• philosophy
    45
    In The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant distinguished between the phenomenal world (the world as representation) and the noumenal world (the world as it is in itself). The former refers to the world as we experience it; the latter refers to the world as it exists independently of our experience. My question concerns whether Kant is justified in positing the existence of the noumenal world. I don't think that Kant's project can properly be appreciated without first considering the context within which he is writing, specifically, the sceptical challenge laid down by Hume and the advances in the natural sciences reached by Newton. As a caveat, I have not studied this topic formally but have instead relied on self-study and, as such, I apologise in advance if my explication of said topic is superficial.

    Hume distinguished between relations of ideas and matters of fact, hence the term 'Hume's fork'. Hume's fork can be stated thus:

    (1) Statements about ideas. These are analytic, necessary, and knowable a priori.
    (2) Statements about the world. These are synthetic, contingent, and knowable a posteriori.

    In Kantian terminology, members of (1) are known as analytic propositions and members of (2) are known as synthetic propositions.

    Herein lies the crux of Hume's sceptical challenge. Hume points out that synthetic statements are not certain since it is logically possible that any given statement about the world is false. Moreover, analytic statements can only be used to prove other analytic statements, and mean nothing outside of the context of how they relate to each other, and therefore tell us nothing about the world.

    In effect, Hume is stating that analytic statements are certain, but they tell us nothing about the world. Since they tell us nothing about the world, they cannot be used to prove synthetic statements. Hence, synthetic statements have no certainty. This meant that the Newtonian physics of Hume's day was uncertain. Now we turn to Kant.

    Kant agrees with Hume that all knowledge begins with experience. However, Kant argues that it does not follow from this that all knowledge arises from experience. To quote Kenny:

    [Kant] seeks to show that without the metaphysical concepts that Hume sought to dismantle, Hume's own basic items of experience, impressions, and ideas would themselves disintegrate
    (A New History of Western Philosophy)

    Kant argues that Hume overlooked the existence of synthetic a priori statements. All metaphysical statements, Kant maintains, are of such a kind. We apply metaphysical concepts to the world in order to make experience possible at all. In other words, synthetic a priori metaphysical concepts are the pre-conditions of all experience. Hence, Kant distinguishes between the world as experience it (the world as it is experienced given the application of said concepts) and the world as it is independent of our experience.

    It seems to me that Kant presupposes that there exists a world which, by virtue of its being independent of our experience, is unknowable, yet nevertheless is the cause of our experience. This presupposition seems to me unjustified. How does Kant know that such a world exists?

    To quote Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols:

    The real world, unattainable, undemonstrable...And if unattained also unknown...The 'real world' - an idea no longer of any use...an idea grown useless, superfluous, consequently a refuted idea: let us abolish it!...We have abolished the real world: what world is left? the apparent world perhaps?...But no! with the real world we have also abolished the apparent world!'

    The problem, it seems to me, is that if we 'abolish' the noumenal/real world then our a priori metaphysical concepts are not applied to anything. Perhaps I am presupposing the validity of subject-predicate logic here? i.e. If there exists a predicate then there must exist a subject to which that predicate belongs; if there exist a priori metaphysical concepts then there must exist a world to which they are applied(?)

    Thanks in advance.
  • Andrew M
    592
    In The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant distinguished between the phenomenal world (the world as representation) and the noumenal world (the world as it is in itself). The former refers to the world as we experience it; the latter refers to the world as it exists independently of our experience. My question concerns whether Kant is justified in positing the existence of the noumenal world.philosophy

    I think once you accept Kant's premise of a phenomenal world (the world as representation), the noumenal world inexorably follows. It's Plato's Cave redux. Deny the world as it is in itself and you are left with shadows or representations. But shadows or representations of what? Nothing?

    But if there is nothing, then Kant's premise is false. There is no world as representation. Instead it is the world as it is in itself that we are experiencing.
  • Mww
    477
    You must have spent a lot of time re-evaluating yesterday’s OP, to dump it and start over. Freaked me out when I came back to find everything missing.

    CPR is a theory of knowledge, and as such, positing the existence of noumena is of course justified, because it conforms to the tenets of the theory. Positing the existence of the noumenal world is not justified because there is no such thing, Kant never suggested a “noumenal world” as such, and while there is some conflict in his use of thing-in-itself, one must remain very aware of the two distinct contexts within which he uses the term interchangeably.

    In short, a proper understanding of phenomena is absolutely required before an understanding of noumena is possible, and both from a strictly transcendental philosophy point of view, as it was intended, and this juxtaposition of relation is the crux of matter between Hume and Kant.
  • Terrapin Station
    7.7k


    Your account suggested something I found amusing--namely, feeling that Hume's comment that we can have no certainty about the external world should be taken seriously, and that it's troubling to take it seriously, and then "solving" it by concluding that we can't know anything about the real world at all, forget certainty.

