Chapter 12. "Existence Is Not a Predicate" by Immanuel Kant

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from The Critique of Pure Reason
The Reading Selection from The Critique of Pure Reason
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

Immanuel Kant, Thoemmes

About the author…

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) studied in Königsberg, East Prussia. Before he fully developed an interest in philosophy, he was fascinated with physics and astronomy—in fact, he anticipated William Herschel's discovery of Uranus by a few years. Kant's critical philosophy, one of the truly profound philosophies in the history of Western Civilization, was constructed to forge empiricism and rationalism into a "critical" philosophy which sought to overcome the many pressing shortcomings of each. What we call objective reality, Kant argues, is subject to whatever conforms to the structures of our perception and thinking. Virtually every epistemological theory since Kant, directly or indirectly, is oriented in reference to his The Critique of Pure Reason.

About the work…

In "Section IV. Of the Impossibility of an Ontological Proof of the Existence of God,"[1] drawn from his Critique, Kant addresses the logical problem of existential import. How do we talk or think about things without supposing, in some sense at least, that they exist? Bertrand Russell expressed one aspect of the problem this way: If it's false that the present King of France is bald, then why doesn't this fact imply that it's true the present King of France is not bald? When the existence of the subjects of our statements are in question, the normal use of logic becomes unreliable. Kant argues that the use of words (or "predicates") alone does not necessarily imply the existence of their referents. We can only assume the existence of entities named by our words; we cannot prove "existence" by means of the use of language alone.

Ideas of Interest from The Critique of Pure Reason

  1. Define the term "á priori judgment" with the help of a dictionary, and give several different examples of an á priori judgment.

  2. Use a good dictionary to define the term "analytic judgment," and give several different examples. Is there any difference between an analytic judgment and a tautology?

  3. Construct a good definition of the term "synthetic judgment," and give several examples.

  4. What is Kant's argument that "existence is not a predicate"? How does this argument relate to Anselm's Ontological argument?



Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. J. M. D. Meiklejohn. 1781. Bk.2 Ch. 3 § IV, ¶ 55.