CAT Model Paper 10 Questions and Answers with Explanation Part 6

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Group Question

Kant uses the word ‘Noumena’ to refer to thing in themselves, which he describes as ‘intelligible existences’ ‘which are not objects of our senses’. Kant is on difficult territory with his notion of Noumena. To begin with, given that we can know nothing about them, in what way does it make any sense to talk about them existing? By Kant’s own standard, is it not the case that Noumena are devoid of any meaning? Kant argues that although we cannot have any conception of what Noumena are, we can nevertheless have a representation of them. But he goes on to state that this representation is a ‘limitative conception’. That is, that noumenal representations simply mark the limit of human understanding and that is their necessary function. Unfortunately, this response does not say a great deal about Noumena it does not given them a positive meaning.

The characteristics that Kant placed on Noumena leads ultimately to the question of how we can justify a belief in them. Kant argued that they must exist because phenomena are appearances, thus they must be appearances of something, and that something must be Noumena. But surely we are not justified in calling them appearances a prion. We may have a conception of them as appearances empirically, in that we say that such-and-such a phenomena is the appearance of such-and-such an object, but as we have seen the notion of phenomena and of object is accommodated within Kant’s model of cognition, and thus appearance is a relation between them. There is no essential property of phenomena which make them appearances. Ultimately, Kant’s Noumena are unknowable and, as Russell pointed out, ‘the “thing-in-itself” was an awkward element in Kant’s philosophy, and was abandoned by his immediate successors’.

The important point here is that in the same way we can be skeptical about the existence of external reality within the empiricist framework, and thus be led down the path of Berkeley’s idealism and solipsism, so we can be skeptical about the existence of Noumena within the Kantian framework and we can be led to a similarly solipsistic position. Given that we have seen that Kant defends himself against the charge of idealism, it is returning back to that argument more critically.

Kant’s refutation of idealism is based on the insight that what we take to the outside world is immediately given. The real world that we live in is immediately revealed by our intuitions, and we make sense of that world through our conceptions. Kant wrote that idealism ‘assumed, that the only immediate experience is internal, and that from this we can only infer the existence of external things… But our proof shows that external experience is properly immediate’. Hence, because the external world is immediately given, there is no justification in being skeptical about it.

The difficulty with Kant’s refutation is not so much with the refutation itself, but with what he is defending. The external world, in the Kantian framework, is ultimately the construct of our faculties of mind (this being the thesis of transcendental ideality). It is built upon the intuitions of sensibility, and the conceptions of the understanding. Given this foundation, it is interesting to speculate what the situation would be if I lacked these faculties. No doubt I would cease to exist as a human consciousness, but would it also follow that the external world would also not exist. It is difficult to see how Kant could avoid this conclusion. Thus, Kant’s refutation works so long as I am alive and am able to think about the existence of an external world, yet becomes difficult if I speculate on the consequences of my own non-existence.

Thus it follows that the external world is not objective in the sense that it exists independently of the thinking subject. As has been argued earlier, Kant does describe the external world as objective. However, what is meant by ‘objective’, for Kant, is that we hold a certain relation with the external world, whereby we conceive ourselves as subjects within an independent framework of objects (i.e as explained earlier, regardless of how I happen to be looking at a chair, the nature of the chair remains fixed and independent of my perspective). This relational objectivity does not necessary imply an ontological objectivity. Kant can defend his view of the external world against idealism, so long as he frames the charge of idealism at the relational qualities of objectivity.

Kant was aware that the external world was limited by our understanding and Noumena are introduced partly as proof of this (i.e. Noumena are the limits of human understanding). It is the Noumena that play the role of independent existences beyond the thinking subject. They have ontological objectivity (in contrast, for Kant we do not stand in any relation to them, as the very notion of a relation cannot be applied to them). As such it is Noumena that Kant needs to defend against charges of idealism, in addition to empirical reality. As they are ‘unknowable’, it is difficult to know how this defense can be made.

If Noumena are taken away from Kant’s theory, or are doubted, then everything I understand, including all objects, places and other people, become mere characters within my active mind. The world can only be appreciated as independently existing within the noumenal theory.

44. Why is the author very critical regarding Kant’s theory of Noumena?

(A) He believes that Kant’s Noumena are unknowable and it was abandoned by Kant’s immediate successors.

(B) He did not agree with Kant’s defense that the external world is the construct of our faculties of mind

(C) He believes that Kant’s Noumena does not give a positive meaning

(D) He believed that there was no sense in taking about Noumena as they did not exist

Answer – B

Solution:

The last line of the third paragraph “Given that we have seen that Kant defends himself against the charge of idealism, it is worth returning back to that argument more critically.”

Also the fifth paragraph states that “The external world, in the Kantian framework, is ultimately the construct of our faculties of mind”

So adding these two lines leads to option b

The author himself states why he is critical about Kant’s arguments in the above lines. All the other options correspond to his contemplations and the author doesn’t link them to critical argument (which the whole passage is all about)

45. Which of the following Kant’s views on Noumena?

A) Noumena are the limits of human understanding

B) Noumena do not have a positive meaning

C) Noumena must exist

D) Noumena has Ontological objectivity

(A) A & C

(B) A, B, C & D

(C) A, B & C

(D) A & D

Answer: A

Solution:

B) and D) are the authors view on Noumena and not Kant’s

46. According to the passage, which of the following conclusion would be refuted by the Kant’s defense against Idealism?

(A) I am alive and hence the external world exists

(B) I am not alive and hence the external world doesn’t exist.

(C) I am alive and still the external world doesn’t exist

(D) I am not alive and still the external world exists.

Answer: D

Solution:

Fifth paragraph lost line gives the clue to this question

“Thus, Kant’s refutation works so longs as I am alive and an able to think about the existence of an external world, yet becomes difficult if I speculate on the consequence of my own non-existence.”

Also these lines

“No doubt I would cease to exist as a human consciousness, but would it also follow that the external world would also not exist.

It is difficult to see how Kant could avoid this conclusion.” Also show that answer is option d)

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