most striking are Kant’s comments in the Lectures on Philosophical Theology in which he carefully distinguishes between a realissimum that is ens a mundo diversum and Spinoza’s identification of God and the world. Kant’s criticism of Spinoza owes much of its force to his general critique of all forms of dogmatism. Kant’s account offers confirmation that the “reason” of the TI owes a clear debt to the Leibnizian-Wolffian theory of predication and. very likely.
as the supply of marble does for an infinite multitude of statues. merely as a formal property of things. Norman Kemp Smith’s commentary does not mention Spinoza in connection with the TI in any way. or rather their names. This argument and critical judgment corresponds almost exactly to the arguments in the TI. 17 Now.13 Strawson’s comments focus on the “far from compelling” reasoning of the TI.15 Allan Wood has fully analyzed the Leibnizian logic of the TI’s reasoning and he makes only one slight passing comment that the logic of the TI “can be found in Descartes. Does Kant now imply that his account of the transcendental ideal given in the first Critique is Spinozistic as well or. is the supreme metaphysical good. it is nevertheless an error to assume that our concept of the sum-total of reality is the same as the sum-total of reality. and thus are partially real and partially negative.” 16 Michelle Grier makes an interesting (though passing) comment in a footnote to the effect that in Spinoza we have an example of how there can be a real distinction between “dependent being and the fundamental ground of dependent being” in the same way that Kant distinguishes between the omnitudo realitatis and the ens realissimum . thus only through negation). and it could equally have been found in Spinoza and Malebranche. It contains the material for production of all other possible things. is distinguished from the good in the world. Kant writes something very unusual: This One. After having derived the concept of God (in the manner of the TI). and created things are evil only because they constitute parts and not the whole. and the equation of the two in this context poses a serious interpretive challenge. and Wolff. In a world fashioned this way one comes strongly to suspect that this metaphysical God (the realissimum ) is one with the world (despite all protestations against Spinozism). Thus. evil. as the totality of all existing things (emphasis mine). which metaphysics now improvises. but he does not attempt to understand the historical antecedents of the TI whatsoever. is the present account an aberration to be dismissed? What sense can be made of the TI in light of this? These interpretive questions show up as meaningful against a background of commentators who have largely ignored the possibility of the TI referring to a Spinozist conception of God. which are altogether possible only through limitation (separation of the remainder from a certain part of the whole. Leibniz. but he too neglects any association of the TI with Spinoza. like shadows in the sunlight streaming through all the space of the universe. for concepts and so argue sophistically and totally in the dark.14 Walsh demonstrates convincingly that Kant’s story of “reason” is again the logic of his own Beweisgrund essay. though it may be wondered how.12 In the TI. the lacuna of a . although he does make a convincing case that the inner logic of the TI owes much to the Leibnizian-WolffianBaumgartenian context. on the other hand.” 11 What Kant means is that although we determine things to be realities by means of a conceptual procedure of predication whereby we affirm certain predicates and deny certain predicates and so rely on a concept of the sum-total of all reality.224 IDEALISTIC STUDIES better if only it would not take concepts for things and things. Kant never explicitly identifies the realissimum with Spinozism.
