All geometrical figures drawn on a principle display a manifold, oft admired, objective purposiveness; i.e. in reference to their usefulness for the solution of several problems by a single principle, or of the same problem in an infinite variety of ways. The purposiveness is here obviously objective and intellectual, not merely subjective and aesthetical. For it expresses the suitability of the figure for the production of many intended figures, and is cognised through Reason. But this purposiveness does not make the concept of the object itself possible, i.e. it is not regarded as possible merely with reference to this use.
In so simple a figure as the circle lies the key to the solution of a multitude of problems, each of which would demand various appliances; whereas the solution results of itself, as it were, as one of the infinite number of elegant properties of this figure. Are we, for example, asked to construct a triangle, being given the base and vertical angle? The problem is indeterminate, i.e. it can be solved in an infinite number of ways. But the circle embraces them altogether as the geometrical locus of the vertices of triangles satisfying the given conditions. Again, suppose that two lines are to cut one another so that the rectangle under the segments of the one should be equal to the rectangle under the segments of the other; the solution of the problem from this point of view presents much difficulty. But all chords intersecting inside a circle divide one another in this proportion. Other curved lines suggest other purposive solutions of which nothing was thought in the rule that furnished their construction. All conic sections in themselves and when compared with one another are fruitful in principles for the solution of a number of possible problems, however simple is the definition which determines their concept. — It is a true joy to see the zeal with which the old geometers investigated the properties of lines of this class, without allowing themselves to be led astray by the questions of narrow-minded persons, as to what use this knowledge would be. Thus they worked out the properties of the parabola without knowing the law of gravitation, which would have suggested to them its application to the trajectory of heavy bodies (for the motion of a heavy body can be seen to be parallel to the curve of a parabola). Again, they found out the properties of an ellipse without surmising that any of the heavenly bodies had weight, and without knowing the law of force at different distances from the point of attraction, which causes it to describe this curve in free motion. While they thus unconsciously worked for the science of the future, they delighted themselves with a purposiveness in the [essential] being of things which yet they were able to present completely a priori in its necessity. Plato, himself master of this science, hinted at such an original constitution of things in the discovery of which we can dispense with all experience, and at the power of the mind to produce from its supersensible principle the harmony of beings (where the properties of number come in, with which the mind plays in music). This [he touches upon] in the inspiration that raised him above the concepts of experience to Ideas, which seem to him to be explicable only through an intellectual affinity with the origin of all beings. No wonder that he banished from his school the man who was ignorant of geometry, since he thought he could derive from pure intuition, which has its home in the human spirit, that which Anaxagoras drew from empirical objects and their purposive combination. For in the very necessity of that which is purposive, and is constituted just as if it were designedly intended for our use — but at the same time seems to belong originally to the being of things without any reference to our use — lies the ground of our great admiration of nature, and that not so much external as in our own Reason. It is surely excusable that this admiration should through misunderstanding gradually rise to the height of fanaticism.
But this intellectual purposiveness, although no doubt objective (not subjective like aesthetical purposiveness), is in reference to its possibility merely formal (not real). It can only be conceived as purposiveness in general without any [definite] purpose being assumed as its basis, and consequently without teleology being needed for it. The figure of a circle is an intuition which is determined by means of the Understanding according to a principle. The unity of this principle which I arbitrarily assume and use as fundamental concept, applied to a form of intuition (space) which is met with in myself as a representation and yet a priori, renders intelligible the unity of many rules resulting from the construction of that concept, which are purposive for many possible designs. But this purposiveness does not imply a purpose or any other ground whatever. It is quite different if I meet with order and regularity in complexes of things, external to myself, enclosed within certain boundaries; as, e.g. in a garden, the order and regularity of the trees, flower-beds, and walks. These I cannot expect to derive a priori from my bounding of space made after a rule of my own; for this order and regularity are existing things which must be given empirically in order to be known, and not a mere representation in myself determined a priori according to a principle. So then the latter (empirical) purposiveness, as real, is dependent on the concept of a purpose.
