Since I do not have the German translation of Kant's "Prolegomena ...", I'm putting the question here. I'd like to know the German word used by Kant for 'presumption' as used in the following excerpt from his "Prolegomena ....":

For every proof which I have given of both thesis and antithesis I undertake to be responsible, and thereby show the certainty of the inevitable antinomy of reason. When the reader is brought by this curious phenomena to fall back on the proof of the presumption upon which it rests, .... [A footnote, pg. 88, Library of Liberal Arts, 1950; ed. Lewis White Beck]

German word for 'presumption' is what I'm looking for, and whether or not 'presumption' is the best possible or most accurate translation.

  • I like this question, and wonder whether you had in mind an alternative candidate that better fits the bill, or maybe a brief statement of what makes you ask the question.
    – gonzo
    Oct 29 '20 at 16:59
  • No, I don't have an alternative candidate; it's just that I am quoting this excerpt in a work of my own--in answer to Kant's challenge, as voiced to a Reviewer of his "Critique of Pure Reason" ... found in the Appendix to the Prolegomena. My argument is that a 'presumption' (better: presupposition) is not identical to a proof, yet Kant uses both words in the context of his proof of the antithesis for the first antinomy. I believe Kant was deliberate here ... that is, wasn't absolutely sure, and left the door open by using the word in question.
    – liikanen
    Oct 30 '20 at 14:03

This excerpt is from fn 4:341 and reads in German [taken directly from the Academy Edition Volume 4 (de Gruyter reprint 1968), spelling modernised]:

Jeden Beweis, den ich für die Thesis sowohl als die Antithesis gegeben habe, mache ich mich anheischig zu verantworten und dadurch die Gewissheit der unvermeidlichen Antinomie der Vernunft darzutun. Wenn der Leser nun durch diese seltsame Erscheinung dahin gebracht wird, zu der Prüfung der dabei zum Grunde liegenden Voraussetzung zurückzugehen, so wird er sich gezwungen fühlen, die erste Grundlage aller Erkenntnis der reinen Vernunft mit mir tiefer zu untersuchen.

The modern Cambridge Edition translation by Gary Hatfield (2004) - which is much closer to the German wording, as usual for Cambridge translation - reads:

I promise to answer for each proof I have given of both thesis and antithesis, and thereby to establish the certainty of the inevitable antinomy of reason. If the reader is induced, through this strange phenomenon, to reexamine the presupposition that underlies it, he will then feel constrained to investigate more deeply with me the primary foundation of all cognition through pure reason.

I think presupposition is quite on spot here: We are speaking about that which has to be supposed to be true if something is to be possible at all. An implicit premise, if you like. That becomes clear with the last partial sentence, which I, therefore, took the liberty to include into the quote.

That said, Lewis White Beck's translation seems strangely off, something which is typical of his translations IMHO. He takes quite a few freedoms to the point of misleading formulations.


It occurred to me that another term/concept that would serve your eludication project's purpose (as outlined in your comment to me) is Quine's notion of ontic or ontological commitment. For instance, somewhere in in From a Logical Point of View Quine posits that entities of a given sort are assumed/presumed by a theory iff they must be counted among the values of the variables in order that the statements affirmed in the theory to be true. Of course the implied 'existence' need not be 'real' in the traditional sense, but need exist only in a universe of discourse.

  • I've been busy editing my text, and used 'presupposition'. There's not too much difference between presumption and presupposition, and assumed ... assumption ... presumed ... presumption I think work ... I just wanted something more precise; I'll have to get hold of a word for word German to English translation if there is such around. Presupposition is the right word even going by Google translate. I have other excerpts that are critical for Kant ... as for instance: Transcendental Apperception. Still going to ask that one, quoting Max Mueller's translation of the CPR.
    – liikanen
    Nov 1 '20 at 21:35
  • @ liikanen I agree that presupposition will best serve you here (though it was presumed, assumed presupposed mean pretty much the same thing) But I though you might have the opportunity to use Quine's terminology in a context or two. Good luck.
    – gonzo
    Nov 2 '20 at 0:27

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