Posts tagged ‘a priori’

February 5th, 2015

Rationalism and Empiricism

by Max Andrews

Rationalism & Empiricism, a priori & a posteriori, Analytic & Synthetic—Differences?

In regards to rationalism and empiricism, the rationalist says that knowledge can be known by reason alone whereas the empiricist will claim that knowledge is derived from the senses–we are born tabula rasa, a blank slate for a mind and we fill that slate with sense perceptions. The rationalist will have no problem affirming the synthetic a priori and analytic a posteriori category. The empiricist will primarily affirm the analytic a priori and synthetic a posteriori (although there is definite psychological overlap–the affirmations primarily concern epistemic justification).

Analytic Synthetic
a priori “All bachelors are not married.”

“Triangles have three angles.”

Mathematics (4+8+15+16+23+42=108)

Objective Morality? (e.g. Kant’s pure reason)

a posteriori “Gold has the atomic weight of 196.966543” “This elephant is gray.”

“Edinburgh receives more rain than the Sahara.”

Subjective Morality? (e.g. “Twenty’s Plenty”)


September 10th, 2012

David Hume on the Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

Hume asks the question of how a finite effect can have an infinite cause.  Kant says that you can base it on the moral argument. If you are explaining the subsets, you have the explanation of the infinite set (according to Hume).  However, in explaining the first member of a finite set, one must go out of that set.  Focus on a series in which a member’s existence is explained by the preceding cause.  In explaining a set you go outside of the set.  The point is not if it’s an infinite set but if it gets outside of the set (relies on PSRb in a way–that there must be some sufficient reasons for any positive fact and denies brute facts.)

Hume also argues against the CA on a priori grounds.  He formulates the CA in a way that combines causal (Thomistic or kalam) and reason (Leibnizian).  He considers the causal closure of the universe.  Under his idea of how the universe is he considers it to be a causally closed system, which, by definition, rules out any external causation.  Any a priori argument is absurd to Hume—it’s impossible to deduce the existence of God from fixed necessary premises or Kantian/Newtonian spacetime intuitions. 

April 28th, 2012

Objections to Empiricism and Inferentially Justified Beliefs

by Max Andrews

There seem to be good objections raised against empiricism and inferentially justified beliefs:

(A) That we seldom if ever consciously infer propositions about objects from propositions about experiences.

(B) That most people, if challenged as to their justification for believing propositions about the external world, would seldom if ever offer as their reasons or evidence propositions about experiences.

(C) That it is quite meaningless, that it makes no sense to search for evidence justifying a belief in the existence of a physical object that is before one under optimum conditions of perception.

Certainly, (A) may be true but is agreeably not critical to the empiricist’s defense.  Both (B) and (C) may be true or false to a certain degree but is hardly relevant to the validity of an empiricist’s foundationalism.  The concern is the logical order of justification rather than psychological or historical order.