While Kant mentions this principle only briefly at the outset. chastened and reduced to an empty formalism. As such. by the test of this principle. Kant reiterates his commitment to the unity of the intuitions of sensibility and the concepts of the understanding as the basis of any positive knowledge as well as introducing some new concepts and their definitions which will figure as essential components in his explanation of how reason gets the idea of God. Kant writes. My goal is to demonstrate that it is possible to interpret the predicative model of the omnitudo realitatis along the lines of a Spinozist conception of substance and modes—an interpretation of which Kant appears to be aware.”19 There can be no objective reality to concepts that are not subject to the conditions of sensibility.18 Section I: The Ideal In General It is important to understand the first section. for it establishes the conceptual groundwork for the TI. in concreto. archetype. and nothing is to be found in them save the mere form of thought. at which point the exuberance of reason’s supposition of a transcendent God is. in individuo. even Spinozistic metaphysical paradigm. We know from book 1 of the Transcendental Dialectic that an idea is a species of representation (with consciousness) which. In this first section of chapter 3. ideal . These concepts include idea . The principle announced in the first line of section 1 is the epistemic principle upon which the entirety of Kant’s critique of the dialectical illusions of the transcendental ideas is based. I shall explain both this principle of unity and each of the new concepts in order to understand in what way the transcendental ideal is and is not acceptable epistemically. a perceptive reader might well anticipate the negative outcome of chapter 3 with respect to reason’s ability to determine affirmatively the question of the existence of God.SPINOZISM AND KANT’S TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAL 225 well worked out account of the TI in terms of Spinozist concept of God in the literature is noteworthy. this principle—a mainstay of his Copernican Revolution— lies silently lurking until pressed to service late in sections 2 and 3. but the need for such a study is apparent in the light of what Kant says in the prize essay.”20 On the basis of this alone. “for the conditions of the objective reality of the concepts are then absent. Kant introduces us in this first section to the distinction between an idea and an ideal. I shall limit my formulations of the doctrine of Spinoza to the sources that Kant himself would have had access to: Pierre Bayle’s Dictionary and Jacobi’s Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza. In what follows. given some conditions which he himself imposes upon the transition from an omnitudo realitatis to an ens realissimum in the TI. “We have seen above that no objects can be represented through pure concepts of understanding. I examine the argument of the first two sections of the Ideal of Pure Reason. ideas are abstractions for which “no appearance can be found in which they can be . It happens also to be a very good one-line distillation of the Transcendental Analytic itself. apart from the conditions of sensibility. belonging to knowledge. clinching the case for the supremacy of critical philosophy over the Leibnizian-Wolffian. is a concept derived from notions and which transcends the possibility of experience.
Ideas serve merely as regulative principles by means of which reason “aims only at a systematic unity.g. A logical negation signifies the opposite predicate of a certain opposed set where the opposite may be a positive predicate as well: e. Transcendental negation. and this means that with respect to the possible content of predicates present in a thing. We shall see how these concepts are relevant in section II. These are archetypes which not only contain all that is in the idea. but contain them as particular individuals in individuo which exist absolutely and as the supreme individual exemplars of what is contained in the idea in concreto.”21 There is in them a completeness for which no determinate empirical experience is indicated —that is to say. Kant expands this principle. can be pointed to by us in our experience in concreto. “non. Kant likens the ideal to what Plato referred to as ideas.”23 Such ideals provide the regulative use of reason with grounds for an ever greater schematic unity of knowledge. there must be a determination of the thing with respect to the “sum-total of all possibilities (predicates). that both ideas and ideals cannot in principle be an object of any particular experience and correspondingly suffer from an incompleteness of determination which makes them.226 IDEALISTIC STUDIES represented in concreto. there is no single thing which.mortal” is the logical negation of “mortal” since it expresses the possibility of something which is not mortal—a being that is a something and not a mere nothing. is even further removed from objective reality. An ideal . being referred to by them. as well as for the promulgation of moral action when they are taken as postulates of practical reason. the principle of determinability. Kant writes. ungrounded ideas. “one of every pair of possible predicates must always belong to it. so the ideal in such a case serves as the archetype for the complete determination of the copy. “[a]s the idea gives the rule. transforming it into the principle of complete determination “according to which if all the possible predicates of things be taken together with their contradictory opposite. on the other hand. This states that “of every two contradictorily opposed predicates only one can belong to a concept. Section II: The Transcendental Ideal (Prototypon Transcendentale) First Step: From the Principle of Determinability to the Principle of Complete Determination Kant begins his explanation with a relatively simple principle. however.”27 The opacity of Kant’s text at A573 supra is clarified when he states that possible predicates may be either logically negated or transcendentally negated.”22 but is never able to accomplish fully the task. such as an angel. . It is important to recognize.”25 This principle goes beyond the mere logical form of predication as described by the principle of determinability because it suggests that for each thing there must be more than a mere absence of contradiction within the thing itself..” 24 This principle is supported by the principle of noncontradiction and is accepted by most every philosopher—Leibniz and Spinoza alike.” 26 Kant tells us that this concerns the content and not the form. in principle. Now. then one of each pair of contradictory opposites must belong to it (every thing considered in respect of its possibility).
