Kants Prolegomena Essay

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Kants Prolegomena

Kant distinguished four types of judgments or statements which he used to explain and support metaphysics. According to Kant’s Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics there is a distinction between analytic and synthetic judgments. These judgments were based on the content of the statements or how the predicate affects the subject. Analytic judgments were described as statements that add nothing to the subject since it merely explicates what the subject is. For example, Earth is our planet. There is no new meaning or definition that is added to the subject since the predicate is actually included in the concept of the subject.

Therefore, this denotes a tautological relationship between subject and predicate. Also, analytic judgments conform to the principle of non-contradiction. This means that when the subject is denied it would automatically lead to a contradiction. Synthetic judgments, on the other hand involve a subject and a predicate that are not contained in the same concept. More particularly, the predicate explicate something that is derived from the subject based on its connection with other concepts aside from the subject itself. Thus, synthetic judgments are those statements wherein the concept of the subject is expanded.

For example, Earth is a planet in the solar system where human beings and other life forms live. In this statement the concept of solar system, human beings and other life forms are derived from the notion of Earth. These terms, ideas and concepts are distinct from the subject “Earth” but is related or connected to the subject. In a sense it extends the subject to include other information regarding the subject. Moving on, Kant also distinguished the origin of knowledge as either a priori or a posteriori. A priori statements are knowledge derived from reason.

This means that no sensory experience is needed to understand this statement. For example, A is equal to A. A person need not to experience all A’s to understand that A is A for this idea is known to us through reason alone. On the other hand, a posteriori statements are those that are derived from the use of experience or empirical-based. For example, Michael Jackson died. This statement is not something that can be verified or accepted as true or relevant information without reference to or the use of experience. Kant argued that there are synthetic a priori judgments.

Kant further discussed that certain knowledge such as universal laws of science and mathematics are founded on synthetic a priori truths. In the above discussion, the definition of synthetic corresponds to expansion or extension of meaning beyond the subject itself involving the application and connection to other things. Since a priori statements are not empirical, this follows that whatever is to be considered as synthetic a priori must be conceived through pure reason. It is relating or extending the application and connection of a priori statements to something beyond itself.

In this view, I agree that synthetic a priori judgments may indeed exist. Question 2 Plato’s argument states that knowledge is gained through a process known as recollection. In the dialogue called “Meno”, Socrates explained that there had been a belief that the soul was immortal. Keeping this idea in mind, the soul would reach an end known as “dying” and will be born again. Plato tried to elucidate the concept that soul has a memory that and that knowledge acquired in previous life are carried on to the next life.

People only recollect these ideas whenever they are presented with the same object or concept in the current life. This implied that knowledge is something that is innate in the person’s “soul” and it can only be acquired through recollection of experiences and knowledge from the past life. For example, Socrates had shown in the dialogue that even Meno’s servant, when forced, would be able to answer questions despite lack of proper education or without being exposed to the same knowledge before. Plato pointed out that ideas already exist in the soul and what man can do is to recollect these ideas.

Therefore, all knowledge is a product of mere recollection which can be achieved by reason. Sense-perception does not entail knowledge because whatever the senses perceived are only extensions of the particular ideas. Descartes also maintained that knowledge is not gained empirically. He began his meditation by doubting everything including the existence of his self. However, he concluded that he is a “thinking thing”. He established the fact that he’s ability to think is something that he cannot deny. He can deny everything else since sense-perception seems to be too flawed to be trusted.

Nonetheless, since there was someone mediating and the thoughts comes from himself, Descartes resolved that he or that an “I exist”. According to Descartes, “I exist” is an “Archimedian point” or something that is indubitable. “I exist” is something that cannot be proven through sense-experience since senses are faulty. Also, Descartes arrived at the idea that “I exist” while doubting the existence of everything elses. Doubting the existence of the “I” is problematic since it is impossible that there is someone, I affirm to be myself, which is thinking and therefore existing.

To clarify his point, Descartes presented the example of the wax. The wax is something that can change in form, color, size, texture and property. Consider when the wax appeared to as something that melted, cut, minced, remolded, etc. What happened is that it changes its physical structure but we still consider all the appearance as “wax”. Thus, the concept of the “wax” persists despite the different changes that the senses perceived. This illuminates the fact that knowing that all this is a wax is something the intellect knows before prior experiencing all the possible changes in the sensible quality of the wax.

In my opinion, Descartes account is more plausible. It is true that the perception achieved from the senses may be faulty or may not be real at all. It is also evident that the self is not something that a rational mind can deny. Knowledge cannot originate from the senses but rather, it is deduced from the fact that “I exist” and that “I am a thinking thing”. Recognizing this knowledge is done without the use of the senses but by pure intuition after mediating and doubting everything. I do not find Plato’s account more compelling because he explained knowledge in terms of soul and immortality.

These concepts along with the idea of being reborn and recollection are all things that are open to doubts. It is not something firm and grounded as the “thinking thing” that Descartes presented. Although it is true that there are certain concepts that people knows without proper education, this in my view are merely common sense knowledge. Also, the way by which Socrates proved the process of recollection is problematic since he offers leading questions and most of the time the “servant” only need to answer yes and no. Question 3 According to Locke, knowledge is composed of ideas and their connections or relations.

Therefore, to be able to understand the source of knowledge, one must first recognized and enquire the source of ideas. Locke compared the mind to a blank tablet or “tabularasa”. Upon birth, a person does not have any knowledge or basic ideas, concepts or anything in their mind. This is unlike Plato’s notion that the soul already has plenty of ideas that only needs to be recollected. Therefore, ideas and knowledge derived from them are not innate. To this end, Locke proposed two methods by which ideas are generated. The first method or process is known as sensation.

