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ImmanuelKant’s Distinction between Phenomena and Noumena

ImmanuelKant was a German philosopher who is considered to be one of the keyfigures who influenced modern philosophy. During his lifetime as aphilosopher, Kant defined various beliefs which influenced manyphilosophers who came after him. One of the most familiar works byImmanuel Kant was the distinction between phenomena and noumena. Inthis work, he states that there is a huge difference between the twosince phenomena are the perception created in the human mind, thuscreating the appearance of certain things while noumena are theactual reality regarding that same thing. Kant aimed at explainingthe vast difference between how human see things with the realappearance of those same things. Immanuel Kant was trying to urgepeople to stop assuming things just because that is how they seethem. Instead, people should go ahead to scrutinize and find thereality regarding such things. Despite his success, he would not havemade it without critics’ from other philosophers. Schopenhauer isone of the most famous critiques of Immanuel Kant. According to him,Kant failed to use the word noumena appropriately since it has adifferent meaning than reality. Furthermore, he argues that ifsomething isreferredto as noumena, then the person must have full knowledge regardingthat particular object. The fundamental purpose of this paper is todiscuss the phenomena and noumena distinctions as stated by ImmanuelKant, the German philosopher.

TheBackground of the Distinction between Phenomena and Noumena

Immanuel Kant, one of the most celebrated German philosophers, isknown for coming up with the distinction between phenomena andnoumena. In his argument, Kant states that a phenomenal is anappearance which human beings create in their minds while noumena arethe actual reality regarding the object in the discussion (Hastie, p59). For example, according to Kant, when a person sees a chair, theyassume that it is robustand hard to penetrate. Although that is what is seen and perceived inthe human mind, the actual sense regarding the chair is that it ismade up of molecules which are empty.

Kantcreated this distinction to emphasize different issues. Firstly, hissmain aim was to show the power of the brain in controlling humanbeings. The brain is the one which determines the human actions sinceit controls everything, even the actions. The control by the brain isevident since different people see different content when they seeindividualobjects. Since that is not the real appearance of that thing, themindforces human beings to believe that that is the actual appearance.Notably, this is the reason why someone might appear beautiful to oneperson and ugly to another. Secondly, Kant seems to have wanted tohighlight the importance of carrying out research before concludingaccurateobservations. As noted before, a phenomenon is an appearance whilenoumena are the real reality.

Soas to avoid confusion and misunderstanding, Kant wanted to highlightthe importance of researching before determining what an object ismade from.Even though a person might see a chair as stiffand hard to penetrate, they should not be quick to conclude that thatis the actual appearance (Kant). Instead, it is important for theperson to find out more information so that they can understand thatthe chair is empty since it is made up of hollowmolecules and atoms.

The role of the distinction by Immanuel Kant was to promote criticalthinking amongst the philosophers and other people as well. As notedabove, the main idea of Kant was highlighting the assumptions whichgo through the brains of human beings. So as to curb this, he decidedto come up with the distinctions. After going through the philosophy,many people tend to start thinking deeply since that is when theyunderstand that there is a huge difference between the traditionalbeliefs versus the reality. Amongst the philosophers, the Kant’sphilosophy was to assist them with coming up with well thought outideas.Before ascholarputs up any statement, it was important that they carried out properresearch to ensure that they do not feed people with lies since theyremain influential. Onhis analytical philosophy,the distinction between the two was meant to address his critics thatwhat he says might not be what he means. Immanuel Kant had a numbercritic who analyzed his philosophies wrongly. So as to address them,the work suggested that they should dig deeper into the meanings ofhis philosophies before they challenge him.

Furthermore,he wanted to explain the difference in human’s brain power.Different human brains have distinct capabilities when it comes tothinking. When an item isplacedbefore five people, they will give different opinions regarding theissue. While others will think deeply, others will not, and this willcreate the distinction between their knowledge. Essentially, Kantintends to make people understand that their actions are not alwaysthe right ones, but it dependsonthe reality regarding the work.Human actions are achieved depending on their perceptions, but thatdoes not mean that they are correct and should be open to correctionswhenever they do wrong. In other terms, human beings are not perfectand once in a while they tend to make bad decisions. Going by this,it is more important if people take time before making decisionssince they might be wrong. When they take a keen observation, theylearn more concerningsomeissue, and this will help them to make the right decisions since theymight not have correct information on the first take.

Criticismof Immanuel Kant’s Distinction between Phenomena and Noumena

AfterKant had come up with the difference between the two, there was achallenge from two philosophers. Firstly, George Berkeley who camebefore Kant criticized the idea of phenomena about appearance andindependence in human mind. As noted before, Kant asserted thatphenomena are the looks that the brain perceives but is not thereality regarding what the human eyes are seeing. According toBerkeley, Kant was wrong since the human mind is not independent butdepends on the general appearance of the object. The perceptioncreated in the brain depends on the color, shape, and size amongother necessary things. There is no way a human brain will perceivesomething as being red when there is nothing close to red on theobject. If the object is not red, then it must have something closeto red at least. If an object does not possess any of thosequalities, then the brain too will not focus or develop such ideas.George Berkeley believes that the mind is not independent and thatthere is no difference between phenomena and noumena.

