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Revue Internationale de Philosophie

KANT AS A CRITIC OF LEIBNIZ. THE AMPHIBOLY OF CONCEPTS OF REFLECTION


Author(s): G. H. R. PARKINSON
Source: Revue Internationale de Philosophie, Vol. 35, No. 136/137 (2/3), LA CRITIQUE DE LA
RAISON PURE DE KANT / DIE KRITIK DER REINEN VERNUNFT (1981), pp. 302-314
Published by: Revue Internationale de Philosophie
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KANT AS A CRITIC OF LEIBNIZ.

THE AMPHIBOLY OF CONCEPTS


OF REFLECTION

G. H. R. PARKINSON

In an appendix to the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique of


Pure Reason, entitled 'The Amphiboly of Concepts of Reflection', Kant

offers a detailed critique of the philosophy of Leibniz. Although


scholars have not neglected this critique 0,1 believe that there is still a
place for an attempt to relate Kant's criticisms to what Leibniz actually
wrote. The point is that Kant, in his criticism, makes no direct reference

to any of Leibniz's works. Yet he Claims to State the reasons for which
Leibniz held some of his most distinctive philosophical theses, and he

also Claims to say why these reasons were bad reasons. Doubtless he
thought that Leibniz's philosophy was so well known as not to require
documentation ; but the question remains, whether the account that
Kant gives of Leibniz's thought is an accurate one. An eminent Kantian
scholar (H. J. Paton, Kant's Metaphysic of Experience, London 1936,
Vol. 1, p. 309) has described the Amphiboly as 'a penetrating criticism
of the metaphysical doctrines of Leibniz.' In what follows, I shall try to
consider the extent to which the Leibniz presented in the Amphiboly is
the real Leibniz.

(1) I may cite, among works written in English, N. Kemp Smith, A Commentary to

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason' (London 1930), pp. 418-23 ; A. C. Ewing, A Short
Commentary on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason' (London 1938), pp. 195-8; G.
Buchdahi., Metapliysics and the Philosophy of Science (Oxford 1969) pp. 543-8, 567-8.

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KANT AS A CRITIC OF LEIBNIZ

303

II

For Kant, Leibniz's philosophy is vitiated by one fallacy - a single,


fundamental error. This fallacy is intimately connected with what Kant
calls the 'concepts of reflection.' There are four of these : (1) Identity

and Diffrence (2) Agreement and Opposition (3) Inner and Outer
(4) Matter and Form. Kant insists that these are not catgories. They are

not concepts of an object in gnral, but are in a way prior to such


concepts. As Kant puts it, they 'serve to describe in ail its manifoldness

the comparison of the reprsentations which is prior to the concept of

things' (A269.B325) (2). Kant's view is (A262,B317) that before we


make any objective judgment, we must compare concepts. Suppose,
e.g., that we make a universal judgement about certain objects : we
must first compare concepts to find in them an identity of many
reprsentations under one concept. If we make a particular judgement,
we compare concepts to find in them a diffrence of reprsentations.
Similarly, affirmative and negative judgements about objects are related
to agreement and opposition. For this reason, says Kant, one might be
tempted to call the four pairs of concepts listed above, 'concepts of

comparison' (A262.B318). However, he goes on, such a name would


be apt only in so far as we consider the logical form of the concepts ;
the situation changes radically as soon as we consider their content.
Suppose, e.g., that we ask whether certain things are identical or

diffrent. Things can have a twofold relation to our faculty of


knowledge : that is, they can be related either to sensibility or to
understanding. So whether things are identical or diffrent cannot be
established by a mere comparison of concepts ; we need 'transcendental
reflection' - that is, we need to consider the cognitive faculty to which
they belong. The mere comparison of concepts may be called "logical
reflection' ; what bears on the objects themselves is transcendental
reflection, and it is this reflection which must be undertaken by anyone

who wishes to pronounce a priori on the nature of things ( A262, B318

9). It is precisely this transcendental reflection which Leibniz


(according to Kant) neglected.
Kant's exposition of his argument is repetitive (3), and so I will not
(2) I use Kemp Smith's translation of the Critique of Pure Reason (London 1929).
Translations from Leibniz are my own.
(3) Kant begins (A263, B319) with an outline of his argument, based on the four

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304

G. H. R. PARKINSON

follow it page by page, but will State what I take to be its main lines. In
effect, Kant's argument has two main parts. The first part is a statement

of the fundamental error that, according to Kant, lies at the basis of


Leibniz's metaphysics. The second part is a dmonstration of the way
in which this error is manifested in Leibniz's use of the four concepts of
reflection ; this is in effect a rfutation of four major theses of his
metaphysics. What Kant sees as Leibniz's fundamental error has
already been mentioned : namely, his failure to grasp the need for
transcendental reflection. Leibniz believed that he could obtain a

knowledge of the inner nature of things simply by means of the

understanding and its formai concepts (A270.B326). But his use of


these concepts to obtain knowledge of objects was based on a mere
confusion - a 'transcendental amphiboly, that is, a confounding of an
object of pure understanding with appearance' (ibid.). He failed to note
that the diffrences between things are not just diffrences in their
concepts ; the conditions of sensible intuition also carry with them their
own diffrences. Kant goes on to make a very important point about
Leibniz's account of sensation, which, he says, involves a fundamental
misunderstanding of its nature. Leibniz did not see in the understan
ding and the sensibility two diffrent sources of our reprsentations,
which must act together if they are to supply objectively valid
judgements about things. Instead, he saw sensibility as a confused form

of thinking. 'In a word, Leibniz intellectualised appearances' (A271,


B327) (4).
III

The assertion that Leibniz intellectualised appearances is perhaps the


part of the Amphiboly that has received most notice. The topic has
been discussed at length in a recent book on Leibniz's epistemology by

concepts of refiection. Then, in a 'Note to the Amphiboly,' he elaborates the arguments


(A268. B324). and after a break in the text (A 280, B336) he re-phrases them yet again.

(4) Later in the Amphiboly, Kant says (A281, B337) that the whole of Leibniz's
intellectual system is based on a misconstrual of the dictum de omni et inillo, namely :

'What is not contained in a universal concept is also not included in the particular
concepts which stand under it." This is simply another way of making the point made
above : namely, that Leibniz fails to note that diffrences between things are not just
diffrences in their concepts.

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KANT AS A CRITIC OF I.EIBNIZ

305

Robert McRae (5), who cornes to the conclusion that Leibniz (contrary
to Kant's view of him) did not in fact believe that the diffrence

between sensation and thought is merely one of degree. In a paper


entitled 'The "Intellectualisation of Appearances" : Aspects of Leibniz's

Theory of Sensation and Thought' (6) I argue that McRae's thesis is


substantially correct. In the present paper I will omit matters of detail
and concentrate on the main issues.

Certainly, there are passages in which Leibniz seems to say that the
diffrence between sensation and thought is merely one of degree. Such

a passage is to be found in his paper 'Rponse de M. Leibniz aux


Rflexions ... de M. Bayle,' published in 1716, to which Kant (or those
from whom he took his views about Leibniz) (7) could have had access.
Leibniz says that 'It has been believed that confused thoughts differ toto

geilere from distinct ones ; in fact, however, they are merely less
distinct and less developed, by virtue of their multiplicity", and he gives

as examples of confused thoughts 'those of colours, odours, tastes, heat,

cold etc." (8) The question is, whether this really supports Kant's
interprtation of Leibniz. First, one must see just what Leibniz means

by his assertion that 'confused thoughts' (i.e. sensations) are 'less


distinct, by virtue of their multiplicity'. Behind this assertion there lies

one of Leibniz's metaphysical views : namely, that each substance


perceives the whole universe, and that in so doing it perceives an
infinity of substances. Now human beings are (as sols) substances, and
it is obvious that none of us se uses an infinity of substances ; no human

