Third Assignment: Kant’s Explanation of Our Knowledge ofSynthetic Truths The aim of this paper is to explain what synthetic truth is, and how synthetictruths are possible. Analytic truths do not require additional extrinsicknowledge because they are already self-justified. However, synthetic truthsrequire additional extrinsic knowledge of things, or data gained by experienceor observation.
In order to understand how synthetic truths are possible, onemust very well understand how we perceive things, how mind analyzerepresentations, and what kind of roles the concepts of space and time have inperception and in our mental process. This inquiry shall bring us to the difference between how Leibnizconceives of time and space, and how Kant conceives of time and space, to how Kant criticizes Humenian sense of”relations of ideas” and “matters of facts”, to the problem of determination, and to Kant’s answer to Leibniz and Hume. Kant’s greatest invention is that knowledge can both be apriori and synthetically true, and his explanations to all these problems thatI mentioned above involve the idea of “synthetictruths can be known a priori”. Kant makes distinction between a prioriknowledge and a posteriori knowledge. A priori knowledge is universal,necessary and applicable to all conditions.
A posteriori knowledge is gained bysensory experience and explains particular cases which are not universal, not necessaryand not applicable to each condition. His second distinction is betweenanalytic truths and synthetic truths. Analytic truth is that in eachproposition the subjects contains its predicate in itself. For instance, theproposition that says “All bachelors are unmarried” is analytically truebecause being a bachelor involves not being married. It is not possible for abachelor to be married; if there was, then it would lead contradiction.Synthetic truths are in which the subject does not contain its predicate initself.
For instance, the proposition that says “All swans are white” issynthetic because being white is not involved in being a swan; and it is a posterioribecause whether all swans are white, or not can only be found throughobservation, and there may be some swans that are black. Analytic truths aregenerally associated with a priori knowledge, and indicates logic and the pureconceptual analysis. Synthetic truths are generally associated with aposteriori knowledge, and indicates particular examples of experience and the knowledgeof matters of facts in the Humenian sense, but Kant, here, suggest that synthetic truths can be known a priori,which Hume could never think of it. For Kant, mathematics and geometry give ussynthetic and a priori knowledge. 7+5=12 is universally and necessarily true,and applicable in each condition, and is also synthetic because the number 12does not contain 7+5 in itself; 6+6=12 is equally true. For him, naturalsciences involves synthetic a priori judgements in itself as principles.
Inorder to justify it, Kant proposes some evidences: All alterations of thecorporeal world, the quantity of matter remains unaltered, and when bodies makeother bodies move(Kant, 22-23) Kant says human mind has the capacity ofcognition. Cognition leads us to graspobjects conceptionally. Cognition has two parts: the faculty of intuition and thefaculty of understanding.
Intuition is the faculty through which objectsare given to us. Intuition is passive, and has sensibility and receptibility. Sensibility is the capacity foracquiring representations that reflect how we are affected by objects, in otherwords, that that reflect how the objects are given to us. Appearance can onlybe given to us through intuitions. When an object is given to us, its impact onour capacity of representation is called sensation, and the intuition that isrelated to the object through sensation is called “empirical”. Empiricalintuition gives us appearances a posteriori, but perceiving things and havingknowledge about them is not possible without intuition. The objects mustconform the faculty of intuition.
Intuition is as it appears to us, and as inproperties for us, and in itself. (Kant; trans aesthetics, p :28) Kant labelshis philosophy as “transcendental”because his way of defining knowledge is not about objects, but it is aboutwhat makes it possible for us to know objects a priori. His answer is that itis possible only through our faculty of intuition that leads us perceive thingsas they are given to us.
