from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun In the philosophy of Kant, an object as it is in itself independent of the mind, as opposed to a phenomenon.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In the Kantian philosophy:
  • noun That which can be the object only of a purely intellectual intuition.
  • noun Inexactly, a thing as it is apart from all thought; what remains of the object of thought after space, time, and all the categories of the understanding are abstracted from it; a thing in itself.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Metaph.) The of itself unknown and unknowable rational object, or thing in itself, which is distinguished from the phenomenon through which it is apprehended by the senses, and by which it is interpreted and understood; -- so used in the philosophy of Kant and his followers.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun 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.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun the intellectual conception of a thing as it is in itself, not as it is known through perception


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[German, from Greek nooumenon, from neuter present passive participle of noein, to perceive by thought, from nous, mind.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Ancient Greek νοούμενον (nooumenon), passive present participle of νοέω (noeō, "I know").


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  • From "The object, itself inaccessible to experience, to which a phenomenon is referred for the basis or cause of its sense content."

    I love it when the definition leaves you even more confused than you were.

    October 24, 2007

  • Whaa...?

    October 24, 2007

  • See, this is why I gave all that up. To quote Elwood P. Dowd, with his permission: "In this must be oh, so smart or oh, so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. And you may quote me."

    Listen to the voice of binky...

    October 24, 2007

  • At least Binky doesn't speak in circles. ;-)

    October 24, 2007

  • Ah, the joys of Kant.

    If the phenomenon is how we experience a thing (e.g. having spatial dimensions, persisting in time and bashing into things), the noumenon is how it is 'in itself' (???, ??? and ???). We can't actually strip away the aspects our minds apply (e.g. geometry, causality) in making sense of the world, but we can recognise them as scaffolding our minds use in putting experiences together. According to Kant.

    If it bothers you that causality is supposed to be purely 'phenomenal' and the noumenon is said to cause the phenomenon, yes, that's a known difficulty.

    October 25, 2007

  • I think I understand, VanishedOne. Thanks.

    So if a thing can only be experienced through phenomena, how do we know there is a noumenon? Why can't things be purely phenomenal? What makes Kant so sure there is something behind the scaffolding?

    October 25, 2007

  • "Socrates scores, got a beautiful cross from Archimedes. The Germans are disputing it. Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx is claiming it was offside."

    October 25, 2007

  • Actually, VanishedOne, I'm not at all sure I wanted to understand this. But thanks anyway. ;-)

    October 25, 2007

  • It's a while since I studied this, but as I recall my reading of Kant (i.e. not that of a recognised authority but the one I don't have to look up) was that we do experience things - i.e. the phenomenon isn't another class of thing, isn't itself an object of experience - but the way we experience them is phenomenal: for example, we experience objects as spatial, and we can't step outside geometry. So if there were no 'things in themselves', there would be no things and we wouldn't experience them in any way.

    Of course that doesn't address the question of hallucinations, etc. but that one isn't specific to Kant. He does think we need a sensory component to experiences, but when it comes to arguing the point... I recall has some comments on that:

    'As he says, "without sensibility no objects would be given to us, ... thoughts without content are empty"... The trouble is, he never gets around to arguing the point--not till he gets to the Appendix on the Amphiboly. He mounts an argument that we need concepts, indeed very specific concepts, and he mounts an argument that we need the forms of intuition, space and time. But he never mounts an argument that we need sensations, empirical intuitions, what he calls the matter of knowledge...'

    Unfortunately I'm not very familiar with the Amphiboly - it was never part of the lecture/discussion material when I was studying this - and I haven't time to wrestle with it at the moment.

    October 25, 2007

  • Skipvia, I love you. :) That's hiLARious.

    October 25, 2007

  • noumenon

    noun Inexactly, a thing as it is apart from all thought; what remains of the object of thought after space, time, and all the categories of the understanding are abstracted from it; a thing in itself.

    April 6, 2022