• csalisbury
    Thanks for the considered response. I would certainly agree that Kant's analysis is not without its flaws. I do think, however (echoing Janus) that while your criticisms of the noumenon are perhaps applicable to the A edition, Kant himself took into account these problems and so amended his work. I think this is admirable, and that there is no problem with taking his corrections into account when appraising his thought.The final version of the work does not fall prey to these errors.

    That this aspect of noumenality cuts both ways (outward to the world, inward to the subject) is not a flaw, but a feature. The soul, for Kant, is unknowable - hence the paralogism .All we have access to is the form of transcendental subjectivity. (If this were not the case, we'd find ourselves caught in an infinite regress,)
  • Theorem

    Thank you both for your replies. I have to admit that I'm a bit puzzled by your responses. With regards to noumena, you both seem satisfied with Kant's treatment of them in the Critique. This seems to hinge on his "apophatic" approach, a kind-of "via negativa" that keeps Kant safe from contradiction.

    While I don't deny that apophatic treatments have their place within philosophy (and perhaps theology), I'm not sure Kant's appeal works. This is because Kant is not simply denying epistemic access to noumena, he's denying conceptual access. Since all of our claims are mediated by concepts, and since concepts cannot apply to noumena, the implication is that we should not even be capable of making claims about noumena, even just to say that they are the kinds of things about which claims cannot be made. Because in order to utter such a claim, we will have had to have conceptualized noumena, per impossible.

    Kant cannot have it both ways. One the one hand he says:

    For by no means do I require, nor am I warranted in requiring, cognition of this object of my idea as to what it might be in itself; for I have no concepts for that, and even the concepts of reality, substance, causality, indeed even necessity in existence, lose all meaning and are empty titles for concepts without any content when with them I venture outside the field of sense. — Critique of Pure Reason

    And yet all of his talk about noumena necessarily employs concepts. When he claims that they exist, he applies the category of existence. When he claims that they are the cause of phenomena, he applies the category of causality. When he claims that they are not in space or time, he applies the category of negation. Even when he claims that the categories cannot apply to noumena he applies the category of possibility and/or necessity!

    The medievals ran into similar problems when making claims about God, but whereas they worked out sophisticated theories of analogy in order to deal with it, Kant hardly bothers to acknowledge that there's a problem. Kant's claim that we must postulate noumena in order that our appearances be appearances of something should have been a clue that he had made a false assumption somewhere along the way.

    Again, I think this goes back to his faulty concept of representation/appearance. For what is the meaning of saying that we can know only the appearances? How should we know that they are appearances if we have no means of comparing them against what they are appearances of? The very concepts of appearance and representation seem to demand that we have some positive conception of what it is that appears or what it is that is thereby represented.

    Anyway, I apologize for the length of this post, but I really don't see how Kant's appeal to a "purely negative" conception of noumena saves him from contradiction, and I'm tempted to say that his concept of representation is downright incoherent, though I'm not as certain about that.

    Now, you guys may say that I've still failed to convince, and that's fine. We can leave it at that.
  • Janus
    Since all of our claims are mediated by concepts, and since concepts cannot apply to noumena, the implication is that we should not even be capable of making claims about noumena, even just to say that they are the kinds of things about which claims cannot be made. Because in order to utter such a claim, we will have had to have conceptualized noumena, per impossible.Theorem

    Thanks Theorem, for your well-considered response. I think this passage gives the clue to where our differences lie. If we can form regarding any thing no positive conception that is not given to us in terms of our experiences of that thing, and we also know (or at least cannot but remain convinced) that our experiences of things do not, and cannot ever, exhaust their nature, then we are inexorably lead to conceive the idea of that of which we cannot conceive. So, as I see it, we have not "conceptualized noumena, per impossible", but conceptualized the idea of noumena, which is not impossible and involves no contradiction.

    Where I think Kant does go astray, is with his analysis of the Transcendental Subject. In saying that the Transcendental Subject constitutes the empirical world, he says something positive about the noumenal which is indeed unwarranted.
  • Mww

    The topic is dead, so I don’t mind bringing this up now.

    For the longest time, it escaped me where I had previously found something relating to what you said about Kant saying something positive about noumena. it’s not in CPR; it’s in CpR, pure practical reason, and has to do with the ability to construct a non-contradictory notion of freedom.

    “....By this also I can understand why the most considerable objections which I have as yet met with against the Critique turn about these two points, namely, on the one side, the objective reality of the categories as applied to noumena, which is in the theoretical department of knowledge denied, in the practical affirmed; and on the other side, the paradoxical demand to regard oneself qua subject of freedom as a noumenon, and at the same time from the point of view of physical nature as a phenomenon in one's own empirical consciousness; for as long as one has formed no definite notions of morality and freedom, one could not conjecture on the one side what was intended to be the noumenon, the basis of the alleged phenomenon, and on the other side it seemed doubtful whether it was at all possible to form any notion of it, seeing that we had previously assigned all the notions of the pure understanding in its theoretical use exclusively to phenomena. Nothing but a detailed criticism of the practical reason can remove all this misapprehension and set in a clear light the consistency which constitutes its greatest merit....”

    Removing misapprehension being, of course, a quite loaded assertion. Apparently, the conception of freedom permits noumena as an idea, and having no need of anything further from that idea. Odd though, that the derivation of the possibility of freedom from the predicates of natural cause and effect given in CPR doesn’t even mention noumena at all.

    Oh well........maybe it’s what you meant, maybe not. Either way, I found what I was looking for.
  • S
    It's interesting how we started with mashed potato and ended up with Kant.
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