Dr.med. Othmar Mäser, Psychiater Psychotherapie

Kant quotation 9 : opinion, belief, knowledge

Norman Kemp Smith translation:

“The holding of a thing to be true is an occurence in our understanding which, though it may rest on objective grounds, also requires subjective causes in the mind of the individual who makes the judgement. If the judgement is valid for everyone, provided only he is in possession of reason, its ground is objectively sufficient, and the holding of it to be true is entitled conviction. If it has its ground only in the special character of the subject, it is entitled persuasion.

Persuasion is a mere illusion, because the ground of the judgement, which lies solely in the subject, is regarded as objective. Such a judgement has only private validity, and the holding of it to be true does not allow of being communicated. But truth depends upon agreement with the object, and in respect of it the judgements of each and every understanding must therefore be in agreement with each other (consentientia uni tercio, consentiunt inter se). The criterion whereby we decide whether our holding a thing to be true is conviction or mere persuasion is therefore external, namely, the possibility of communicating it and of finding it to be valid for all human reason. For there is then at least a presumption that the ground of the agreement of all judgements with each other, notwithstanding the differing characters of individuals, rests upon the common ground, namely, upon the object, and that it is for this reason that they are all in agreement with the object – the truth of the judgement being thereby proved.

So long, therefore, as the subject views the judgement merely as an appearance of his mind, persuasion cannot be subjectively distinguished from conviction. The experiment, however, whereby we test upon the understanding of others whether those grounds of the judgement which are valid for us have the same effect on the reason of others as on our own, is the means, although only a subjective means, not indeed of producing conviction, but of detecting any merely private validity in the judgement, that is, anything in it which is mere persuasion.

If, in addition, we can specify the subjective causes of the judgement, which we have taken as being its objective grounds, and can thus explain the deceptive judgement as an event in our mind, and can do so without having to take account of the character  of the object, we expose the illusion and are no longer deceived by it, although always still in some degree liable to come unter its influence, in so far as the subjective cause of the illusion is inherent in our nature.

I cannot assert anything, this is, declare it to be a jedgement necessarily valid for everyone, save as it gives rise to conviction (which is at the same time objectively valid), has the following there degrees: opining, believing, and knowing. Opining is such holding of a judgement as is consciously insufficient, not only objectively, but also subjectively. If our holding of the judgement be only subjectively sufficient, and is at the same taken  as being objectively insufficient, we have what is termed believing. Lastly, when the holding of a thing to be true is sufficient both subjectively and objectively, it is knowledge. The subjective sufficiency is termed conviction (for myself), the objective sufficiency is termed certainty (for everyone). There is no call for me to spend further time on the explanation of such easily understood terms.” (1)

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J. M. D. Meiklejohn translation:

“ The holding of a thing to be true, is a phenomenon in our understanding which may rest on objective grounds, but requires, also, subjective causes in the mind of the person judging. If a judgement is valid for every rational being, then its ground is objectively sufficient, and it is termed conviction. If, on the other hand, it has its ground in the particular character of the subject, it is termed a persuasion.

Persuasion is a mere illusion, the ground of the judgement, which lies solely in the subject, being regarded as objective. Hence a judgement of this kind has only private validity – is only valid for the individual who judges, and the holding of a thing to be true in this way cannot be communicated. But truth depends upon agreement with the object, and consequently the judgements of all understandings, if true, must be in agreement with each other (consentientia uni tertio consentiunt inter se).

Conviction may, therefore, be distinguished, from an external point of view, from persuasion, by the possibility of communicating it, and by showing its validity for the reason of every man; for in this case the presumption, at least, arises, that the agreement of all judgements with each other, in spite of the different characters of individuals, rests upon the common ground of the agreement of each with the object, and thus the correctness of the judgement is established.

Persuasion, accordingly, cannot be subjectively distinguished from conviction, that is, so long as the subject views its judgement simply as a phenomenon of its own mind. But if we inquire whether the grounds of our judgement, which are valid for us, produce the same effect on the reason of others as on our own, we have then the same means, though only subjective means, not, indeed, of producing conviction, but of detecting the merely private validity of the judgement; in other words, of discovering that there is in it the element of mere persuasion.

If we can, in addition to this, develop the subjective causes of the judgement, which we have taken for its objective grounds, and thus explain the deceptive judgement as a phenomenon in our mind, apart altogether from the objective character of the object, we can then expose the illusion and need be no longer deceived by it, although, if its subjective cause lies in our nature, we cannot hope altogether to escape its influence.

I can only maintain, that is, affirm as necessarily valid for everyone, that which produces convition. Persuasion I may keep for myself, if it is agreeable to me; but I cannot, and ought not, to attempt to impose it as binding upon others.

Holding for true, or the subjective validity of a judgment in relation to conviction ( which is, at the same time, objectively valid ), has the three following degrees: Opinion, Belief, and Knowledge. Opinion is a consciously insufficient judgement, subjectively as well as objectively. Belief is subjectively sufficient, but is recognized as being objectively insufficient. Knowledge is both subjectively and objectively sufficient.

Subjective sufficiency is termed conviction ( for myself ); objectiv sufficiency is termed certainty ( for all ). I need not dwell longer on the explanation of such simple conceptions.” (2)

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Guyer / Wood translation:

“Taking something to be true is an occurence in our understanding that may rest on objective grounds, but that also requires subjective causes in the mind of him who judges. If it is valid for everyone merely as long as he has reason, then its ground is ojectively sufficient, and in that case taking something to be true is called conviction. If it has its ground only in the particular constitution of the subject, then it is called persuasion.

