The Form of Experience: The Transcendental Analogy

Jamie Mellway

Forum: University Course Essay

Abstract: I appeal to an analogy between general logic and a critique of pure reason in order to explain the structure of the Critique of Pure Reason. This analogy allows us to regard a critique of pure reason to be a special logic concerned with the form of experience rather than the form of understanding in general. Furthermore, components of the traditional logic of the "Roman course" that roughly correspond to that of Kant’s general logic will be pointed out.

1. Introduction

In this essay, I will discuss the basic structural organization of the Critique of Pure Reason as it relates to the structure of general logic. This reading of Kant is one that sees the First Critique as primarily a logical work laying foundational propaedeutic (i.e., preparational) work for pure philosophy such that a critique of pure reason provides a method such that metaphysics is possible as a science.

Since I am attempting to link the divisions of the First Critique to Kant’s logic, I will need to spend considerable amount of time going over the main divisions in Kant’s logic. The style of this exposition of Kant’s divisions will be scholastic, opposed to cosmopolitan [Jäsche, Ak9:19, p. 533-4], in the sense that I will be presenting Kant in a structured form, instead of approaching Kant from the perspective of attempting to find the final ends of philosophy [See Jäsche, Ak9:23-5, pp. 537-8]. The method used will be analytical in the sense that I will be merely spelling out the divisions as if that is how things just are divided, instead of synthetically adding knowledge of why and how they are divided that way. In other words, I will not construct his logic here; instead, it will be assumed that logic just is as it is and we are merely elucidating how it is structured.

Kant’s terminology changed throughout his writings and some terms were not completely nailed down to only one sense in the First Critique (for instance, ‘critique of pure reason’ and ‘transcendental philosophy’ [See Tonelli, p. 72]), but the controversies themselves will not be discussed here. I should note that the organization given in the "Architectonic of Pure Reason" is insufficient to explain how Kant’s system is organized. Since I am not looking at the various senses of each term, but assuming specific meanings, this essay is an interpretation of the First Critique instead of a scholarly exegesis of the book.

2. The Transcendental Analogy: The Similarity of Their Forms

2.1. Rationale for A Link between General Logic and A Critique of Pure Reason

Kant is using the structure of general logic as the basis for the structure of the First Critique as Kant is trying to give metaphysics the secure path of science that traditional logic has. He believes that Aristotelian logic has followed that secure path from its inception and that the security of that path had not wavered, such that the only changes were merely improving the elegance of logic. Logic had not only stayed the same in the past, but it also appears to be complete and closed off to any further change [B vii-viii]. Now if Kant can take from the structure of logic that which makes it secure and construct an analogous structure for metaphysics, then there seems to be the possibility that metaphysics can be secure as well.

Logic has the feature that it does not deal with the matter of the science, but only deals with itself and the form of our understanding [B ix]. Essentially, the difference is that logic does not deal with objects as such, beyond providing a preparation for discussing objects. If we can form a critique of pure reason, which looks at the form of our understanding concerning metaphysics, then a secure path for metaphysics may be constructed. That is, we regard truth in metaphysics as pertaining to formal understanding of objects and not the objects themselves [A59/B83-4].

Kant’s Copernican revolution is, in effect, to look only at the form of the objects of experience instead of trying to conform to the matter of experience. That is, let our knowledge of objects conform only to the form of experience and not to the matter of it. Focusing only on the form, by analogy, might lead us to construct that secure path for metaphysics that Kant is after. I am calling Kant’s analogy, between the form and structure of general logic to that of a critique of pure reason, the transcendental analogy. An appeal to the transcendental analogy allows us to regard a critique of pure reason as if it were a special sub-type of the general logic, such that it is a special logic concerned with pure understanding and pure reason.

The term ‘transcendental’ had traditionally meant ‘beyond the categories’ in the sense the terms such as ‘being’, ‘truth’, ‘one’, ‘unity’, and ‘beauty’ are predicable of everything and yet are not part of the categories. The transcendental analogy allows us to go beyond Aristotelian categories by regarding categories of the mind as being different from, and more general than, the Aristotelian categories as they are concerned with our cognition of objects and not concerned of the objects themselves. Instead of using the term ‘transcendental’ for the terms that are not in the categories, Kant calls transcendental "all cognition that deals not so much with objects as rather with our way of cognizing objects in general insofar as that way of cognizing is to be possible a priori" [B25].

