The fog this morning: Thought’s on Kant’s noumena

I got out of bed this morning quite early, I don’t think I even slept. I put my mp3 player on random and I discovered a great new band called ‘Mnemic’, they are an industrial band and really are quite interesting. Following Adorno’s thought, poetry after the holocaust is barbaric.

Anyhoo, off to the point of my essay; as I opened my eyes and stood up, I looked out of my window and saw a thick fog, so inpenetrable that I could not even see the other side of the road, then I said to myself ‘anti-realism’ and laughed.

Let me explain the joke: I took a mandatory unit in philosophy last year called ‘realism’, which is basically the notion that something is genuinely true or real in some specific sense, such as ‘consciousness’ being a real thing, ‘tables’ being a real thing, ‘Sherlock Holmes’ being not a real ontic entity, but an epistemological and semantic object and anti-realism is some kind of denial of that specific claim. A lecturer made a joke about how Americans and Austrailian philosophers are predominantly realists and Europeans are predominantly anti-realist because in Europe is cold and foggy all the time and they can’t tell if the things they see are real or see far ahead of them, while in the warmer states and Australasia, they can see things just clearly, so I thought, ‘anti-realism’.

I decided to go for a walk around Clifton village and especially visit the suspension bridge, which I do a lot these days. I looked beyond the vast expanse of the bridge and I saw only a misty void, I then thought of Kant’s purple passage about phenomena and noumena being like inhabitants of an island; the desire to know more and go beyond the island is irresistable, but can never be completed. I looked into the fog and saw nothing, I felt as if I was looking at the gestalt, but I was only looking 3-5 feet ahead of me. Even as I walked through the bridge, I couldn’t even see the end of the bridge; it was a strange feeling, to be suspended hundreds of feet above the gorge and not see anything in any direction beyond several feet. To be completely in the fog, completely lost, is not to feel isolated, but is to recognise our human condition, of complete ignorance of true reality, of noumena.

Sometimes I look up at the stars and wonder if the noumena can really be known, since Kant’s time we have gotten air travel, space travel and even the movement of information electronically, maybe we can move forward and reach for the stars, or maybe, we are fundamentally grounded in Kant’s island. It sure makes you wonder doesn’t it?

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