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phenomenon (singular), phenomena (plural)

A fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable.

Phenomenon, as related to Kantianism, refers to human perception of things, as opposed to their true existence -- noumenon. Empirical knowledge conveys information that shapes perceptions. Human observers do not simply perceive the world as it is but impose an intuitive structure. For example, the human observer imposes concepts of time and space on things, though time and space are not intrinsic properties of the world but were created in the mind of the human observer.

Types of phenomena -- The world is composed of physical, social, and mental phenomena. These phenomena cannot all be explained in the same terms. Categories into which we carve up the world are not simply naturally given but also historically construed.

A historical perspective of phenomena -- The categories of 'human', 'animate being', and 'inanimate thing' are, to a certain extent, fluid and shaped by historical and social developments. The same must be true of the categories 'physical', 'social', and 'mental.'

  • For example, 'mental' is specifically a Cartesian concept from when Descartes cleaved the world into the physical and mental, he also defined the mental in a new way. The Cartesian mind brings together phenomena such as thoughts and beliefs (which have an external reference but no phenomenal quality) with feelings such as pain or joy (which have no reference but only ineffable (inexpressible) quality, which we call subjectivity).
  • Within Greek philosophy, which dominated prior to Descartes, he key division was not between mind and body but between reason which existed in the structure of the world, and the living body, which included perception and sensation - what we now consider to be part of 'mind.' With crumbling of Aristotelian philosophy, Descartes had to repackage the various items the Greeks had separated, and he did so around the notion of 'indubitability' - I am certain of nothing but the contents of my mind. (Malik, 2000, pp 342).

Human reason is the source of the intuitive structures imposed on the world.

Source: Malik, 2000, pp 72

See noumenon.