But the ground of admiration for a perceived purposiveness, although it be in the being of things (so far as their concepts can be constructed), may very well be seen, and seen to be legitimate. The manifold rules whose unity (derived from a principle) excites admiration, are all synthetical and do not follow from the concept of the Object, e.g. of a circle; but require this Object to be given in intuition. Hence this unity gets the appearance of having empirically an external basis of rules distinct from our representative faculty; as if therefore the correspondence of the Object to that need of rules which is proper to the Understanding were contingent in itself, and therefore only possible by means of a purpose expressly directed thereto. Now because this harmony, notwithstanding all this purposiveness, is not cognised empirically but a priori, it should bring us of itself to this point — that space, through whose determination (by means of the Imagination, in accordance with a concept) the Object is alone possible, is not a characteristic of things external to me, but a mere mode of representation in myself. Hence, in the figure which I draw in conformity with a concept, i.e. in my own mode of representing that which is given to me externally, whatever it may be in itself, it is I that introduce the purposiveness; I get no empirical instruction from the Object about the purposiveness, and so I require in it no particular purpose external to myself. But because this consideration already calls for a critical employment of Reason, and consequently cannot be involved in the judging of the Object according to its properties; so this latter [judging] suggests to me immediately nothing but the unification of heterogeneous rules (even according to their very diversity) in a principle. This principle, without requiring any particular a priori basis external to my concept, or indeed, generally speaking, to my representation, is yet cognised a priori by me as true. Now wonder is a shock of the mind arising from the incompatibility of a representation, and the rule given by its means, with the principles already lying at its basis; which provokes a doubt as to whether we have rightly seen or rightly judged. Admiration, however, is wonder which ever recurs, despite the disappearance of this doubt. Consequently the latter is a quite natural effect of that observed purposiveness in the being of things (as phenomena). It cannot indeed be censured, whilst the unification of the form of sensible intuition (space)— with the faculty of concepts (the Understanding)— is inexplicable to us; and that not only on account of the union being just of the kind that it is, but because it is enlarging for the mind to surmise [the existence of] something lying outside our sensible representations in which, although unknown to us, the ultimate ground of that agreement may be met with. We are, it is true, not necessitated to cognise this if we have only to do a priori with the formal purposiveness of our representations; but the fact that we are compelled to look out beyond it inspires at the same time an admiration for the object that impels us thereto.
We are accustomed to speak of the above mentioned properties of geometrical figures or of numbers as beautiful, on account of a certain a priori purposiveness they have for all kinds of cognitive uses, this purposiveness being quite unexpected on account of the simplicity of the construction. We speak, e.g. of this or that beautiful property of the circle, which was discovered in this or that way. But there is no aesthetical act of judgement through which we find it purposive, no act of judgement without a concept which renders noticeable a mere subjective purposiveness in the free play of our cognitive faculties; but an intellectual act according to concepts which enables us clearly to cognise an objective purposiveness, i.e. availableness for all kinds of (infinitely manifold) purposes. We must rather call this relative perfection than a beauty of the mathematical figure. To speak thus of an intellectual beauty cannot in general be permissible; for otherwise the word beauty would lose all determinate significance, or the intellectual satisfaction all superiority over the sensible. We should rather call a demonstration of such properties beautiful, because through it the Understanding as the faculty of concepts, and the Imagination as the faculty of presenting them, feel themselves strengthened a priori. (This, when viewed in connexion with the precision introduced by Reason, is spoken of as elegant.) Here, however, the satisfaction, although it is based on concepts, is subjective; while perfection brings with itself an objective satisfaction.
Experience leads our Judgement to the concept of an objective and material purposiveness, i.e. to the concept of a purpose of nature, only when1 we have to judge of a relation of cause to effect which we find ourselves able to apprehend as legitimate only by presupposing the Idea of the effect of the causality of the cause as the fundamental condition, in the cause, of the possibility of the effect. This can take place in two ways. We may regard the effect directly as an art product, or only as material for the art of other possible natural beings; in other words, either as a purpose or as a means towards the purposive employment of other causes. This latter purposiveness is called utility (for man) or mere advantage (for other creatures), and is merely relative; while the former is an inner purposiveness of the natural being.
For example, rivers bring down with them all kinds of earth serviceable for the growth of plants which sometimes is deposited inland, often also at their mouths. The tide brings this mud to many coasts over the land or deposits it on the shore; and so, more especially if men give their aid so that the ebb shall not carry it back again, the fruit-bearing land increases in area, and the vegetable kingdom gains the place which formerly was the habitation of fish and shells. In this way has nature itself brought about most of the extensions of the land, and still continues to do so, although very slowly. — Now the question is whether this is to be judged a purpose of nature, because it contains utility for men. We cannot put it down to the account of the vegetable kingdom, because just as much is subtracted from sea-life as is added to land-life.
