Modern Classical Philosophers: Selections Illustrating Modern Philosophy from Bruno to Bergson

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IMMANUEL KANT (1724-1804)

THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON

Selections translated from the German*by JOHN WATSON


INTRODUCTION

1. Distinction of Pure and Empirical Knowledge .

THERE can be no doubt whatever that all our knowledge begins with experience. By what means should the faculty of knowledge be aroused to activity but by objects, which, acting upon our senses, partly of themselves produce ideas in us, and partly set our understanding at work to compare these ideas with one another, and, by combining or separating them, to convert the raw material of our sensible impressions into that knowledge of objects which is called experience? In the order of time, therefore, we have no knowledge prior to experience, and with experience all our knowledge begins.

But, although all our knowledge begins with experience, it by no means follows that it all originates from experience. For it may well be that experience is itself made up of two elements, one received through impressions of sense, and the other supplied from itself by our faculty of knowledge on occasion of those impressions. If that be so, it may take long practice before our attention is drawn to the element added by the mind, and we learn to distinguish and separate it from the material to which it is applied.

It is, therefore, a question which cannot be lightly put aside, but can be answered only after careful investigation, whether there is any knowledge that is independent of experience, and

____________________
*
From the Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Riga, 1781; 2. umgearb. Aug., 1787. Reprinted from The Philosophy of Kant, as Contained in Extracts from his own Writings, selected and translated by John Watson, LL.D. New ed., Glasgow, 1901.

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