Third Assignment: Kant’s Explanation of Our Knowledge of
Synthetic Truths


The aim of this paper is to explain what synthetic truth is, and how synthetic
truths are possible. Analytic truths do not require additional extrinsic
knowledge because they are already self-justified. However, synthetic truths
require additional extrinsic knowledge of things, or data gained by experience
or observation. In order to understand how synthetic truths are possible, one
must very well understand how we perceive things, how mind analyze
representations, and what kind of roles the concepts of space and time have in
perception and in our mental process. This inquiry shall bring us to the difference between how Leibniz
conceives 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 a
priori and synthetically true, and his explanations to all these problems that
I mentioned above involve the idea of “synthetic
truths can be known a priori”.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now


Kant makes distinction between a priori
knowledge and a posteriori knowledge. A priori knowledge is universal,
necessary and applicable to all conditions. A posteriori knowledge is gained by
sensory experience and explains particular cases which are not universal, not necessary
and not applicable to each condition. His second distinction is between
analytic truths and synthetic truths. Analytic truth is that in each
proposition the subjects contains its predicate in itself. For instance, the
proposition that says “All bachelors are unmarried” is analytically true
because being a bachelor involves not being married. It is not possible for a
bachelor to be married; if there was, then it would lead contradiction.
Synthetic truths are in which the subject does not contain its predicate in
itself. For instance, the proposition that says “All swans are white” is
synthetic because being white is not involved in being a swan; and it is a posteriori
because whether all swans are white, or not can only be found through
observation, and there may be some swans that are black. Analytic truths are
generally associated with a priori knowledge, and indicates logic and the pure
conceptual analysis. Synthetic truths are generally associated with a
posteriori knowledge, and indicates particular examples of experience and the knowledge
of 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 us
synthetic and a priori knowledge. 7+5=12 is universally and necessarily true,
and applicable in each condition, and is also synthetic because the number 12
does not contain 7+5 in itself; 6+6=12 is equally true. For him, natural
sciences involves synthetic a priori judgements in itself as principles. In
order to justify it, Kant proposes some evidences: All alterations of the
corporeal world, the quantity of matter remains unaltered, and when bodies make
other bodies move(Kant, 22-23)



Kant says human mind has the capacity of
cognition. Cognition leads us to grasp
objects conceptionally. Cognition has two parts: the faculty of intuition and the
faculty of understanding. Intuition is the faculty through which objects
are given to us. Intuition is passive, and has sensibility and receptibility. Sensibility is the capacity for
acquiring representations that reflect how we are affected by objects, in other
words, that that reflect how the objects are given to us. Appearance can only
be given to us through intuitions. When an object is given to us, its impact on
our capacity of representation is called sensation, and the intuition that is
related to the object through sensation is called “empirical”. Empirical
intuition gives us appearances a posteriori, but perceiving things and having
knowledge about them is not possible without intuition. The objects must
conform the faculty of intuition. Intuition is as it appears to us, and as in
properties for us, and in itself. (Kant; trans aesthetics, p :28) Kant labels
his philosophy as “transcendental”
because his way of defining knowledge is not about objects, but it is about
what makes it possible for us to know objects a priori. His answer is that it
is possible only through our faculty of intuition that leads us perceive things
as they are given to us. (Kant, 26-29)


There are only two pure forms of intuition that
are not engaged in material objects, and that human mind can conceive of purely
and intuitively: space and time. (kant; p: 28-29) Space and time
are the certain forms of intuition and they are in themselves. Both space and
time are necessary representations which underlie outer intuitions, and are not
empirical concepts that derive from outer experiences; human mind cannot
conceive of external objects without these two pure intuitions, but one does
not require any object to conceive of these two pure forms of intuition. All
geometrical propositions are derived from intuition, and a priori with absolute
certainty. ( Kant, p: 29)


As we went through in class, and in my second
paper, Leibniz says that objects are composite and extended things constituted
by infinitely many monads. Physical objects and events are just phenomena; they change in time through
assembling, scattering, or etc, and their appearances are spatial and temporal. This change is not led by external force, but is led by the internal
force of the objects, that comes from the nature of thing, then we infer that
all things involve all their predicates that were attributed in their own
nature. (Leibniz; 1686, p: 4) Therefore, as relations among things change in time, and as the properties
of these things are already embedded in themselves, the concept of time and
space are supposed to be determined by these relations. So, space and time
cannot be considered as the containers in which bodies are located and in which
they move. For Leibniz, time and space are abstract structures of relations in
which actual, or possible bodies are involved in. It means that without
changing objects, or changing relationships, time and space cannot be
conceived. The concepts of time and space can only exist engaged in these
phenomena. Leibniz holds the idea that without objects or events placed in
space and time, time and space do not exist. Leibniz’s claim that space and
time emerged from the underlying monadic reality seems to Kant as implying that
the truths of mathematics depend on the existence of a world of the objects and
events which is absurd. Kant says space and time are the necessary
representations, 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 that
there is no space, but one can think that there are no object that is
encountered in it. The concepts of space and time are regarded as the necessary
condition of the possibility of appearances, but space and time, as themselves,
are not as determinations dependent on the objects and relations among them. Space is
not a property or set of relation among things; space is the form of all appearances
of outer sense, and also the necessary condition that our sensibility must
satisfy if outer intuitions are possible. They also explain how appearances can
be given in our mind prior to all actual perceptions. Time and space in which
all objects must be determined can contain geometrical principles of the
relations among the objects prior to our experiences. ( kant, P: 31)