Or, to give an example of the advantageousness of certain natural things as means for other creatures (if we suppose them to be means), no soil is more suitable to pine trees than a sandy soil. Now the deep sea, before it withdrew from the land, left behind large tracts of sand in our northern regions, so that on this soil, so unfavourable for all cultivation, widely extended pine forests were enabled to grow, for the unreasoning destruction of which we frequently blame our ancestors. We may ask if this original deposit of tracts of sand was a purpose of nature for the benefit of the possible pine forests? So much is clear, that if we regard this as a purpose of nature, we must also regard the sand as a relative purpose, in reference to which the ocean strand and its withdrawal were means: for in the series of the mutually subordinated members of a purposive combination, every member must be regarded as a purpose (though not as a final purpose), to which its proximate cause is the means. So too if cattle, sheep, horses, etc., are to exist, there must be grass on the earth, but there must also be saline plants in the desert if camels are to thrive; and again these and other herbivorous animals must be met with in numbers if there are to be wolves, tigers, and lions. Consequently the objective purposiveness, which is based upon advantage, is not an objective purposiveness of things in themselves; as if the sand could not be conceived for itself as an effect of a cause, viz. the sea, without attributing to the latter a purpose, and regarding the effect, namely, the sand, as a work of art. It is a merely relative purposiveness contingent upon the thing to which it is ascribed; and although in the examples we have cited, the different kinds of grass are to be judged as in themselves organised products of nature, and consequently as artificial, yet are they to be regarded, in reference to the beasts which feed upon them, as mere raw material.
But above all, though man, through the freedom of his causality, finds certain natural things of advantage for his designs — designs often foolish, such as using the variegated plumage of birds to adorn his clothes, or coloured earths and the juices of plants for painting his face; often again reasonable as when the horse is used for riding, the ox or (as in Minorca) the ass or pig for ploughing — yet we cannot even here assume a relative natural purpose. For his Reason knows how to give things a conformity with his own arbitrary fancies for which he was not at all predestined by nature. Only, if we assume that men are to live upon the earth, then the means must be there without which they could not exist as animals, and even as rational animals (in however low a degree of rationality); and thereupon those natural things, which are indispensable in this regard, must be considered as natural purposes.
We can hence easily see that external purposiveness (advantage of one thing in respect of others) can be regarded as an external natural purpose only under the condition, that the existence of that [being], to which it is immediately or distantly advantageous, is in itself a purpose of nature. Since that can never be completely determined by mere contemplation of nature, it follows that relative purposiveness, although it hypothetically gives indications of natural purposes, yet justifies no absolute teleological judgement.
Snow in cold countries protects the crops from the frost; it makes human intercourse easier (by means of sleighs). The Laplander finds in his country animals by whose aid this intercourse is brought about, i.e. reindeer, who find sufficient sustenance in a dry moss which they have to scratch out for themselves from under the snow, and who are easily tamed and readily permit themselves to be deprived of that freedom in which they could have remained if they chose. For other people in the same frozen regions marine animals afford rich stores; in addition to the food and clothing which are thus supplied, and the wood which is floated in by the sea to their dwellings, these marine animals provide material for fuel by which their huts are warmed. Here is a wonderful concurrence of many references of nature to one purpose; and all this applies to the cases of the Greenlander, the Lapp, the Samoyede, the inhabitant of Yakutsk, etc. But then we do not see why, generally, men must live there at all. Therefore to say that vapour falls out of the atmosphere in the form of snow, that the sea has its currents which float down wood that has grown in warmer lands, and that there are in it great sea monsters filled with oil, because the idea of advantage for certain poor creatures is fundamental for the cause which collects all these natural products, would be a very venturesome and arbitrary judgement. For even if there were none of this natural utility, we should miss nothing as regards the adequateness of natural causes to nature’s constitution; much more even to desire such a tendency in, and to attribute such a purpose to, nature would be the part of a presumptuous and inconsiderate fancy. For indeed it might be observed that it could only have been the greatest unsociability among men which thus scattered them into such inhospitable regions.
1 As in pure mathematics we can never talk of the existence, but only of the possibility of things, viz. of an intuition corresponding to a concept, and so never of cause and effect, it follows that all purposiveness observed there must be considered merely as formal and never as a natural purpose.
In order to see that a thing is only possible as a purpose, that is, to be forced to seek the causality of its origin not in the mechanism of nature but in a cause whose faculty of action is determined through concepts, it is requisite that its form be not possible according to mere natural laws, i.e. laws which can be cognised by us through the Understanding alone when applied to objects of Sense; but that even the empirical knowledge of it as regards its cause and effect presupposes concepts of Reason. This contingency of its form in all empirical natural laws in reference to Reason affords a ground for regarding its causality as possible only through Reason. For Reason, which must cognise the necessity of every form of a natural product in order to comprehend even the conditions of its genesis, cannot assume such [natural] necessity in that particular given form. The causality of its origin is then referred to the faculty of acting in accordance with purposes (a will); and the Object which can only thus be represented as possible is represented as a purpose.
