The Instigator
popculturepooka
Pro (for)
Winning
25 Points
The Contender
mattrodstrom
Con (against)
Losing
6 Points

A Priori Knowledge

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/20/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,607 times Debate No: 18408
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (18)
Votes (7)

 

popculturepooka

Pro

Introduction

I thank mattrodstrom for agreeing to dialog with me on this topic. This debate will be about the existence of a priori knowledge and epistemic justification. I will be arguing that a priori knowledge or justification does exist and mattrodstrom will be arguing that it does not.

Terms

A priori knowledge and justification - A given proposition is knowable a priori if it can be known independent of any experience other than the experience of learning the language in which the proposition is expressed. [1]
A priori knowledge is knowledge that rests on a priori justification. A priori justification is a type of epistemic justification that is, in some sense, independent of experience. [2]

Rules

The first round is for acceptance, terms, definitions, and clarifications. The rest of the rounds are for debate.
No semantics, please!

Sources

[1] http://www.iep.utm.edu...
[2] http://plato.stanford.edu...
mattrodstrom

Con

I accept the debate and accept that my opponents preferred definitions are what He, and perhaps most contemporary philosophers, mean by the terms and will be content to use them as, at least, the initial basis from which to argue over the existence of "A Priori Knowledge".

However I will clearly state in this first round that I do Not accept my opponent's first offered definition and explain in what way I think it illegitimate.
(Of course, however, I will restrain myself from actually offering an "argument" for viewing his definition as I view it for he has reasonably requested that I refrain from arguing the resolution in this first round)

The definition I believe objectionable is this one:
"A given proposition is knowable a priori if it can be known independent of any experience other than the experience of learning the language in which the proposition is expressed"

For upon consideration of it I have found that the offered definition makes it such that the name "A Priori" is a useless addition to the terms "knowledge and justification", that is that the parts of the definition which supposedly clarify what type of knowledge "a priori knowledge" would be do not actually restrict the term "knowledge" in any meaningful way. That is, it is Not evident from my opponent's definition that what constitutes "A Priori knowledge" is any more limited whatsoever from what constitutes "knowledge" broadly. It is not clear that his using the name of "A Priori" to describe what he describes is at all informative. This would leave his naming such a thing "a priori" to be an indefensible, meaningless, source of confusion which should be dropped immediately.

Now I'm not sure yet if I will look to expand on this stated problem I have with my opponent's definitions with arguments for viewing my opponents definition as I view it, following of course to offer what I consider a more sensible definition for "A Priori Knowledge", and argue against That notion, or if I will look to argue with my opponent from some other angle.

I am so explicit about the nature of my objections to his definition Now because I do not want to be accused of "playing semantics" if I do pursue such a manner of argument after he had been so clear in his introduction that he didn't care to have semantical arguments. If My opponent does not believe such an objection to his definition, if supported by arguments, can possibly be legitimate in a debate such as this, or if such an argument simply doesn't interest him, I would suggest we end this before we get started. For I do think such Semantical arguments can be legitimate and m not willing to rule out my arguing with his definition in this manner.

I hope that PCP will indeed continue in this process, and look forward to reading my opponent's opening arguments ard to what I would imagine should be an engaging debate 8)

Debate Round No. 1
popculturepooka

Pro

Thanks to mattrodstrom for accepting the debate.

Right now, I'm unsure about what exactly is Con's main issue with the proposed definitions as those definitions are how a priori knowledge and justification has been standardly thought to be. Con is welcome to provide whatever argumentation he thinks tells against this standard way defining a priori knowledge and justification in the next round. Seeing as I do not want to try to preempt Con and inadvertently attack a straw man I will let Con present his case first and then critique it.

In the meantime, I will present two short arguments for the existence of genuine, a priori knowledge/justification in the rationalist sense. [1]

The Argument from Examples

The following argument proceeds from the thesis that there are certain pieces of knowledge that we have that do derive their epistemological justificatory (justification is a key component for something to count as genuine knowledge) force from sensory experience. There are numerous examples (anything ranging from moral propositions to propositions about causality) but I will focus only on two less contentious ones:

(1) 2 + 2 = 5
(2) Nothing can be red and green all over at the same time.

I contend that once one has properly understood the concepts involved in these two propositions one can "see" or "grasp" - I do not mean "see" or "grasp" in a sensory sense, I mean "see/grasp" to be understood here as a rational insight or intuition - that the propositions are true. [2] Not only are they true - they are necessarily true. Meaning they could not be false in any possible situation. Even just seeing that these propositions are necessarily true provides strong reason to think that the propositions are known a priori for it seems impossible that they be known a posterori (i.e. they derive their justification from an essential appeal to experience). The reason for thinking this because sensory experience (ignoring external world skepticism) only tells us what is actually the case - it doesn't tell us what is possibly or necessarily the case. [3] For example, me seeing this computer I'm typing on only tells me that this computer actually exists; what it doesn't help me know is that this computer could possibly have not existed. It's also unclear how, if everything is known a posteriori, how we know that some truths are necessary truths. So, propositions (1) and (2) do not seem to derive their justifications for being thought to be true from any essential appeal to sensory experience. There are multiple ways for some to respond to these arguments ranging from (implausibly) arguing that the propositions are really, appearances notwithstanding, grounded in experience, or (implausibly) arguing that the propositions are really analytic. I have no way to know how my opponent will respond so I will leave the argument at this juncture for now.

