This is an excerpt from Critique of Pure Reason, B13:

Take the proposition: "Everything that happens has its cause." In the concept of something that happens, I think, to be sure, of an existence that was preceded by a time, etc., and from that analytic judgments can be drawn. But the concept of a cause lies entirely outside that concept, anda indicates something different than the concept of what happens in general, and is therefore not contained in the latter representation at all. How then do I come to say something quite different about that which happens in general, and to cognize the concept of cause as belonging to it, indeed necessarily,' even though not contained in it?d What is the unknown =X here on which the understanding depends when it believes itself to discover beyond the concept of A a predicate that is foreign to it yet which it nevertheless believes to be connected with it?fIt cannot be experience, for the principle that has been adduced adds the latter representations to the former not only with greater generality than experience can provide, but also with the expression of necessity, hence entirely a priori and from mere concepts. Now the entire final aim of our speculative a priori cognition rests on such synthetic, i.e., ampliative principles; for the analytic ones are, to be sure, most important and necessary, but only for attaining that distinctness of con. cepts which is requisite for a secure and extended synthesis as a really new acquisition.

Does Kant mean that "Everything that happens has its cause" is synthetic a priori, but "Something that happens has a cause" is analytic a priori?

  • I use the word 'concept' in the title, but maybe cognition/judgement might be more accurate?
    – Torstein
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 22:46
  • Hi. Aren't "Everything that happens has its cause" and "Something that happens has a cause" synonymous? Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 22:26
  • Not quite, I think what Kant is saying (and am entirely unsure) is that while we can know that 'one (something) event has a cause' analytic a priori, this does not generalize to analytic a priori knowledge that 'all (everything) events have causes'.
    – Torstein
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 22:56
  • He's just pointing out that causation lies outside of the concept of something that happens, and, for that reason, it cannot be understood as an analytic judgement, so it must be synthetic.
    – user3017
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 1:22

2 Answers 2


The idea is it's analytic that if something is happening NOW, something else was happening prior to now ("then"). But that one thing caused another is not analytic but synthetic.


Kant simply says there that the principle that everything that happens has a cause (which, of course, is quite empty unless we give a determinate meaning to the notion of cause - which Kant does, but that's besides the point) isn't analytically contained in the notion of something that happens and as such constitutes a synthetic proposition in which something is added to the notion of the subject assumed prior.

Of course, the application of the principle to particular cases (A happens and everything that happens has a cause, therefore: A has a cause) consists of nothing but logical inference, and thus merely of analysis, given that we already presuppose that everything that happens has a cause - which is however, as has been just said, a synthetic proposition.

Kant later says that this synthetic principle cannot be simply derived from experience because experience alone cannot provide complete universality and necessity that the statement demands (Hume's lesson) - the notion of cause expresses a necessary connection. This then requires this principle to express a synthetic a priori connection.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .