Glossary for Kant's
Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics

in Modern Philosophy:
An Anthology of Primary Sources

(Hackett Publishing Company, 1998), pp. 573ff.

I have developed this page primarily for the benefit of my undergraduate students. Suggestions for improvement that keep this aim in mind will be gratefully accepted. I have now alphabetized the entries for ease in locating them.

Contact: Dr. Jan Garrett

Last modified April 2, 2008

a posteriori knowledge = knowledge that derives from experience, empirical knowledge

a priori cognition, a priori knowledge = knowledge that does not require consultation of external or internal experience (MP 584)

analytic (explicative) judgment = a judgment in which the predicate expresses nothing that was not already implicitly contained in the subject, e.g., "yellow is a color."

[a priori, or pure] concepts of the understanding (also called Kant's categories) = concepts under which perceptions must be subsumed before they can serve for judgments of experience.

Kant's a priori concepts are twelve in number and include four groups of three: Unity, Plurality, Totality; Reality, Negation, Limitation; Substance, Cause, Community; and Possibility, Existence, Necessity.

cosmological idea = the concept of the universe taken as a whole (see "idea of reason")

empirical concepts (e.g., green, horse)

experience = intuitions (i.e. sense-perceptions, located spatiotemporally) plus judgments (which are the work of the understanding)

external experience = the way in which one is conscious of bodies as external appearances; contrast with internal experience

[a priori] form(s) of sensibility [intuition] = formal features added to perceptions when they are grasped as having location in space and in time; the two a priori forms of sensibility are Space and Time.

ideas of reason = unavoidable concepts whose objects cannot be given in any experience; these include the cosmological idea, the theological idea, and the psychological idea, and the idea of the unknowable thing in itself

internal experience = the way in which one is conscious of himself or his soul in time; contrast with external experience

intuition = roughly, concrete perception; "that by which a cognition refers to objects directly" (MP 646); "takes place only insofar as the object is given to us" (ibid.)

judgment of experience = judgments that are formed when special concepts (e.g., cause and effect) are added to the judgment of perception. The sun's shining on the stone causes it to grow warm.

judgment of perception = a subjectively valid judgment, i.e., a judgment based on the connection of perceptions in a thinking subject. When [what seems to be] the sun [apparently] shines on [what seems to be] the stone, it [apparently] grows warm.

metaphysics (sense 1) = the science of synthetic a priori judgments concerning nature and the a priori concepts of the understanding that accompany them, which judgments or concepts "find their application in experience"; metaphysical knowledge of this sort is possible

metaphysics (sense 2) = the search for knowledge of noumena or transcendent ideas of reason, an unavoidable activity but one unable to give us knowledge

nature = the existence of things so far as it is determined (governed) by universal laws

nature known "materially"

nature known "formally" Cf. metaphysics (sense 1).

noumena (sing. noumenon) = (include things in themselves, necessarily believed-in objects of ideas of reason) -- contrast with "phenomena"; noumena are "transcendent"; they are outside all possible knowledge

objectively valid = characteristic of judgments of experience because they are necessarily universally valid

phenomena (singular: phenomenon) = aka appearances; "beings of sense which make up the sensible world"; phenomena appear organized in terms of Space and Time and are organized into experience by the understanding; cf. noumena

principle of contradiction = the principle that a statement containing an internal contradiction is necessarily false (so that the negation of such a statement is a necessary truth).

psychological idea = the concept of the absolute subject of particular experiences, also the immortal soul (see "idea of reason")

pure intuition = "pure form of sensibility" = "the readiness a priori of the mind for sensations" (MP 646)

pure mathematics = mathematics (e.g., arithmetic) apart from application to the external world or to psychological description

science = a justified system of necessary propositions

sensibility = "capacity to acquire representations as a result of the way in which we are affected by objects" (ibid.)

synthetic a priori proposition = a synthetic proposition that could be known a priori

synthetic (ampliative) judgment = a judgment in which the predicate contains something not actually thought in the subject, e.g., "some bodies have weight."

theological idea = the concept of God (see "idea of reason")

things in themselves = the causes of phenomena; they do not appear in sensibility or (impure) intuition.

transcendent (contrast with transcendental) = a description of anything that goes beyond any possible experience

transcendental philosophy = Kant's term for his own philosophical project in the Prolegomena and the Critique of Pure Reason; its chief questions are whether and how synthetic a priori propositions (and therefore metaphysics) are possible.

understanding (Verstand) = the faculty that organizes our experience by subsuming perceptions (or "intuitions") under the a priori concepts