From the term itself, the ideas generated through sensation are perceived through the senses. Objects have sensible qualities which are absorbed by the mind uncontrollably and therefore fill out the “blank tablet”. For instance, when a person first encountered the Japanese cuisine, that person will not be able to know the taste of the foods. In this setting, the person found a green paste in a small plate of dishes. Not knowing about the taste of that thing, the person took a mouthful of the green paste, known as “wasabi”. From then on, the senses capture the weird sensation of the object, its smell, texture, taste and its effect to the body.

This process is what sensation is all about. Moving on, Locke also mentioned another process that produces ideas known as reflection. According to Locke, it is the “internal sense” by which ideas are perceived by the mind and reflected upon generating new ideas. In a sense reflection denotes connecting and interpreting previous ideas internally to gain or recognize new knowledge. Using the same example above, the person now recognizes that eating a mouthful of “wasabi” produces hot feeling in the nasal area and leads to teary eyes, the taste is that of a mint or chili or both.

As the person perceived other people who eat the Japanese dish with “wasabi” he realized that those people are only taking a very small amount of the paste and sometimes dissolving it into their soy sauce. The person would reflect and recognized that the “wasabi” is not a dish but a merely a complement to the other dishes to add taste or this strange sensation. The new idea that formed in the mind of the person regarding the strange green paste comparing it with other experiences and finally coming out with a personal idea regarding the matter denotes the process of reflection.

In this view, I agree with Locke that indeed ideas come from experiences. Ever since I am a child, I learned things through experience. When considering about certain innate knowledge as the notion of identity, the connection between an object being identical to it, will not be discovered by the person if he will not be able to experience it firsthand. As a child I would only know that I am the person that looked like me upon seeing my reflection in a mirror. That is, knowing my own physical identity would not be possible without initial experience.

Other than this, I do not believe that as a child I recognized that I am already a “thinking thing” or that I already exist, no matter how many times another person would pushed me to recollect my past, it would be impossible for me to do so especially if it is about the things that I did not experienced yet. For illustration, a person who was born blind would not have any idea what the colors of the rainbow would be like or what the rainbow actually is. Simply speaking, innate ideas do not exist.

With reference to Descartes argument, the blind person would have a difficulty understanding ideas such as a “thinking thing” without experiencing a “thing” and without experiencing “thinking”. In my opinion, what are innate to us are not ideas but operations of the minds to which ideas are perceived such as experiencing and reflecting. Question 4 People instinctively assume that those this that constantly happen would continue to happen especially if there had been no instance that such constant event had cease from happening. This is what is known in logic as inductive reasoning whereas a generalization is made from specific facts.

Induction happens whenever a person decides that the same thing holds true simply because he had not experienced it being false. For example, a person had never experienced being allergic to any foods that he had eaten so far, thus he assumed that he is not allergic to any foods. In the future he thinks that he is not allergic to any type of dish. If it is the fact that there actually exists one food that he is allergic to, since he had not yet experienced or have not yet eaten that food then he still believes that he is not allergic to anything.

Hume affirms that it is most likely assumed that seemingly similar causes would result to similar effects. For instance the fact that I will (probably) wake up every day is an assumption derived from past experiences wherein I always wake up after going to sleep every day. Nevertheless, induction is problematic since it cannot be justified rationally. In an induction, the conclusion is always something in connection to the future. In such case, it cannot be proven deductively. Also, in an inductive argument there will always be a degree of uncertainty.

The inductive argument that I will wake up after I sleep might be uncertain if for example I had a stroke or a heart attack which leads to comatose or death. Russell tried to include the concept of probability to get a better picture regarding induction. As it turned out, he’s concept further illuminate its problem. Probability is something that is neither true nor false which denotes that if induction would have the quality of probability, it is something that cannot be true or false and would therefore remains unjustifiable.

This problem is a serious problem since most of the rules or ideas in math and sciences are based to induction. Nevertheless, induction is still important for devising prediction and expectations. Popper also proposed that the general laws may hold as probable true hypothesis unless they are disproved. Question 5 According Barnes, sense-data are merely factors that affect perception. He further emphasized that “sense-data being wholly fictitious entities, we can attribute to them what qualities we please”.

Sense-data are the perception of the senses derived from material things. Barnes believed that sense-data do not exist because the perception through the senses is faulty or arbitrary. If the eyes would blink and perceived two different things from the same object would both sense-data be valid? Barnes stated that the object that appears through sense-perception posses certain qualities. During instances wherein an object appears to have another quality which it does not originally posses, there is a failure of perceiving the object.

In my opinion, Barnes argument is convincing since through experience, it is a common knowledge that the senses do make mistakes. For instance, a pencil may appear bent when placed in a glass of water when in fact it is not. The sense-data gathered here would be a bent pencil while the object (pencil) is not actually bended. To judge things according to sense-data would also be faulty for there are things that don’t appear as it seems. For example judging the height and color of the mountain when you are 200 kilometers from the mountain would lead to a totally false presumption.

The mountain from afar might look small and bluish. Considering that sense-data exist then this small bluish mountain actually exist apart from the actual mountain in close range which is obviously not true.

References: Kemerling, G. (2001). Kant: Synthetic A Priori Judgments. Retrieved on June 27, 2009. Retrieved from http://www. philosophypages. com/hy/5f. htm Markie, P. (2008). Rationalism vs. Empiricism. Retrieved on June 28, 2009. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/rationalism-empiricism/

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