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Immanuel Kant: Things in Themselves
Transcript of Immanuel Kant: Things in Themselves
"Things in Themselves"??? OK, so everything we know about the world comes to us through our senses... SENSES But how do you know your senses are telling you the truth? Think about your chair. How do you know you're sitting in it? You know because you see it, feel it under you and so on.
If you wanted to, you could taste it (not recommended).
If you tap it, it makes chairy noises. Sure, they almost certainly are.
But let's suspend disbelief. There's no way of KNOWING that you're sitting on a black chair. Maybe it just looks black to you...
What if the chair isn't as it appears to us? What if there's something else there entirely, but as far as we're concerned it just looks like a chair? What can we call it?
Thing-that-looks-like-a-chair-as-far-as-we-can-tell-but-can't-be-seen-by-our-senses? How about:
"The Chair In Itself"? (Kant clearly realised that Everything Looks Cooler In Capitals.) So that's a thing in itself. Some "thing" outside the reach of our senses that makes us think we're on a chair. SENSES BEYOND OUR SENSES Thing In Itself Whatever it is, the "Thing In Itself" is out here... "What on earth are you on about?"
"That means we can't know ANYTHING about Things In Themselves, right?" Wrong. Kant thinks we know the most important thing about them... They have to exist, because if they don't, we wouldn't sense anything! It means you sense your chair, but there's something causing you to do so...
If there wasn't, why would you think there was a chair there? And don't go thinking "there's a chair there, that's why I sense it!
"Chair" is just the name we give that particular appearance - that is, the
seaty/wheely/leggy/armchairy one. The "Chair In Itself" might be nothing like that. We just don't know! Kant has a simple, easy to remember term for this: "Things In Themselves must exist as an a priori necessary condition for the possibility of experience." Obviously. I wouldn't worry too much about that. Kant's a pretty wordy fellow.
It's much easier to understand than to say:
"Why do we care?" And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what a thing in itself is.
Right, who said that? Here's why. Kant is one of the greatest thinkers of the western world. He had a lot of ideas, and wrote them down in the most complicated way he could think of in a book called "The Critique of Pure Reason" The Critique is one of the most important philosophy books ever written, but is famously very dense. Basically, the idea of a "Thing In Itself" is at the heart of the Critique.
Kant uses it, and the idea that... ...to "prove" lots of things about the world, including the existence of stuff like this: The Soul Free Will Ethics God Unfortunately, as in most philosophy, lots of people think he was very wrong about many things, including the idea of the Thing In Itself Now go forth and read lots about Kant! Wikipedia is always a good place to start, but there are many many books.
If I'd written one I'd plug it now, but I haven't.
Oh well. It's been a pleasure!
Have a great day. Let's start off with the senses.
There they are, over there!