Kants take on reality is that we perceive indirect reality. This is the belief that we perceive the representation of the world (our brains interpretation of reality) and not the real world (The world outside our heads). This is the generally accepted view and neurology has gone a long way in confirming it. Does this mean we can never see the real world? Will we only ever perceive the representation of objects, or can we see the actual object?

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    Your ongoing experience is an element of reality which you can "see" directly.
    – nir
    Nov 22 '17 at 10:34
  • @nir obviously. I don't see the relevance. Please explain. Nov 22 '17 at 10:36
  • You can see Epistemological Problems of Perception and related SEP's entries. Nov 22 '17 at 10:38
  • I'm interested in why you think that Kant's view is the generally accepted view. This being a philosophical claim, I don't see how neurology, or any science, could even in principle confirm this.
    – Lukas
    Nov 22 '17 at 11:01
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    @Lukas the physiology of how vision works has been quantifiable mapped. Where vision occurs in the brain is now fact. We don't see with our eyes, we see with our brain. cycleback.com/eyephysiology.html Nov 22 '17 at 11:05

This begs the question - What does it mean to see a nouminal object? How is this different from phenomenal seeing? To get around this semantic difficulty, I shall use perceive to refer to nouminal observations.

Claim : For an entity to perceive an object, that entity must be that object.

Argument : If the entity were external to the object, it wouldn't have access to all features of the object. (A feature is one which could be perceived, thereby making the object a union of its perceivable features)..

Example : Sam hears his own voice when he speaks and then frowns upon hearing his recorded voice. Which of the two is closer to his nouminal voice? The answer, of course, is his own voice as he speaks and not the recorded sample, as the recorded sample has passed through several filters thereby making it a phenomenal observation.

  • Neither actually. Nouminally, only vibrations in the air exist. Phenomenally, we perceive sounds. Sounds are the interpretation of electrochemical impulses from our ear drums when they detect vibrations in the air. Our voice sounds different because when we speak, our ear drums detect internal vibrations made by our jaws, while talking. Grind your teeth together and you hear a sound. This is not due to vibrations in the air. We do not see, hear, smell, taste or feel nouminal phenomena. Only the phenomenal representation of them. Nov 22 '17 at 14:57
  • Zane did make a good point, though it's not a necessary component of your argument: you actually hear your own voice as others hear it when you listen to a recording. io9.gizmodo.com/… Nov 22 '17 at 15:01
  • But again, which one is the "correct" sound of your voice? Nov 22 '17 at 15:01
  • Which observation of a voice would you consider closer to nouminal? Hearing the voice (which, according to you is equally phenomenal, regardless of whose voice it is, the speaker's or the listeners) or looking at the frequency spectrum of the voice which captures all details of the vibrations you talk about. I'll say the latter isn't even an observation
    – a.anand
    Nov 22 '17 at 15:06
  • My argument is that the correct sound of my voice is as I hear it. It is at least more nouminal than a recorded sample since my hearing captures more aspects of my voice than a recorded sample ever can. Of course, if my hearing were infinitely sharp, that would increase the "nouminality" in my observations.
    – a.anand
    Nov 22 '17 at 15:14

If we perceive only indirect reality it will not be called indirect because there is no other reality. The perceived in mind is the one and only one reality. If we imagine what we perceive to be separate from we (us), then we have a direct reality consciously known in mind and an indirect reality which is imagined in consciousness to be outside consciousness (also called mind). This how world becomes indirect reality for Kant. But most persons in the west and many in the East reject this view.

In India a good many persons believe that reality is the consciousness in which a conscious knower perceives a second object. That is, in addition to perceiving sensing organs of the body which is the first known object for any person, with which body the knower identifies with as 'I am body (with a mind in it), the knower perceives all other objects and actions in the cosmos around the body as a second order reality (calling it appearance or maya). Maya is what is not, exists not as reality, but exists as functionally necessary appearance in mind and also appears outside the mind. Functionally it helps the bodily identity to believe in reality of independent existence of the material cosmos around the body. Initially, most religions call it the God created world, before guiding the believer finally towards the reality of an unseen God as super consciousness. Kant rightly saw space and time to be projections from timeless consciousness into indirect reality.

Modern physics refers to consciousness/ mind as the observer outside the cosmos. Physicists investigate only the cosmos and go in their mind into every part of it even to its ends in a trice. Cognitive neuroscience (psychology using ideas of neuroscience) believes brain creates consciousness, the identity as person in body (or ego), the intellect and the memory, all in the brain. It believes there is functional world outside the brain as a reality and the brain creates a representation of that reality in the mind. Human beings have no way of directly perceiving the real and can only imagine it as the real world of bodily actions known in the mind. Even atomic explosions created by human bodies is known only in the mind. Human beings have no way of knowing if they act or they think a known action of their body was their action.

