, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 411-423
Date: 18 Jan 2007

How experienced phenomena relate to things themselves: Kant, Husserl, Hoche, and reflexive monism

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Abstract

What we normally think of as the “physical world” is also the world as experienced, that is, a world of appearances. Given this, what is the reality behind the appearances, and what might its relation be to consciousness and to constructive processes in the mind? According to Kant, the thing itself that brings about and supports these appearances is unknowable and we can never gain any understanding of how it brings such appearances about. Reflexive monism argues the opposite: the thing itself is knowable as are the processes that construct conscious appearances. Conscious appearances (empirical evidence) and the theories derived from them can represent what the world is really like, even though such empirical knowledge is partial, approximate and uncertain, and conscious appearances are species-specific constructions of the human mind. Drawing on the writings of Husserl, Hoche suggests that problems of knowledge, mind and consciousness are better understood in terms of a “pure noematic” phenomenology that avoids any reference to a “thing itself.” I argue that avoiding reference to a knowable reality (behind appearances) leads to more complex explanations with less explanatory value and counterintuitive conclusions—for example Hoche’s conclusion that consciousness is not part of nature. The critical realism adopted by reflexive monism appears to be more useful, as well as being consistent with science and common sense.