Argument from Experience [4]

I will argue, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, that for us to be justified in making any inferences from what we directly experience a priori knowledge has to exist. So, for much of the a posteriori claims many take themselves to be justified in believing one can only justifiably believe in them only if they infer them from other directly experienced or observed things. And this inference involves an unavoidable a priori element. Some of these a posterori propositions would be: the existence unobservable entities postulated by science, the unobserved past, the uniformity of nature, unobserved objects in the present, etc. No one, I think, would seriously contend that the aforementioned propositions are directly experienced - they are very indirect experiential claims. Now, what could justify these inferences from directly experienced things to indirectly experienced things? It seems only the a priori can do the job.

If one frames the situation as follows it becomes much more clear. Suppose that we have some conditional claim of the "if-then" form. As the antecedent (the "if" part) we have certain direct experiential claims and as the consequent (the "then" part) we have certain indirect experiential claims. Obviously, the conditional goes along the form of "if [certain direct experiential claims are true] then [certain indirect experiential claims are true]." The particular claims don't matter - what matters is that the inference has to be justified or else it isn't a good inference. Which type of knowledge could justify this inference? It seems that it can't be the direct experiential knowledge because all of that is already in the antecedent so the consequent goes beyond direct experience. It can't offer any justification for thinking the consequent is true (either direct or indirect) unless if the inference appeals to some justification that itself doesn't get it's justification from sensory experience. In other words, the a priori. If one denies the a priori one is denying that we can ever make good inferences from direct experiential claims to indirect experiential claims. This seems to be an incredibly implausible form of skepticism considering so much of the a posteriori knowledge we take ourselves to have is indirect. So we have good reason to believe in the existence of a priori knowledge/justification because rejecting it leads to an unacceptable amount of skepticism.

Sources

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[3] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[4] Matthias Steup and Ernest Sosa. Laurence Bonjour, "Is there A Priori Knowledge?", Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, pgs 101 - 103
mattrodstrom

Con

mattrodstrom forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
popculturepooka

Pro

Unfortunately, Con has forfeit. Extend my arguments.
Debate Round No. 3
Debate Round No. 4
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
No problem.
Posted by mattrodstrom 5 years ago
mattrodstrom
sorry :/

I don't have much time... Two jobs each three days a week.. and three three hour classes.. and a girlfriend who wants my spare time.

Maybe we can reschedule to a time during a break?

sorry.
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
Ok....
Posted by mattrodstrom 5 years ago
mattrodstrom
Yessir!
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
Make sure not to post an argument in round 1.
Posted by mattrodstrom 5 years ago
mattrodstrom
*third paragraph* that is.. :/
Posted by mattrodstrom 5 years ago
mattrodstrom
End of the first paragraph of my last comment shoulda been

'*but something* which is affirmed by observation'
Posted by mattrodstrom 5 years ago
mattrodstrom
" 'Kant said that a priori knowledge is "knowledge that is absolutely independent of all experience" ' (Kant 1787, 43).

That understanding seems too narrow because,"

It does indeed!

anywho.. I'll debate you still
(even though Clearly this debate is Not based upon my assertions in the thread from which you decided to challenge me, for My response was clearly to the Original meaning of "a priori" )

For Ultimate justification for affirming Any "knowledge" lies not in your simply coming to notions in particular manners.. but in that they're useful.. which is something that is not a fact of the Methods which is affirmed by observation.

Or I might still argue that there's no real divide between A priori and A posteriori.. :/

not decided yet.. either way though, I'll still take it.
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
From this book (pg 98): http://www.amazon.com...

"The Nature of A Priori Reasons
As I will understand it here, the concept of an a priori reason has two basic elements, one negative and one positive, the negative one initially more obvious, but both in the end equally essential. Negatively, an a priori reason for thinking that a claim is true is one whose rational force or cogency does not derive from experience, either directly (as in sense perception) or indirectly (as by inference of any sort – deductive, a Priori inductive, or explanatory – whose premises derive their acceptability from experience).
That such a reason is in this way independent of experience does not mean that someone who has undergone no experience of any sort could be in possession of it, since the possession of an a priori reason requires understanding the claim for which it is a reason, and experience, even experience of some fairly specific sort, might be required for that."
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
From this book (pg 118): http://www.amazon.com...

"First, granting for the sake of argument that our arithmetic beliefs arise from counting physical objects, is the experience that produces them what justifies them? The genesis of a belief—what produces it—is often different from what justifies it. The testimony of someone I realize is unreliable might, when I am off guard, produce my belief that different brands of aspirin do not, apart from additives, differ chemically. My belief would at that point be unjustified; but it might become justified later when I learn that aspirin is simply acetylsalicylic acid. Moreover, regardless of what produces our arithmetic beliefs initially, when they are justified in the way my belief that 7 + 5 = 12 now is, experience does not appear to be what justifies them. For my part, I do not see precisely how the truth of the proposition might be
grounded in the behavior of objects when they are combined; and I would not try to justify it, as opposed to illustrating it, by citing such behavior."
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by lannan13 2 years ago
lannan13
popculturepookamattrodstromTied
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Reasons for voting decision: forfeiture
Vote Placed by Zarroette 2 years ago
Zarroette
popculturepookamattrodstromTied
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Reasons for voting decision: ff
Vote Placed by Josh_b 3 years ago
Josh_b
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's information was a lot easier to read. A priori knowledge does exist and an object that is not known to exist can be created in some form if it is proposed to exist.
Vote Placed by The_Fool_on_the_hill 5 years ago
The_Fool_on_the_hill
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Reasons for voting decision: well done! even with out the forfiet.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 5 years ago
Maikuru
popculturepookamattrodstromTied
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Reasons for voting decision: 3 forfeits = full forfeit.
Vote Placed by jm_notguilty 5 years ago
jm_notguilty
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Reasons for voting decision: ff
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
popculturepookamattrodstromTied
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Reasons for voting decision: FF