If in a seemingly uninhabited country a man perceived a geometrical figure, say a regular hexagon, inscribed on the sand, his reflection busied with such a concept would attribute, although obscurely, the unity in the principle of its genesis to Reason, and consequently would not regard as a ground of the possibility of such a shape the sand, or the neighbouring sea, or the winds, or beasts with familiar footprints, or any other irrational cause. For the chance against meeting with such a concept, which is only possible through Reason, would seem so infinitely great, that it would be just as if there were no natural law, no cause in the mere mechanical working of nature capable of producing it; but as if only the concept of such an Object, as a concept which Reason alone can supply and with which it can compare the thing, could contain the causality for such an effect. This then would be regarded as a purpose, but as a product of art, not as a natural purpose (vestigium hominis video).1
But in order to regard a thing cognised as a natural product as a purpose also — consequently as a natural purpose, if this is not a contradiction — something more is required. I would say provisionally: a thing exists as a natural purpose, if it is [although in a double sense]1 both cause and effect of itself. For herein lies a causality the like of which cannot be combined with the mere concept of a nature without attributing to it a purpose; it can certainly be thought without contradiction, but cannot be comprehended. We shall elucidate the determination of this Idea of a natural purpose by an example, before we analyse it completely.
In the first place, a tree generates another tree according to a known natural law. But the tree produced is of the same genus; and so it produces itself generically. On the one hand, as effect it is continually self-produced; on the other hand, as cause it continually produces itself, and so perpetuates itself generically.
Secondly, a tree produces itself as an individual. This kind of effect no doubt we call growth; but it is quite different from any increase according to mechanical laws, and is to be reckoned as generation, though under another name. The matter that the tree incorporates it previously works up into a specifically peculiar quality, which natural mechanism external to it cannot supply; and thus it develops itself by aid of a material which, as compounded, is its own product. No doubt, as regards the constituents got from nature without, it must only be regarded as an educt; but yet in the separation and recombination of this raw material we see such an originality in the separating and formative faculty of this kind of natural being, as is infinitely beyond the reach of art, if the attempt is made to reconstruct such vegetable products out of elements obtained by their dissection or material supplied by nature for their sustenance.
Thirdly, each part of a tree generates itself in such a way that the maintenance of any one part depends reciprocally on the maintenance of the rest. A bud of one tree engrafted on the twig of another produces in the alien stock a plant of its own kind, and so also a scion engrafted on a foreign stem. Hence we may regard each twig or leaf of the same tree as merely engrafted or inoculated into it, and so as an independent tree attached to another and parasitically nourished by it. At the same time, while the leaves are products of the tree they also in turn give support to it; for the repeated defoliation of a tree kills it, and its growth thus depends on the action of the leaves upon the stem. The self-help of nature in case of injury in the vegetable creation, when the want of a part that is necessary for the maintenance of its neighbours is supplied by the remaining parts; and the abortions or malformations in growth, in which certain parts, on account of casual defects or hindrances, form themselves in a new way to maintain what exists, and so produce an anomalous creature, I shall only mention in passing, though they are among the most wonderful properties of organised creatures.
According to the character alleged in the preceding section, a thing, which, though a natural product, is to be cognised as only possible as a natural purpose, must bear itself alternately as cause and as effect. This, however, is a somewhat inexact and indeterminate expression which needs derivation from a determinate concept.
Causal combination as thought merely by the Understanding is a connexion constituting an ever-progressive series (of causes and effects); and things which as effects presuppose others as causes cannot be reciprocally at the same time causes of these. This sort of causal combination we call that of effective causes (nexus effectivus). But on the other hand, a causal combination according to a concept of Reason (of purposes) can also be thought, which regarded as a series would lead either forwards or backwards; in this the thing that has been called the effect may with equal propriety be termed the cause of that of which it is the effect. In the practical department of human art we easily find connexions such as this; e.g. a house, no doubt, is the cause of the money received for rent, but also conversely the representation of this possible income was the cause of building the house. Such a causal connexion we call that of final causes (nexus finalis). We may perhaps suitably name the first the connexion of real causes, the second of those which are ideal; because from this nomenclature it is at once comprehended that there can be no more than these two kinds of causality.
For a thing to be a natural purpose in the first place it is requisite that its parts (as regards their being and their form) are only possible through their reference to the whole. For the thing itself is a purpose and so is comprehended under a concept or an Idea which must determine a priori all that is to be contained in it. But so far as a thing is only thought as possible in this way, it is a mere work of art; i.e. a product of one rational cause distinct from the matter (of the parts), whose causality (in the collection and combination of the parts) is determined through its Idea of a whole possible by their means (and consequently not through external nature).