2.2. The Matter of Logic

This is not to say that logic is not merely a science of form, but there is a matter of logic as well. The matter of logic is the self-cognition of the understanding and of reason as to their formal use, but not material use. That is to say that the object of logic is not things out there, but it is how the understanding will cognize itself [Jäsche, Ak24:14, p. 530]. In other words, logic is concerned with the objects of knowledge and not with external objects.

General logic is, then, the self-cognition of the formal use of understanding and of reason in general, while a critique of pure reason is the self-cognition of the formal use of pure understanding and of pure reason. The material use of the understanding and of reason is science in general, and the material use of pure understanding and of pure reason is the science of metaphysics. General logic and a critique of pure reason both act as a propaedeutic for the sciences as they provide the necessary conditions of the form for the matter of the science. Since a propaedeutic provides a necessary condition for its associated science, it tells us not only if that science is possible, but also tells us how that science is structured.

2.3. Pure A Priori Cognitions

Since we are only concerned with the formal use of our understanding, we need to be clear when we are mixing in the matter with the form. Kant states that all of "our cognition begins with experience" [B1], but experience is a composite of both matter and form, with the matter being "what we receive through impressions" and the form being "what our own cognitive power supplies from itself" [B1]. Since we do not want to consider the matter of experience, but only the form, we need to derive a cognition without taking it directly from experience. Such cognitions derives their conclusions from a universal rule and is called an a priori cognition, opposed to the cognitions directly from experience which are a posteriori cognitions [B2]. A pure cognition is a cognition that is derived exclusively from a universal and not from experience [B3]. Hence, pure cognitions are the types of cognitions that we are interested in to look at the form of experience. Notice that this does not to imply that the critique of pure reason is merely concerned with pure cognitions and has nothing to say about experience. Instead, pure cognitions as leads us to the form of experience without involving the matter, so that it allows us to talk about experience.

3. The Transcendental Analogy: The Similarity of Their Structures

3.1. The Doctrines of Elements and of Methods

Kant rejects the division of logic into theoretical logic and practical logic, as a "practical logic" would assume that we have acquaintance with the matter of the associated theoretical logic and, hence, would not really be merely a type of logic. Instead, Kant divided pure philosophy into a doctrine of elements and a doctrine of method. The doctrine of elements is concerned with teaching the propaedeutic components of the logic, and the doctrine of method is concerned with teaching the canon aspects of the associated science [Dohna, Ak24:780, p. 511]. General logic and all special logics all have this division.

A science can be either a canon or an organon. A canon uses the necessary conditions for the science that allows us to assess and correct our theories based on them satisfying these negative conditions, or in other words, a canon contains the rules for thinking correctly about the matter of the science [A52/B76]. An organon goes beyond a canon in that is can legitimately extend our knowledge beyond the scope of a canon. Another way of stating this division is that the ends of these sciences are different; the end of a canon is to elucidate our knowledge, while the end of an organon is to extend our knowledge [Vienna, Ak24:792, p. 253].

Although the parts of the transcendental analytic are often referred to as canons, in the way that I am using it here, ‘canon’ would refers instead to the use of the elements of the transcendental analytic in the associated science of metaphysics—and not the elements themselves.

3.2. The Ultimate Form of Experience

Since logic is "of understanding and of reason", it would seem odd to include a discussing of our intuitions given to us by our sensibility as that appears to be outside of the scope of logic. That is, logic only seems to apply to one of the two stems (viz., sensibility and understanding) of human cognition. On the other hand, Kant has it that the "a priori presentations constituting the condition under which objects are given to us" and it is in this sense that the sensations given partly constitute the form of our concepts and thoughts. Hence, while sensibility does not strictly lie in transcendental logic, a transcendental doctrine of sense belongs in the critique of pure reason and the doctrine of elements [B29].

The ultimate form of experience is the form of sensation. It is by means of sensibility that objects of sensation are given to us, and this receptivity supplies us with intuitions. While the understanding supplies us with thought from concepts, Kant says that "all thought must… refer ultimately to intuitions… and hence it must, in us, refer ultimately to sensibility" [A19/B33]. That is, the form of all thought must include the form of intuition.

Intuition is the effect of an object on us and is a type of representation that intentional refers to a single object of sensation. Appearance concerns the referred undetermined intentional thing, where the form of appearance is the ordered relationship of the manifold of sensation and the matter of appearance is whatever it is that corresponds to a sensation [A20/B34]. The Transcendental Aesthetic is Kant’s transcendental science for isolating (which is not the same as abstracting) the a priori elements of the sensibility into pure intuitions and the pure form of appearances. In the section called Transcendental Aesthetic, Kant finds that the two pure forms of appearances are space and time.

3.3. The Doctrine of Elements

Before getting into the elements of pure understanding and of pure reason, we should look at the doctrine of elements of understanding and of reason in general. I also want to point to the elements of Kant’s general logic that roughly corresponds to the areas of the "Roman course." Even though Kant did not based his logic directly on the Roman course, it laid the foundations of mediaeval scholastic logic and the structure of logic passed down to Kant would have its origins from the Roman course. Hence, a quick indication of similarities between elements in Kant’s logic and the logical books of the Roman course should help link the structure of Kant’s logic to the structure of a long tradition of logic founded on the Roman course.

Kant divides our higher (i.e., not including intuition) cognitive powers into three different faculties with each faculty having its own essential principle function of thought. These are the faculties of understanding, (power of) judgment, and reason, whose respective functions deal with the doctrines of concepts, of judgments, and of inferences [B169]. The doctrine of elements for general logic is then divided up into three sections to deal with each of these three functions, whereas each is attempting to elucidate how cognitions can be perfected within their respective faculty [Jäsche, Ak9:139, p. 630].

Concepts are representations that refer indirectly to many, that is, to a universal. This is opposed to intuitions with refer directly to one thing. The matter of concepts is their intentional objects and the form of concepts is their universality [Jäsche, Ak9:91, p.589]. General logic concerning concepts involves such issues as the formal generation of concepts (by comparison, reflection, and abstraction) and the parts of concepts (i.e., content and extension) [See Jäsche, Ak9:91-100, pp. 589-97]. In the traditional logic of the Roman course, this type of general logic corresponds roughly to the Isogoge, and Boethius’ associated commentaries (although parts of On Division and Categories are relevant. See below.)

Judgments are the representation of a unity of several representations. Roughly, this is the same thing as a proposition but is more general (i.e., does not necessarily have to be in propositional form). The matter of judgments is the component representations (e.g., the terms in a proposition). The form of judgments is how these component representations are connected by the four principle moments of judgment: quantity, quality, relation, and modality [Jäsche, Ak9:101-2, pp. 597-8]. General logic concerning judgments involve such issues are grammar (here replaced with the four moments), categorical and compound (i.e., hypothetical and disjunctive) judgments, special status propositions (such as principles and axioms). In the Roman course, this corresponds roughly to On Interpretation and Boethius’ two commentaries on it.

Inferences are the functions of thought that derive a judgment from other judgments. There are three types of inferences: inference of the understanding, inferences of reason, and inferences of (the power of) judgment. Inferences of the understanding are inferences that alter the form of the judgment without changing the matter. For instance, the inference from ‘all men are mortal’ to ‘some men are mortal’. Inferences of reason are the logical inferences such as the demonstrative syllogisms, hypothetical inferences, and disjunctive inference of traditional logic but with a twist (see below). Inferences of the judgment are not strict inferences of reason, but are logical presumptions that do not have the necessity associated with them that inferences of reason do. Induction, analogies, sorites, fallacy, and sophisms are all types of inferences of judgment. The matter of inferences is made of the judgments in the inference and the form is the logical structure of the inference. In the Roman course, inferences of the understanding and of reason correspond to the Prior Analytic, De syllogismis categoricis, and de hypotheticis syllogismis, predicable-based topoi of the Topics, and Sophistical Refutations. Since Kant has rejected traditional dialectic (except for polemics purposes), the inductive and endoxical components of the Topics, as well Cicero’s Topica and Boethius’ On Topical Difference do not fit in Kant’s elements.

