For some time now, philosophers everywhere have been concerned that the mind-boggling exuberance of contemporary science and its ever-growing flow of fascinating theoretical discoveries and subsequent practical applications will eventually give pause to taxpayers in free nations everywhere and make them start wondering how come a nontrivial amount of their hard earned money is being channeled to research in metaphysics. This dreaded scenario has long been foreseen by philosophers, who have for a few decades now received the kind of welcoming at interdisciplinary conferences that one would expect a bunch of crazy old hippies to get if they crashed a Wall Street young stockbroker party: everyone finds them loud and obnoxious but since they are pretty much harmless and, moreover, remind everyone of their parents when they spoke nostalgically about their crazy idealistic youth and about “how much you kids owe us for what we did back then”, they have no choice but to respect them and let the poor old sods ramble on about their golden age for a while before getting down to discussing serious business again. Still, as long as people not working in research never knew about this, all would be well.
The problem is that word of philosophers’ metaphysical silliness started leaking from the academic realm into the outside world where all the funding comes from, and at some point, inevitably, Governments from all around the world will begin wondering just what the hell are these guys using their money for. Since the answer would itself have to be metaphysical (which wouldn’t really help much), philosophers started becoming desperate to solve this predicament before having to actually face the question. And so they asked themselves: “Where did it all go wrong? When did people stop listening to our carefully thought-out metaphysical propositions as valuable information about how the world really is”? The problem was soon identified. Their downfall had been Kant and his cursed distinction between phenomenon and noumenon. Obviously, when Kant said that the noumenon is the world as it really is while simultaneously putting it outside the philosophers’ grasp, people started turning their eyes to science, which may have its flaws but at least doesn’t make up stupid progress-hindering dichotomies like that. Kant, the Virgin, had truly f*cked them over. “How’s that for an antinomy?”, angry metaphysicians hypothesized.
Throwing the towel was not an option since most metaphysicians had very physical kids to feed, and so, quite against their nature, they turned to action and devised a plan to return their field of expertise to the place where it rightfully belongs, which is behind science, backing it up as it goes on explaining stuff. Knowing that competing against science was impossible, they used the old “can’t beat them, join them” strategy.
And so, it is our privilege to bring to you the extraordinary news that an international team of metaphysicians has been secretly working alongside NASA for the past five years and have now come forth to announce that the United States will be the first to put a man on the noumenon. NASA spokesperson Alan Cross provided us with a brief but enlightening description of the technology that will make this possible: “In layman’s terms, what we did was create a special suit that extracts information directly from the noumenon by means of a series of special sensors, and then channels it straight to the noumenaut’s brain through a bunch of little wires attached to his head. This allows the experience which would otherwise be phenomenical to entirely bypass the faculty of sensibility. Consequently, the experienced object is not filtered through the innate categories of understanding and so it is presented as it really is. In short, we block out the transcendental to access the transcendent, and thus can actually do what Kant said we could never do, which is to experience the noumenon. It wasn’t that hard to do, really. Kant just made it look that way because, you know, he was German.”
We were also able to get a few words from Herbert Williams, one of the metaphysicians working on the project, whose real name is coincidentally also Alan Cross but who asked us to remain heteronymous in print so as to preserve his numerical identity: “Putting on the suit for noumenal travelling is pretty much like putting on the One Ring. You disappear from everyone’s sight immediately after attaching the helmet and from your perspective everything starts looking really different and cool. By the way, we already own the movie rights to this whole thing so don’t get any ideas.” A ridiculous pig-like laugh followed this statement, very typical of metaphysicians who no longer have friends to warn them against the social consequences of laughing like that.
The invention of Noumenal travel means the beginning of exciting times indeed for metaphysics, which by becoming empirical has ensured at least another 200 more years of much needed Government funding. Still, there is the very real possibility for abuse of this technology, and the U.S. Military has already shown interest in acquiring it. Noumenal travelling suits could very well be used as cloaking devices for spies, for instance, and the noumenon can easily become the ground for mercilessly torturing suspected terrorists with impunity, away from the media's reach. Nevertheless, no one working on the project seems too worried about this possibility. NASA scientists have said that international law and the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to the noumenon and so it’s not their problem. The metaphysicians have said pretty much the same thing regarding the categorical imperative.
So who will be the first to walk on the noumenon? NASA has stated that the first mission was supposed to have already taken place late last year, but the individual chosen to be the first noumenaut, when asked in a final psychological exam what he felt about his upcoming “trip”, stated that he was “very excited” and that he “was sure it was going to be a phenomenal experience”. In the face of such a gross philosophical faux pas they had no choice but to fire him. Reportedly, he is now working with a competing agency in the new field of Theoforensics, which aims at using a cutting-edge Spinozian-spectroscopy technique to analyze the remains of the dead immanent God in matter, perform and autopsy and hopefully prove Nietzsche’s innocence.
The next mission is supposed to take place sometime this year. This event is naturally being anticipated with much rejoicing by metaphysicians, which have finally been given the chance to prove their work is not pointless and outright silly. However, Russia has expressed some uneasiness about the aforementioned military potential of this technology. Could we be on the brink of a Philosophical Cold War? The truth is that the Russian Federal Space Agency has already announced that it is working with a team of modal logicians so as to be the first to put a man on a possible world. Still, a spokesperson for the Agency has come forth to calm people down, assuring that “this is not in any way intended to be a display of power. We wish to cause no diplomatic turmoil whatsoever. Our goal is the same as it has ever been: to broaden Humanity’s scientific knowledge. In doing so, why should we restrict ourselves to our universe if we can travel to others? The only difference now is that if we luck out and end up travelling to a possible world in which neither Kant nor NASA ever existed, we may consider moving there”.