Emergent Noumena

January 20, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Noumenon, plural Noumena,  in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, the thing-in-itself (das Ding an sich) as opposed to what Kant called the phenomenon—the thing as it appears to an observer. Though the noumenal holds the contents of the intelligible world, Kant claimed that man’s speculative reason can only know phenomena and can never penetrate to the noumenon. Man, however, is not altogether excluded from the noumenal because practical reason—i.e., the capacity for acting as a moral agent—makes no sense unless a noumenal world is postulated in which freedom, God, and immortality abide.

The relationship of noumenon to phenomenon in Kant’s philosophy has engaged philosophers for nearly two centuries, and some have judged his passages on these topics to be irreconcilable. Kant’s immediate successors in German Idealism in fact rejected the noumenal as having no existence for man’s intelligence. Kant, however, felt that he had precluded this rejection by his refutation of Idealism, and he persisted in defending the absolute reality of the noumenal, arguing that the phenomenal world is an expression of power and that the source from which this power comes can only be the noumenal world beyond.

A central thesis of my approach is that the assumption of noumena should also be assumed to be a ‘thing as it appears to an observer’. In the case of our own experience, we are the observer – really the participant. Even the term observer smuggles in a way of framing ontology to imply non-phenomenal facts.

In my view, Locke’s assumption of qualities like color and feeling as Secondary, while properties like position and shape are Primary, while true from the local perspective, should be (like the image on our retina) considered inverted from an absolute perspective. It’s easy to turn colors or feelings into numbers and points on a graph, just by counting them and arranging what has been counted. It’s impossible, however, to derive colors from structures or information alone.

What this means is that the capacity to discern noumena from phenomena is itself a phenomenal property. It varies by both degree and kind. This quality is often known by names like ‘sanity’ and ‘common sense’, and while our access to it as individuals depends on local neurological conditions, local neurological conditions probably depend on an even lower level of sanity on the microphenomenal scale to maintain the integrity of the microphysical world which cells and neurons inhabit.

If that’s true, and what we call sanity, a kind of preservative inertia of sensory and meta-sensory interpretation goes all the way down, then physics itself should be described as the modulation of that sanity. A superposition of superpositions if you will, as locality which generalizes and re-localizes what it has generalized. If we think of the Newtonian-Cartesian universe as made of ideal particles in a void, the Einsteinian universe idealized the void, and the Quantum universe turned the particles into bubbles un-disappearing in that void. What I propose is to put see bubbling itself as a property of reflection and contrast. Drill down into the surface of the bubble and see that it is nothing but aesthetics derived from some perspective and mode of detection. It is the possibility of phenomena that matters. Noumena without phenomena is identical to nothingness, but phenomena without noumena changes nothing, provided that phenomena diverges from its own sensory-motive properties, rather than emerges from abstract non-phenomena.

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