(Kant, 26-29) There are only two pure forms of intuition thatare not engaged in material objects, and that human mind can conceive of purelyand intuitively: space and time. (kant; p: 28-29) Space and timeare the certain forms of intuition and they are in themselves. Both space andtime are necessary representations which underlie outer intuitions, and are notempirical concepts that derive from outer experiences; human mind cannotconceive of external objects without these two pure intuitions, but one doesnot require any object to conceive of these two pure forms of intuition. Allgeometrical propositions are derived from intuition, and a priori with absolutecertainty. ( Kant, p: 29) As we went through in class, and in my secondpaper, Leibniz says that objects are composite and extended things constitutedby infinitely many monads. Physical objects and events are just phenomena; they change in time throughassembling, scattering, or etc, and their appearances are spatial and temporal. This change is not led by external force, but is led by the internalforce of the objects, that comes from the nature of thing, then we infer thatall things involve all their predicates that were attributed in their ownnature. (Leibniz; 1686, p: 4) Therefore, as relations among things change in time, and as the propertiesof these things are already embedded in themselves, the concept of time andspace are supposed to be determined by these relations.
So, space and timecannot be considered as the containers in which bodies are located and in whichthey move. For Leibniz, time and space are abstract structures of relations inwhich actual, or possible bodies are involved in. It means that withoutchanging objects, or changing relationships, time and space cannot beconceived.
The concepts of time and space can only exist engaged in thesephenomena. Leibniz holds the idea that without objects or events placed inspace and time, time and space do not exist. Leibniz’s claim that space andtime emerged from the underlying monadic reality seems to Kant as implying thatthe truths of mathematics depend on the existence of a world of the objects andevents which is absurd. Kant says space and time are the necessaryrepresentations, a priori, and that is the ground of all outer intuitions. Therefore,we understand mathematics through time,and understand geometry through space.
One can never represent thatthere is no space, but one can think that there are no object that isencountered in it. The concepts of space and time are regarded as the necessarycondition of the possibility of appearances, but space and time, as themselves,are not as determinations dependent on the objects and relations among them. Space isnot a property or set of relation among things; space is the form of all appearancesof outer sense, and also the necessary condition that our sensibility mustsatisfy if outer intuitions are possible. They also explain how appearances canbe given in our mind prior to all actual perceptions. Time and space in whichall objects must be determined can contain geometrical principles of therelations among the objects prior to our experiences. ( kant, P: 31) The faculty of understanding is active andthinking.
The only knowledge that we can gain from our faculty of understandingis possible through concepts in our minds. For instance, I know how a body appears to me through my senses,and which is only possible through my faculty of intuition. My sensoryexperience here is the representation of a body, and what brings my allintuitions together and constitutes a form of body in my mind is my pure concepts.Kant says: “Concepts without intuitionsare empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.” So, it must certainly bementioned that our faculty of intuition and our faculty of understanding functiontogether and they both are necessary for each other; the faculty of understadinginvolves inferencial forms and gives unity to the representations through pureconcepts which are called categories. (kant, 47-48-49) Our mind uses the representationsthat is gained through intuition as in the way that they are given to us, and thefaculty of understanding analyzes them according to our concepts, and consequentlywe understand what determination is, and how it is possible. Criticismon Hume Hume thinks that even if we use the relation ofcause and effect in our daily lives, there is nothing that justifies therelation of cause and effect.
He says the sun rises every morning and becausethe very same thing happens in every morning we predict that the sun will risetomorrow and we do not have anything to show that tomorrow something differentwill happen and the sun will not rise like it always does. According to Hume, thereis nothing that justifies that the sun will rise tomorrow, or there is nothingto show us that tomorrow the sun will not rise. Another example is that I knowif I touch the fire, my hand will get burned. Even it seems convincing, Humesays nothing can justify your hand will definitely get burned. So, according toHume, one can never predict things by looking at past events and experiences,and never know what will happen in the future. However, Kant claims we predictthings a priori and by the pure concepts of the understanding.
