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He may analyse the conception of a right line, of an angle, or of the number three as long as he pleases, but he will not discover any properties not contained in these conceptions. | |

But, if this question is proposed to a geometrician, he at once begins by constructing a triangle. | |

He knows that two right angles are equal to the sum of all the contiguous angles which proceed from one point in a straight line; and he goes on to produce one side of his triangle, thus forming two adjacent angles which are together equal to two right angles. | |

He then divides the exterior of these angles, by drawing a line parallel with the opposite side of the triangle, and immediately perceives that be has thus got an exterior adjacent angle which is equal to the interior. | |

Proceeding in this way, through a chain of inferences, and always on the ground of intuition, he arrives at a clear and universally valid solution of the question. | |

But mathematics does not confine itself to the construction of quantities (quanta), as in the case of geometry; it occupies itself with pure quantity also (quantitas), as in the case of algebra, where complete abstraction is made of the properties of the object indicated by the conception of quantity. | |

In algebra, a certain method of notation by signs is adopted, and these indicate the different possible constructions of quantities, the extraction of roots, and so on. | |

After having thus denoted the general conception of quantities, according to their different relations, the different operations by which quantity or number is increased or diminished are presented in intuition in accordance with general rules. | |

Thus, when one quantity is to be divided by another, the signs which denote both are placed in the form peculiar to the operation of division; and thus algebra, by means of a symbolical construction of quantity, just as geometry, with its ostensive or geometrical construction (a construction of the objects themselves), arrives at results which discursive cognition cannot hope to reach by the aid of mere conceptions. | |

Now, what is the cause of this difference in the fortune of the philosopher and the mathematician, the former of whom follows the path of conceptions, while the latter pursues that of intuitions, which he represents, a priori, in correspondence with his conceptions? | |

The cause is evident from what has been already demonstrated in the introduction to this Critique. | |

We do not, in the present case, want to discover analytical propositions, which may be produced merely by analysing our conceptions--for in this the philosopher would have the advantage over his rival; we aim at the discovery of synthetical propositions--such synthetical propositions, moreover, as can be cognized a priorI. I must not confine myself to that which I actually cogitate in my conception of a triangle, for this is nothing more than the mere definition; I must try to go beyond that, and to arrive at properties which are not contained in, although they belong to, the conception. | |

Now, this is impossible, unless I determine the object present to my mind according to the conditions, either of empirical, or of pure, intuition. | |

In the former case, I should have an empirical proposition (arrived at by actual measurement of the angles of the triangle), which would possess neither universality nor necessity; but that would be of no value. | |

In the latter, I proceed by geometrical construction, by means of which I collect, in a pure intuition, just as I would in an empirical intuition, all the various properties which belong to the schema of a triangle in general, and consequently to its conception, and thus construct synthetical propositions which possess the attribute of universality. | |

It would be vain to philosophize upon the triangle, that is, to reflect on it discursively; I should get no further than the definition with which I had been obliged to set out. | |

There are certainly transcendental synthetical propositions which are framed by means of pure conceptions, and which form the peculiar distinction of philosophy; but these do not relate to any particular thing, but to a thing in general, and enounce the conditions under which the perception of it may become a part of possible experience. | |

But the science of mathematics has nothing to do with such questions, nor with the question of existence in any fashion; it is concerned merely with the properties of objects in themselves, only in so far as these are connected with the conception of the objects. | |

In the above example, we merely attempted to show the great difference which exists between the discursive employment of reason in the sphere of conceptions, and its intuitive exercise by means of the construction of conceptions. | |

The question naturally arises; What is the cause which necessitates this twofold exercise of reason, and how are we to discover whether it is the philosophical or the mathematical method which reason is pursuing in an argument? | |

All our knowledge relates, finally, to possible intuitions, for it is these alone that present objects to the mind. |

Gilles Tran © 1993-2009 www.oyonale.com