transcendental affirmation posits the existence of a certain entity and is “entitled reality. heavy or light.”28 The determination of a thing by means of the principle of complete determination stipulates that a thing is determined to possess a predicate or it does not. since it is parasitic upon transcendental affirmation. present. the latter a universal. Negative determination cannot be thought completely. past. and so far only as it reaches. or determined less than this.”31 We shall see that the concept of individuation can easily be seen in Spinoza’s determination of the modes of substance as well.SPINOZISM AND KANT’S TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAL 227 on the other hand. Second Step: Transition From a Sum-Total of All Possibility to an Omnitudo Realitatis For Kant. The principle of complete determination. although we do not know every predicate that is . But this complete determination “can never be exhibited in concreto . “the complex of all determinations compossible in a being is its THOROUGH DETERMINATION. and can be traced to Leibniz’s theory of complete individuation. viz.”29 This means no more than that an individual being is determined precisely because all of the predicates which constitute its individuality are affirmed in that entity (and their opposites negated). This concept of individuation has deeper roots than Baumgarten. whereas a universal concept remains indeterminate precisely because it admits of many possible contradictory affirmative and negative predicates. are objects something (things). both necessary and contingent. is not sufficient to determine completely an individual with respect to its predicates if that principle relies on nothing other than the principle of non-contradiction. Hence a being is either determined thoroughly.32 In order for there to be a complete determination of an individual there is the need of a sum-total of all possibility which exists prior to the determinatio itself. and future. but its absence. an empirical content. thinks Kant.”33 since it is a concept which is based solely on the faculty of reason and does not have. On the other side. “reality. Wood and Grier both point out that Kant came to disagree (as early as the Dilucidatio) with the Leibnizians and Wolffians on the precise manner in which the principle of individuation works. the concept of the sum-total of all possibility is the condition of the complete determination of each and every thing where such determination is not mere logical determination but complete determination.30 Leibniz argues that “ in the perfect notion of an individual thing there are contained all its predicates. because through it alone. According to Baumgarten.” The sum-total of all possibility thus presents the possibility for the affirmative complete determination of all that exists because we recognize that a thing may only be what it is because it does not contradict all other possible predicates considered as broadly as possible. small or large. The concept of this sum-total is itself completely determined a priori because. in principle. “signifies not-being in itself” such that negation here does not express merely the opposite of a certain property. not that it must possess either one of two opposed predicates such as light or dark. The former is a particular. Wood has argued that this principle of complete determination comes to Kant directly from Wolff and Baumgarten.
” It is the repository of the material of all the possible predicates which Kant. It also happens to bear a striking prima facie resemblance to Spinoza’s God—the hen kai pan mentioned by Jacobi. But this sum-total is more than mere logical possibility. which are altogether possible only through limitation (separation of the remainder from a certain part of the whole. and this only for the purpose of deriving from an unconditioned totality of complete determination the totality of the limited. negation) of material (possible predicates) which conflict with the affirmative determinations of an individual. Third Step: Transition From an Omnitudo Realitatis to an Ens Realissimum Kant refers to the sum-total of all reality as a “transcendental substrate. This sumtotal is the “supreme and complete material condition of the possibility of all that exists.”39 It is clear that this model of predication has deeper roots than Wolff. reason is developing only a transcendental ideal. thus only through negation). In what may be called the “Marble-Quarry Metaphor. produced through the removal (i. it is necessary to understand precisely what Kant means by this omnitudo realitatis. which is translated literally as “the most real being”. In the first Critique . as the supply of marble does for an infinite multitude of statues. since the principle of complete determination is the principle whereby transcendental affirmations are rendered possible. reason “does not presuppose the existence of such a being that corresponds to this ideal. Transcendental affirmations are “reality” and any negation is parasitic upon the sum-total of all reality to which Kant gives the name of the omnitudo realitatis.”34 The important point here is that this “All” is used by reason as an explanatory device (a transcendental ideal) for the determination of predicates which may be applied to things. of the highest reality. Kant tells us that “what thus possesses