The pureconcepts of our faculty of understanding gives the validity of the general lawsof nature as laws of the understanding, in such a way that their use is limitedonly to experience because the possibility of determination has its ground inthe relation of the understanding to experience. Even though it is limited to objectsof experience, it doesn’t mean that it is all borrowed from experience, but thepure intuitions of sensibility and the pure concepts of the understanding areelements of knowledge, and both are to be encountered in us a priori. (88) Kant holds the idea that weneed a synthetic connection rather than analytic connection between therelation and experiences.
Thus, Kant’s answer to Hume directly involves hiswhole theory of the constitution of experience by a priori concepts and theprinciples of the understanding which is synthetic a priori judgements. Kantsays we convert empirical rules into an objective law according to which thesame relationship is now regarded as “necessarily and universally valid.” Thistransformation is affected by the addition of the a priori concept ofcausality. So, Hume defines experience as the effect always and constantlyfollows the cause but according to Kant, an experience is the necessarysuccession, and its effect does not merely follow upon the cause, but theeffect is posited through the cause and follows from it. (kant, 60) The mind has thepure concepts a priori through its faculty of understanding. When we experiencethings, our faculty of understanding grounds these experiences actively, andthen we understand the laws of the nature.
Perception involves the conceptual grasp ofobjects in space and time. Transcendental analytic combines concepts andperception. Our understanding involves analytic of concepts and analytic ofprinciples. Analytic of concepts deals with a priori concepts, which arecategories, and even these concepts depend on experience, they take essentialrole in having experience.
Basically, they introduce a priori concepts, tableof judgements and twelve a priori categories. Analytic of principles deals withthe application of the concepts in experience. These are certain principles andlaws about how these a priori concepts are necessarily involved in experience.There principles are responsible for applying and governing the use ofcategories in experience According to Kant, our facultyof understanding involves the principles that govern the use of the concepts inexperience, and how appearances fit into time. Time is the magnitude ofexistence, and appearances must exist in time; the magnitude of existence canbe named as duration, or persistence. Appearances must follow another one intime as a successive series, and they must be placed in time as the sum of allsimultaneous existence. These characteristics of appearances existing in timeform the unity of time-determination which has a dynamical structure.
So, time should not be considered as a thingin which experiences determine its position for every existence. This kind ofdetermination is not possible; time is not subjected to our perception whichappearances could be confronted. What determines the positions of appearancesin time is the rule of the understanding through the existence of appearances thatacquire synthetic unity as regards to the relation of time; and that rule consequentlydetermines the position a priori and valid for each and every time. (Kant: 122) PersonalAssesment & EvaluationKant was deeply influenced by German metaphysicians, Britishempiricists, and especially scientific works of Newton and Copernicus. Kant wasdeeply inspired by the success of the physicians and this led him to understandthe nature of human mind, and build a bridge between pure reason and ourperception that is gained through sensory experience.
The rationalists tried to showthat understanding the world can only be achieved by reason, but this idea,fallibly, ignores the practical content of the external world. . The empiricists argued that ourknowledge must be grounded in experience, and practical content is secured.According to Kant, both of these approaches could not rescue themselvesfailing.
Kant also finds the questions and problems that Hume rose up quitenoteworthy; he says: “Hume interrupted my dogmatic slumbers and gave myinvestigations in the field of speculative philosophy a quite newdirection.” (philosophy pages) Kant believes the most important questionis not how we can understand the world, but how the world comes to beunderstood by us. His answer is that our concepts must conform the nature ofthe object; our concepts gives their shape to our experience. His inquiry wasfounded to understand how reason determines the conditions under whichexperience and knowledge are possible. Consequently, he aimed at going beyondthe traditional dichotomy between rationalism and empiricism.
Kant’s greatest impact on the explanation of the knowledge is that heproposes the contribution of mind to sensory experience and proposes a newground to the origin of our knowledge. Kant defines mind as a thing that doesnot only analyze the concepts, but he defines mind as it uses these concepts;According to him, mind knows the world; it is a part of knowledge and thenature of objects.