But if a thing as a natural product is to involve in itself and in its internal possibility a reference to purposes — i.e. to be possible only as a natural purpose, and without the causality of the concepts of rational beings external to itself — then it is requisite secondly that its parts should so combine in the unity of a whole that they are reciprocally cause and effect of each other’s form. Only in this way can the Idea of the whole conversely (reciprocally) determine the form and combination of all the parts; not indeed as cause — for then it would be an artificial product — but as the ground of cognition, for him who is judging it, of the systematic unity and combination of all the manifold contained in the given material.
For a body then which is to be judged in itself and its internal possibility as a natural purpose, it is requisite that its parts mutually depend upon each other both as to their form and their combination, and so produce a whole by their own causality; while conversely the concept of the whole may be regarded as its cause according to a principle (in a being possessing a causality according to concepts adequate to such a product). In this case then the connexion of effective causes may be judged as an effect through final causes.
In such a product of nature every part not only exists by means of the other parts, but is thought as existing for the sake of the others and the whole, that is as an (organic) instrument. Thus, however, it might be an artificial instrument, and so might be represented only as a purpose that is possible in general; but also its parts are all organs reciprocally producing each other. This can never be the case with artificial instruments, but only with nature which supplies all the material for instruments (even for those of art). Only a product of such a kind can be called a natural purpose, and this because it is an organised and self-organising being.
In a watch one part is the instrument for moving the other parts, but the wheel is not the effective cause of the production of the others; no doubt one part is for the sake of the others, but it does not exist by their means. In this case the producing cause of the parts and of their form is not contained in the nature (of the material), but is external to it in a being which can produce effects according to Ideas of a whole possible by means of its causality. Hence a watch wheel does not produce other wheels, still less does one watch produce other watches, utilising (organising) foreign material for that purpose; hence it does not replace of itself parts of which it has been deprived, nor does it make good what is lacking in a first formation by the addition of the missing parts, nor if it has gone out of order does it repair itself — all of which, on the contrary, we may expect from organised nature. — An organised being is then not a mere machine, for that has merely moving power, but it possesses in itself formative power of a self-propagating kind which it communicates to its materials though they have it not of themselves; it organises them, in fact, and this cannot be explained by the mere mechanical faculty of motion.
We say of nature and its faculty in organised products far too little if we describe it as an analogon of art; for this suggests an artificer (a rational being) external to it. Much rather does it organise itself and its organised products in every species, no doubt after one general pattern but yet with suitable deviations, which self-preservation demands according to circumstances. We perhaps approach nearer to this inscrutable property, if we describe it as an analogon of life; but then we must either endow matter, as mere matter, with a property which contradicts its very being (hylozoism), or associate therewith an alien principle standing in communion with it (a soul). But in the latter case we must, if such a product is to be a natural product, either presuppose organised matter as the instrument of that soul, which does not make the soul a whit more comprehensible; or regard the soul as artificer of this structure and so remove the product from (corporeal) nature. To speak strictly, then, the organisation of nature has in it nothing analogous to any causality we know.1 Beauty in nature can be rightly described as an analogon of art, because it is ascribed to objects only in reference to reflection upon their external aspect, and consequently only on account of the form of their external surface. But internal natural perfection, as it belongs to those things which are only possible as natural purposes, and are therefore called organised beings, is not analogous to any physical, i.e. natural, faculty known to us; nay even, regarding ourselves as, in the widest sense, belonging to nature, it is not even thinkable or explicable by means of any exactly fitting analogy to human art.
The concept of a thing as in itself a natural purpose is therefore no constitutive concept of Understanding or of Reason, but it can serve as a regulative concept for the reflective Judgement, to guide our investigation about objects of this kind by a distant analogy with our own causality according to purposes generally, and in our meditations upon their ultimate ground. This latter use, however, is not in reference to the knowledge of nature or of its original ground, but rather to our own practical faculty of Reason, in analogy with which we considered the cause of that purposiveness.
Organised beings are then the only beings in nature which, considered in themselves and apart from any relation to other things, can be thought as possible only as purposes of nature. Hence they first afford objective reality to the concept of a purpose of nature, as distinguished from a practical purpose; and so they give to the science of nature the basis for a teleology, i.e. a mode of judgement about natural Objects according to a special principle which otherwise we should in no way be justified in introducing (because we cannot see a priori the possibility of this kind of causality).
1 We can conversely throw light upon a certain combination, much more often met with in Idea than in actuality, by means of an analogy to the so-called immediate natural purposes. In a recent complete transformation of a great people into a state the word organisation for the regulation of magistracies, etc., and even of the whole body politic, has often been fitly used. For in such a whole every member should surely be purpose as well as means, and, whilst all work together towards the possibility of the whole, each should be determined as regards place and function by means of the Idea of the whole. [Kant probably alludes here to the organisation of the United States of America.]
