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From Ancient Greek νoούμενον (nooúmenon, thing that is known), passive present participle of νοέω (noéō, I know).


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noumenon (plural noumena)

  1. (from Kantian philosophy on) A thing as it is independent of any conceptualization or perception by the human mind, postulated by practical reason but existing in a condition which is in principle unknowable and unexperienceable.
    Synonym: thing-in-itself
    Antonym: phenomenon
    • 1871 January, David Asher, “Schopenhauer and Darwinism”, in Journal of Anthropology, volume 1, number 3, page 317:
      The final result of Kant's philosophy, expressed in the concisest terms, was the proposition, so humiliating to human cognition, but, at the same time, so fertile in consequences, that we can know only phenomena, or the outward appearances of things, but not the noumenon, or the thing in itself.
    • 1954 July, Bella K. Milmed, “Theories of Religious Knowledge from Kant to Jaspers”, in Philosophy, volume 29, pages 197–198:
      We have no specific concept of the noumenon, but think of it merely as whatever the object may be apart from the manner in which our knowledge exhibits it.
    • 2003 January, Jay L. Garfield; Graham Priest, “Nāgārjuna and the Limits of Thought”, in Philosophy East & West, volume 53, number 1, page 16:
      That, we have seen, is what prevents the two truths from collapsing into an appearance/reality or phenomenon/noumenon distinction.

Related terms[edit]



  • noumenon in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.
  • noumenon” in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present.
  • noumenon” in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • William Turner (1911), “philosophy of Immanuel Kant”, in The Catholic Encyclopedia[1], New York: Robert Appleton Company
  • Simon Blackburn (1996) The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Oxford University Press
  • Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989
  • Random House Webster's Unabridged Electronic Dictionary, 1987–1996
  • Dagobert D. Runes (ed.) (1962) Dictionary of Philosophy, Philosophical Library, page 215