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Assess the claim that we can have synthetic a priori knowledge

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Assess the claim that we can have synthetic a priori knowledge Intro Before we can consider the claim that we can have synthetic a priori knowledge we must elaborate on the distinction of a priori/posteriori and analytic and synthetic knowledge. A priori knowledge is knowledge that does not depend on experience and a posteriori knowledge is knowledge that strictly does depend on experience. Referring to Kant's Analytic-Synthetic Distinction, an analytic knowledge is a proposition whose predicate concept is contained in its subject concept. For example 'all brothers are male'. The concept "brother" contains the concept "male"; the concept "male" is part of the definition of the concept "brother." Therefore we can say that all analytic knowledge is always true and saying otherwise is a self-contradiction making it a necessary truth. Synthetic knowledge on the other hand is a proposition whose predicate concept is not contained in its subject concept. For example 'all brothers are evil' in contrast to analytic truth the concept "evil" is not part of the concept "brother" even though it is possible that all brothers are evil it can be otherwise, making it a 'contingent truth'. Considering the debate between rationalism and empiricism it is hard to give a definitive answer to whether we can have synthetic a priori knowledge. Rationalism insists that we can have synthetic a priori knowledge though reason and logic and empiricism strictly the idea of it entirely. ...read more.


In terms of synthetic knowledge, you must understand the concept before you can grant the contingency of the idea. Empiricists would argue that all a priori knowledge is based on analytic propositions and therefore synthetic a priori knowledge is impossible. However once a rationalist can understand simple concepts, one can create a new idea which can be interpreted as synthetic a priori knowledge. Empiricism As an Empiricist, you are to believe that all knowledge comes from experience; in contrast to a rationalist you do not consider that there is innate a priori knowledge, nothing that gives you any understanding of the world given to you from birth. Empiricists are strictly a posteriori. John Locke claims that at birth we are void of all knowledge. This is known as Tabula Rasa; meaning that we are all born as a 'blank slate' which he claims we have no a priori knowledge of anything. With this being said we are therefore led to believe that we can only grasp knowledge of the world through our sense impressions; an external experience using our five senses of touch, taste, sight, smell and sound that are so forceful and vivid it is impressed upon us 'like a stamp'. These stamps 'furnish' our blank minds as we go through life. David Hume, also an empiricist, claims that our ideas are not our own, they are merely copies of an original sense impression, for example an idea of 'hard' or 'grey' are just copies of sensing hard or grey from seeing and touching a rock. ...read more.


Kant's synthesis combines the ideas of rationalism and empiricism and creates a theory that the mind has three categories: Sensibility (Empiricist) Reason (Rationalist) and Understanding (Empiricist and Rationalist). Kant claims the rationalists were right to think that a priori knowledge is possible, only instead of a priori revealing the structure and anatomy of things, it reveals the structure their experience must have. Conclusion After considering the claims on rationalism I have demonstrated how one can have synthetic a priori knowledge through understanding simple concepts and combining them into a complex idea. I have also assessed the arguments against rationalism from the empiricists who claim that all knowledge is derived from experience and therefore cannot have a priori knowledge at all. Nonetheless I have decided that we can have synthetic a priori knowledge; Kant's synthesis, in my opinion has supported the idea of rationalist a priori knowledge and the theory on space and time reinforces my argument. However for others to decide whether it is possible to decide whether synthetic a priori knowledge can be, I believe that it is completely down to the individual. If you are loyal to the empiricist view then you would not agree with the thought of synthetic knowledge. But if your heart beats with the likes of Descartes and Galileo then you would agree with the idea. ?? ?? ?? ?? Chris Septim Synthetic A Priori Paper Page 1 ...read more.

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