Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More on D'Souza, Kant, & Noumenal Reality

Kant argued that "pure reason" has epistemic access only to phenomenal, and not noumenal, reality. But some argue against Kant, says D'Souza, saying that "Kant cannot be right in saying that we have no access to reality because you and I and everyone else experience the same reality. When we are in the same room we see the same lamps and tables and books on the shelf. Obviously those must exist and we must have direct access to them; otherwise we would not have the same perception of them." (What's So Great About Christianity, 175-176)

Kant's response, according to D'Souza, is that, because we are all humans, we all have the same sensory equipment. This operates in us in the same way. Therefore we all have the same experience. But it's important to note that "the experience is all we have." "Just because we have similar or identical experiences does not mean that any of us has access to a reality that is beyond that experience."

D'Souza's Kantian point is simply this. There are empiricists who believe they can access reality via the 5 senses. Kant's point is that via the 5 senses all we can get at is phenomena. We can't, via sense experience, get at noumenal reality. So, saying we all have similar phenomenal experience in no way shows that we have epistemic access to noumenal reality.

D'Souza then responds to Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson. Wilson claims that science is allowing us, via new instruments, to "view the world with butterfly eyes." Wilson says: "Fish communicate with one another by means of coded electrical bursts. Zoologists, using generators and detectors, can join the conversation." (176)

Now D'Souza thinks Wilson's claim does nothing to undermine Kant's point, because we are still viewing the images with our human eyes; "we are still using our five senses in order to read, hear, and interpret what those instruments say. In other words, our human apparatus of perception conditions the entire field of our experiences, and this has always been so and will continue to be so as long as we are human.." (176)

Kant has, according to D'Souza, "unmasked the intellectual pretension of the Enlightment: that reason and science are the only routes to truth." (178) And, that there is a reality that lies beyond the 5 senses. For D'Souza, this makes room for faith.

But what about the idea that science "works?" This seems to me to be related to Jon's comment on my last D'Souza post. I'll comment on this, via D'Souza, in a future post.