Prolegomena to every future metaphysics that will be able to appear as science

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With his prolegomena to every future metaphysics that will be able to appear as science (often simply prolegomena ), Immanuel Kant tried in 1783 to present the essential aspects of his “critical” philosophy or transcendental philosophy in a clear manner. Kant understood this little pamphlet itself as a simplified and clear presentation of the first edition of his main work Critique of Pure Reason (1781), in which he treated the same questions in an even more profound and philosophically demanding manner.

Leading question

" Prolegomenon " (Gr .: that; mostly used in the plural "Prolegomena") means translated "Foreword, introduction, preliminary remark". The work is also to be understood as such: as a preliminary clarification of what metaphysics can be after the critique of pure reason has been completed. The following questions are central to Kant:

In addition to the obligatory preface and introduction ("preliminary reminder"), Kant develops an overarching, general question, which he formulates as follows:

"Is metaphysics possible everywhere?"

Or, to put it another way:

"How is knowledge from pure reason possible?"


Kant divides this “transcendental main question” into three sub-questions, which he answers one after the other.

How is pure mathematics possible?

This part represents an abbreviated version of the Transcendental Aesthetics from the Critique of Pure Reason . In it Kant develops his doctrine of the transcendental ideality of space and time . In short, it says that space and time are not real; H. do not exist independently of humans: they rather represent the basic condition of all sensual experience (with humans), are to a certain extent a kind of lens or glasses with which we look at the unknowable reality of things in themselves .

With the pure forms of perception space and time as necessary conditions for all sensory experience, this theory tries to a. to explain why judgments in mathematics and geometry plays an undeniable necessity that is still above all experience judgments: If both entities to make out independently of us in reality, the statements made about them could also comparative-general only the security, after induction circuit Met Statements such as "All (healthy) dogs have four legs" claim: As far as we have seen so far , (healthy) organisms of the dog species have four extremities; which does not make it impossible that one day we will also meet those with three.

How is pure science possible?

This section briefly reproduces the idea of ​​the Transcendental Analytics of the Critique of Pure Reason : Whereas in the last section the necessary prerequisites for all sensory knowledge played the main role, the focus here is now on the knowledge of the mind (in the Kantian sense). He tries to prove that fundamental, central concepts in the natural sciences (at Kant's time) (Kant calls them “ categories ”) such as substance , causality , generality, etc., similar to space and time, have a necessary condition within our knowledge: so consider we, according to Kant, the correlation of two successive events (the sun shines on a stone, this heats up) under the category of causality, which underlines an objective necessity for the previously mere successive action: precisely because the sun shines on the stone, it heats up.

Here, too, as above, the aim is to secure general scientific statements a kind of necessity and regularity that could not be achieved through mere induction. The treatment of cause and effect is to be understood as an explicit reaction to David Hume , who denied the objective necessity of our statements about causal relationships and here only allowed a subjective-psychological tendency of the habit to assume such a correlation of events.

How is metaphysics even possible?

The third section of the work offers a simplified and greatly abbreviated version of the Transcendental Dialectic from the Critique of Pure Reason . Reason in the narrower sense (again: according to Kantian terminology) is discussed here as the central organ of knowledge . While sensuality and understanding (see above) constitute our knowledge of nature, reason serves this as a regulator by guiding us to strive for a whole of all possible knowledge. This creates the risk that we will provide you with a constitutive ability to new findings and thus fall into the so-called antinomies, all of that on the confusion of what we strive for as cognitive beings capable are with what we see may be based.

This then gives rise to metaphysical questions about the spatial and temporal limits of the world, about a first cause of all being or the existence of God. By means of a critique of our reason as a faculty of knowledge, this should be confirmed in its function, but also limited at the same time and the (theoretical) insolubility of all these questions should be demonstrated.


  • Immanuel Kant: Prolegomena to every future metaphysics that will be able to appear as science. [Unchanged reprint of the Leipzig 1920 edition] With introduction, supplements, person and subject index. Edited by Karl Vorländer . 6th edition. Hamburg 1951 (= Philosophical Library. Volume 40).

Web links

Full text of the Prolegomena