Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Volume 57, Issue 4, December 1997

Robert Merrihew Adams
Pages 801-825

Things in Themselves

The paper is an interpretation and defense of Kant’s conception of things in themselves as noumena, along the following lines. Noumena are transempirical realities. As such they have several important roles in Kant’s critical philosophy (Section 1). Our theoretical faculties cannot obtain enough content for a conception of noumena that would assure their real possibility as objects, but can establish their merely formal logical possibility (Sections 2-3). Our practical reason, however, grounds belief in the real possibility of some noumena, and even knowledge of the noumenal reality of a free will (Section 4). Section 5 defends Kant’s conception of noumena as a good piece of philosophy, particularly with respect to its distinction between logical and real possibility. Are noumena numerically identical with experienced (phenomenal) objects? Kantian principles yield the answers that human selves are, God isn’t, and it’s harder to say about bodies (Section 6).