Can someone explain the role of Kant's philosophy in analytic philosophy? As an example, is the noumenon/phenomenon-distinction important for analytic philosophers? When we see a green tree, is the greenness assumed to be a real perception (or something real about the external world?) for analytic philosophers?

  • Analytic philosophy is a methodological category and not bound to a specific content. Therefore, I do not see how your question makes sense. For some analytic philosophers it is the one, for others the other.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 27, 2022 at 21:17
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    Analytic philosophers are mainly (neo) logicists and (neo) positivists with an emphasis on language and analysis known as the linguistic turn of 20th century philosophy de-emphasizing a priori metaphysics, thus Kant's noumenon/phenomenon distinction is unimportant as noumenon as a conceptual class resists further analysis. But his transcendental logic may be of interest to analytic philosophers if some transcendental propositions can be well-defined in some language framework since almost everything in Kant's logic is subjective and thus may be intersubjectively describable and analyzable... Jul 28, 2022 at 4:55
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    Sense-data are pretty much dead in analytic philosophy. Wittgenstein and Quine finished them off. So, there is a time in analytic tradition when sense-data were important and a time after. It is very difficult to follow the debates that are the body of analytic tradition if you don't start at the beginning -- Frege and Russell -- and work your way up. With respect to Kant, see my answer below.
    – user14511
    Jul 28, 2022 at 9:28
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    Almost mind-independent sense data with obvious inconsistency trying to bridge the perennial demarcation of the objective and the subjective has been largely replaced with the more subjective and experiential qualia in contemporary (analytic) philosophy of mind for which analytic philosopher Dennett famously rejects while Chalmers argues for it. Understood as a physics student you want to really know physics describes the phenomena or noumenon. For your greenness it's called secondary properties which... Jul 29, 2022 at 1:53
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    traditionally did not belong to physics. However, as shown in my above ref many famous philosophers reject this clear demarcation especially after Kant for whom even space and time are just forms of subjective intuition, thus phenomena/noumenon classification is not really helpful for further understanding of physics. A much better way is through analytic/synthetic perspective which was analytic philosopher Carnap's main project for his scientific language framework as discussed in a yesterday's post... Jul 29, 2022 at 2:01

1 Answer 1


If you mean by analytic philosophy the work of philosophers such as Frege, Moore, Russell, Carnap, Wittenstein, Quine, Davidson, Kuhn or Rorty and others who exchanged ideas with this group of heavy weights, it is fair to say that without a basic understanding of Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" you lack the foundation of their debates.

It is hard to understand Kant-trained early Russell's obsession with mind-independent sense data if you don't know a bit of German idealism. It is difficult to assess how successfully Quine crashed the barriers between analytic and synthetic judgements into Carnap's face without knowing how Kant coined the distinction of analytic, synthetic, a priori and a posteriori in the first place. And so on.

You don't need to be an expert, but I would definitely take a class on Kant even if the aforementioned tradition of analytic philosophy is your main interest. It will give you an understanding from what the linguistic turn has turned away.

As to the noumenon-phenomenon-distinction: Today, an analytic philosopher most likely would dodge the question of the foundation of universals altogether and talk about words like "green" or "rabbit" which have a meaning in the context of sentences and theories. Obvious languages/theories are our everyday language and our everyday knowledge and the language and knowledge of physics/biology. As we understand "green" or "rabbit" in either theory, there is basically no problem and no need to operate with a noumenon-phenomenon-distinction.

However, when Russell wrote "The problems of philosophy" in 1912, he was an analytic philosopher -- although not a linguistically turned one -- who considered the question of the foundation of fundamentals a philosophical problem. You see, things are in flow.

  • Thanks a lot, yeah you are right. analytic/synthetic, a priori/a posteriori and necessary/possible are very important concepts in analytic philosophy. My main concern was noumenon/phenomenon distinction. For example, if someone ask an analytic philosopher about similarity of particulars (for some properties) which leads to the concept of universals, and argue that this similarity is just on the level of phenomenon, how a analytic philosopher response to him and convince him. I am a physics student but very interested in some topics in analytic philosophy, and this problem have struggled me.
    – reza-ebadi
    Jul 28, 2022 at 10:20
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    Ok. I added a part to univerals and the noumenon-phenomenon-distiction. Hope it helps. :-)
    – user14511
    Jul 28, 2022 at 11:20
  • There is still a vivid part of analytical philosophy that does not support sense-data in the classical sense but advocates some kind of epistemic foundationalism. The words phenomenon and noumenon are not really used anymore, especially as there have been many poor polemic twists of Kant in the analytic tradition but the essential problem has not vanished and is at the core of many sceptical arguments like brain-in-vats, simulation theories, etc.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 28, 2022 at 11:47
  • Rorty? “One of these is not like the others.” Jul 28, 2022 at 16:22
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    @reza-ebadi online english translation of Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason"
    – Nikos M.
    Nov 10, 2022 at 8:03

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