Kant reasoned that we can never know "the thing in itself" since all knowledge is acquired via the apparatuses by which humans perceive, understand, and reason.

Hence much of science and "human knowledge" could be completely wrong, off the mark, and ultimately pointless.

What does modern philosophy have to say about this?

  • 3
    As written, this question is far too broad...
    – virmaior
    Feb 9, 2015 at 10:45
  • @Virmaior. Why is that?
    – mdg
    Feb 9, 2015 at 11:04
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    The idea that all 'knowledge' could be wrong was already entertained by ancien skeptics some thousands years ago. That's not the main import of Kant (if ever he can be considered a skeptic as you describe. I think it's more subtle). There have been so many books on Kant and so many important authors after Kant reflecting on our knowledge that an answer to your question cannot be given in a few paragraph. Feb 9, 2015 at 11:21
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    to give an analogy, this question is like "what has changed in transportation since the Spanish Galleon? Does anyone still believe in putting so many guns on the ships?" Ships have gone in so many directions since then that it's nearly impossible to answer that in SE format.
    – virmaior
    Feb 9, 2015 at 11:32
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    For a discussion of Kant's views on knowledge, see "Conjectures and Refutations" by Karl Popper, Chapter 7.
    – alanf
    Feb 9, 2015 at 11:53

2 Answers 2


I'm sure there are more philosophical ways to approach this, but I find I am more comforted, as a layman, by a phrasing that shows up in science and engineering:

All models are wrong; some are useful.

In science, we are more than happy to have models that appear to converge on the truth, because they seem to be useful.


You may refer to contemporary epistemology, the philosophy of science, and review the scientific method to understand that while we may never know the 'thing in itself' we may infer its commonly observable properties, its deeper mechanics, and also predict future behavior using the scientific model.

Modern philosophy has come to understand the value of formal, and critical, thinking in terms of analyzing problems.

The foundation of "we can never know the thing in itself" poses a risk to abandoning the critical nature of thought from the fallacious belief of "we will never know x, so why ask y?"

Constructivism as an epistemic system works.

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