This principle, which is at the same time a definition, is as follows: An organised product of nature is one in which every part is reciprocally purpose, [end] and means. In it nothing is vain, without purpose, or to be ascribed to a blind mechanism of nature.
This principle, as regards its occasion, is doubtless derived from experience, viz. from that methodised experience called observation; but on account of the universality and necessity which it ascribes to such purposiveness it cannot rest solely on empirical grounds, but must have at its basis an a priori principle, although it be merely regulative and these purposes lie only in the idea of the judging [subject] and not in an effective cause. We may therefore describe the aforesaid principle as a maxim for judging of the internal purposiveness of organised beings.
It is an acknowledged fact that the dissectors of plants and animals, in order to investigate their structure and to find out the reasons, why and for what end such parts, such a disposition and combination of parts, and just such an internal form have been given them, assume as indisputably necessary the maxim that nothing in such a creature is vain; just as they lay down as the fundamental proposition of the universal science of nature, that nothing happens by chance. In fact, they can as little free themselves from this teleological proposition as from the universal physical proposition; for as without the latter we should have no experience at all, so without the former we should have no guiding thread for the observation of a species of natural things which we have thought teleologically under the concept of natural purposes.
Now this concept brings the Reason into a quite different order of things from that of a mere mechanism of nature, which is no longer satisfying here. An Idea is to be the ground of the possibility of the natural product. But because this is an absolute unity of representation, instead of the material being a plurality of things that can supply by itself no definite unity of composition — if that unity of the Idea is to serve at all as the a priori ground of determination of a natural law of the causality of such a form of composition — the purpose of nature must be extended to everything included in its product. For if we once refer action of this sort on the whole to any supersensible ground of determination beyond the blind mechanism of nature, we must judge of it altogether according to this principle; and we have then no reason to regard the form of such a thing as partly dependent on mechanism — for by such mixing up of disparate principles no certain rule of judging would be left.
For example, it may be that in an animal body many parts can be conceived as concretions according to mere mechanical laws (as the hide, the bones, the hair). And yet the cause which brings together the required matter, modifies it, forms it, and puts it in its appropriate place, must always be judged of teleologically; so that here everything must be considered as organised, and everything again in a certain relation to the thing itself is an organ.
We have already said above that the external purposiveness of natural things affords no sufficient warrant for using them as purposes of nature in order to explain their presence, and for regarding their contingently purposive effects as the grounds of their presence according to the principle of final causes. Thus we cannot take for natural purposes, rivers because they promote intercourse among inland peoples, mountains because they contain the sources of the rivers and for their maintenance in rainless seasons have a store of snow, or the slope of the land which carries away the water and leaves the country dry; because although this shape of the earth’s surface be very necessary for the origin and maintenance of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, it has nothing in itself for the possibility of which we are forced to assume a causality according to purposes. The same is true of plants which man uses for his needs or his pleasures; of beasts, the camel, the ox, the horse, dog, etc., which are indispensable to him as well for food as because they are used in his service in many different ways. In the case of things which we have no reason for regarding in themselves as purposes, such external relation can only be hypothetically judged as purposive.
To judge of a thing as a natural purpose on account of its internal form is something very different from taking the existence of that thing to be a purpose of nature. For the latter assertion we require not merely the concept of a possible purpose, but the knowledge of the final purpose (scopus) of nature. But this requires a reference of such knowledge to something supersensible far transcending all our teleological knowledge of nature, for the purpose of [the existence of]1 nature must itself be sought beyond nature. The internal form of a mere blade of grass is sufficient to show that for our human faculty of judgement its origin is possible only according to the rule of purposes. But if we change our point of view and look to the use which other natural beings make of it, abandon the consideration of its internal organisation and only look to its externally purposive references, we shall arrive at no categorical purpose; all this purposive reference rests on an ever more distant condition, which, as unconditioned (the presence of a thing as final purpose), lies quite outside the physico-teleological view of the world. For example, grass is needful for the ox, which again is needful for man as a means of existence, but then we do not see why it is necessary that men should exist (a question this, which we shall not find so easy to answer if we sometimes cast our thoughts on the New Hollanders or the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego). So conceived, the thing is not even a natural purpose, for neither it (nor its whole genus) is to be regarded as a natural product.