all reality is just the concept of a thing in itself as completely determined. for it is the basis for their possibility to be rendered determinate as beings. In the prize essay Kant had suggested that we view this “One” under a powerful metaphor which give us an image through which to consider how the omnitudo realitatis and the principle of complete determination shape reality. going back to Plato and furnishing a substantial body of philosophical and theological speculation with its participation metaphor and emanation scheme.” Kant writes “it (the “One”—the “All”) contains the material for production of all other possible things. the ens realissimum. but only the idea of such a being. for determinate things are “merely limitations of a greater and ultimately. in turn. calls the “omnitudo realitatis. In order to see this. Kant writes that the omnitudo realitatis is “the whole store of material from .”38 This ideal is the archetype (prototypon) of all things.”40 In this case.228 IDEALISTIC STUDIES contained in the sum-total. like the statues of Michelangelo.”35 But the complete determination of things in themselves runs contrary to the Transcendental Analytic’s conclusion that concepts must be schematized if they are to represent determinate realities. In doing this. It is meant to describe the real ground for the complete determination of things.”36 and must be viewed as an individual.e. we nevertheless know what is excluded from this sumtotal by means of the law of excluded middle and the principle of non-contradiction.37 As such. This forces Kant to make a special plea for the omnitudo realitatis as the unique exception. individual entities are.
. modifications of the one true substance. .SPINOZISM AND KANT’S TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAL 229 which all possible predicates of things must be taken . however. Bayle describes the many ways in which something (a modification) can be said to be “in God. The determination of an individual entity can be represented in the form of a disjunctive syllogism in which the major premise represents the sum-total of all reality and the minor premise represents the negation (limitation. can be avoided simply by keeping these two relations distinct. that is.e. and. division) of that sum-total. according to Kant. the conclusion represents the affirmative realities that constitute an individuated entity.”42 The individual entities are. is based upon a disjunctive syllogism which is the formal logical counterpart of the marble quarry metaphor.’ ”41 In both cases. it also contains them within itself. God is not merely an “efficient and transitive cause” but the material cause in which its modifications inhere as accidents in a substance: “According to Spinoza.43 Kant’s model of predicative determination in the CPR. The pitfalls of Spinozism. be regarded as a limitation of its supreme reality. . comprehends all predicates under itself. God (natura naturans). which holds between substance and accident. upon ‘the All. or as the form of a candlestick in the pewter it is made of. there is the need of the complete determination of a concept of the sum-total of reality which “is not merely a concept which. and the complete determination of any and every thing rests on the limitation of this total reality.”46 Kant may be making this distinction when he argues that “the derivation of all possibility from this primordial being cannot.” For Spinoza. strictly speaking. which holds between its ground or cause. is that it involves the conflation of the relation of dependence. . individuation. however. . The order of dependent beings (natura naturata) is therefore a specific limitation by negation of the sum-total of all reality.”45 What kind of containment does Kant have in mind when he claims that “within” the sum-total of reality all predicates are comprehended? Kant must have known that the realissimum defined in this way looks a lot like Spinozism. as it were a division of it. This concept of an underlying transcendental material substrate and its limitation through determination (negation) bears a striking resemblance to the metaphysical doctrine of Spinoza. the creatures are in God. In the entry on Spinoza in his Dictionary . i. according to Spinoza. then “the primordial being would be treated as a . .” 47 If we mistake the method by means of which our reason merely represents the concept of the sum-total of all reality with the actual ens realissimum.44 Kant argues that in order for there to be any complete determination. I believe that it is for that reason that Kant distinguishes the sum-total of all reality as a container in the sense of a ground rather than as an aggregate. either as an effect in its material cause. all true negations are nothing but limitations . and Bayle recognized that for Spinoza each modification is subject to the principle of non-contradiction and cannot exhibit within itself what is self-contradictory. as regards its transcendental content. with that of inherence. Henry Allison remarks that “one of Kant’s most frequently expressed objections to this conception (the Spinozistic model of God as the world and its beings as modifications of that substance) . or as an accident in its subject of inhesion. the One and All (hen kai pan?) is conceived as the supreme material condition for the possibility of things in general.