being is literally (e.g.) all-seeing, or all-hearing. Leibniz would add that,


strictly speaking, human beings never sense substances at all, in that

substances are, or resemble, sols, and as such are not directly


(5) Leibniz : Perception, Apperception and Tlioiiglil (Toronto 1976). See especially
Chap. 5. 'Understanding and Sensibility."
(6) Forthcoming in M. Hooker (ed.), Leibniz : Critical and huerpretive Essays
(Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore and London).
(7) I am not concerned here with the question of the extent to which Kant had a
first-hand knowledge of Leibniz's philosophy, though I shall have occasion to ask,
what works of Leibniz Kant could have read. It has been argued that Kant was directly
influenced by the Nouveaux Essais, first published in 1765 (see, e.g.. N. Kemp Smith,
Commentary. pp. 92. 186). and Sadik Al-Azm has argued that the Antinomies of Pure
Reason indicate a close study of the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence. first published in
1717 (The Origins of Kant s Arguments in the Antinomies, Oxford 1962).
(8) Die philosophischen Schriften von G. W. Leibniz, ed. Gerhardt (abbreviated GP)
IV 563.

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306

G. H. R. PARKINSON

accessible to our senses. Yet when (for example) I see a certain finite
number of material things, my sensations have a certain relation to
substances other than myself. I am perceiving (in some sense of the
term 'perceive') absolutely ail substances, and these substances appear
to me, in this situation, as so many coloured expanses. More exactly : to
have a sensation is to notice one's perceptions, it is to be aware of them,
to 'apperceive.' But one is not aware of each separate perception ; only
God could 'know distinctly' the infinity of substances in the universe

(op. cit., GP IV 564). Sensations, says Leibniz, are the resuit of the
infinite variety of perceptions that the sentient being has ; they resuit

from perceptions somewhat as a rainbow results from light rays and


drops of water. (See, among the works of Leibniz generally accessible

in 1781, Principes de la Nature et de la Grce, par. 13 ; Nouveaux


Essais, IV.17.9-13). So Leibniz can say that sensations are mere

appearances, 'phantoms' (Nouveaux Essais, IV.6.7). This is what is


meant when Leibniz says in the Principes de la Nature et de la Grce

(par. 13) that sensations are 'confused perceptions.'(9) Sensation is a


confused awareness of an infinity of perceptions ; the soul notices its
infinity of perceptions somewhat as a crowd is seen from a distance as
one expanse, without any noticeable diffrences between its members.
Exactly what Leibniz means by a perception is not wholly clear. He
usually says that a perception is an expression or reprsentation of a
multitude in the simple, i.e. in a simple substance (e.g. Monadology,
par. 14 ; GP II 1 1 2 ; GP III 574-5), but he does not make clear precisely
what it is that expresses or represents. But it is at any rate clear that,

despite Leibniz's misleading assertion that sensations are confused


thoughts, a sensation is not a species of the genus thought ; rather, both
sensations and abstract thoughts involve perceptions. This emerges

from the passage from the Rponse to Bayle that has already been

quoted. Leibniz says there that God, and only God. has a distinct
knowledge of the infinity of substances in the universe. Such knowl

edge must be non-sensual, i.e. must be some kind of pure thought.

(9) Confusingly, Leibniz sometimes says that sensations are distinct perceptions.
(E.g. GP VII 317 : 'If the perception is more distinct, it makes a sensation ). The term
'distinct,' as used in such contexts, seems to call attention to the part played in
sensation by the sense-organs. on which there are produced. by the bodies sensed,
impressions that are 'distinct and heightened' (Principes de la Nature et de la Grce,
par. 4).

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KANT AS A CRITIC OF LEIBNIZ

307

Now, God has this distinct knowledge by virtue of his superior powers
of apperception, which enable him to distinguish each of the

perceptions which appear to the sentient being confusedly as a


sensation. In themselves, then, perceptions should not be called either
sensations or thoughts ; what makes a perception, or class of
perceptions, one or the other lies in the way that it is apperceived.
What has been said so far does not exhaust the evidence that might
be brought in support of Kant's interprtation of Leibniz's theory of
sensation. In particular, Kant might appeal to the discussion of the
relations between sensation and knowledge that is contained in the
paper Meditationen de Cognitione, Veritate et ldeis, which Leibniz
published in 1684. In this paper, Leibniz divides knowledge into
various types. He distinguishes between 'obscure' and 'clear' knowl
edge ; 'clear' knowledge is subdivided first into 'confused' and 'distinct'
knowledge, and then 'distinct' knowledge is subdivided further into