Hence it is only so far as matter is organised that it necessarily carries with it the concept of a natural purpose, because this its specific form is at the same time a product of nature. But this concept leads necessarily to the Idea of collective nature as a system in accordance with the rule of purposes, to which Idea all the mechanism of nature must be subordinated according to principles of Reason (at least in order to investigate natural phenomena therein). The principle of Reason belongs to it only as a subjective principle or a maxim: viz. everything in the world is some way good for something; nothing is vain in it. By the example that nature gives us in its organic products we are justified, nay called upon, to expect of it and of its laws nothing that is not purposive on the whole.
It is plain that this is not a principle for the determinant but only for the reflective Judgement; that it is regulative and not constitutive; and that we derive from it a clue by which we consider natural things in reference to an already given ground of determination according to a new law-abiding order; and extend our natural science according to a different principle, viz. that of final causes, but yet without prejudice to the principle of mechanical causality. Furthermore, it is in no wise thus decided, whether anything of which we judge by this principle, is a designed purpose of nature; whether the grass is for the ox or the sheep, or whether these and the other things of nature are here for men. It is well also from this side to consider the things which are unpleasant to us and are contrary to purpose in particular references. Thus, for example, we can say: The vermin that torment men in their clothes, their hair, or their beds, may be, according to a wise appointment of nature, a motive to cleanliness which is in itself an important means for the preservation of health. Or again the mosquitoes and other stinging insects that make the wildernesses of America so oppressive to the savages, may be so many goads to activity for these primitive men, [inducing them] to drain the marshes and bring light into the forests which intercept every breath of air, and in this way, as well as by cultivating the soil, to make their habitations more healthy. The same thing, which appears to men contradictory to nature in its inner organisation, if viewed in this light gives an entertaining, sometimes an instructive, outlook into a teleological order of things, to which, without such a principle, mere physical observation would not lead us by itself. Thus some persons regard the tapeworm as given to the men or animals in whom it resides, as a kind of set-off for some defect in their vital organs; now I would ask if dreams (without which we never sleep, though we seldom remember them) may not be a purposive ordinance of nature? For during the relaxation of all the moving powers of the body, they serve to excite internally the vital organs by the medium of the Imagination and its great activity (which in this state generally rises to the height of affection). During sleep the Imagination commonly is more actively at play when the stomach is overloaded, in which case this excitement is the more necessary. Consequently, then, without this internal power of motion and this fatiguing unrest, on account of which we complain about our dreams (though in fact they are rather remedial), sleep even in a sound state of health would be a complete extinction of life.
Also the beauty of nature, i.e. its connexion with the free play of our cognitive faculties in apprehending and judging of its appearance, can be regarded as a kind of objective purposiveness of nature in its whole [content] as a system of which man is a member; if once the teleological judging of the same by means of the natural purposes which organised beings suggest to us, has justified for us the Idea of a great system of purposes of nature. We can regard it as a favour1 which nature has felt for us, that in addition to what is useful it has so profusely dispensed beauty and charm; and we can therefore love it, as well as regard it with respect on account of its immensity, and feel ourselves ennobled by such regard; just as if nature had established and adorned its splendid theatre precisely with this view.
We shall say only one thing more in this paragraph. If we have once discovered in nature a faculty of bringing forth products that can only be thought by us in accordance with the concept of final causes, we go further still. We venture to judge that things belong to a system of purposes, which yet do not (either in themselves or in their purposive relations) necessitate our seeking for any principle of their possibility beyond the mechanism of causes working blindly. For the first Idea, as concerns its ground, already brings us beyond the world of sense; since the unity of the supersensible principle must be regarded as valid in this way not merely for certain species of natural beings, but for the whole of nature as a system.
1 [These words are inserted by Rosenkranz and Windelband, but omitted by Hartenstein and Kirchmann.]
1 In the aesthetical part [§ 58, p. 247] it was said: We view beautiful nature with favour, whilst we have a quite free (disinterested) satisfaction in its form. For in this mere judgement of taste no consideration is given to the purpose for which these natural beauties exist; whether to excite pleasure in us, or as purposes without any reference to us at all. But in a teleological judgement we pay attention to this reference, and here we can regard it as a favour of nature that it has been willing to minister to our culture by the exhibition of so many beautiful figures.
The principles of a science are either internal to it and are then called domestic (principia domestica), or are based on concepts that can only find their place outside it and so are foreign principles (peregrina). Sciences that contain the latter, place at the basis of their doctrines auxiliary propositions (lemmata), i.e. they borrow some concept, and with it a ground of arrangement, from another science.
Every science is in itself a system, and it is not enough in it to build in accordance with principles and thus to employ a technical procedure, but we must go to work with it architectonically, as a building subsisting for itself; we must not treat it as an additional wing or part of another building, but as a whole in itself, although we may subsequently make a passage from it into that other or conversely.
