From what I haved gathered from the first sections of the Critique, Kant wants to resolve the problem of induction by adding the a priori concept of (the necessity between) cause and effect to our synthetic a posteriori experiences of what Hume would call "constant conjunctions" in order that we may make synthetic a priori judgments about causation, instead of solely relying on inductive reasoning about constant conjunctions.

While this does seem necessary to solve the problem, it seems to me like this is not sufficient to solve the problem.

My reasoning for this is that it seems perfectly possible that we experience a constant conjunction and add the principle of causation to it, only for us to later find out that it actually is not a necessary causal connection after all, i.e the famous black swan example.

So how does Kant propose we establish that we've encountered the right kind of constant conjunction to add the principle of causation to?

  • IIRC Kant can be understood as favoring a modus tollens-focused model of causal judgments (or something along those lines). Commented May 4, 2021 at 0:43
  • Kant wasn't trying to turn induction into deduction; that is, he was not trying to come up with a system where inductive reasoning could not go wrong; he was just trying to justify the use of causal judgment in general. Commented May 4, 2021 at 20:18
  • Kant proposes that we can establish this only plausibly: "Necessity and strict universality are therefore secure indications of an a priori cognition... But since in their use it... is often more plausible to show the unrestricted universality that we ascribe to a judgment than its necessity, it is advisable to employ separately these two criteria". In other words, it is only generalities about causality that are a priori (e.g. "every alteration must have a cause"), deciding whether this or that conjunction is causal or not is left up to empirical investigation.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


Kant is quite explicit, when discussing relational categories, among them causality, in the context of the Analogies of Experience in the Critique of Pure Reason, that the ideal of empirically complete, ultimate science has a regulative status. He develops this idea later in the Transcendental Dialectic. In other words, Kant agrees that one cannot know based on finite empirical evidence or a priori reasoning the specific causal laws which organize our experience. Nevertheless, he insists, against Hume, that the intelligibility of the notion of "law of nature" (which transcends all actual experience, as it is not only a generalization into the future, but also into counterfactual scenarios, as Kant doesn't fail to note in the Schematism chapter of the first Critique) is one of the conditions of possibility of experience. This constitutes the Transcendental Deduction.

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