Immanuel Kant

Critique of Pure Reason

translated by Norman Kemp Smith

The architectonic of pure reason


[A 834 / B 862] No one attempts to establish a science unless he has an idea upon which to base it. But in the working out of the science the schema, nay even the definition which, at the start, he first gave of the science, is very seldom adequate to his idea. For this idea lies hidden in reason, like a germ in which the parts are still undeveloped and barely recognisable even under microscopic observation. Consequently, since sciences are devised from the point of view of a certain universal interest, we must not explain and determine them according to the description which their founder gives of them, but in conformity with the idea which, out of the natural unity of the parts that we have assembled, we find to be grounded in reason itself. For we shall then find that its founder, and often even his latest successors, are groping for an idea which they have never succeeded in making clear to themselves, and that consequently they have not been in a position to determine the proper content, the articulation (systematic unity), and limits of the science.

It is unfortunate that only after we have spent much time in the collection of materials in somewhat random fashion at the suggestion of an idea lying hidden in our minds, and after we have, indeed, over a long period assembled the materials in a merely technical manner, [A 835 / B 863] does it first become possible for us to discern the idea in a clearer light, and to devise a whole architectonically in accordance with the ends of reason. Systems seem to be formed in the manner of lowly organisms, [1] through a generatio aeguivoca from the mere confluence of assembled concepts, at first imperfect, and only gradually attaining to completeness, although they one and all have had their schema, as the original germ, in the sheer [2] self-development of reason. Hence, not only is each system articulated in accordance with an idea, but they are one and all organically united in a system of human knowledge, as members of one whole, and so as admitting of an architectonic of all human knowledge, which, at the present time, in view of the great amount of material that has been collected, or which can be obtained from the ruins of ancient systems, is not only possible, but would not indeed be difficult. We shall content ourselves here with the completion of our task, namely, merely to outline the architectonic of all knowledge arising from pure reason; and in doing so we shall begin from the point at which the common root of our faculty of knowledge divides and throws out two stems, one of which is reason. By reason I here understand the whole higher faculty of knowledge, and am therefore contrasting the rational with the empirical.

If I abstract from all the content of knowledge, objectively regarded, [A 836/ B 864] then all knowledge, subjectively regarded, is either historical or rational. Historical knowledge is cognitio ex datis; rational knowledge is cognitio ex principiis. However a mode of knowledge may originally be given, it is still, in relation to the individual who possesses it, simply historical, if he knows only so much of it as has been given to him from outside (and this in the form in which it has been given to him), whether through immediate experience or narration, or (as in the case

1 [wie Gewürme.]

2 [bloss.]

of general knowledge) through instruction. Anyone, therefore, who has learnt (in the strict sense of that term) a system of philosophy, such as that of Wolff, although he may have all its principles, explanations, and proofs, together with the formal divisions of the whole body of doctrine, in his head, and, so to speak, at his fingers’ ends, has no more than a complete historical knowledge of the Wolffian philosophy. He knows and judges only what has been given him. If we dispute a definition, he does not know whence to obtain another. He has formed his mind on another’s, and the imitative faculty is not itself productive. In other words, his knowledge has not in him arisen out of reason, and although, objectively considered, it is indeed knowledge due to reason, it is yet, in its subjective character, merely historical. He has grasped and kept; that is, he has learnt well, and is merely a plaster-cast of a living man. Modes of rational knowledge which are rational objectively (that is, which can have their first origin solely in human reason) can be so entitled subjectively also, only when they have been derived from [A 837 / B 865] universal sources of reason, that is, from principles—the sources from which there can also arise criticism, nay, even the rejection of what has been learnt.

All knowledge arising out of reason is derived either from concepts or from the construction of concepts. The former is called philosophical, the latter mathematical. I have already treated of the fundamental difference between these two modes of knowledge in the first chapter [of this Transcendental Doctrine of Method]. Knowledge [as we have just noted] can be objectively philosophical, and yet subjectively historical, as is the case with most novices, and with all those who have never looked beyond their School, and who remain novices all their lives. But it is noteworthy that mathematical knowledge, in its subjective character, and precisely as it has been learned, can also be regarded as knowledge arising out of reason, and that there is therefore in regard to mathematical knowledge no such distinction as we have drawn in the case of philosophical knowledge. This is due to the fact that the sources of knowledge, from which alone the teacher can derive his knowledge, lie nowhere but in the essential and genuine principles of reason, and consequently cannot be acquired by the novice from any other source, and cannot be disputed; and this, in turn, is owing to the fact that the employment of reason is here in concreto only, although likewise a priori, namely, in intuition which is pure, and which precisely on that account is infallible, [1] excluding all illusion and error. Mathematics, therefore, alone of all the Sciences (a priori) arising from reason, can be learned; philosophy can never be learned, save only in historical fashion; as regards what concerns reason, we can at most learn to philosophise.