If then we introduce into the context of natural science the concept of God in order to explain the purposiveness in nature, and subsequently use this purposiveness to prove that there is a God, there is no internal consistency in either science [i.e. either in natural science or theology]; and a delusive circle brings them both into uncertainty, because they have allowed their boundaries to overlap.
The expression, a purpose of nature, already sufficiently prevents the confusion of mixing up natural science and the occasion that it gives for judging teleologically of its objects, with the consideration of God, and so of a theological derivation of them. We must not regard it as insignificant, if one interchanges this expression with that of a divine purpose in the ordering of nature, or gives out the latter as more suitable and proper for a pious soul, because it must come in the end to deriving these purposive forms in nature from a wise author of the world. On the contrary, we must carefully and modestly limit ourselves to the expression, a purpose of nature, which asserts exactly as much as we know. Before we ask after the cause of nature itself, we find in nature, and in the course of its development, products of the same kind which are developed in it according to known empirical laws, in accordance with which natural science must judge of its objects, and, consequently, must seek in nature their causality according to the rule of purposes. So then it must not transgress its bounds in order to introduce into itself as a domestic principle that, to whose concept no experience can be commensurate, upon which we are only entitled to venture after the completion of natural science.
Natural characteristics which demonstrate themselves a priori, and consequently admit of insight into their possibility from universal principles without any admixture of experience, although they carry with them a technical purposiveness, yet cannot, because they are absolutely necessary, be referred to the Teleology of nature, as to a method belonging to Physic for solving its problems. Arithmetical or geometrical analogies, as well as universal mechanical laws — however strange and admirable may seem to us the union of different rules, quite independent of one another according to all appearance, in a single principle — possess on that account no claim to be teleological grounds of explanation in Physic. Even if they deserve to be brought into consideration in the universal theory of the purposiveness of things of nature, yet they belong to another [science], i.e. Metaphysic, and constitute no internal principle of natural science; as with the empirical laws of natural purposes in organised beings, it is not only permissible but unavoidable to use the teleological mode of judging as a principle of the doctrine of nature in regard to a particular class of its objects.
So to the end that Physic may keep within its own bounds, it abstracts itself entirely from the question, whether natural purposes are designed or undesigned; for that would be to meddle in an extraneous business, in Metaphysic. It is enough that there are objects, alone explicable according to natural laws which we can only think by means of the Idea of purposes as principle, and also alone internally cognisable as concerns their internal form, in this way. In order, therefore, to remove the suspicion of the slightest assumption — as if we wished to mix with our grounds of cognition something not belonging to Physic at all, viz. a supernatural cause — we speak in Teleology, indeed, of nature as if the purposiveness therein were designed, but in such a way that this design is ascribed to nature, i.e. to matter. Now in this way there can be no misunderstanding, because no design in the proper meaning of the word can possibly be ascribed to inanimate matter; we thus give notice that this word here only expresses a principle of the reflective not of the determinant Judgement, and so is to introduce no particular ground of causality; but only adds for the use of the Reason a different kind of investigation from that according to mechanical laws, in order to supplement the inadequacy of the latter even for empirical research into all particular laws of nature. Hence we speak quite correctly in Teleology, so far as it is referred to Physic, of the wisdom, the economy, the forethought, the beneficence of Nature, without either making an intelligent being of it, for that would be preposterous; or even without presuming to place another intelligent Being above it as its Architect, for that would be presumptuous.1 But there should be only signified thereby a kind of causality of nature after the analogy of our own in the technical use of Reason, in order to have before us the rule according to which certain products of nature must be investigated.
But now why is it that Teleology usually forms no proper part of theoretical natural science, but is regarded as a propaedeutic or transition to Theology? This is done in order to restrict the study of nature, mechanically considered, to that which we can so subject to observation or experiment that we are able to produce it ourselves as nature does, or at least by similar laws. For we see into a thing completely only so far as we can make it in accordance with our concepts and bring it to completion. But organisation, as an inner purpose of nature, infinitely surpasses all our faculty of presenting the like by means of art. And as concerns the external contrivances of nature regarded as purposive (wind, rain, etc.), Physic, indeed, considers their mechanism, but it cannot at all present their reference to purposes, so far as this is a condition necessarily belonging to cause; for this necessity of connexion has to do altogether with the combination of our concepts and not with the constitution of things.
1 The German word vermessen is a good word and full of meaning. A judgement in which we forget to consider the extent of our powers (our Understanding) may sometimes sound very humble, and yet make great pretensions, and so be very presumptuous. Of this kind are most of those by which we pretend to extol the divine wisdom by ascribing to it designs in the works of creation and preservation which are really meant to do honour to the private wisdom of the reasoner.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52