Inferences of reason will turn out to be quite important when we attempt to flesh out the analogy between general logic and transcendental philosophy. Kant defines an inference of reason as "the cognition of the necessity of a proposition through the subsumption of its condition under a given universal rule" [Jäsche, ak9:120, p. 614]. That is, the conclusion of an inference of reason is a proposition that is true by applying the major premise on the minor premise as if the first premise were a formal condition on the matter of the second premises. Inferences of reason make up a triad of form (consequentia), matter (ground of proof), and form applied to matter (conclusion) [See Blumberg, Ak24:231, p. 183]. Furthermore, when inferences are based on the conclusions of other inferences, there can be compounded rules such that the matter is condition by the form of a form of another form, such a composite inference is called a prosyllogism [Jäsche, Ak9:134, p. 627].

Similarly to how the doctrine of elements are divided, the doctrine of elements for the First Critique is divided such that it has a section concerning the transcendental doctrine of pure understanding (analytic of concepts), the transcendental doctrine of (the power of) pure judgment (the analytic of principles), and the transcendental doctrine of pure reason (dialectic of inferences).

3.4. The Doctrine of Method

Doctrines of method are concerned with teaching the canonic aspects of the associated science. That is, they are concerned with presenting how we can elucidate our knowledge by assessing what we say by using the (analytical) elements that were learned from the doctrine of elements. Doctrines of method present a canon for assessing how we do the science that doctrine of method is associated with [Jäsche, Ak9:17-8, p. 532]. The doctrine of elements provides the rules (or principles), whereas the doctrine of method gives how those rules are to be used for the associated science.

Whereas the (analytic) elements of the doctrine of elements are the matter of that doctrine, these same elements are part of the form of the associated doctrine of method. As well as the elements, there are several conditions of the perfection of cognitions, which are the form of the form for the doctrine of method, that consist in the distinctness, thoroughness, and systematic ordering of the science. The matter of a doctrine of method is the science that is prepared by the doctrine of elements. This is not to say that the doctrine of method deals with the matter of the science, but rather the science itself is the matter of the doctrine of method [Jäsche, Ak9:139-40, p. 630].

Since the doctrine of elements spelled out the elemental parts of the form, the doctrine of method should spend its bulk elucidating the conditions of the form. The three conditions consist of completely spelling out our concepts, and this consists in describing or defining our concepts and in dividing our concepts such that they are precise, exhaustive, and structured [Jäsche, Ak9:140-1, p. 631]. In other words, the conditions for the perfection of our cognitions provide universal rules on how we are to define and divide our concepts.

General logic concerning concepts such issues as the division [See Jäsche, Ak9:91-100, pp. 589-97]. In the traditional logic of the Roman course, this type of general logic corresponds roughly to parts of the Isogoge, On Division, Categories, De Dialectica, and Boethius’ associated commentaries. The large distinction between the conceptual elements and the methodology conditions are not present in the Roman course. The issues of this part of the Roman course would instead correspond to the doctrine of elements concerning concepts. That these issues come at the end of logic, instead of at the beginning, along with the absence of Topical arguments are the two glaring differences in the structure of these two logical systems.

Concerning logical division, two important points need to be clear. First, Kant has universal rules of logical division such that the division of concepts is exclusive and exhaustive, and that the codivisions (i.e., the species) are contained in all the divided concepts (i.e., the genus) [Jäsche, Ak9:146-7, pp. 636-7]. These properties allow us to make genus-species trees or charts (Stufenleiter) of the divisions. It is important to note that Kant’s methodology involves him organizing his concepts in a genus-species fashion, as this should force him to arrange his technical concepts in a clear way. Unfortunately, Kant routinely reorganized his technical terms and he has the bad habit of using the same terms (e.g., ‘organon’, ‘metaphysics’) for the genus and one of the species, so the clarity that might have been obtained from his structured concepts is spoiled.

Second, the number of divisions is not arbitrary and this number depends on the type of division. This is important if we want to view the structure of Kant’s First Critique as based on certain divisions and have an architectonic form. The primitive type of division is into two components that are in contradictory opposition, (i.e., it can be symbolized ‘a’ and ‘not-a’, and not merely as ‘a’ and ‘b’). We call such a division a dichotomy, opposed to polytomy (which is any division more than two). All analytic division is dichotomous [Dohna, Ak24:762, p. 495], and normally all a priori division is dichotomous [B110], although mathematical a priori intuitions can be polytomous and a division that is based on the principle of synthetic a priori [see A308/B365] has three components (i.e., trichotomous): form, matter, and form applied to matter. [Jäsche, Ak9:147-8, pp. 637-8]. We find trichotomous divisions in the separation of the higher cognitive powers into judgment, understanding, and reason.

