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Bust of Peter Scott at the WWT resserve in southern Scotland.


The concept of noumenon i.e., of a thing that is not to be thought at all as an object of the senses but is to be a thing in itself...[is] only a boundary concept serving to limit the pretension of sensibility [the senses].

Immanuel Kant (1787)

..the world reaches us already mediated through [the] tools of understanding. And what follows from that is that we can have no direct knowledge of the world as it is before this mediation has happened [as a thing in itself]. The world as it is before mediation Kant calls the noumenal world...

Ralph Blumenau (2001)


A photograph from the phenomenal world. There is no other sort. Kant’s proposal is that the way our minds work (what Blumenau is calling ‘ tools Southern Iceland's main glacier with inset image. A contemporary take on the way our minds do this work is given by Jeffrey Gray. of understanding’) is like the production of that bronze bust; all we ever see is the bust, we see nothing directly of the copper and tin, although we may assert their prior existence. We see the bust and know that it is a combination of the sculptor’s art and the material bronze. Similarly our minds (like a sculptor) create; and they do so from what sensations bring to them (the bronze), so producing the phenomenal world (the bust). Noumenon designates that which is not part The snow covered mountains of eastern Turkey seen from above. A page which asks if the religious concept of the ineffable comes close to this concept of Kant's. of the phenomenal world, it lies, by definition, beyond the boundary Distant fox on the horizon. The liminal is a concept used to describe that which is standing on the cusp of becoming known. of any possible human conception. So this is a page on a central Kantian concept about which nothing can rightly be said!

The Kant quotation is from page 310/1 (B) of The Critique of Pure Reason translated by Werner Pluhar and published by Hackett in 1996. Blumenau’s useful summary introduction appeared in Philosophy Now March/April 2001 p.18. The older Kemp Smith translation of the Kant passage runs: “The concept of a noumenon–that is, of a thing which is not to be thought as object of the senses but as a thing in itself...[is]...a merely limiting concept, the function of which is to curb the pretensions of the sensibility;”

The photograph is of the bust of Sir Peter Scott at the WWT Caerlaverock Reserve in Southern Scotland.

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Saturday 5th September 2020

Murphy on duty to this site