• Stirner73

    I'm sorry if this question has been asked before.

    My question regards the apparent double nature of the term 'a priori' in Kant's Critique of pure reason. Namely, as a presupposition for experience and also as independent of experience.

    On one hand, in the Transcendental aesthetics, Kant consideres space and time as pure - a priori - intuitions, i.e. they're presupposed for the possibility of experience in general. In other words, experience as a whole would not be possible without them (space and time).

    On the other hand, Kant uses the expression to describe a certain type of judgments, particularly, Synthetic a priori judgments. These judgments are characterised as independent of experience. The best examples of this kind of judgments are the ones we found in Euclidean geometry, which are not modifiable by experience, and hence not up to empirical verification, but they're not derivative of concepts either.

    Is the difference between this two considerations of the same term a legitimate interpretation? I ask because with the advent of non Euclidean geometries and the Theory of relativity, we know that the Synthetic a priori judgments present in classical (Newtonian) mechanics and Euclidean geometries work only in those frames of references. The status of space and time as a priori intuitions however would still remain valid in any geometry or physical model. Would that be a correct assessment in your view? I can't seem to find any contradiction between those two statements. What do you think?

    Many thanks!
  • Wayfarer
    Welcome to the forum. I think that's a very perceptive question.

    However, I'm not sure that the two uses of the term 'a priori' conflict. In the case of the intuitions, they're 'prior' in the sense that they underlie and inform any and all judgements about phenomena.

    Synthetic a priori judgements are those which, unlike analytic a priori judgements, the conclusion is not already stated in the premises. It was the fact that such judgements can be made at all, which is one of the motivations for the Critique of Pure Reason. Geometry was said by Kant to be one discipline in which such judgements are particularly important.

    But the reason geometric axioms generally are independent of experience is because they are grounded in pure thought or logic. That insight, in turn, is descended from the broadly Platonist notion that mathematical truths and the truths of reason are of a higher order than the empirical because they are known directly through reason, rather than being mediated by sense experience. They are truths, in other words, which are thought to hold in all possible worlds (although, as you indicate, since Kant's time the idea of a reference frame has been discovered, which is seen to cast doubt on such ideas.)

    Anyway, as I said, very perceptive question, and I will be interested to see what others have to say in response.
  • Stirner73
    Thank you very much, Wayfarer, for your answer and your welcome!

    You say "since Kant's time the idea of a reference frame has been discovered, which is seen to cast doubt on such ideas." I think this is the crux of my question, which could be reformulated as: can we satisfactorily maintain the status of space and time as pure intuitions, even for non Euclidean geometries or for nonclassical physics?
    Does, for instance, the 'reference frame' of non Euclidean geometry have an a priori content?
  • Wayfarer
    You’ve got an excellent term paper idea there. My guess is that you won’t find a lot of consensus about the answer - that some say that the discovery of non-Euclidean geometries undermines Kant’s philosophy, while others disagree. One online reference I’m aware of is Kelly Ross The Ontology and Cosmology of Non-Euclidean Geometty. But I think it’s a fertile topic for investigation.
  • Mww
    as a presupposition for experience and also as independent of experience.Stirner73

    “....Knowledge a priori is either pure or impure. Pure knowledge a priori is that with which no empirical element is mixed up. For example, the proposition, "Every change has a cause," is a proposition a priori, but impure, because change is a conception which can only be derived from experience....”

    Whether a priori considerations are pure or impure will depend on the context within which it is found.
  • Stirner73
    Yes, that is a very good distinction. But i think that a priori applied to space as a pure intuition has a different nuance that when applied to judgements.
  • Mww

    Yes, of course. Space as the condition for the experience of external objects, is a representation of an intuition a priori. But in the manner of determining a concept of space, the representation takes on the aspect of a principle a priori, from which geometry in particular is possible.

    Judgements involving strict universality and necessity can be considered a priori, as in all synthetic propositions of logic. Judgements involving inductive criteria can never be universal, hence are not strictly a priori, as in judgements having to do with empirical propositions.
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