    At any rate, I don't think it's justifiable to posit something that one can't know anything about.
  • DiegoT
    318
    It seems to me that Kant presupposes that there exists a world which, by virtue of its being independent of our experience, is unknowable, yet nevertheless is the cause of our experience. This presupposition seems to me unjustified. How does Kant know that such a world exists? I think it is justified, and what the German philosopher tried to explain is that reality is known to us mediated by our ideas, images and logic, and not directly. We don´t see, touch, or hear the world; the reality we can feel is the one we create virtually in our minds. This is totally factual and in harmony with what a psychologist or neuroscientist can tell you. To know is to represent in our mind, and a drawing of a horse is never a horse.
    Kant admits this, and also that reality exists. Therefore, reality proper is beyond our experience, all of it, and that´s noumenos.
  • DiegoT
    318
    It´s a known unknown, like girls for unmarried Kant.
  • DiegoT
    318

    But if there is nothing, then Kant's premise is false. There is no world as representation. Instead it is the world as it is in itself that we are experiencing. I kant understand what you mean by this. Perhaps you want to state that the phenomenal world is also real? I agree with you; but then what noumenos means for Kant is what we now call "fundamental" or primary.
  • Terrapin Station
    7.7k
    It´s a known unknown, like girls for unmarried Kant.DiegoT

    Then it wouldn't be correct to say it's something you can't know anything about.
  • sime
    275
    To the best of my amateur knowledge, there isn't general agreement as to whether Kant meant to posit anything literal that was a-phenomenal. After all, why would he posit the literal existence of something beyond the bounds of sense that his synthetic theory of cognitive judgement denies as having empirical meaning?

    It seems to me that Kant could only have been self-consistent if noumena in the literal sense was meant as an empty figure of speech, but with which Kant conveyed metaphorically the notion of there being bounds of meaningful discourse in terms of the ordinary empirical notion of a visual boundary.
  • DiegoT
    318
    We don´t know what is inside a black hole; much less what it feels like to be in a black hole. However, we infere things about black holes (that ultimately might be wrong) by the way they communicate with us.I understand your point, I think you are right. It might be useful then to make a distinction between communicating and knowing/experiencing. Communicate is to put a little of you in others; you don´t broadcast a message, you broadcast yourself, like the Sun irradiates waves that are part of his substance. Thus, reality does reach us, because we get its signal, in fact we are the signal. However, knowing is a different matter; to know is to organize information received through our senses (also inner senses like body temperature). When we place ourselves under a showerhead and turn the tap, is not water we feel, but the sensation constructed by our mind to label this update on environmental interaction of our skin. We can not feel the actual element.

    Because knowing is representing, and objective knowledge is shared representations, the thing in itself is beyond knowledge entirely. It´s like being born blind, and know for certain that, if aliens ever land a spacecraft in your roof, they will be invisible. It´s not something you say about the aliens, it´s about your own capacities.
  • Andrew M
    592
    (Just an aside - I recommend using the Quote button or otherwise distinguishing the parts you are quoting to make it easier to read your posts.)

    I kant understand what you mean by this. Perhaps you want to state that the phenomenal world is also real? I agree with you; but then what noumenos means for Kant is what we now call "fundamental" or primary.DiegoT

    Well, I was making the point that "representation" is a relational term. If noumena does not exist, then neither does phenomena (as representation), as the the Nietzsche quote in the OP suggests. It is more intelligible to say there is a single world that presents to us in experience (and that we represent in language). That is, what you see and know about is primary.
  • tim wood
    2k
    Is Kant justified in positing the existence of the noumenal world? I'm not sure he ever "posited the existence of the noumenal world." I'm not sure he even gave such an idea any consideration. What makes you think he did? (Careful, I'm asking a very specific question.)

    He did do something, though, and I think you have completely missed it - don't worry, it's fixable and you're in a large company. He wrote about the possibilities, from the standpoint of the natural sciences, for knowledge. Until his CPR, there existed certain problems with every formulation of what knowledge was. He resolved them. And they're still resolved. People sometimes try to apply his arguments beyond their scope and fault him, and them, for not working. But he hit his target; he never aimed at theirs. In short, treat any and every criticism of Kant with much suspicion.

    The former refers to the world as we experience it; the latter refers to the world as it exists independently of our experience. My question concerns whether Kant is justified in positing the existence of the noumenal world.philosophy
    And, do you see a pretty obvious problem with your question in your paragraph, here?
  • Joshs
    424
    " In short, treat any and every criticism of Kant with much suspicion." Do you not have any significant criticism to make concerning the limitations of Kant's metaphysics? I have in mind the problematizing of Kantian thinking by writers like Nietzsche, Derrida, Husserl, the pragmatisits, etc.
  • tim wood
    2k
    No. I read Kant to understand Kant. Please adduce something here. Perhaps I'll learn something.