'adequate' and 'inadquate' knowledge ; finally, 'adequate' knowledge


is subdivided into 'symbolic' and 'intuitive' knowledge. To this
classification of types of knowledge there corresponds a classification of

types of concept ; thuS, Leibniz speaks of 'obscure' and 'distinct'


concepts. An 'obscure' concept of X is a concept that does not suffice
for instances of X to be recognised ; the person who has such knowl
edge has only 'obscure' knowledge of X. Our concern (and most of
Leibniz's concern) is with clear concepts - concepts that do enable the
thing represented to be recognised - and clear knowledge. I said that
Leibniz distinguishes, within clear concepts, between those that are
confused and those that are distinct. This distinction is very relevant to
our present concern. because Leibniz gives as examples of confused
concepts, colours, smells, tastes 'and the other peculiar objects of the
senses' (GP IV 423). What he means by calling these 'confused' is this.
The concept of a colour, say, is clear, in that if I have (e.g.) the concept
of red, I can recognise red things. But it is confused in that I 'cannot list

separately the marks which are sufficient to distinguish the thing from

others, even though it has such marks and requisites, into which its
concept can be analysed' (GP IV 422). It may seem strnge that Leibniz
should imply that the concept of red is analysable ; one may feel initial
sympathy with Locke's view that the idea of red is a simple idea. What
Leibniz means, however, is that a colour has its causes (ibid.). A
distinct concept of a colour, then, would be one that is possessed by a

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308

G. H. R. PARKINSON

scientist who can say why certain things are perceived as being of this
colour.

None of this implies that sensation is confused thinking. There is


perhaps a parallel between having a sensation and having a confused
concept, in that the man who has a sensation cannot distinguisli the
perceptions from which it results, and the man who has a confused
concept cannot analyse a concept that is capable of analysis. But this is
not to say that sensation is confused thinking ; it merely implies that if
we rely on sensation exclusively, our knowledge and our concepts can
only be confused.
What place, then, does Leibniz have in his theory of knowledge for
sensation ? According to Kant, Leibniz saw in the senses nothing but
an obstacle to understanding ; Leibniz, says Kant, 'left to the senses

nothing but the despicable task of confusing and distorting the


reprsentations of the (understanding)' (A276,B332). If this were so,
then it would seem that Leibniz would advise the man who wants to

know and understand nature to ignore sense-perception and employ


the pure reason exclusively. But this is a mere caricature of Leibniz's
actual views.

(1) It is true that Leibniz (unlike Kant) thinks that human beings can
know some things about objects by the pure reason alone. Such truths
would be necessary truths ; with contingent truths the position is

diffrent. Leibniz says that we can know the truth of contingent


propositions only by means of sense-experience (Nouveaux Essais
IV.8.4 , cf. GP III 259, VII 44).

(2) Our knowledge of such truths also has a theoretical use. Leibniz
insists that we must be able to prove the possibility of concepts, i.e. we
must be able to show that a concept does not contain a latent

contradiction. He notes that we are often unable to give an a priori


proof of possibility, but have to be content with an a posteriori proof. In

such a case, we show that a concept is possible by establishing (by

means of experience) the existence of an instance of the concept


(Meditationes de Cognitionen GP IV 425).
Clearly, so far from seeing in the senses a mere obstacle to
knowledge and understanding, Leibniz recognises that they can be a

great help. Indeed he goes so far as to say, in the Prfac to the


Nouveaux Essais (GP V 43), that the senses are necessary for ail our
knowledge ; his point against empiricism is simply that they are not

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KANT AS A CRITIC OF I.EIBNiZ

309

sufficient for the whole of knowledge. Let us now sum up. Kant argued
(cf. Sec. II, ad fin.) that Leibniz failed to see that diffrences between

things are not just diffrences in their concepts. He failed to see this
because he failed to draw a radical distinction between understanding
and sensibility, and treated sensation as merely a confused form of
thinking. The argument of this section has been that Leibniz did not in
fact think that sensation is a confused form of thought. If one thinks
that Leibniz is wrong in believing that there is no diffrence in things
without a diffrence in concepts, one has to seek the origin of this
mistake elsewhere than in his theory of sensation 0).
IV