[A 838 / B 866] Philosophy is the system of all philosophical knowledge. If we are to understand by it the archetype for the estimation of all attempts at philosophising, and if this archetype [2] is to serve for the estimation of each subjective philosophy, the structure of which is often so diverse and liable to alteration, it must be taken objectively. Thus regarded, philosophy is a mere idea of a possible science which nowhere exists in concreto, but to which, by many different paths, we endeavour to approximate, until the one true path, overgrown by the products of sensibility, has at last been discovered, and the image, hitherto so abortive, has achieved likeness to the archetype, so far as this is granted to [mortal] man. Till then we cannot learn philosophy; for where is it, who is in possession of it, and how shall we recognise it? We can only learn to philosophise, that is, to exercise the talent of reason, in accordance with its universal principles, on certain actually existing attempts at philosophy, always, however, reserving the right of reason to investigate, to confirm, or to reject these principles in their very sources.

Hitherto the concept of philosophy has been a merely scholastic concept—a concept of a system of knowledge which is sought solely in its character as a science, and which has therefore in view only the systematic unity appropriate to science, and consequently no more than the logical perfection of knowledge. But there is likewise another concept of philosophy, a conceptus cosmicus, which has always formed the real basis of the term ‘philosophy’, especially when it has been as it were [A 839 / B 867] personified and its archetype represented in the ideal philosopher. On this view, philosophy is the science of the relation of all knowledge to the essential ends of human reason

1 [fehlerfreien.]

2 [Reading, with Rosenkranz, welches for welche.]

(teleologia rationis humanae), and the philosopher is not an artificer in the field of reason, but himself the lawgiver of human reason. In this sense of the term it would be very vainglorious to entitle oneself a philosopher, and to pretend to have equalled the pattern which exists in the idea alone.

The mathematician, the natural philosopher, and the logician, however successful the two former may have been in their advances in the field of rational knowledge, and the two latter more especially in philosophical knowledge, are yet only artificers in the field of reason. There is a teacher, [conceived] in the ideal, who sets them their tasks, and employs them as instruments, to further the essential ends of human reason. Him alone we must call philosopher; but as he nowhere exists, while the idea of his legislation is to be found in that reason with which every human being is endowed, we shall keep entirely to the latter, determining more precisely what philosophy prescribes as regards systematic unity, in accordance [A 840 / B 868] with this cosmical concept, [ɑ] from the standpoint of its essential ends.

ɑ By ‘cosmical concept’ [Weltbegriff] is here meant the concept which relates to that in which everyone necessarily has an interest; and accordingly if a science is to be regarded merely as one of the disciplines designed in view of certain optionally chosen ends, I must determine it in conformity with scholastic concepts.

SOURCE: Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason, translated by Norman Kemp Smith, with a new introduction by Howard Caygill. Rev. 2nd ed. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. II. The Transcendental Doctrine of Method, Chapter III: The architectonic of pure reason, A 834 / B 862 – A 839 / B 867 (pp. 654-658).

See also:

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason, translated and edited by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 692-695.

See to borrow these editions.

For an outline see:

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, II. Transcendental Doctrine of Method, Chapter 3: The Architectonic of Pure Reason (p. 653)

. . . and see Wikipedia: Role in Kant's architectonic system in the entry Schema (Kant).

Note: Of particular interest in this excerpt is a complex of questions relating to the nature of philosophizing: innovation, originality, articulation, systematization, communicability, (dis)continuity, imitation, learnability, and how philosophizing or philosophical knowledge differs from mathematical, logical, natural, and historical knowledge. — RD

M. Szenczi on Imagination & Nature according to Coleridge, Wordsworth, Blake, Bacon, & Kant

Herbert Marcuse on Descartes, Kant, Hegel: Soul, Mind-Body Duality, & Affirmative Culture

Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” by Theodor W. Adorno:
                                                                                Lecture 6 (9 June 1959), excerpt: T.W. Adorno on Kant, the Division of Labor & Restriction of Reason
                                                                                Lecture 7 (11 June 1959): Knowledge as Tautology
                                                                                Lecture 16 (14 July 1959): Society · ‘Block’

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