In the Transcendental Aesthetic he notes:

... I shall add that the conception of change, and with it the conception of motion, as change of place, is possible only through and in the representation of time; that if this representation were not an intuition (internal) a priori, no conception, of whatever kind, could render comprehensible the possibility of change, in other words, of a conjunction of contradictorily opposed predicates in one and the same object, for example, the presence of a thing in a place and the non-presence of the same thing in the same place. It is only in time that it is possible to meet with two contradictorily opposed determinations in one thing, that is, after each other.

And in the Analytic he picks up the theme again:

... [there is a formulation of the principle that] is affected by the condition of time, and as it were says: "A thing = A, which is something = B, cannot at the same time be non-B." But both, B as well as non-B, may quite well exist in succession. For example, a man who is young cannot at the same time be old; but the same man can very well be at one time young, and at another not young, that is, old. Now the principle of contradiction as a merely logical proposition must not by any means limit its application merely to relations of time, and consequently a formula like the preceding is quite foreign to its true purpose.

Does this mean that, by the word "time," Kant is referring to whatever plays the role of upholding the principle of contradiction when otherwise inconsistent predicates are applied to the same subject? This seems like a role we could at least try to generalize as a concept, so as to have a phrase like, "Something else, not what we refer to by the word 'time,' but which would play a counterpart role if it existed." Or is "time" being fully equated with its transcendental role, in Kant's system, in sustaining the principle of contradiction? I ask because this definition would seem to go both behind and above any of the definitions that seem to figure in questions like, "Is time an illusion?" or, "Is time grounded in something else?"

For how could time be grounded in something else that is yet time-like (quantum fields, say), if time's purpose as a concept is so interwoven with a presumably as-basic-as-can-be principle like that of noncontradiction? Because otherwise, would we have to explain how quantum fields (or whatever) allow for coherently inconsistent predication independent on the existence of time? (I'm not, myself, averse to trying to ground noncontradiction in something else, be it arguments-from-explosions or perhaps necessarily-existing-beings.)

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    Kant is pretty categorical:"If this representation were not an intuition (internal) a priori, no conception, of whatever kind, could render comprehensible the possibility... of a conjunction of contradictorily opposed predicates in one and the same object". He was equally categorical on geometry, but... All one really needs is labels to numerically distinguish exemplars of "one and the same" object, and equivalence to identify them. Time stamps and identity through time work, but they are hardly the only option. Disambiguation upholds non-contradiction, a conception, not an intuition.
    – Conifold
    Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 3:09
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    From the Kantbuch, p.195 : "Time necessarily affects the concept of the representations of objects. To affect a priori the act of ob-jectification as such, i.e., the pure act of orientation toward . . . means: to bring up against it something on the order of an opposition, "It" — the pure act of ob-jectification — being pure apperception, the ego itself." (This is not necessarily Kant's view though.) Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 6:42
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    For Kant time at the deepest transcendental intuition layer bridges the succession of perceptions to the categories produced by imagination in relation to itself! Worse, perceptions are already (categorically) theory-laden almost confirmed by contemporary neuroscience especially about vison. Thus Kantian time as the most fundamental form of categories if they really exist is essentially imagination upon imagination (remember Hegel's light upon light?). Such is a logical conclusion to ground time if we're not accepting his judgement of time's as his first principle, possibly... Commented Aug 19, 2023 at 0:15
  • @Conifold If they're genuinely one and the same object, then there is nothing to disambiguate.
    – user73173
    Commented May 27 at 5:55
  • @Conifold And if we're distinguishing objects by means other than description, then we're intuiting them, in Kant's terminology, since intuition is exactly a representation that refers immediately to its object. So, if we understand your point as stating what is the logical precondition of speaking of objects across possible worlds, then you still don't have anything against Kant. Kant's point here is certainly not that I must refer explicitly to time (S is-at-t P) in my ascription of a predicate to a subject in order to be able to handle what would otherwise be a contradiction, sinc.
    – user73173
    Commented May 27 at 6:10

3 Answers 3


Leibniz defines temporal succession as necessitation of one incompatible state of affairs, A, by another, B. This necessitation is modelled on inference, although of course we can't infer A from B, since they're mutually incompatible. That's not very different from Kant's discussion of the schema of causality as necessitation of one temporal moment (and the associated state of affairs) by another. Beyond the obvious point that Kant is making here, i.e. that temporal moments are, somewhat like possible worlds, "saturated" sets of compatible possibilities, his discussion might also refer to the fact that, just like we sense causality as temporal succession, we sense contradiction (incompatibility) as change. It's the only way, as you point out, for creatures with the same form of intuition as us to sense this notion, but it's not inconceivable to think of a form of intuition distinct from that which sustains the ascription of contradictory predicates to the same object. He thus could be making a point about how the form of inner sense interacts with logical principles, although the context in which the passage appears doesn't seem to have much in common with these issues, and in either way the point is quite trivial.


Kant: "if this representation [of time] were not an intuition (internal) a priori, no conception, of whatever kind, could render comprehensible the possibility of change"

OP: "how could time be grounded in something else that is yet time-like"?

Heidegger advances Kant's ideas by noting that time and transcendental apperception—which Kant "succeeded in bringing together in their primordial identity"—are actually the same, so the ego, "i.e., pure reason" would be that which prevents contradiction.

time as pure self-affection is not found "in the mind" "beside" pure apperception. On the contrary, as the basis of the possibility of selfhood, time is already included in pure apperception and first enables the mind to be what it is.

The pure finite self has in itself a temporal character. Therefore, if the ego, i.e., pure reason, is essentially temporal, the fundamental determination which Kant provides for transcendental apperception must first become intelligible through this temporal character.

Time and the "I think" are no longer opposed to one another as unlike and incompatible; they are the same. Thanks to the radicalism with which, in the laying of the foundation of metaphysics, Kant for the first time subjected time and the "I think," each taken separately, to a transcendental interpretation, he succeeded in bringing them together in their primordial identity — without, to be sure, having seen this identity expressly as such. Kantbuch, 197


By abstracting the role of time in allowing objects to possess contradictory properties, I believe you have drawn us away from two essential aspects of its character. The first is that time does not just enable contradictory properties- it is a parameter in the systematic evolution of properties in accordance with very definite laws. The second is that time seems to have a complicated geometric relationship with space- the force of gravity you experience, according to General Relativity, is not really a force but the consequence of the tendency of matter to coast along geodesics in a curved spacetime. So to equate time with something that might uphold a principle of contradiction is, in my view, to lose sight of more significant aspects of the nature of time as a fundamental ingredient of reality. Questions about whether time is an 'illusion' should be met with a resounding 'no'.

  • These aspects of the nature of time aren't entirely unrelated to the fact that time is a modal-logical space. See my reply on how Leibniz defines successivity.
    – user73173
    Commented May 27 at 11:52

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