    To be clear, I am not an Kant apologist. But there is clearly a lot of nonsense about Kant's ideas out there. The OP contains an example. In it, we're told there is the world "as we experience it, and as it exists independently of our experience." And we're asked if Kant is justified in "positing the existence of the latter. Hmm. Did Kant posit the existence of the world independent of our experience? Think that one through.

    But if you have something more meaty, go ahead and post! Ideally, it would in the form, "Kant says X, but so-and-so says Kant was wrong about X, and here is his reasoning."

    I may be anticipating, but I think it's likely that anything you might present would be at best, as a lawyer might say, not on point.
  • TheMadFool
    3k
    My question concerns whether Kant is justified in positing the existence of the noumenal worldphilosophy

    Justified? Isn't it an axiom?

    I guess it's a question of degrees. Radical skepticism undermines all philosophy but if one is to ignore it many things become reasonable, if not justified.

    What reason do we have to doubt our experience and their cause(s) apart from, what some may discourage as, over-thinking.
  • Mww
    477
    It seems to me that Kant presupposes that there exists a world which, by virtue of its being independent of our experience, is unknowable, yet nevertheless is the cause of our experience. This presupposition seems to me unjustified. How does Kant know that such a world exists?philosophy

    This presupposition is indeed unjustified, insofar as a world independent of our knowledge cannot be the cause of our experience. It follows necessarily that Kant generated a complete paradigm-shifting epistemological theory on a self-contradiction, or, he never presupposed the existence of an unknowable world independent of our experience in the first place. That a thing is proven to be necessary under one set of conditions does not thereby presuppose an existence under some other possible conditions.

    Do you happen to know why deer hunters wear orange clothing of some kind? If so, do you see how that relates to what Kant has shown?
  • tim wood
    2k
    This presupposition is indeed unjustified, insofar as a world independent of our knowledge cannot be the cause of our experience.Mww
    There is no world "independent of our knowledge"? There certainly is a world independent of my knowledge of it. So what exactly do you mean?

    I agree with the idea that he never presupposed such a world. Why would he, and where is it in his writings?

    I'm sure that most of what passes for commentary on Kant in these threads would not have been written, if their authors had simply read the opening pages of CPR.

    This from his second introduction is part of a very clear introductory exposition (my italics):

    "There is no doubt whatever that all our cognition begins with experience.... But although all our cognition commences with experience,yet it does not on that account all arise from experience....
    It is therefore at least a question requiring closer investigation, and one not to be dismissed at first glance, whether there is any such cognition independent of all experience and even of all impressions of the senses. One calls such cognitions a priori, and distinguishes them from empirical ones, which have their sources a posteriori, namely in experience."
  • Mww
    477
    So what exactly do you mean?tim wood

    I meant that the entire “This presupposition appears to me to be unjustified” from the OP, is indeed unjustified, because 1.) Kant never presupposed any such thing, as far as I know, and 2.) such presupposition, as stated, is certainly self-contradictory, which would toss all 600 pages right square in the crapper, and anything so susceptible for crapperization is hardly likely to be talked about scholastically 250-odd years later.

    I take the blame if I wrote something that made it appear I thought there could be no world independent of my knowledge. Even so, I wouldn’t hesitate at all to claim there is no knowledge whatsoever of a world independent of my possible experience.

    Do you have a favorite go-to translator for CPR?
  • tim wood
    2k
    Even so, I wouldn’t hesitate at all to claim there is no knowledge whatsoever of a world independent of my possible experience.
    Do you have a favorite go-to translator for CPR?
    Mww

    I agree with your 1) and 2).

    When I read CPR (or most of it - does anyone read the whole thing?) I was more concerned about cost. These days I would certainly consult reviews and compare translations for readability. Or short answer, no.

    I have added "crapperization" to my list of excellent words to know.

    And as to your claim, care to read it again? I'm not asking for a rewrite or clarification, but might you agree that to make it precise and unambiguous, and clear, it would take some time and trouble to define terms? After all, all of my experiences are inaccessible to you - to anyone: they're my experiences, and so forth.
  • Mww
    477


    Yeah, I used first person architecture for that very reason: any knowledge and experience belongs to subjects individually. Because it was stated as my claim, perhaps I should have said *my* knowledge along with my possible experience. Is that what you mean?

    And yeah, it would take time and trouble to define terms, but it would be both worthwhile and necessary should some question about them arise. I’d do my best if anyone has some issue.
  • tim wood
    2k
    Yeah, I used first person architecture for that very reason: any knowledge and experience belongs to subjects individually.Mww
    It almost seems you're driving right towards Kant. Knowledge and experience belong to subjects individually. Which implies there is no other world but subjective experience and thereby only personal knowledge of it. Is that your conclusion?

