Note: Below is a chapter-extract from part-2 of Author book, Is Reason a sense-organ? A super-mind above the known mind?( Amazon.com, pages 41-44)
The thing 'in itself' dilemma
Kant's famous differentiation of an object of the senses as mere phenomena, and as a thing 'in itself', was a brilliant observation! But there are two possible meanings or dimension to the ‘in itself’ status of an object. It would be interesting to probe to understand in what sense the great philosopher had meant it:
1) In the sense of what the 'object' thinks of itself, in contrast to what the subject's objective impression is about it. For example, when I look at a crow on a tree, I may feel that what the crow thinks of itself would be the 'in itself' reality about this creature, than what subjective impression I gather about this object (However, we should limit applying this 'sense' for living beings only as we have no knowledge as to whether a stone or a table has such a self-conscious dimension about themselves! ‘What really is life?’ is yet to be understood fully in the scientific sense).
2) What the object is, in God's mind, or in Nature’s scheme of existence.
If we consider the first sense, we will be required to answer a basic question: Can all objects claim a clear consciousness about itself, as to what they are physically, metaphysically or spiritually? Though what I think of myself would be unimaginably different from what my onlooker subject would think of me, as part of the phenomena around him, I can never claim that what I think of myself is the ‘in itself’ reality about me! This is chiefly because my conceptualization of me can never be other than an objective one, i.e. ‘Me as an external object before me!’ Because I have no other known organ than my mind to know of myself! Hence, even when I maintain an independent subjective world, usually un-penetrable by any third party in its totality, it cannot be considered as my 'in itself' reality. Although in my mind, it is a phenomenal ‘me’.
The same law can confidently be applied to all other kinds of objects. The self-knowledge of no object in existence could be treated as their ‘in-itself’ reality because such knowledge too cannot be outside the barrier of PHENOMENA.
Furthermore, in our new study, we would also want to completely rule out the 2nd dimension of the sense in which 'in itself' was meant i.e. as God had meant it to be. The explanation given below shows why God might not have kept any 'in itself' status for any object, as He wanted the reality of objects to evolve in the process of life, in the subject-object interactions, instead of allocating a permanent, unchangeable identity.
Moreover, by all the logic possible for man, by all the sense of reason he possesses, he could safely presume that 'a thing in itself' could be the one and only original source of existence. It could only have self-consciousness about who he is, or what he is. The rest of the existence can only have 'synthetic' reality, as in the case of ‘Ego’. But how could such synthetic entities break away from the catch of phenomena and have glimpses of their original relation with the one and only 'in itself' reality? The answer to this question is explained in the forthcoming portions. It seems, in all possibility that Kant had meant the 'in itself’ dimension in the second sense only, as God had defined the objects. We will see this dimension of the 'in itself' reality of the objects, a bit more in detail and from a different perspective below:
Every object of the sense is devised for the onlooker?
The reality of each object is, it seems, predominantly 'other' oriented. Each object's reality is the objective reality that the perceiving 'subject' provides to it. (Fichte had touched this kind of a thought while criticizing Kant's original term) What the object thinks of itself, whether it is a living object like an animal, or a plant, or an inorganic object like a stone, is irrelevant in the real world of mutual interaction.
Some body parts of man, as well as animals, (especially the reproductively related organs), are designed and located at such places that, one cannot even see them properly and fully in one's own body! Such organs are, it seems, expected to be seen only by the on looking others! It seems to have been designed by nature exclusively for the on looking subjects. Experience buds in such onlooker subjects are also designed in such a way that, upon seeing, or touching such organs, it makes sense of it instantly, and nature arouses them for the designed action or interaction, say in the act of love making, or if the object is a baby- sucking mothers milk, or if the subject is a predator, hunting down the prey. The beauty of a flower is obviously meant for the honey seeking bees, and butterflies!
In short, no object is a stand alone entity in itself, but a potential piece of existential FLUX, ready to be identified the way its waiting subjects want to mould it!
It is logically difficult to presume that God might have kept a secret 'in itself' reality for both the objects- here in the world of phenomena, one subject and the other object or both as subjects, and as far as the 'other' in front of both the parties are objects for each other. In other words, no object in the world can be termed an 'OBJECT' forever, as, when it initiates an interaction with another object, it suddenly alters its status as a SUBJECT, who looks at the other with its objective eyes. As said earlier, we can confidently apply these norms to living subjects and objects (man, animals and plants) though we do not know for sure how 'life' can be defined in exact terms! Inorganic objects also react to each other, interchanging their roles as subjects and objects: for example, when the sea water forces itself against a rock on the coast line, why cannot the sea be treated as a subject, and the rock, an object, since energy exchange takes place in the act.
Or, let us go for a more sophisticated example- the general object of SOUND (an object of the sense of the ears). Its very existence depends on the subject's mechanism of the eardrum etc. When the phenomenon of sound was schemed by nature, if it had not devised sensory devices like the ears, it would not have existed for living beings for all practical logic. For a deaf person, sound does not exist as a sense object. There could be many such natural phenomena not yet identified or known by man in this meaning!
Yet another angle of the sense object of sound; man is able to manipulate sound into musical notes, and alter its very nature the way he is able to transform a piece of uranium rock into a nuclear bomb!
Hence, no sense object has got any nature allotted permanent ENTITY, as seen from the above various examples.
‘Phenomena’ is the name of this peculiar arrangement. Here both parties are subjects as well as objects at the same time. What is relevant existentially might be the end result of the interaction of the parties, and not their existential status.
It is much more sensible to presume that God must have kept the much controversial 'in itself reality as a 'wide-open' phenomenon, for the interacting parties in the phenomenal world to define, explore and find it in each other!
The above claim in our study can be found very true, once again in the example of a man-woman love relation; it is in the course of intense interaction that each partner starts experiencing newer and newer colours and features in themselves, that they had never observed within themselves before! When there exists someone in life to receive and joyfully accept whatever behaviour that comes out of each other, partners experience a divine freedom, the FREEDOM OF LOVE', and they blossom like plants and trees in spring! These features of the subject, as well as the object could never have been in the original 'in itself' reality planned by God, but He might have kept it as part of the FREEDOM He had designed for the phenomenal realm of life!
Same rule can be applied when man encounters a piece of rock too. The rock does not know of itself beyond what its subject- here, man, makes itself with! Yesterday's rock and sand is what stands as today's cemented towers and townships in the world! If that piece of rock has happened to be a piece of the nuclear fuel 'URANIUM', as already seen above, it could have never known of its own destructive powers until its subject -man- attempted to split one of its atoms, and released nuclear energy!
Hence, this study could easily conclude that God, or nature might not have allocated any permanent ‘in itself’ entity or identity to any single object in existence. It was rather a creative manifestation of some mind like energy into a plethora of objects and subjects, left at the PHENOMENAL domain, to evolve itself into self-conscious ENTITIES.
Author: Abraham J. Palakudy
He is a seeker and researcher into subjects like General philosophy, Metaphysics, MInd, and Reason, Spirituality and polity
Contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter: Voice of philosophy@jopan1
His profile and other blog-posts: https://www.blogger.com/profile/14249415589712707293