Phenomena, or appearances, are attributes that make accessible to sensible perception the objects of the visible world. They are interpreted variously. According to parmenides, they are the "untrue." For Protagoras, they are subjective and relative; as the thing appears to a person, so it is for him (frag. 1). For aristotle, not every phenomenon is necessarily true (Meta. 1010b 1–29); however, when critically evaluated, phenomena make objective truth accessible and one should therefore study them (Meta. 986b 31). In the thinking of I. kant, the phenomena are generally valid and objective, but only for man since he constitutes them. More specifically, perceptions are formed by space and time, "which contain a priori the condition of the possibility of objects as appearances" (Critique of Pure Reason, A 89); i.e., they are the pure intuitions that are contained a priori in sensible nature. The phenomena are then conceived by reason, through its a priori concepts and categories, as objects, while cognition remains limited to the thing–for–us, and never reaches the thing–in–itself (ibid. B 164). Likewise, we know "our own subject only as appearance" (ibid. B 156). As opposed to this view, E. husserl returns "to the things themselves"; these he understands as the contents of consciousness that manifest themselves as the result of eidetic and phenomenological reduction and are comprehended by intuition or ideation (see phenomenology).
See Also: noumena; kantianism; phenomenalism.
Bibliography: g. caprone braga, Enciclopedia filosofica, 4v. (Venice–Rome 1957) 2:329–334. r. eisler, Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe, 3 v. (4th ed. Berlin 1927–30) 2:415–416.
[j. b. lotz]