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Wiktionary:

(philosophy) In the philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and those whom he influenced, a thing as it is independent of any conceptualization or perception by the human mind; a thing-in-itself, postulated by practical reason but existing in a condition which is in principle unknowable and unexperienceable.

Wikipedia:

The noumenon (/ˈnɒuːmᵻnɒn/, from Greek: [εν]νοούμενον) is a posited object or event that exists without sense or perception.1 The term noumenon is generally used in contrast with or in relation to phenomenon, which refers to anything that can be apprehended by or is an object of the senses. Modern philosophy has generally been skeptical of the possibility of knowledge independent of the senses, and Immanuel Kant gave this point of view its canonical expression: that the noumenal world may exist, but it is completely unknowable through human sensation.

Is that just a euphemism to shield claims that cannot be established using methods of methodological naturalism, which is a scientific standard?

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  • To Kant noumenon is a kind of transcendent limit that reason posits to unify experience, like ideal objects in mathematics (its identification with the thing-in-itself is questionable). I have not seen it used on pseudoscience much, in fact, I have not seen it used much outside of Kantian context. Whether everything in science is knowable through senses is controversial. According to some, so-called formal sciences, like mathematics, are rational in origin and independent of the senses. Kant wouldn't call their content noumenal though.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 20:53
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    You are genuinely curious as to why anyone thinks science is not the end-all and be-all of thinking?
    – user9166
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 22:14
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    Using terms like 'euphemism to shield' does not make you sound likely to take anyone who disagrees with you the least bit seriously. That means this is not a question It is a statement of opinion.
    – user9166
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 22:14
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    Well, to that, in 2017, my answer is yes
    – amphibient
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 22:14
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    Sorry, I am lost on what the remaining issue is. Is there some particular use of "noumenon" (outside of Kantian scholarship) that prompted the question? If we insist on applying the Kantian term to modern concerns some "noumena" might even be compatible with naturalism. Global theoretical entities, like multiverse, or things that naturalism places outside of science, like morality, are arguably "noumenal".
    – Conifold
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 22:59

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I don't understand your (apparent) hostility. Even if Kant introduced the term in order to shield claims impossible to establish by standards of methodological naturalism (however you understand it), I don't think this intent would constitute a philosophical war crime or would be sufficient even to disregard either Kant's writings or the notion of noumenon (this would be quite incompatible with any sensible scientific standards). Many writers defended, many decades after Kant (regarding your remark that the fact that Kant lived over 200 years ago might be significant here), for example, religious belief on various grounds, often even by appealing to scientific results (whether correctly or not is another question).

Kant's notion of a noumenon, or a merely intelligible, but not knowable, object, is used to make sense of the (purported) object of metaphysical claims, which Kant says don't constitute knowledge (so he's quite far from attempting to "shield" anything). Because these claims, Kant says, have no cognitive, but only practical value, noumenon is then, in Kant's writings on practical philosophy, understood as a posit of practical reason which operates under the Ideas of immortality of the soul, existence of God, freedom of the will etc. These, Kant says already in the Doctrine of Method of the Critique of Pure Reason, are completely useless for any theoretical investigation of nature (so no proofs of God's existence can be possibly valid, as our theoretical knowledge is limited to experience), but are necessary for rational agency. Does this mean there is a second, supersensible world in which we have free will, although we don't have it in the world of our experience? Does Kant want to excuse us from following natural science if it's discoveries are inconvenient for us (i.e. due to contingent "practical" reasons)? No and no. Whenever Kant speaks of something "practical", he means, to simplify it, not any contingent preferences which cause us to act in this or that mannor, but various big-N Notions, like Humanity, Free Will or God, which guide our collective efforts as rational being towards achieving an optimal, perfectly moral and rational society, which Kant calls "the Kingdom of Ends". Kant contrasts "practical" in this sense with "pragmatic" and "technical" which are closer in meaning to what we would nowadays call "practical". Some readers of Kant, ex. Hans Vaihinger, said that these Ideas (this is a technical term of Kantian philosophy) are simply convenient fictions which find their expression in various religious beliefs. Whereas calling the Ideas mere fictions is definitely an overstatement, inspired by Vaihinger's attempt at synthesizing Kant and Darwin, it is true that Kant thought that various historical religions are simply very imperfect expressions of these fundamental Ideas, see Kant's Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone. Kant's main inspiration here is Rousseau who complained that various theological and metaphysical disputes cause people to misunderstand the nature of objects of (narrowly understood) metaphysics, religion etc. which are, in fact, practical, i.e. should lead to acting morally, and not theoretical.

I leave it for you to judge, from your methodologically naturalistic standpoint, whether you find what Kant says about the practical employment of these Ideas is controversial or not. I don't think he intended to undermine scientific investigations in any way and I believe his practical philosophy is quite a natural elaboration of many of his greatest ideas in epistemology, philosophy of science (etc.), but that's up to you to judge.

It's another question, however, whether Kantian or semi-Kantian ideas were used to justify, for example, religious belief against doubts caused by progress of the sciences. William James in his The Will to Believe justified belief in God by invoking personal experiences and prefferences and practical (not in Kantian sense outlined above) convenience. Herbert Spencer, the famous philosophical evolutionist, appealed to "the Unknowable" (which is similar to how noumenon is sometimes understood, although not at all close to what Kant actually thought) to justify independence of the existence of God from any scientific commitments to Darwinism (perhaps to avoid controversy?). This is however typical of the empiricist tradition, especially prominent in the Anglophone countries, starting with Priestley, Newton and Berkeley to synthesize empiricism with (sometimes very strong) religious faith. Some other empiricists, like Hume, invoked notions which they have themselves previously banished due to their indifference to experience to justify their racist prejudices. Closer to Kant, in Germany, during the Materialismusstreit (which wasn't at all limited to philosophy), Kant's philosophy was used against various form of materialism - of course, in part motivated by the need to secure religious belief and morality, although also for other, more strictly philosophical, reasons. A prominent participant of the debate against the materialistic position, Friedrich Lange, was the first significant neo-Kantian philosopher of the second half of the nineteenth century. He claimed (here) that broadly understood materialism, although useful as a methodology, has no claim to ultimate, extra-sensible, truth about reality (i.e. abstracting from content of experience). This result is articulated directly using Kantian terminology (noumena, phenomena etc.) and matches to a large extent what Kant himself says, although Kant is more precise. However, Kant didn't seem to see materialism as a great "threat" himself (although he claims that his Critique repudiates it like other metaphysical systems in the Preface to the second edition of his magnum opus), perhaps due to it being not very popular in Germany in the eigthteenth century. He recognizes Epicurus, for example, as primarily an empiricist and not a materialist in the last chapter of the Methodenlehre of the Critique of Pure Reason. Also, paradoxically, Lange himself was a proponent of a "naturalized" version of Kantianism in which epistemological considerations have their direct counterparts in human physiology (conceiving the world in physiological categories was generally very popular back then). Not much has been written, sadly, from what I know, about the nature of these debates, so I cannot reccommend any further reference.

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