Kant – The Nature of Space


This is Kant – so you had better stiffen your resolve. No light reading here, but something to ponder on for the rest of your life. In his Critique of Pure Reason he claims that time and space are not “out there” but are properties of our consciousness. Every sentence is difficult, and as the author of an introduction in the Penguin edition states – the best of philosophers have been driven to despair by Kant. I will eventually get around to Kant on the Patreon Channel – but not yet. When I do I will probably stay with him for at least a year, and probably much longer. If you want “enlightenment”, then Kant is your man. Those Eastern guys (with the exception of Lao Tsu) have nothing on Kant. Enjoy!

1. Space is not an empirical concept that has been abstracted from outer experiences. For the presentation of space must already lie at the basis in order for certain sensations to be referred to something outside me (i.e., referred to something in a location of space other than the location in which I am). And it must similarly already lie at the basis in order for me to be able to present [the objects of] these sensations as outside and alongside one another, and hence to present them not only as different but as being in different locations. Accordingly, the presentation of space cannot be one that we take from the relations of outer appearance by means of experience; rather, only through the presentation of space is that outer experience possible in the first place.

2. Space is a necessary a priori presentation that underlies all outer intuitions. We can never have a presentation of there being no space, even though we are quite able to think of there being no objects encountered in it. Hence space must be regarded as the condition for the possibility of appearances, and not as a determination dependent on them. Space is an a priori presentation that necessarily underlies outer appearances.

3. Space is not a discursive or, as we say, universal concept of things as such; rather, it is a pure intuition. For, first, we can present only one space; and when we speak of many spaces, we mean by that only parts of one and the same unique space. Nor, second, can these parts precede the one all-encompassing space, as its constituents, as it were (from which it can be assembled); rather, they can be thought only as in it. Space is essentially one; the manifold in it, and hence also the universal concept of spaces as such, rests solely on [our bringing in] limitations. It follows from this that, as far as space is concerned, an a priori intuition of it (i.e., one that is not empirical) underlies all concepts of space. By the same token, no geometric principles-e.g., the principle that in a triangle two sides together are greater than the third-are ever derived from universal concepts of line and triangle; rather, they are all derived from intuition, and are derived from it moreover a priori, with apodeictic certainty.

4. We present space as an infinite given magnitude. Now it is true that every concept must be thought as a presentation that is contained in an infinite multitude of different possible presentations (as their common characteristic) and hence the concept contains these presentations under itself. But no concept, as such, can be thought as containing an infinite multitude of presentations within itself. Yet that is how we think space (for all parts of space, ad infinitum, are simultaneous). Therefore the original presentation of space is an a priori intuition, not a concept.



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We tell children fairy tales to cushion them against reality. Most people mature into more sophisticated fairy tales called religion and spirituality. Some people drop the fairy tales and look at reality as it is - but it’s difficult.

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