In the metaphysical deduction, the a priori origin of categories was proved by their complete accordance with the general logical of thought; in the transcendental deduction was exhibited the possibility of the categories as a priori cognitions of objects of an intuition in general (SS 16 and 17).At present we are about to explain the possibility of cognizing, a priori, by means of the categories, all objects which can possibly be presented to our senses, not, indeed, according to the form of their intuition, but according to the laws of their conjunction or synthesis, and thus, as it were, of prescribing laws to nature and even of rendering nature possible. For if the categories were inadequate to this task, it would not be evident to us why everything that is presented to our senses must be subject to those laws which have an a priori origin in the understanding itself.
I premise that by the term synthesis of apprehension I understand the combination of the manifold in an empirical intuition, whereby perception, that is, empirical consciousness of the intuition (as phenomenon), is possible.
We have a priori forms of the external and internal sensuous intuition in the representations of space and time, and to these must the synthesis of apprehension of the manifold in a phenomenon be always comformable, because the synthesis itself can only take place according to these forms. But space and time are not merely forms of sensuous intuition, but intuitions themselves (which contain a manifold), and therefore contain a priori the determination of the unity of this manifold.* (See the Transcendent Aesthetic.) Therefore is unity of the synthesis of the manifold without or within us, consequently also a conjunction to which all that is to be represented as determined in space or time must correspond, given a priori along with (not in) these intuitions, as the condition of the synthesis of all apprehension of them. But this synthetical unity can be no other than that of the conjunction of the manifold of a given intuition in general, in a primitive act of consciousness, according to the categories, but applied to our sensuous intuition. Consequently all synthesis, whereby alone is even perception possible, is subject to the categories. And, as experience is cognition by means of conjoined perceptions, the categories are conditions of the possibility of experience and are therefore valid a priori for all objects of experience.
*Space represented as an object (as geometry really requires it to be) contains more than the mere form of the intuition; namely, a combination of the manifold given according to the form of sensibility into a representation that can be intuited; so that the form of the intuition gives us merely the manifold, but the formal intuition gives unity of representation. In the aesthetic, I regarded this unity as belonging entirely to sensibility, for the purpose of indicating that it antecedes all conceptions, although it presupposes a synthesis which does not belong to sense, through which alone, however, all our conceptions of space and time are possible. For as by means of this unity alone (the understanding determining the sensibility) space and time are given as intuitions, it follows that the unity of this intuition a priori belongs to space and time, and not to the conception of the understanding (SS 20).
When, then, for example, I make the empirical intuition of a house by apprehension of the manifold contained therein into a perception, the necessary unity of space and of my external sensuous intuition lies at the foundation of this act, and I, as it were, draw the form of the house conformably to this synthetical unity of the manifold in space. But this very synthetical unity remains, even when I abstract the form of space, and has its seat in the understanding, and is in fact the category of the synthesis of the homogeneous in an intuition; that is to say, the category of quantity, to which the aforesaid synthesis of apprehension, that is, the perception, must be completely conformable.*
*In this manner it is proved, that the synthesis of apprehension, which is empirical, must necessarily be conformable to the synthesis of apperception, which is intellectual, and contained a priori in the category. It is one and the same spontaneity which at one time, under the name of imagination, at another under that of understanding, produces conjunction in the manifold of intuition.
To take another example, when I perceive the freezing of water, I apprehend two states (fluidity and solidity), which, as such, stand toward each other mutually in a relation of time. But in the time, which I place as an internal intuition, at the foundation of this phenomenon, I represent to myself synthetical unity of the manifold, without which the aforesaid relation could not be given in an intuition as determined (in regard to the succession of time). Now this synthetical unity, as the a priori condition under which I conjoin the manifold of an intuition, is, if I make abstraction of the permanent form of my internal intuition (that is to say, of time), the category of cause, by means of which, when applied to my sensibility, I determine everything that occurs according to relations of time. Consequently apprehension in such an event, and the event itself, as far as regards the possibility of its perception, stands under the conception of the relation of cause and effect: and so in all other cases.
Categories are conceptions which prescribe laws a priori to phenomena, consequently to nature as the complex of all phenomena (natura materialiter spectata). And now the question arises- inasmuch as these categories are not derived from nature, and do not regulate themselves according to her as their model (for in that case they would be empirical)- how it is conceivable that nature must regulate herself according to them, in other words, how the categories can determine a priori the synthesis of the manifold of nature, and yet not derive their origin from her. The following is the solution of this enigma.
It is not in the least more difficult to conceive how the laws of the phenomena of nature must harmonize with the understanding and with its a priori form- that is, its faculty of conjoining the manifold- than it is to understand how the phenomena themselves must correspond with the a priori form of our sensuous intuition. For laws do not exist in the phenomena any more than the phenomena exist as things in themselves. Laws do not exist except by relation to the subject in which the phenomena inhere, in so far as it possesses understanding, just as phenomena have no existence except by relation to the same existing subject in so far as it has senses. To things as things in themselves, conformability to law must necessarily belong independently of an understanding to cognize them. But phenomena are only representations of things which are utterly unknown in respect to what they are in themselves. But as mere representations, they stand under no law of conjunction except that which the conjoining faculty prescribes. Now that which conjoins the manifold of sensuous intuition is imagination, a mental act to which understanding contributes unity of intellectual synthesis, and sensibility, manifoldness of apprehension. Now as all possible perception depends on the synthesis of apprehension, and this empirical synthesis itself on the transcendental, consequently on the categories, it is evident that all possible perceptions, and therefore everything that can attain to empirical consciousness, that is, all phenomena of nature, must, as regards their conjunction, be subject to the categories. And nature (considered merely as nature in general) is dependent on them. as the original ground of her necessary conformability to law (as natura formaliter spectata). But the pure faculty (of the understanding) of prescribing laws a priori to phenomena by means of mere categories, is not competent to enounce other or more laws than those on which a nature in general, as a conformability to law of phenomena of space and time, depends. Particular laws, inasmuch as they concern empirically determined phenomena, cannot be entirely deduced from pure laws, although they all stand under them. Experience must be superadded in order to know these particular laws; but in regard to experience in general, and everything that can be cognized as an object thereof, these a priori laws are our only rule and guide.