The Fallacy of the Enlightenment is the glib assumption that there is only one limit to what human beings can know, and that limit is reality itselfThe first thing to wonder is, is Kant talking about our five senses unaided by technology? If so, then it’s quite a silly argument. One need only consider such things as an atomic force microscope which, with a suitable attachment, allows one to “feel” and manipulate single atoms. Clearly there is no way to do this with unaided senses, yet people do it anyway. So the basic senses clearly do not create a limit to knowledge.
In his “Critique of Pure Reason,” Kant showed that this premise is false. In fact, he argued, there is a much greater limit to what human beings can know. The only way that we apprehend reality is through our five senses. But why should we believe, Kant asked, that our five-mode instrument for apprehending reality is sufficient for capturing all of reality? What makes us think that there is no reality that goes beyond, one that simply cannot be apprehended by our five senses?
On the other hand, if Kant is speaking of senses even when aided by technology, his argument makes even less sense. With things like X-Ray telescopes, technology can transmute initially imperceptible things in to some mix of our existing senses. On what basis does Kant claim some limit to this? We can listen to the beating of the sun if we chose. It’s a rather Samuel Johnson response.
It may be that there are limits based on our cognitive limitations, but again it’s hard to say that advancements in technology cannot create post humans capable of more complex information processing (or even that have additional physical senses).
A final objection is that when we use technology we have to take things on faith, if nothing else that our technology is actually “observing” reality rather than just generating noise we interpret as real. However, this objection is just as weak as the others because it contrasts human senses with technology. But what’s the real difference? Who really thinks that human vision is an absolutely accurate perception of the world? One need only consider the blind spot to realize that even our direct senses are inaccurate and provide us with a false perception of reality. So technologically aided senses are not fundamentally less reliable than our built in ones.
All in all, i find Kant’s point a rather a silly one. Perhaps we can excuse him because technology wasn’t as prevelant nor knowledge of innate senses as well developed as they are today, but that’s no excuse for moderns who repeat this discredited idea.