The explanation of how we get to the idea of God is nearly complete. that this last step is an illegitimate move on the part of reason. and so it does not describe the order of reality so much as a relation of “ideas to concepts. but also realized that this must be closed off if we are to move from the ens realissimum to a concept of God. Kant claims that with respect to the actual relation (“strictly speaking”) between the primordial being and derivative beings it “must condition the possibility of all things as their ground. Kant warns us. The final move in reason’s assent to the idea is to go beyond the mere idea of such an entity by affirming the existence of such an idea as a real being.230 IDEALISTIC STUDIES mere aggregate of derivative beings. Reason has erred because it “substitute(s) dialectically for the distributive unity of the empirical employment of the understanding. and then think(s) this whole [realm] of appearance as one single thing that contains all empirical reality itself. through a “natural illusion” reason regards this ideal of the ens realissimum as an ens originarium an ens summum and an ens entium from which we derive our concept of God. God is not a substance consisting of the sum-total of reality in this world but is rather the ground of the reality of this world. Reason hypostatizes the idea of God in the following way: first. There is good reason to identify the procedure for deriving the concept of the ens realissimum (i. the collective unity of experience as a whole . however. not as their sum. with this distinction. the sum-total of all reality is conceived under an ideal. in principle. . the ens realissimum .”49 Now. second. the material for the possibility of such determination must be presupposed as given in a sumtotal of all reality omnitudo realitatis . even though it has a strong natural tendency in this direction. Fourth Step: From an Ens Realissimum to the Concept of God The concept of this ens realissimum is easily thought of as the primordial being (ens originarium). Reason hypostatizes the idea of God which is given to it in the concept of the ens realissimum which is. the highest being (ens summum).”52 But since this ideal cannot. in turn. the objects of the senses can be completely determined only when their predicates are ascribed to them affirmatively or negatively through a comparison with all the predicates possible in the field of appearance (no contradiction is asserted). but merely a determinate concept of its idea—hence the ideal of the ens realissimum. be an object of .”48 But the concept of limitation by negation is merely a way to represent transcendental affirmation with respect to the sum-total of all reality (which is nothing other than a transcendental ideal ). closed the door on the possibility of a Spinozist interpretation of the realissimum . And this being is easily conceived under the concept of God . . third. that in moving from the concept of an omnitudo realitatis to an ens realissimum there may be an opening to Spinozism. fourth.” 50 Kant has.e.51 It is important to note that Kant is very careful not to claim that we have determinate knowledge of the existence of such a sum-total of all reality. and as the being of all beings (ens entium ). the procedure of the complete determination of thinghood in general) with the procedure used by both Leibniz and Spinoza. Kant seems to be aware. the given to it through the concept of the omnitudo realitatis. however.
