Bronze bust of Peter Scott at WWT Caerlaverock.


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, for by definition, there is no other sort. Kant’s proposal is that our minds (part of which are Blumenau’s ‘tools of understanding’ Go to another page.) create a bust from bronze, and all we ever see is the bust, in which case we know nothing of the copper and tin, except that it must have existed. 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, from what sensations bring to us (the bronze), the phenomenal world (the bust). Noumenon designates that which is not part of the phenomenal world, it lies, by definition, beyond the boundary Go to another page. of any possible human conception. So this is a page on a central Kantian concept about which nothing can rightly be said!


The photograph is of the bust of Sir Peter Scott at the WWT Caerlaverock Reserve in Southern Scotland. 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 page on ‘Objects’ Go to another page. notes the very general way philosophers use the word. The sense of Horizon, as a boundary to what we know, is introduced on the ‘Horizon as Metaphor’ Go to another page. page.


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