Persuasion is a mere semblance, since the ground of the judgement, which lies solely in the subject, is held to be objective. Hence such a judgement also has only private validity, and this taking something to be true cannot be communicated. Truth, however, rests upon agreement with the object, with regard to which, consequently, the judgements of every understanding must agree (consentientia uni tertio, consentiunt inter se). The touchstone of whether taking something to be true is conviction or mere persuasion is therfore, exernally, the possiblity of communication it and finding it to be valid for the reason of every human being to take it to be true; for in that case there is at least a presumption that the ground of the agreement of all judegments, regardless of the difference among the subjects, rests on the common ground, mamely the object, with which they therefore all agree and through which the truth of the judgement is proved.

Accordingly, persuasion cannot be distinguished from conviction subjectively, when the subject has taken something to be true merely as an appearance of his own mind; but the experiment that one makes on the understnding of others, to see if the grounds that are valid for us have the same effect on the reason of others, is a means, though only a subjective one, not for producing conviction, to be sure, but yet for revealing the merely private validity of the judgement, i.e., something in it that is mere persuasion.

If, moreover, one can unfold the subjective causes of the judgement, which we take to be objective grounds for it, and thus explain taking something to be true deceptively as an occurrence in our mind, without having any need for the constitituion of the object, then we expose the illusion and are no longer taken in by it, although we are always tempted to a certain degree if the subjective cause of the illusion depends upon our nature.

I cannot assert anything, i.e., pronounce it to be a judgement necessarily valid for everyone, except that which produces conviction. I can preserve persuasion for myself if I please to do so, but cannot and should not want to make it valid beyond myself.

Taking something to be true, or the subjective validity of judgement, has the following there stages in relation to conviction (which at the same time is valid objectively): having an opinion, believing, and knowing. Having  an opinion is taking something to be true with the consciousness that it is subjectively as well as objectively insuffficient. If taking something to be true is only subjectively sufficient and is at the same time held to be objectively insufficient, then it is called believing. Finally, when taking something to be true is both subjectively and objectively sufficient is is called knowing. Subjective sufficency is called conviction (for myself), objective sufficiencey, certainty ( for everyone). I will not pause for the expositon of such readily grasped concepts.” (3)

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Weigelt (Müller) translation:

” The holding a thing to be true is an event in our understanding which, though it may rest on objective grounds, requires also subjective causes in the mind of the person who is judging. If the judgement is valid for everybody, provided only he is in possession o f reason, then the ground of it is objectively sufficient, and the holding it to be true is called conviction. If, on the contrary, it has its ground only in the peculiar character of the subject, it is called persuasion.

Persuasion is a mere illusion, where the ground of the judgement, though it lies solely in the subject, is regareded as objective. Such a judgement has, therefore, private validity only, and the holding it to be true cannot be communicated. Truth, however, depends on agreemment with the object, and hence, with regard to the object, the judgements of every understanding must be in agreement with one another (consentientia uni tertio consentiunt inter se). An external criterion, therfore, as to whether our holding something to be true be conviction or mere persuasion consists in the possibility of communicating it and of finding its truth to be valid for the reason of every human being. For in that case there is at least a presumption that the ground of the agreement of all judgements, in spite of the difference among the subjects, rests upon the common ground, namely, on the object, and that it is for this reason that they are all in agreement with the object, and thus prove the truth of the judgement.

Persuasion, therefore, cannot be distinguished subjectively from conviction, as long as the subject views this holding a thing to be true merely as an appeareance of his own mind; the experiment, however, whereby we test the grounds of the holding a thing to be true that seem valid to us, by trying to find out whether they will produce the same effect on the reason of others, is a means, though only a subjective one, not indeed of producing conviction, but of detecting any merely private validity of the judgement, that is, of discovering whatever in it is mere persuasion.

If, furthermore, we are able to specify the subjective causes of our judgement, which we have taken to be its objective grounds, and thus explain the deceptive holing a thing to be true as an event on our mind, without having recourse to the character of the object itself, then we expose the illusion and are not longer deceived by it, although we may continue to be tempted by it to a certain degrree, if, namely, the subjective cause of the illusion adheres to our nature.

I cannot assert anything, that is, declare it as judgement necessarily valid for everybody, save something that brings about conviction. Persuasion I may keep for myself, if it is agreeable to me, but I cannot, and ought not, attempt to make it binding on anyone but myself.

The holding of a thing to be true, or the subjecitve validity of a judgement has, with refernce to the conviction (which is at the same time valid objectively), the treee following degrees: opining, believing, knowing. Opining is such holding true of a thing as is consciously insufficient both subjectively and objectively. If our holding true is sufficient only subjectively, but is held to be insufficient objectively, it is called believing; while, if it is sufficient both subjectively and objectively, it is called knowing. Subjective sufficiency is called conviction (form myself), objective sufficiency is called certainty (for everybody).  I shall not dwell any longer on the explantion of such easily understood concepts.”

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(1) Kemp Smith: Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason, Translated by Norman Kemp Smith, Blunt Press, 2008, (originally published by Macmillan & Co., London, 1929), page 645-646.

(2) Meiklejohn: Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason, Dover Philosophical Classics, 2003, (unabridged republication of J. M. D. Meiklejohn’s translation, Colonial Press, London and New York, 1900), pages 460 – 461.

(3) Guyer, Wood: Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason, Translated and edited by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, (The Cambridge edition of the works of Immanuel Kant), Cambridge University Press, 1998, page 684-686.

(4) Weigelt, (Müller): ant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason, Translated, edited and with an introduction by Marcus Weigelt, Based on the translation by Max Müller, (Penguin Classics), Penguin Books, 2007, page 645 -646.

Link to German quotation

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