both found in Immanuel Kant. A New Elucidation of the First Principles of Metaphysical Cognition (1755) and The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God (1763). Spinoza’s dictum that God can be thought equally under the two modes of thought and extension as well . that is. Theoretical Philosophy.SPINOZISM AND KANT’S TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAL 231 experience because its concept has no conditions of sensibility under which it may be represented. allow only of empirical and not transcendental employment. “transcendental and transcendent are not interchangeable terms. is called transcendent” (A296/B293). It may be inferred on the basis of the distinctions made in the third step of the preceding exegesis of the TI that Kant did not want to identify the ens realissimum with a Spinozistic conception of God at the time that he wrote the TI section in the first Critique. after the first Critique Kant never attempts deriving a concept of God from the predicative model of determination as he had in the Beweisgrund essay. Such a deduction may have struck him later as no more epistemically tenable than the Spinozism from which he had sought to extricate the ens realissimum in the TI. On this point see W. “Transcendent” and “transcendental” are related to cognition. . which takes away these limits. but pick out different features of that cognition. Indeed. Immanuel Kant. Kant’s overall interest is twofold: 1) to demonstrate the inability of speculative reason to obtain determinate knowledge of God’s existence. 4. on the other hand. 2. It is what Kant later refers to as a mere regulative idea. The principles of pure understanding . The status of the prize essay in the development of Kant’s thought should be seen as a moment of critical reflection in which Kant is yet again reassessing the rational grounds for an ens realissimum . Kant’s Criticism of Metaphysics (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. translated and edited by David Walford and Ralf Meerbote (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Walsh. it is but an empty form of thought. . or even commands us actually to transgress them. To be sure. 3. In the Critique of Pure Reason. 214–219. Concluding Remark Can Kant’s statements about the Spinozistic character of a realissimum derived from a principle of complete determination in the prize essay be squared with the view of the ens realissimum of the TI? I have argued that they can be. Kant avoids conflating the TI with Spinozism by trading off the concept of an omnitudo realitatis as a “sum” of all reality for a concept of an ens realissimum as a “ground” of all reality. pp. A principle. and 2) to demonstrate the inevitability and utility of the idea of God as a “regulative” idea of reason. Marquette University Notes 1. H. Additional work in this vein may wish to situate the prize essay between the concept of God in the TI and the struggle against Spinoza in the later parts of the Opus Postumum. 1975). Kant writes. 1755–1770 . 1992). employment extending beyond the limits of experience.
6. Mass. See. 1987). 5. pp. argued that Wolff’s rationalism. For what is Spinoza’s God. The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte (Cambridge. A Commentary to Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ (New York: Humanities Press. Lectures on the Philosophical Doctrine of Religion. 7. p. to be sure. Kant’s proof was tantamount to a demonstration of the existence of Spinoza’s God. if consistent. op. 137. 1996). and that we claim for that regulative idea only that it be subjectively necessary and not objectively necessary. This essay was never submitted to the contest by Kant. I think Kant accepts the possibility of a transcendental ideal—with the caveat that it be understood as a regulative idea only. The talk of “evil” as a privation does not figure in the discussion of the TI in the first Critique. translated and edited by Daniel O. 10. 11. edited and translated by Allen Wood and George di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. the later parts of the Opus Postumum where Kant distinguishes his own fundamental ontology of a universum consisting of God and the World (as distinct entities) from a Spinozistic universe in which the world inheres in the mind of God. 1962). 381. The Jacobi-Mendelssohn controversy culminating in Kant’s writing of What Does it Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking? is usually seen as the origin of the Kant-Jacobi controversy. Prize Essay. Philosophical Writings. Norman Kemp Smith. p. Prize Essay. p. p. See translator’s introduction to What Does it Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking? in Religion and Rational Theology. Immanuel Kant. 139.: Harvard University Press. pp. edited and translated by Allen Wood and George di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. other than the concept of existence itself. . and its presence here is merely another way of talking about negation. Jacobi’s reading of Kant’s Beweisgrund proof draws the further connection that Kant’s reasoning (clearly derived from the Leibnizian-Wolffian model of complete determination) leads to Spinozism. in Religion and Rational Theology . notably Joachim Lange and Johann Franz Budde. 96–111. 55.” See Fred Beiser. 1983) (hereafter referred to as Prize Essay ). cit. Prize Essay. led straight to the atheism and fatalism of Spinoza. The connection was developed in Mendelssohn’s Dialogues where the character Neophil makes the argument that Leibniz’s system of a pre-established harmony is compatible with Spinoza’s claim that “the order and connection of concepts is one and the same with the order and connection of things. 12.. p. “To Jacobi. The earliest identification of the philosophy of Leibniz with the pantheism of Spinoza may go back to pietist objections against the Leibnizian-Wolffian school. 13. “Some of the disciples of Thomasius.232 IDEALISTIC STUDIES as Leibniz’s view that contingent truths are but confused modes of necessary truths are examples of transcendent reason. Bieser writes. that being of which everything else is only a limitation?” Beiser. Dahlstrohm (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. for example. but was given to his friend Rink in 1802 or 1803.” See Moses Mendelssohn. Prize Essay. 1996). pp. 137–143. Jacobi asks. who published it after Kant’s death in 1804. 139. 9. 8. 1997). Beiser writes. Immanuel Kant What Real Progress Has Metaphysics Made in Germany Since the Time of Leibniz and Wolff? Translation and introduction by Ted Humphrey ( New York: Abaris Books. 522–525.