Schopenhaueris yet another notable critic of Immanuel Kant. As the philosophy onthe distinction between phenomena and noumena spread,Schopenhauer found interest on the matter and stated his opinionregarding the theory.In his argument, he claimed that Kant had used the term noumenawrongly in his distinction between the two. Just to revisit Kant’sphilosophy, he had stated that noumena meant reality while phenomenawere the appearance or the brain`s perception. Arguing this out,Schopenhauer claims that the term noumena were previously used tomean &quotthat which isthought&quotwhich is equivalent of not certain (Leaf, p 102). Lack of certaintydisapproves reality as initially stated by Kant. So as to make thephilosophy more sensible, he believed that Kant should have usedother terms to describe his philosophy on the difference betweenphenomena and noumena.

Discussionof the Idealist Arguments against Immanuel Kant’s Philosophy

Theidealists might have tried to object Kant’s philosophy, but theyfailed on some issues. Berkeley claims that the human brain is notindependent, but it depends on what it sees. The argument is wrongregarding what Kant had stated before. It is correct to say thathuman brain is independent since different people take differentactions no matter the situation. For example, when an accidentoccurs, the scene will be same to all the witnesses, but since theirbrains have different perceptions, they will take different actions.While others will go ahead to help the victims, others might take theaction of calling the ambulance while some will settle on leaving.Itis an excellent exampleof independence in human brains since all the witnesses takedifferent actions even though the scene is similar to all of them.Contrary, according to George Berkeley, these people are supposed tomake similar steps since the siteof the accident is similar to all of them, which is not true.

Similarly,Schopenhauer’s argument lacks potential of putting off the Kant’sdistinction between phenomena and noumena. According to him, Kant didnot use the term noumena correctly. Although this might be correctdepending on the primary meaning of the phrase, still it lacks abasis since Kant is the one who popularized the word (Kant, p 69).Despite the existence of the term, it was not used widely until whenImmanuel Kant decided to apply it to his philosophy. Having been thefirst person to popularize the term, he is permitted to use and twistit anyhow since he might be trying to bring about a new meaningconcerning the condition.

Noumenaare an important component in the understanding of reality by humanbeings. With noumena, people arebale toknow more about reality since they are forced to explore. Typically,people only perceive the power to create assumptions regarding andissue or object. In this state, they might just have little knowledgeconcerning that matter. Nevertheless, noumena forces humans to digdeeper into the subject so that they can learn more. Itcreatesa more in-depth understanding of the object.

Nevertheless,the idealists might still be right in their argument that nobody canposit an unknowable thing-in-itself. In case this is true, then thishas some importantimplications of human knowledge concerning reality. Firstly, itimplies that humans have much knowledge regardingthe fact.Notably, this will be against Kant’s statement that what peoplesee is not the real picture.Instead, it will mean that what people see is the concretefactregarding that particularitem. Secondly, this finding will indicate that human knowledgeregarding reality is not independent. If what someone sees is thereality, then the reality will change with a changein the items. The human understanding of reality cannot beindependent since they have firstto see an issuebefore the settle on what it isconstituted.Thirdly, human’s awareness about reality varies. As noted before,if the idealist is right then reality is the actual thing people see.However, variation in knowledge regarding reality develops sinceissues such as color blindness can make people see different things.

Inthe absence of noumena, humans will manage to explore further,and this will develop to having more knowledge regarding reality.Noumena istheactualreality which people cannot see. Such facts regarding noumena limitpeople’s interest in finding out more about reality since it islike it has beendecidedalready.

Inconclusion, Immanuel Kant isrememberedfor his controversial philosophies like the distinction betweennoumena and phenomena. While differentiating these, he claimed thatphenomena are just an appearance developed by the human brains whilenoumena are the real reality. Even though many celebrated him as agreat philosopher, he faced criticism from his fellow scholars.Schopenhauer argued that Kant had used the term noumena wrongly inhis distinction between the two. Just to revisit Kant’s philosophy,he had stated that noumena meant reality while phenomena were theappearance or the brain`s perception. Arguing this out, Schopenhauerclaims that the term noumena were previously used to mean &quotthatwhich is thought&quot which is equivalent of not certain. Apart fromhim, George Berkeley also challenged Kant. According to Berkeley, thehuman brain is not independent, but it depends on what it sees. Theargument is wrong regarding what Kant had stated before. It iscorrect to say that human brain is independent since different peopletake different actions no matter the situation. However, Kant had adifferent objection that motivated him to come up with thedistinction. For instance, he wanted to promote critical thinkingamongst the philosophers and other people as well. As noted above,the main idea of Kant was highlighting the assumptions which gothrough the brains of human beings. So as to curb this, he decided tocome up with the distinctions. Moreover, Kant wanted to show howdifferent people think in a different manner. It is easy to provethat people think differently by placing an object before five peopleand asking them to comment on that. The will come up with distinctcomments since their brains have different perceptions.


Hastie,William. CompleteCritiques, Philosophical Works and Essays (Including Kant’sInaugural Dissertation).Chicago: e-artnow, 2015. Print.

Kant,Immanuel. DelphiCollected Works of Immanuel Kant (Illustrated).New York: Delphi Classics, 2016. Print.

Leaf,Murray J. HumanOrganizations, and Social Theory: Pragmatism, Pluralism, andAdaptation.New York: University of Illinois Press, 2013. Print.