The Enigma Of The Universe : Kant

Published: 18.08.2014
Updated: 19.08.2014

German philosopher Immanuel Kant revived reality to some extent but he also subscribed to idealism. In Kant's idealism, it was pointed out that the real things did exist, but whatever we perceived by our senses was a mere appearance. He called the reality as a "Thing-in-itself", i.e. not affected by-according to this doctrine- extraneous conditions imposed upon it in relation to an experiencing mind. Thus, according to Kant, the object as it appears to us is a phenomenon, an appearance, perhaps very different from the exter-nal object which we can never know; the "Thing-in-itself" may be an object of thought or inference (a noumenon), but it cannot be experienced, - for in being experienced it would be changed by its passage through senses and thought[1] In other words, things in-themselves, which are the causes of our sensations, are unknowable; they are not in space or time, they are not substances.[2]

Kant holds that the immediate objects of perception are due partly to our own perceptive apparatus. Locke had accounted for the world by the idea that the secondary qualities-colours, sounds, smells etc-are subjective, and do not belong to the object as it is in itself. Kant, like G. Berkeley and Hume, though in not quite the same way, goes further and makes the primary qualities also subjective. What appears to us in perception, which he calls a "phenomenon", consists of two parts: that due to the object, which he calls the "sensation" and that due to our subjective apparatus, which, he says causes the manifold to be ordered in certain relations.[3]

The essence of the doctrine of Kant is the process by which we project the unity of our own acts of attention into their objects and thus create an orderly world for our own thought out of sensations as they are given to us as chaos.

Again, according to Kant, our knowledge is limited only to the "phenomena" of the world. For the whole world of nature, including our ordinary human selves-the whole province of scientific knowledge in fact-is declared to be a mere appearance, in contrast with the world of transcendent reality, the world of Things-in-themselves.[4] In other words, the whole world of nature, studied by science, was declared by Kant to be ultimately only appearance, in contrast with the transcendent and unknowable reality which lay behind it. So, in a sense, he downgraded the whole of what we know in favour of what we do not and cannot know.[5] In the words of Kant himself, "the understanding can never go beyond the limits of sensibility".[6]

In this way, we have seen that that though different philo­sophers have interpreted idealism in different ways, all of them deny the objective existence of the world of our experience.


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Title: The Enigma Of The Universe Publisher: JVB University Ladnun English Edition: 2010 HN4U Online Edition: 2014

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  1. B. Russell
  2. Berkeley
  3. G. Berkeley
  4. Hume
  5. Immanuel Kant
  6. Kant
  7. London
  8. Russell
  9. Science
  10. Space
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