The rational view based on human experience which is free of false beliefs is that perception is dependent on (a) existence of reality called conscious knower (b) existence of known objects and actions which are inseparable from consciousness in which they appear as names and forms together with their meanings; the meanings appear from memories called predispositions and latent tendencies of persons (both individual and common) (c) existence of inferentially known perception by sensing in the body, on which communication amongst persons depends (d) existence of memory in mind that makes meaningful names and forms appear in consciousness (e) existence of inferring intellect in consciousness (f) existence of consciousness called mind, linked to a super-consciousness, in which mind the knower knows meaningful forms and names appearing by way of memory and intellect (g) intuitive intelligence in life forms by which they appear to notice, act, perceive, move, speak, communicate, etc., and which actions are known in consciousness by knower. Yet as discovered in neuroscience over 90% percent of body's action are unconscious to knower, indicating that knower-person does not act and only body does. Knower person knows a few of body's actions.

The most difficult truth to accept is that the reality of super-consciousness is not continuous but only momentary, ever in the present. There is no time existing as reality in super consciousness; time is only an idea appearing in consciousness. The cosmos of past moments are never perceived in the present to call it continuous. Its continuity is imagined with its past held in human memory in human minds. The continuity of cosmos is only apparently real and in the mind. There is no continuous real cosmos outside the mind. Motion over time, measurement over space, extension of mass or objects in space, etc, are only apparent reality in the mind.

  • Well personally, I'm of the opinion that the conscious merely realizes the reason the unconscious acts. It's has no direct influence on on action itself. But that's a debate for another day. Thanks for your answer. It's a pleasure to find someone who understands the concepts I'm referring to. Nov 25 '17 at 13:58
  • If we only perceive indirect reality, it will not be called indirect reality, because there is no other reality. This is where I differ. I believe an objective, imperceptible reality does exist, and we exist within this reality. But we only ever perceive our brains representation of that reality. Our visual system has it's flaws though. We perceive things which objectively, don't exist. Nov 26 '17 at 10:12

Of course it depends on what you mean by seeing the object. I would say that we do not see objects. We do perceive these things, but only very indirectly, and we really wouldn't know one way or another if the sensory information was produced by a real object or is a product of something else. What we see is not even light. It is the processing of sensory information.

What We See

Light bounces off of an object, enters the retina, information is uptaken by the the optic nerve and processed in the visual cortex. The information is cross referenced against "forms" on which the brain has been trained and once identified, that registers as an object in the conscious mind.

When Things Go Wrong

Errors can also occur along the way, and so what we see and what is may not be the same. We can experience various forms of hallucinations, our brain may find a form that shouldn't really fit (like finding Jesus in our toast), etc. Or in more extreme examples, the machinery that our brain uses to match sensory information to categories or individual object types can be damaged. A great example is "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat."

Likewise, if we are not trained to identify these forms (object classes), we might not see them at all. For example, significantly different trees may "look the same" to the untrained eye. Likewise you may look at something and your mind might be so preoccupied, that it does not register, such as the bottle of milk in the fridge that's right in front of you, even though you cannot find it.

So again, we do not see objects. Our brain fits sensory information to forms or schema, and that is what we "see." If everything works as it should, then we do perceive the objects, but only through a series of pathways: light hits object -> eye detects light -> optic nerve sends raw information to the visual cortex -> cortex identifies objects in the raw data -> cortex relays that to conscious thought process.

Perceiving the Nouminal

Whether or not we perceive the nouminal is a matter of what we're willing to accept as perception. If only direct perception is perception at all, then we do not perceive the nouminal. But I think it is reasonable to say that we have perceived the nouminal, if we react to it through a properly functioning phenomenal reality. For instance, if I throw a ball at someone, and that person, through their sensory input and processing becomes aware of a ball heading towards them at high speed and as a result they duck out of the way, I would argue that they did perceive the nouminal reality, even if it was through a their phenomenal reality.

  • Just to clarify, these "forms" are perceived by the eye or are the actual "forms" part of the interpretation? Do we see objects with our eyes and our brain recognizes them or does our brain form the actual image we perceive? Nov 22 '17 at 12:19
  • They are perceived by the brain. While we do not know the full detail, we basically take the raw sensory information, maybe preprocess it, and then try to match it to known schema that we've compiled. So like hats, dogs, boats, etc. Nov 22 '17 at 13:39
  • yes I know. Just checking we're on the same page. So that means, nothing which exists nouminally, can be perceived. That includes the range of electromagnetic radiation we call "visible light"! Nov 22 '17 at 13:46
  • I suppose we perceive these things, but indirectly. Everything we experience we experience through pre and post processing in the brain. I wish I could remember the quote, but someone talking about virtual reality basically stated that we already live in a virtual reality. We only have indirect information. Sensory information is generated by something, enters our sensory organs, is transferred to the brain, processed, and only then becomes "evident" in our consciousness. Nov 22 '17 at 13:48
  • Added some additional elements to the answer and cleaned it up a bit. Let me know if it's still confusing or if you have more questions. Nov 22 '17 at 13:51

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