[hist-analytic] Frrom AUNE: Analytic and A Priori

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Fri Mar 20 20:44:16 EDT 2009

Philosophical "radical" Danny Frederick says 

"I think' expresses a contingent a priori truth,.. " 

Remember that historically, and here I mean Kant, all 
a priori truths are necessary. If you give this up as 
well as the universality criterion, then you have to 
face the question Kant faced, fearlessly: What is your 
criterion for saying that any sentence is a priori? 
What is my procedure for deciding that this truth is 
a priori and this one is not, especially if you reject 
the idea that all a priori truths are analytic. I think 
this is of crucial concern. Sure you can define a priori 
as knowledge absolutely independent of experience, 
discounting those pure a priori forms of intuition 
(in Kant's case), but without some way of telling them 
apart from other sentences the distinction is 
a mere formality. To borrow from Chisholm (Perceiving, 
as I recall), it is one thing to define "rotten"; it 
is another to know when what you have in your hand 
*is* rotten. 

One other thing on this: Hintikka has an interesting 
take on the Cogito. I think I can put it online with 
little sweat. I'll check. Anyway, what is a priori 
may boil down, in fact, to something like what he 
had in mind. I'd have to check, but no time now. 

Now I think I agree with Bruce, if I understand him 
correctly, at least in this sense: The Cogito requires 
that I know I'm thinking; knowing the truth of WHAT 
I am thinking may be knowledge of an a priori truth. 
But knowing THAT I am thinking requires awareness. 
Here is a complication in the approach I've taken. 
I've connected thinking to time as the a priori form 
of sensibility, not to mention the unity of apperception 
etc. (think "schematism" and all that comes with it). 
My reliance on time may evoke some skepticism, but 
I think the real source of that skepticism is something 
Geach noticed back around 1957 or so. He realized that 
assigning time to physical events is very different from 
doing it in the case of mental actions (like thinking). 

Now on "sense impressions," I don't think they are 
nonsense, really. When one's labors begin to achieve 
productive results such nonsense may be inevitable. 
Broad's logical description of our experience of space, 
assuming Relativity is a very productive effort - one 
assuming something like what you probably mean by 
"sense impressions." The term needs spelling out, even 
by those who reject it, a spelling out that must consider 
"sensa," "sense-data," "impressions," "empirical intuitions," 
"qualia," etc. Each carries in many cases its own 
bundle of theories. Rejecting "sense impressions" as 
nonsense doesn't come free, anymore than one's 
scientific realism when properly argued for. 


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Danny Frederick" <danny.frederick at tiscali.co.uk> 
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.com 
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 3:18:43 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern 
Subject: RE: Frrom AUNE: Analytic and A Priori 

Hi Steve, 

When I said that 'I think' expresses a contingent a priori truth, I was 
operating with the following concept of the a priori. A proposition is a 
priori if and only if it can be known independently of any particular 
experience. Experience comprises sensory impressions, most which have an 
outer and an inner aspect, but some of which (like pains) have only an inner 
aspect. Thinking is not a sensory experience. Therefore what I can know from 
mere reflection about my thinking is a priori knowledge. Similarly, willing 
is not a sensory experience, so if I can know what I will independently of 
sensory experience (which I think I can), then that knowledge of my willing 
is a priori. 

Why was I working with that concept of the a priori? Because, mistakenly or 
otherwise, I thought that was the conception of the a priori that the 
rationalist philosophers operated with. I am no longer sure that they did 

Do I now propose that conception of the a priori as my own? No, I don't, 
because I think talk of sense-impressions is nonsense. What I might propose 
instead, though, is a restatement of that account in terms of 'basic 
statements,' that is, singular statements about what is happening in a 
particular region of space-time. A priori knowledge would then be what we 
can know (in a suitably fallibilist sense of 'know') independently of the 
truth or falsity of any basic statements. On that conception, 'I think' 
would not come out as a priori if 'I' is interpreted as referring to a 
spatio-temporal particular, since it would then be itself a basic statement. 
But if 'I' is taken to refer to the speaker/thinker and we leave it an open 
question whether he is really a spatio-temporal particular (he might be 
merely a temporal one), then 'I think' ceases to be a basic statement; and 
as it is knowable independently of the truth or falsity of any basic 
statement, then it comes out as a priori (contingent a priori). 

How's that? 

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