27. 38. Strawson. 243. C.SPINOZISM AND KANT’S TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAL 233 14. 19. translated by Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. 25.Y. Philosophische Schriften. 28–63. 39. “Individuation in Leibniz and Spinoza. 29. Critique of Pure Reason (CPR). 32. CPR A572/B600. 31.” NASS Monograph #8 (1999). Allen Wood. According to Lee Rice.. Kant’s Rational Theology (Ithaca. With the publication of the Jacobi-Mendelssohn letters in Jacobi’s Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Herr Moses Mendelssohn in 1785. p. We could say that the project is not one of describing how people in fact come to have a concept of God. Kant writes. CPR A568/B596. F. Baumgarten. Michelle Grier.: Cornell University Press. W. See Wood. CPR A568/B596. 26. The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (London: Methuen & Co. Wood cites Leibniz. 1890). Kant’s Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. N. Kant’s Rational Theology. 20. 39–40 and Grier. CPR A569/B597. P. p. pp.. Kant’s Criticism of Metaphysics (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 23.Y. H. p. Kant would have had access to a more accurate exegesis of the Ethics. 30. 28. Wood. 1975). 235. CPR A572/B600. 1978). Wood writes. CPR A573/B603. 15. 7:311. This is a brilliant point and one which may explain Kant’s remark about Spinozism in the Prize Essay. “This principle does not rest merely on the law of contradiction. pp. 148 in Allen Wood. Martins Press. 1963).: Cornell University Press. 22. Wood’s commentary on the TI is monumental in that it offers an unparalleled depth of exegesis of the logic of the TI in terms of the especially Leibnizian background. p. pp. 18. for besides considering each thing . Kant (like many of his contemporaries) did not read the actual text of Spinoza’s Ethics. but rather of showing why anyone who thinks philosophically had better have it” (p. pp. note 28. 19–40. “(the TI) is an attempt to show how the concept of a supremely real being arises naturally and even inevitably in the course of working out the implications of a set of commonly accepted metaphysical presuppositions. ed. 17. 24. Gerhardt (Berlin. CPR A575/B603. CPR A572/B600. 62). A568/B596. 16. J. Kant’s Rational Theology (Ithaca. Metaphysica (Halle. p. 2001). Walsh. 1978). The primary source for Spinoza came through Pierre Bayle’s Dictionary Historical and Critical. CPR A568/B596. 221–223. 1965). 21. Kant’s Rational Theology. ss. N. Perhaps Kant himself came to appreciate this feature of Spinoza’s doctrine through an increased understanding of Spinoza through Jacobi’s published works in the mid to late 1780s. 214–219. but also in that it offers a positive assessment of the TI which differs from Kemp Smith’s traditional view. A good treatment of the issue may be found in Lee Rice. 1966). Immanuel Kant.