Now that we have examined what Kant regards as the fundamental


error in Leibniz's metaphysics, let us now see how he criticises
Leibniz's philosophy in detail. Each of the four concepts of reflection,
says Kant, is used by Leibniz (fallaciously) to generate a distinctive
feature of his philosophical system.
(1) Identity and diffrence. The first of the 'distinctive features'
(A270, B326) of Leibniz's system discussed by Kant is the identity of
indiscernibles. Kant does not formulate this principle explicitly, but
what he has in mind corresponds closely to the principle as it is

formulated by Leibniz in the Nouveaux Essais : namely, that two


diffrent things must always have some internai principle of
distinction, besides a diffrence of time and place. (Compare A263,
B319 with Nouveaux Essais 11.27.1). This, says Kant, was held by
Leibniz to be true, not just of the concepts of things in gnral, but also
of the objects of the senses. (A272.B328. Kant may well have in mind
Leibniz's famous assertion. Nouveaux Essais II.27.3, that it is

impossible to find two exactly similar leaves). This, Kant continues, is


an error. The identity of indiscernibles is true of the concepts of things

(10) One place to look, perhaps. would be Leibniz's view that each substance has a
'complt concept.' One might ask whether this view, and the monadology that goes
with it, rests on the mistake of regarding demonstrative or referring expressions as if
they were descriptive (cf. J. L. Austin, Plulosopliical Papers, Oxford 1961, p. 90 n. 3).
In fairness to Kant it should be added that the theory of the complt concept is
expressed in the Discours de Mtaphysique and other logico-philosophical works of c.
1686, which had not been published in Kant s time.

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310

G. H. R. PARKINSON

in gnral, but it is not true of the objects of the senses. Leibniz's error

lies in a failure to practise transcendental reflection, a failure to locate


the 'transcendental place' of the concepts with which he is operating
(A271, B327). He did not ask whether the objects compared are things
in themselves or appearances (ibid.) ; or rather, he took appearances to
be things in themselves, i.e. objects of the pure understanding (A264,
B320). If he had been dealing with the latter alone, his principle would
have been valid ; but he was dealing with objects of sensibility, and of
these the identity of indiscernibles does not hold. There can perfectly

well be (A263, B319) two drops of water which have no internai


diffrences, and yet are numerically diffrent. This is because they are
intuited, and plurality and numerical diffrence are given to us by space

itself, the condition of outer appearances.


Two observations can be made about this. First, despite Leibniz's
example of the two leaves, it does not seem to be essential to his thesis

of the identity of indiscernibles that there can be no observable


diffrences between two sensible objects. The thesis is a thesis about
substances, and to talk of sensible objects is to talk of the way in which
classes of substances appear to us. It could be, therefore, that two such
classes display no observable diffrences, even though they are in fact
diffrent. The second observation concerns Kant's own strategy here. It
seems that he does not (whatever he may claim) locate Leibniz's error
simply in an amphiboly of the concepts of identity and diffrence. Kant
does not just criticise Leibniz for his neglect of intuition ; his criticisms
also involve his own view of the nature of space - namely, that space is
a 'condition of outer appearances' (A264, B320), and is prior (contrary
to what Leibniz thought) to things in space. We will return to this issue
when discussing the concepts of matter and form, where Kant
addresses himself directly to Leibniz's theory of space and time.
(2) Agreement and opposition. The principle of Leibniz's philosophy
that is in mind here seems to be his view (e.g. Thodice, Part I, par.
30; GP VI 120) that 'ail evils are merely consquences of the
limitations of created things' (A273, B329) ("). This, says Kant, rests on
a misuse of the concepts of agreement and opposition. It is indeed true
to say that realities can never logically conflict with each other ; but this
(11) Kant also mentions the view (A273, B329) that there can be no conflict in
reality, but he ascribes this to Leibniz's disciples rather than to Leibniz himself.

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KANT AS A CRITIC OF LEIBNIZ

311

is true only of concepts. It has nothing to do with nature, where real


conflict certainly occurs, e.g. when forces oppose each other.
In effect, Kant is here drawing a distinction between logical
contradiction and real conflict, and is saying that the logical principle of
non-contradiction is no bar to the existence of conflict in the real world.