The faculty of understanding is active and
thinking. The only knowledge that we can gain from our faculty of understanding
is 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 sensory
experience here is the representation of a body, and what brings my all
intuitions together and constitutes a form of body in my mind is my pure concepts.
Kant says: “Concepts without intuitions
are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.” So, it must certainly be
mentioned that our faculty of intuition and our faculty of understanding function
together and they both are necessary for each other; the faculty of understading
involves inferencial forms and gives unity to the representations through pure
concepts which are called categories. (kant, 47-48-49) Our mind uses the representations
that is gained through intuition as in the way that they are given to us, and the
faculty of understanding analyzes them according to our concepts, and consequently
we understand what determination is, and how it is possible.



on Hume


Hume thinks that even if we use the relation of
cause and effect in our daily lives, there is nothing that justifies the
relation of cause and effect. He says the sun rises every morning and because
the very same thing happens in every morning we predict that the sun will rise
tomorrow and we do not have anything to show that tomorrow something different
will happen and the sun will not rise like it always does. According to Hume, there
is nothing that justifies that the sun will rise tomorrow, or there is nothing
to show us that tomorrow the sun will not rise. Another example is that I know
if I touch the fire, my hand will get burned. Even it seems convincing, Hume
says nothing can justify your hand will definitely get burned. So, according to
Hume, 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 predict
things a priori and by the pure concepts of the understanding. The pure
concepts of our faculty of understanding gives the validity of the general laws
of nature as laws of the understanding, in such a way that their use is limited
only to experience because the possibility of determination has its ground in
the relation of the understanding to experience.  Even though it is limited to objects
of experience, it doesn’t mean that it is all borrowed from experience, but the
pure intuitions of sensibility and the pure concepts of the understanding are
elements of knowledge, and both are to be encountered in us a priori. (88) Kant holds the idea that we
need a synthetic connection rather than analytic connection between the
relation and experiences. Thus, Kant’s answer to Hume directly involves his
whole theory of the constitution of experience by a priori concepts and the
principles of the understanding which is synthetic a priori judgements. Kant
says we convert empirical rules into an objective law according to which the
same relationship is now regarded as “necessarily and universally valid.” This
transformation is affected by the addition of the a priori concept of
causality. So, Hume defines experience as the effect always and constantly
follows the cause but according to Kant, an experience is the necessary
succession, and its effect does not merely follow upon the cause, but the
effect is posited through the cause and follows from it. (kant, 60)



The mind has the
pure concepts a priori through its faculty of understanding. When we experience
things, our faculty of understanding grounds these experiences actively, and
then we understand the laws of the nature.


Perception involves the conceptual grasp of
objects in space and time. Transcendental analytic combines concepts and
perception. Our understanding involves analytic of concepts and analytic of
principles. Analytic of concepts deals with a priori concepts, which are
categories, and even these concepts depend on experience, they take essential
role in having experience. Basically, they introduce a priori concepts, table
of judgements and twelve a priori categories. Analytic of principles deals with
the application of the concepts in experience. These are certain principles and
laws about how these a priori concepts are necessarily involved in experience.
There principles are responsible for applying and governing the use of
categories in experience



According to Kant, our faculty
of understanding involves the principles that govern the use of the concepts in
experience, and how appearances fit into time. Time is the magnitude of
existence, and appearances must exist in time; the magnitude of existence can
be named as duration, or persistence. Appearances must follow another one in
time as a successive series, and they must be placed in time as the sum of all
simultaneous existence. These characteristics of appearances existing in time
form the unity of time-determination which has a dynamical structure. So, time should not be considered as a thing
in which experiences determine its position for every existence. This kind of
determination is not possible; time is not subjected to our perception which
appearances could be confronted. What determines the positions of appearances
in time is the rule of the understanding through the existence of appearances that
acquire synthetic unity as regards to the relation of time; and that rule consequently
determines the position a priori and valid for each and every time. (Kant: 122)






Assesment & Evaluation

Kant was deeply influenced by German metaphysicians, British
empiricists, and especially scientific works of Newton and Copernicus. Kant was
deeply inspired by the success of the physicians and this led him to understand
the nature of human mind, and build a bridge between pure reason and our
perception that is gained through sensory experience. The rationalists  tried to show
that 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 our
knowledge must be grounded in experience, and practical content is secured.
According to Kant, both of these approaches could not rescue themselves
failing. Kant also finds the questions and problems that Hume rose up quite
noteworthy; he says: “Hume interrupted my dogmatic slumbers and gave my
investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a quite new
direction.” (philosophy pages) Kant believes the most important question
is not how we can understand the world, but how the world comes to be
understood by us. His answer is that our concepts must conform the nature of
the object; our concepts gives their shape to our experience. His inquiry was
founded to understand how reason determines the conditions under which
experience and knowledge are possible. Consequently, he aimed at going beyond
the traditional dichotomy between rationalism and empiricism. Kant’s greatest impact on the explanation of the knowledge is that he
proposes the contribution of mind to sensory experience and proposes a new
ground to the origin of our knowledge. Kant defines mind as a thing that does
not 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 the
nature of objects.


Written by

I'm Colleen!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out