ibid. and no body can object to Spinoza.234 IDEALISTIC STUDIES in its relation to the two contradictory predicates. CPR A576/B604. seu determinatio ad rem juxta suum esse non pertinet .” On a similar note. translated from the German with an introductory study. and cannot exist out of him or without him. CPR A576/B604. that two contradictory propositions are true of one and the same subject at the same time. 37. and bibliography by George di Giovanni (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. In his twelfth proposition. Bayle. & praeter quod nullum datur esse. “Kant’s Critique of Spinoza. it is according to the rules of Logic. where Kant says that there might be a Realrepugnanz between realities—that they might cancel each other out. Jacobi writes a letter to Mendelssohn in 1785 in which he articulates forty-four propositions which are the core of Spinoza’s doctrine. . 41. in such a manner. 43. Henry Allison. 5 (New York: Garland Publishing.” in The Philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. p. What Real Progress Has Metaphysics Made in Germany since the Time of Leibniz and Wolff? Translation and introduction by Ted Humphrey ( New York: Abaris Books.” In Friedrich Jacobi. are non-entia. 206. CPR A573/B601. The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill . 222. See Wood. Wood has a lengthy treatment of this procedure. 34. It is therefore no wonder if Spinoza called them modifications. 36. it also considers it in relation to the sumtotal of all possibilities” ( CPR A572/B600). Jacobi writes “determinatio est negatio. Kant’s Rational Theology. 40. Kant’s Rational Theology. 33. p. that it follows from his principles. 38. and that each of them constituted a particular principle of actions or passions. 57. 45. 46. See Wood. 1983). est omne esse. 47. 139. vol. so far as they only exist in a determinate mode. 1980). CPR A578/B606. 48. CPR A576/B604. edited by Richard Kennington (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press. The Dictionary Historical and Critical. Smith and England have questioned the legitimacy of the transition from a “sum of all reality” to an “ens realissimum” on the grounds that such a transition is deeply inconsistent with the Amphiboly. he did not deny that there was a real difference between them. CPR A576/B604. notes. pp. Pierre Bayle. 1994). and that when one denies of one of them what is affirmed of the other. hoc est. Wood argues otherwise. 35. CPR A579/B607. 220–221. Immanuel Kant. pp. the indeterminate infinite being is the one single true ens reale. p. 50–55. Individual things therefore. but on the other hand. CPR A579/B607. that one of them does what the other does not. 42. 44. p. 1984). CPR A578/B606. “Those substances are in God. 39. CPR A577/B605.
1987.” Both in Immanuel Kant. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press. New York: St. See Lectures in Religion and Rational Theology. p. 1992. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Translated from the German with an introductory study. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. and bibliography by George di Giovanni.: Harvard University Press. Fred. 1965. “A New Elucidation of the First Principles of Metaphysical Cognition (1755).” in Religion and Rational Theology . 1984. Friedrich. translated and edited by Allen Wood and George di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Theoretical Philosophy. Mass. The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte. Kant’s Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion. Bayle. Pierre. The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill . . “Kant’s Critique of Spinoza. CPR A579/B607.SPINOZISM AND KANT’S TRANSCENDENTAL IDEAL 49. 235 51. 1996). Translated and edited by David Walford and Ralf Meerbote. CPR A583/B611. “What Does It Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?” In Religion and Rational Theology . . Grier. 5. The Dictionary Historical and Critical. Opus Postumum . Kant. 52. Critique of Pure Reason. vol.” in The Philosophy of Baruch Spinoza edited by Richard Kennington. 1994. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . 1993. Kant makes the point that the ens realissimum is an ens extramundum. 1996. edited and translated by Allen Wood and George di Giovanni. 382. 1755–1770. Jacobi. . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. edited and translated by Allen Wood and George di Giovanni. What Real Progress Has Metaphysics Made in Germany since the Time of Leibniz and Wolff? Translation and introduction by Ted Humphrey. Henry. 2001. Beiser. 50. New York: Garland Publishing. edited by Eckart Forstner. . translated by Eckart Forstner and Michael Rosen. 1980. . Cambridge. 1983. “Lectures on the Philosophical Doctrine of Religion. Bibliography Allison. In the Lectures on Philosophical Theology . 1996. CPR A579/B607. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. notes. Immanuel.” and “ The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God (1763). translated by Norman Kemp Smith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Michelle. New York: Abaris Books. Martin’s Press.
Strawson. Smith . Wood. pp. 19–40. A Commentary to Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason. Walsh. 1966. Translated and edited by Daniel O. 1997.. Lee. Philosophical Writings. Kant’s Rational Theology. . F. 1975. W. Ithaca. London: Methuen & Co.” in North American Spinoza Society Monograph #8 (1999). Allen.236 IDEALISTIC STUDIES Mendelssohn. Rice. N. Kant’s Criticism of Metaphysics . Norman Kemp. 1978. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. “Individuation in Leibniz and Spinoza. 1962. Moses. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.: Cornell University Press.Y. H. The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.” New York: Humanities Press. P. Dahlstrohm.