Saturday, June 12, 2010

My mind’s not right

Me and the snow

My belief in the noumenal realm of Kant has been renewed, thanks to my recent visit with Mike the statistician. I can speak freely of Mike the statistican, since the odds of him ever happening across this website are nil to none, the main reason I feel so much more freedom talking about people distant from me than from those close. It was a pleasure to have that vocabulary renewed for me, the vocabulary of Kant. His language for describing the universe is among my favorites, but I always feel vague embarassment when using it, as it seems pretentious and forced.

But they are beautiful, and necessary, words. We have the phenomenal, the realm of the actual, matter in motion. Things we can see and feel and touch and measure. And we have the noumenal, the realm of everything else, just as real. All of us know that second realm is there, all of us except scientists, maybe, and statisticians.

I’ve never found better words for those two parts of reality. Acknowledging their existence begs a whole series of additional questions. What do I have faith in? What do I believe? Do I only believe in things that can be measured and quantified and counted? Or do I believe in the noumenal realm, too? And if so, how? How do I make decisions in that other realm beyond the reach of science?

The specific context of that conversation was the difference between quantitative psychology, hypotheses about human behavior that can actually be measured and tested, and psychologists like Jung, my personal favorite. His exact words were: “Jung is bull.” At which point I disagree. I believe there is a profound use for the world of matter in motion. If we measure things, and test them, we can learn a lot about the world. But there is also a place for those who observe reality and that make observations about it, based on this other realm, the realm of the noumenal.

I’ve been discussing my faith a lot lately, and I find the division between those two realms useful in discussing it. Because faith is just that—faith. I can have no proof for the things I believe, no scientific evidence, because faith exists in a completely separate place, the place of the noumenal. The key is to keep one’s rationality just as alert in both realms. Just because there’s no scientific evidence of the things I believe, doesn’t mean that there’s no evidence. It’s just evidence of another sort.

I suppose my posts for these weeks are a lot different from what a lot of people were expecting, including myself. I expected to be writing about snow and blisters and ramen noodles. Instead, I’m writing about esoteric philosophers. Maybe I’m dealing with my disappointment by dissolving myself in the world of ideas. One of my many bad habits.

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