What does Immanuel Kant's noumenon/phenomenon distinction mean for god/ultimate reality?
- 8 years agoFavorite Answer
God was definitely a Noumenon for Kant. Ultimately he said that because we cannot KNOW God exists, "we must act as if He does."
See part 1, which won't copy and paste.
- 8 years ago
Noumenon is an object we cannot know if it really exists and/or how and where it exists, because it is beyond experience (in other words, it is inaccessible directly or indirectly by any of our five senses). There are two kinds of noumenon, which Kant called noumenon in the positive sense and in the negative sense. The existence of a noumenon in positive sense is problematic (hypothetical) and the existence of noumenons in negative sense is sure. Kant:
“If, by the term noumenon, we understand a thing so far as it is not an object of our sensuous intuition, thus making abstraction of our mode of intuiting it, this is a noumenon in the negative sense of the word. But if we understand by it an object of a non-sensuous intuition, we in this case assume a peculiar mode of intuition, an intellectual intuition, to wit, which does not, however, belong to us, of the very possibility of which we have no notion--and this is a noumenon in the positive sense.” (Critique of Pure Reason, CHAPTER III - Of the Ground of the Division of all Objects into Phenomena and Noumena).
Noumenon in the negative sense means something that is actually not reached by any of our five senses, but can be eventually reached (in the future) by the amplification of any our five senses and represented in time and space. For example, the existence of many stars in the sky are noumenous for us (in negative sense), but if we build more potent and accured telescopes, our sense of sight will be amplified and what is actually noumenon can be converted in a phenomenon in the future. Boson of Higgs is another example of noumenon in negative sense (maybe it is not anymore); microorganisms were noumenons in the negative sense in the past, etc... In any way, the existence of such noumenous are sure, although we cannot know which ones exist, how they exist, where they are, etc..
Noumenon in the positive sense, however, is something that (if exists) cannot ever be represented in time and space and will be forever incognoscible for the mankind in Earth, because the mankind is limited by the five senses and representation in time and space. God and the soul are examples of noumenons in the positive sense, because we cannot (and never) know if these things exist and even less how they could exist. Because of this Kant said that we will never be able to know if God exists. Kant again:
“I cannot agree with the opinion of several admirable thinkers--Sulzer among the rest--that, in spite of the weakness of the arguments hitherto in use, we may hope, one day, to see sufficient demonstrations of the two cardinal propositions of pure reason--the existence of a Supreme Being, and the immortality of the soul. I am certain, on the contrary, that this will never be the case. For on what ground can reason base such synthetical propositions, which do not relate to the objects of experience and their internal possibility? But it is also demonstratively certain that no one will ever be able to maintain the contrary with the least show of probability.” (Critique of Pure Reason - SECTION II. The Discipline of Pure Reason in Polemics.)
Because of this we have to postulate the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, for a practical use of reason only; and we should abandon any hope of one day having demonstrated these existences (or inexistence). The need of postulation is felt justly because of the absolute impossibility of proving.
Phenomenon is everything accessible (directly or indirectly) by one of our five senses, can be represented in time and space and, consequently, accessible to the experience.Source(s): Critique of Pure Reason - Immanuel Kant