This is an excerpt from Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

It is, however, clear that even this apprehension of the manifold alone would bring forth no image and no connection of the impressions were there not a subjective ground for calling back a perception, from which the mind has passed on to another, to the succeeding ones, and thus for exhibiting entire series of perceptions, i.e., a reproductive faculty of imagination, which is then also merely empirical.

The above sentenced puzzled me because of the bold-faced part.

  • Is were there not a subjective ground a literary form of if it were not for a subjective ground?
  • Why is thus for used? I think thus should be used instead. I don't see how the preposition for can be appropriate here.
  • 3
    For starters, Kant wasn't writing in English. His Kritik der reinen Vernunft has some of the densest prose, even for works of philosophy, ever written in any language (my $0.02). The were there not construction is clearly subjunctive, and so is a conditional. The thus for construction is used as a culmination, much as we would use "and so" today.
    – Robusto
    Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 13:06
  • 4
    Does this answer your question? Must conditional sentences begin with "if?" Though tchrist's monumental answer is more comprehensive. '(8) Another way of forming an English conditional is to ... employ inversion and use either a subjunctive or modal: Were it otherwise, you would learn of this immediately.' Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


Yes, were there not is a an inverted conditional and means if there were not ("were" is subjunctive):

Although conditional clauses are often called if-clauses, they don’t always include the word if! In more formal situations, we use a technique called inversion where we reverse the order of the subject and the verb. These clauses are known as inverted conditionals or sometimes reduced conditionals.
Inverted second conditional if-clauses are often restricted to formal, written English. In second conditionals, inversion is used to rewrite if-clauses that contain the verb be. Use the structure were + subject.

  • Were this my hotel, I would be ashamed! = If this were my hotel, … (lingholia)

Such examples

are unreal conditionals because they are distanced due to irrealis. They therefore use the subjunctive and use "were" instead of "was" (though speakers may ignore this rule and use was anyway). (teflpedia)

As for your second query, the answer is no, you should not omit for as exhibiting is connected by the preposition for to ground, just as calling back a perception is. Think of your sentence in this way:

If there were not a subjective ground for calling back a perception [...], and thus for exhibiting entire series of perceptions...

So two gerundial clauses modify ground:

  1. for calling back a perception
  2. for exhibiting entire series of perceptions

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