Thursday, March 23, 2017

Phenomenal and Noumenal

There have been any number of philosophers stating that senses are imprecise and thus are not a valid guide to discerning things as they are.

In fact that is a wrong argument. Senses are incomplete, but they are not imprecise. Certainly we see only the visible light and not the electromagnetic spectrum; but I can be reasonably sure that, if I am seeing a fox I am indeed seeing a fox.

Are senses imprecise? No. They are instead highly precise even if incomplete. It is valid to use the evidence that comes through the senses to conduct investigation and inquiry. The empiricist approach is a workable one and one that delivers all sorts of useful results.

Does such investigation, as Kant stated, only reveal the “phenomenal” rather than the “noumenal?” Well first of all what is noumenal? What is the essence of a peach? Is it not the same thing as the peach as it is discerned through the senses? What is the difference between the two?

Probably the place where Kant's approach is right is in understanding people. You see the person's appearance; you do not see what is in the person's heart. In this case there really is a disconnect between the phenomenal and the noumenal. It takes different skills to see either one. Senses give you the impression of the person, and sense gives you their essence as human beings.

In most cases, the phenomenal and the noumenal are the same thing. In situations in which they are not, the solution is not to damn reason or senses but wielding them in a competent way. Use your intelligence to figure out what is inside someone's heart. At the same time do not be blind to their appearance and their phenomenal way of representation. See both phenomenal and noumenal for what they are and treat them accordingly.


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