    I meant to ask how hunter orange works with this. How does it work with this?
  • Mww
    477


    With respect to knowledge and experience I prefer what Kant has to say, I guess I am driving towards it. Or him, as you say. Subjectivity reigns supreme is my mantra, which makes explicit all knowledge, (“....whereby a conception conforms to its object...”) and experience (“....convert the raw material of our sensuous impressions into a knowledge of objects, which is called experience...”) is given by reason, which obviously belongs to individual subjects.

    I may well declare that subjectivity reigns supreme, but that doesn’t mean there is no objective world. Simply put, if there was no objective world, it would be impossible to explain myself as a body in space and time. It is abundantly clear I can explain how it is I occupy a particular space and time, therefore an objective world is necessary.

    The sum of subjective experiences can paint a general picture of empirical reality, but if all but one rational agents vanish, the world remains as far as the lone survivor is concerned. And if he should follow his kind into oblivion, there would be no subject left to experience the world, no subject left to know anything.

    Hunter orange relates to perception, and the determinations that follow necesarily from the differences in them. In this case, the world is the same even if seen two ways, but Kant claims the world may be very different for different kinds of rational agents. The point being, just because a thing is seen one way doesn’t mean it cannot be seen some other way. Hence, the thing in itself on the one hand, and the implications for the meaning of phenomena on the other.
  • Banno
    4.8k
    (1) Statements about ideas. These are analytic, necessary, and knowable a priori.
    (2) Statements about the world. These are synthetic, contingent, and knowable a posteriori.
    philosophy

    And Kripke showed that these two categories were insufficient, given a decent grammar of modality.

    That is, there are necessary a posteriori facts.

    See Naming and Necessity.

    Which kinda fucks up Kant's neat symmetry.
  • ernestm
    414
    CPR is a theory of knowledge, and as such, positing the existence of noumena is of course justified, because it conforms to the tenets of the theory.Mww

    plus one )
  • Mww
    477


    I don’t know what that means.
  • tim wood
    2k
    Which kinda fucks up Kant's neat symmetry.Banno

    Um, did you miss the part on synthetic a priori propositions?
  • Banno
    4.8k
    Apparently. Tell me about it.
  • Karl
    9


    As Bertrand Russell pointed out in "Problems of philosophy", the induction principle is an example of synthetic knowledge a priori.
  • tim wood
    2k
    An analytic a priori statement predicates something that is in some sense in a particular subject, about that subject. Usual examples are, "gold is a yellow metal," "a bachelor is an unmarried man," "squares have four sides." These may have some documentary or revelatory value, but otherwise are not especially interesting.

    Synthetic a posteriori statements say something about something that requires experience of some kind to confirm. "It snowed yesterday," or, "in the woods is a blue-footed booby," are examples. The truth of these depends on whether it did snow yesterday, or if there is a large sea-bird at large in the woods.

    The usual explication of these two and the distinction between them is that the a priori statement is universally and necessarily so. Or, the predicate is implied or contained in the subject,Or In particular, that these may be known to be true prior to any experience - prior and a priori not to be confused with each other.

    And a posteriori statements, of course, require access to some experience - they could be so or not so, depending on the verdict of that experience.

    Analytic and synthetic I leave to your understanding.

    Four terms, then: a priori, a posteriori, analytic, synthetic.

    Analytic a priori and synthetic a posteriori are accounted for. That leaves analytic a posteriori statements, which as a type seems to make no sense. And finally synthetic a priori statements. These last were of interest to Kant.

    But what is a synthetic a priori statement? How does it work such that it is both synthetic - dependent on experience - and at the same time a priori, universally and necessarily so?

    My answer, as I read it from Kant, synthesized by me: Kant argued that the world conformed to our minds, and not the other way 'round. It makes sense. Electromagnetic waves are incident on our organs of perception, and our brains convert that to what we "experience" in perception. The whole, entire megillah, then, is what our minds give us, and is given us by our minds. This is the synthetic part. The analytic part is simply what reason, in consideration of what the synthesis presents to us, tells us must be so, universally and necessarily.

    Now tell me that you did not already know all of this and more, as well or better than i do!
  • Edmund
    12
    Berkeley is worth considering here..esse est percipi I am interested in the role of the observer whether Divine as with Berkeley or otherwise. In terms of QM Roger Penrose has posited the idea of a gravitational cause for the collapse of the wave function independent of the observer so maybe shrodingers cats box is opened or not opened by others...
  • Mww
    477


    How should I consider Berkeley with respect to the Kantian noumena of the OP?
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