PHL220. Kant's first Critique: Noumenal and Phenomenal; Antinomies.
Kant's first Critique: Noumenal and Phenomenal; Antinomies.
Objectivity, Noumenal, and Phenomenal
- Kant claims that the transcendental investigation has shown
our judgments can be objective.
- For example, when we make one of the kinds of judgments
discovered in the transcendental logic,
we are making a judgment about things as objects.
- Kant claims that at this point, we have discerned the
principle limits of the synthetic a priori.
- The categories of understanding, and the necessary conditions
of sense experience (time and space) are all the elements that are
necessary for all experience.
- For Kant, then, there is a world independent of us,
but we can only know it through our experience, and therefore only
through the synthetic a priori conditions of experience.
- The world "in itself" is called the noumenal world.
- The world as experienced us is the phenomenal world.
- Kant means therefore to not be an idealist of the usual sort,
since he asserts that there is a world independent of our ideas.
- Kant also means not to be either a classical empiricist nor a
rationalist: he asserts all knowledge depends on experience, but
also analyzes what is known prior to experience and says that
these things are absolutely necessary for there to be any
Kant, Idealism, and Antinomies
- Kant's claim that there is a world independent of the
synthetic a priori elements of experience is what prevents his
philosophy from being a form of idealism.
- The noumena also has other roles, including explaining
the paradoxical nature of some of the Ideas.
- Example: the "third conflict of transcendental ideas,"
which is that we appear to be both free and unfree.
- Kant discusses this in a kind of dialogue, placing side
by side two coherent but incompatible arguments.
- The two different views that he contrasts are
- Thesis: there must be spontaneous causes, which
are causes other than the normal causes of nature
(which extend back indefinitely)
- Antithesis: there can
only be the causes of nature (which extend back
- Kant lays these arguments out side by side, with
- A thesis statement
- An argument
- A commentary
- The argument and commentary for the thesis
- Kant observes that every event or state of
affairs is the product of an earlier state of affairs.
- At first glance, it would see that this chain can
stretch back forever.
- However, he argues, if we cannot have a first
cause in our chain, we have contradicted the synthetic
a priori knowledge that there must be a "completeness"
to a series of causes and effects.
- By this, Kant means that every chain of causes
and effects is required to have a beginning, or it
violates our sense of cause and effect.
- (It seems that Kant thinks that it makes no sense
to talk of a series of events without also being able
to talk about what caused that series.)
- In part as evidence for this, Kant points out
that all the ancient philosophers thought there had to
be a "prime mover."
- Thus, there must be spontaneous causes, which are
not themselves caused.
- Note that this argument only shows that there
must be at least one spontaneous event (the beginning
of the universe, say). But Kant argues that once we
have one spontaneous event, then there is no in
principle objection to many such events.
- Argument and commentary for the antithesis
- Suppose that there were spontaneous events.
- Then, obviously, there would be at least one
event that had no prior cause. This contradicts the
synthetic a priori knowledge that all events are
- The notion of freedom is a notion of breaking the
laws of nature. No rules apply to freedom.
- In commentary, Kant notes we need not think of
time as having a beginning, and so need not think of
the chain of natural causes and events as having a
- Kant claims we cannot comprehend this (but that
maybe there are many truths which are not
- Besides: if we admit into nature lots of
spontaneous events, then it is not clear that the laws
of nature matter much anymore, since there will be
constant interference with them.
- Kant makes one important observation in his comments of
the antithesis, namely that if there therefore is in fact any
spontaneity (any uncaused causes) it must be in some sense
outside of nature.
- But note that anything outside of nature is outside of
the phenomena. That is, it is the noumenal.
- Kant's conclusion of the antinomy, then, is that there is
spontaneity (elsewhere he observes that we know this because
we know that people can be morally responsible for their
actions), but that we cannot see it in the phenomenal world.
It is a feature of the noumenal world.