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Noumenon ( ancient Greek νοούμενον , present participle singular neuter of νοεῖν noeîn , German 'think' ; plural: noumena) is a philosophical term that is particularly associated with Immanuel Kant's epistemology . In his pre-critical philosophy, Kant uses this term for objects of intellectual knowledge or a possible intellectual perception (as opposed to sensual). In the Critique of Pure Reason he rejects the possibility of purely intellectual knowledge; the noumena become “thoughtful things”, representations that cannot be experienced. They remain borderline concepts of sensuality and empirical knowledge. The objects of experience are called phenomena or appearances in Kant . The concept of a noumenon as an object is now a sub-concept of thing-in-itself .


The expression “noumena” occurs in Sextus Empiricus and describes there “what is thought” (with the nous as an assigned faculty) in contrast to what appears to the senses, the φαινόμενα . The more recent use following Sextus goes back to the school philosophy of the 18th century. For example, Johann Christian Foerster uses the term 1770 in the textbook Philosophia generalis by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, which he edited, in an introductory dissertation prooemialis de dubitatione et certitudine :

"Quando Φαινομενα et νοουμενα , vti debent, a se inuicem distinguuntur, vt illa sint, quae sensu percipiuntur, haec vero, quae mente, non vero sensu cogitari possunt."


Immanuel Kant uses the expression “noumenon” in his dissertation from 1770 to designate a purely intellectual knowledge, which he contrasts with the sensual as facultas intellectualis and intellectus ( mouth. Sens. , § 1). In § 3 the definition says: “The object of sensuality is sensitive; But what contains nothing but what can be recognized through the intellectual equipment is intelligible. The former was called in the schools of the ancient phenomena, the latter noumenon. "( Obiectum sensualitatis est sensibile; quod autem nihil continet, nisi per intelligentiam cognoscendum, est intelligibile. Prius scholis veterum phaenomenon, posterius noumenon audiebat ; translation: Norbert Hinske)

Just as Plato considered the knowledge of purely conceived ideas to be the highest and thus possible, Kant is also still convinced in 1770 that the noumena can be recognized, so that the distinction in the title of the dissertation De mundi sensibilis atque intelligibilis formae et principii (dt .: “On the forms and principles of the sensitive and intelligible world”) the empirical of feeling and the rational of thinking do not concern each other in an exclusive, but in a complementary sense. With the possibility of knowing through understanding alone, Kant only breaks with the Critique of Pure Reason .

There Noumenon means "precisely the problematic concept of an object for a completely different view and a completely different understanding than ours, which is therefore itself a problem."

Here the noumenon is the result of the presupposition of a purely intellectual intuition in which such an object can certainly be determined, e.g. B. as an “ideal state” (respublica noumenon) to which, unlike the transcendental object , predicates can be assigned, but which, as the idea of ​​perfection, remains a thought thing (ens rationis) .

Noumenon is therefore a “problematic concept” in the discussion “On the basis of the distinction between all objects in general in phenomena and noumena” in the Critique of Pure Reason, since pure intellectual things are indeed possible but remain unknowable (cf. transcendental analytics, Sect Phenomena and Noumena - things in themselves ). There Kant defines the noumena as borderline concepts that restrict the presumption of sensuality, since not everything that lies outside the conditions of experience must therefore also be impossible.

In his practical philosophy , however, Kant goes beyond this problematic concept by calling people with their ability to give themselves a law a moral being and "people in themselves" (homo noumenon) and contrasting them with people with their weaknesses , thus the ideal and the actually existing human being, whereby that ideal is understood as being in the world through the possibility of this: "So if I draft a penal law against myself as a criminal, it is in me the pure legal = legislative reason ( homo noumenon) , which subjects me as one capable of crime, consequently as another person (homo phaenomenon) together with all others in a citizens' association to the criminal law. "

For further definitions, evaluations and sources of Noumena see here .


Arthur Schopenhauer did not accept the distinctions that were fundamental to Kant's theory and said that the difference between noumena and phenomena shows the fundamental error of Kant's epistemology particularly clearly.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sextus Empiricus: Pyrrhoniae Hypotyposes I, 13.
  2. Quotation from Ulrike Santozki: The importance of ancient theories for the genesis and systematics of Kant's philosophy. An analysis of the three reviews (= Kant studies. Supplements ; 153), de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 2006, p. 63.
  3. ^ Kant, academy edition of Immanuel Kant's collected works edition of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Berlin 1900ff, AA IV, 184 f.
  4. Kant, Academy edition of Immanuel Kant's collected works edition of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Berlin 1900ff, AA IV, 155
  5. ^ Kant, academy edition of Immanuel Kant's collected works edition of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Berlin 1900ff, AA VI, 335
  6. Arthur Schopenhauer: The world as will and idea. First volume, Brockhaus, Leipzig 1844, pp. 463-599: Critique of the Kantian philosophy .