The division of the doctrine of method for a critique of pure reason has slightly different terms for the conditions and has one additional one. The condition of distinctness corresponds to the condition of doctrine of pure reason, thoroughness corresponds to canon of pure reason, and systematic ordering corresponds to architectonic of pure reason. The condition of history of pure reason is concerned with looking over the works that were produced by pure reason. The addition of this condition marks a slight departure since the First Critique is concerned with the synchronic, and not the diachronic, aspects of philosophy. Although in Kant’s logic he usually has a section discussing the history of logic, it seems pedantic and not vital. Since he omitted a history of pure reason and says that the chapter on this topic "is here only in order to mark a place in the system that a still remains and that must be filled in the future" [A852/B880], it is unclear where it fits in Kant’s system. Saying that it "is here only" makes it seems like it does not properly belong in the doctrine of method, yet "must be filled" suggests that it is a necessary part of his system.

3.5. The Critique of Inferences of Pure Reason

While the structure of the First Critique parallels the structure of general logic, there is one striking difference concerning inferences of reason that has a deviation in the parallel structure. That this different occurs is important as that it is probably the reason that Kant gave The Critique of Pure Reason its name. In general logic, inferences of reason are logical inferences that are cogent based on rules set down by traditional logic. Any dialectical illusion arrived at by logical inference of reason "arises solely from a lack of attentiveness in regard to the logical rule" [A296/B353].

Transcendental philosophy, in its positive use, needs to condition judgments to the form of experiences. With inferences of pure, their may be another inference leading to the matter of the inference of reason, such that this new universal rule (i.e., major premise) and new matter (minor premise) is not conditioned to the form of experience. Reason attempts to perfect our cognition by reaching as high up in the prosyllogism as possible until we reach a maxim of reason, or the unconditioned [See A307/B364, A666/B694].

Since the form of experience does not condition the unconditioned, the portion of the First Critique concerning reason is not part of the transcendental analytic, but is divided into another section—the transcendental dialectic. This section is concerned with the logic of illusion of pure reason in that we cannot know the unconditioned as an objective principle, only as a subjective principle. So, the transcendental dialectic can merely be a regulative part of the transcendental logic and not constitutive as the transcendental analytic is.

4. Conclusion

I have attempted to show that the basis of the structure of the First Critique is the structure of his general logic, where an analogy between general logic and a critique of pure reason justifies this maneuver. This analogy views a critique of pure reason as a special type of logic that only looks at the use of pure understanding and reason in order to identify the form of experience. This interpretation highlights the architectonic aspects of the First Critique and his emphasis on the form-matter distinction.


Caygill, Howard. 1995. A Kant Dictionary. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Inc.

Copleston, Frederick. 1994 [1960]. A History of Philosophy. Volume VI: From The French Enlightenment to Kant. New York: Image Books.

Dürr, Karl. 1951. The Propositional Logic of Boethius. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company.

Ebbesen, Stan. 1982. "Ancient Scholastic Logic as the source of medieval scholastic logic." in Kretzmann, et al. pp. 101-127.

Gardner, Sebastian. 1999. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason. New York: Routledge.

Kant, Immanuel. Werner S. Pluhar, tr. 1996 [1781, 1787]. Critique of Pure Reason. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

________. J. Michael Young, tr. and ed. 1992. Lectures in Logic. New York: Cambridge University Press. [This includes "Blomberg Logic", "The Vienna Logic", "Dohna-Wundlacken Logic", and "The Jäsche Logic".]

Kretzmann, Norman and Anthony Kenny, and Jan Pinborg, ed. 1997 [1982]. The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy. New York: Cambridge.

Palmquist, Stephen R. 1993. Kant’s System of Perspectives: An Architectonic Interpretation of the Critical Philosophy. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America.

Tonelli, Giorgio. 1994. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason Within The Tradition of Modern Logic. Hildesheim, Netherlands: Georg Olms.