One may readily agree with him ; but how relevant is this to Leibniz ?
When Leibniz dclars in the Tlieodice (loc. cit.) that 'God is the cause

of the perfection of the creature's nature and actions, but the limitation

of the creature's receptivity is the cause of the defects that there are in

its action," he does not appeal to the principle that real conflict is
impossible. On the contrary, he uses an opposition between forces to
illustrate his point, comparing the current that moves a boat to God's
action, which gives creatures their perfection, and the boat's inertia,
which slows it down, to the natural imperfection of creatures. If
Leibniz is to be criticised for his views about the relations between God

and evil, it must be on grounds that are diffrent from those advanced
by Kant.

(3) The inner and the outer. This is perhaps the most important of
Kant's criticisms of Leibniz, in that it bears on Leibniz's monadology,
i.e. on his view that there exist simple subjects which have the power
of reprsentation (A266, B322 ; cf. A283, B339). Kant finds the root of
Leibniz's error in his misuse of the concepts of inner and outer. He does
not explain what he means by these concepts in this context. Certainly,
the terms 'inner' and 'outer' do not seem to have the meaning that they
have in the phrases 'inner sense' and 'outer sense' ; rather, in speaking
of a thing's 'inner reality' (A265,B321) Kant seems to be thinking of
that which is independent of a thing's relations to other things. 'Inner
reality,' in fact, corresponds to what Leibniz would have called the
'intrinsic dnominations' of a substance. Kant's argument is this. If we
consider the inner reality of an object of pure understanding, we find
that only that is inward which has no relation to anything other than
the object itself. But with the substances that appear to us in space, the
situation is quite diffrent. The inner dterminations of such a
substance 'are nothing but relations, and it itself is made up of mere
relations' (A265, B321). This is because (ibid.) 'we are acquainted with
substance in space only through forces which are active in this and that
Space." This distinction, however - the distinction between the concepts
of the pure understanding and phenomena - is one that Leibniz did not

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312

G. H. R. PARKINSON

draw. So he said that no substance could have anything that might


signify outer relation ; that is, he said that no substance could be

composite, but that substances are 'simple subjects with powers of


reprsentation - in a word, monads' (A266, B323).
There are two topics for discussion here : (a) substances as simple,
and (b) substances as having reprsentations, i.e. as being sols or soul
like. (a) It is not immediately clear why Kant should think that freedom
from outer relations should entail freedom from composition (cf. A274,

B330). A. C. Ewing (op. cit., p. 197) takes Kant to mean that 'a
composite substance would have an internai nature dpendent on its
relation to other substances (its parts).' To this it might be replied that
these relations are not to substances outside the composite substance ;
they are relations to its parts, and could be called internai relations. In
sum, it is not clear why Leibniz should have argued in the way that
Kant suggests ; and in fact the evidence indicates that he did not argue

in this way. His actual argument is stated clearly in a now famous


passage from a letter to Arnauld of 30 April 1687 (GP II 97) : take as

axiomatic this identical proposition, which is diversified only by


emphasis : that which is not truly one being is not truly one being
either.' The correspondence with Arnauld had not been published
when Kant wrote ; C2) but although Kant's misinterpretation of Leibniz
is excusable, it remains a misinterpretation. (b) Continuing with his
reconstruction of Leibniz's argument, Kant asks, 'What inner accidents
can I entertain in thought, save only those which my inner sense
prsents to me ?' (A264, B321). For place, shape, contact or motion are
ail outer relations (A274, B330). Here Kant seems to play on an
ambiguity in the term 'outer' - namely, between 'outer' as meaning that
class of a thing's predicates which involve its relations to other things,
and 'outer' as meaning that which involves spatial relations. There is
no evidence that Leibniz was influenced by this ambiguity, even
unconsciously ; his actual argument for the non-extended character of
substance is quite diffrent. Briefly, his view is that the concept of
extension is analysable into that of the plurality, continuity and co
existence of parts (e g. to de Volder, 3 April 1699 ; GP II 169). From
this it follows that, since every substance is simple, no substance can be
extended (n).
( ! 2) The first fairly complt dition was that of C. E. Grotefend (Hanover 1846).
(13) As far as I know. this argument for the non-extended character of substance is

