I am new to philosophy, I am interested in Kant's philosophy, I have had a question to ask about
Kant (as far as I understand) says there is the thing in itself, and the world of phenomena, the world
we experience, but both worlds are not two separate entities, they are one world, we understand the
thing in itself as the phenomenal world.
But who are we? aren't we (in reality) in the world of the thing in itself that is not temporal, how can be
there misunderstanding, misinterpretation if there is no time, and if time is said to be illusion how can
such a non-static illusion be produced from a static reality (the thing in itself) and can it be said that it
is produced from the world of the thing in itself? if it is said to be non-temporal then it can produce
nothing, what relation is there between the phenomenal world and the world in itself?
misinterpretation? how can misinterpretation exist without time?
They are in a sense two worlds, the noumenal and the phenomenal... but in a very particular sense,
not what you'd expect. According to Kant, and I'm going to compress quite a bit into a teeny
explanation, we construct the world we see, the phenomenal, employing "schemas" and what might
be termed "built-in" parameters ("forms", "pure intuition" and "a priori concepts"). Two of the most
fundamental parameters that we are, in effect, hard-wired to use, in constructing the phenomenal
world, are space and time. But when I say "constructing", I'm using that term in a particular way...
really, a better term might be "understanding"... but that isn't really correct either; it's not like our
conscious efforts at understanding. "Structuring" is really best... but that's such a vague term... I'll use
"understanding", OK? With the proviso that what I'm talking about is a kind of unconscious meaning
of that term. So... we "understand" the noumenal world through those parameters. But we do not
know that the noumenal world does, or does not, have comparable or even identical dimensions of
space and time. In fact, to speak of the noumenon as being "atemporal" is to employ our limited
parameter of time to describe something which we cannot know or describe in any other way. So
saying the noumenon is "beyond time" or "atemporal" or that time is an "illusion" is to use the limited
palette, in effect, that we have to work with to describe something which really necessitates another
type of description. But we do not, indeed cannot, know what that type is, because of our limitations.
"We" are of the noumenon... but that doesn't mean we understand the noumenon directly. Kant's
argument is very long and complicated... and I simply don't know how to summarize it all for you here.
Stating the conclusions doesn't summarize the argument. I guess you could put it this way: we make
mistakes about reality, and we clearly have many types of incomplete knowledge of reality. So there
must be a disconnect of some sort between ourselves and reality. Ok? Now, given that, what can we
say about what we do know and how we know it? Well, we then have to talk about the kinds of things
we have to do with whatever connection we do have to reality. But we don't even know what kind of
knowledge we have of reality, do we. So what Kant does is try to figure out, in the most general way,
what we can know. Starting from the assumption that we are affected by reality (we "receive
impressions"), he attempts to understand how we understand those impressions. There is a
difference, very important to Kant, between receiving impressions and understanding that those
impressions are objects, events, etc., etc. (which is what I mean above by "understand"). And if you
think about it, you will see that even if we are direct receptors, in effect, of reality, the noumenon, that
reception, those impressions, without some sort of understanding, i.e., classification, organization,
structuring... would just be chaos.
So what Kant is saying is this: how do we get order from the chaos of impressions? And that ordering
is done in terms of space, time... etc. Take a look at para 88 through about 100 of the Critique of Pure
Reasonfor this introduction. So the mistake that people make is to think that Kant is saying, "Well,
there's this world out there separated from us by a veil of some sort..." No. What he's saying is that
without internal restructuring we would be overwhelmed by the chaotic impressions we do receive of
reality. And then he goes on... and on, and on... describing how we create order from that chaos.
And, interestingly enough, Kant is supported by modern cognitive science to an amazing degree.
Steven Ravett Brown