• Kant, Noumenal Selves, and The Matrix

    If you lived inside the Matrix, would you exist? Yes. Here’s why.There’s a startling parallel between the Matrix scenario and Immanuel Kant’s philosophy of noumenal and phenomenal things. We all have subjective experiences of the things around us: things are red, they are green, they are round, they are smooth or rough, and so on. All of those adjectives are phenomenal, that is, they tell describe the experience that a thing gives us. The ‘noumenal’ refers to how things are independently of our experiences of them. According to Kant, we can’t know anything about the noumenal realm, because all we that experience is the phenomenal.

    It occurred to me that if our world really were generated on a computer, that wouldn’t mean that we or our world are “fake” or “nonexistent” as some people might take it to mean. You and I and our whole world would indeed exist. From the perspective of someone outside of the matrix, however, we would be very different things than what it looks like from our perspective. We’d be 1’s and 0’s on computer code, represented by physical information and electrical currents inside the computer. Our noumenal selves wouldn’t be one and the same as our phenomenal selves, but nonetheless they would be.

    Interestingly, there would be a correspondance between the noumenal and phenomenal things here: From our perspective, when we hold a fire to a piece of paper, it burns. From a perspective outside the matrix, a certain pattern of one’s and zero’s that represents the computer’s fire-paper simulation would wind up always resulting in a certain pattern of one’s and zero’s representing the computer’s burn simulation. That’s something to think about. I have a creeping suspicion that this would poke a hole in Kant’s contention that the noumenal world is unknowable, but articulating that is a subject for another day.


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    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, Politics and what I call "Optimal Lifestyle Habits."