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KANT AS A CRITIC OF LEIBNIZ

313

(4) Matter and form. Here, Kant is concerned with Leibniz's theory
of space and time. He asks how Leibniz came to conceive Space and
time as certain orders in the reprsentations that substances have, and
says that he did so by virtue of a misuse of the concepts of matter and

form (A275, B331). The understanding, says Kant, demands that


something should first be given if it is to have any defnite
dterminations (A267, B323), and this led Leibniz to think that
substances (as matter) are prior to space and time (as their form). More

exactly, he took space to be a certain order in the 'community'


CGemeinschaft) of substances, based on their reciprocal action, and time
to be an order based on the sequence of their states, viewed as grounds

and consquences C4). Kant is careful to add that for Leibniz, this
'reciprocal action' does not imply that one substance acts on another ;
rather, the relation between substances is one of reciprocal correspon
dence, based on the pre-established harmony (A275, B331).
AU this, according to Kant, would be true if the understanding could
be directed immediately to objects (i.e. if we had intellectual intuition)
and if space and time were dterminations of things in themselves
(A267, B323). In fact, however, we have only sensible intuitions, and
space and time are the forms of such intuitions (ibid.). Here again, as in
the case of Kant's discussion of the identity of indiscernibles (cf. (1)
above), it emerges that Kant's criticism rests not only on an alleged
amphiboly of concepts, but also on the doctrines of the Transcendental
Aesthetic. Even if we grant Kant's thesis that there is no intellectual
intuition, it does not follow, from this alone, that space and time are
forms of intuition.

not contained in any Leibnizian text available to Kant. However, the view that the
concept of extension involves plurality and simultaneity is to be found in the Rponse

to Bayle which Leibniz published in 1716 (GP IV 568), and which has already been
cited (See. III, ad init.).

(14) It should be noted that there is a mistranslation in Kemp Smith's English


version of this passage, which could cause confusion. Kemp Smith renders the
sentence beginning 'Daher waren Raum und Zeit ...' (A267, B323) as : Space and time
- the former through the relation of substances, the latter through the connection of
their dterminations among themselves - were thus, on this view, possible as grounds

and consquents.' But (as is clear from A275, B331) the phrase 'as grounds and
consquents' should refer to time atone

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314

G. H. R. PARKINSON

To sum up. Kant claims that the basic doctrines of Leibniz's


philosophy rest on a single basic confusion : his failure to distinguish
between concepts that apply to the objects of the pure understanding
and those that apply to the objects that we sense. This confusion, Kant
claims, springs from Leibniz's failure to recognise the understanding
and the sensibility as two separate sources of the knowledge of objects,
a failure that is manifested in his view that sensation is simply confused
thinking. The argument of this paper has been :
(i) In his detailed discussion of Leibniz's philosophy, Kant does not
rely exclusively on the alleged amphiboly of concepts of reflection, but
also refers back to the Transcendental Aesthetic.

(ii) An examination of Leibniz's writings does not support the view


that he reached his metaphysical conclusions in the way that Kant
claims.

(iii) The assertion that Leibniz viewed sensation as confused

thinking is superficially plausible, but does not correspond to Leibniz's


actual theories of sensation and thought.

All this, however, does not mean that nothing can be learned from
Kant's criticisms of Leibniz. There is a tendency at the present day to
speak of the need for 'rational reconstruction' when examining the

philosophy of the past. 'Rational reconstruction' may mean several


things : here, I take it to mean 'the orderly prsentation of relationships

that its author was supposed to have chosen to leave inexplicit' (M. R.
Ayers) O5). Bertrand Russell's 'critical exposition' of Leibniz's philoso
phy is an example of such a rational reconstruction ; Kant's critique of
Leibniz in the Amphiboly is another. There is no doubt of the value of
attempts to produce such reconstructions ; to understand a philosophy,
one has in a way to re-think it. But Kant's critique of Leibniz can teach
us that such attempts should not be too a priori in character. Besides
asking, 'What might this philosopher have meant ? How might he have
argued ?' we need to pay close attention to what the philosopher
actually said. The maxim may seem jejune and obvious ; the arguments
of the Amphiboly show that it is not always followed.
(15) In J. Re. M. R. Ayers and a. Westoby, Philosophy and its Past (London 1978)
p. 56.

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