This House Believes That Synthetic A Priori Knowledge Exists!
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THIS DEBATE IS IMPOSSIBLE TO ACCEPT. PLEASE COMMENT/MESSAGE ME IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ACCEPT THIS DEBATE, PLEASE ONLY DO SO IF YOU HAVE A HIGH ELO, OR OTHER CREDENTIALS IN PHILOSOPHY. YOU NEED 2000 ELO TO VOTE ON THIS DEBATE WITH A SELECT WINNER OPTION.
Introduction: This debate seeks to adress one of the oldest, and most revelutionary ideas of Philosophy: of whether there exists knowledge independent of sense experience. This can also be extended to mean whether all knowledge is ultimately based on sense experience, or requires the conditions of the intuition: a priori. This "knowledge" will not contain elements which are formed through Imagination, for imagination builds up from what we have gained from the senses. This seeks to address whether we possess knowledge, even if it is a small, yet considerable, part of all our knowledge completely independent of sense experience. I shall be arguing for a Kantian concept where both empirical, and rational knowledge go hand in hand. My opponent would have to take the empiricist position and would be supporting the thesis put forth by philosophers like Hume, Locke, Russell, and more recently by Stephen Hawking, Karl Popper, and Hans Reichenbach. The Con side of the resolution is the one favored by nearly all physicists of today.
The Burden of Proof: The Proposition holds the key burden of proof, and it is my onus to show that a priori rational knowledge exists independent of sense experience. This does not mean however that my opponent can endlessly poke holes in my arguments, my opponent must provide substantiations of any theories he uses to support his rebuttals. For example is it enough for my opponent to say that this knowledge should not be considered because anything not empirical is meaningful, if he wishes to assert this as a refutation he must prove the supporting argument/thesis.
1. The first round is for acceptance/pleasentries only. Any substantiated material will be ignored.
2. The last round will not feature any new positive material from any side, if any such material is given, the entire round should be ignored by the judges.
3. Any form of plagarism will result in an instant loss. (What constitutes as plagarism is at the judges' discretion.)
4. I request that Youtube not be used, because it is banned in my country, and so I won't have any access to it.
5. It is advisable to have an easy to read font, and all sources should be cited. The references may be given on a seperate document (such as Google Documents) and a link provided to save space.
6. Semantics are discouraged, and should be seen as foul play. Any form of trolling, making a mockery out of this debate will result in an instant loss.
7. The definitions, where applicable, should be taken from a philosophical place such as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Cambridge Philosophy Dictionary, the Oxford Philosophical Dictionary, the Penguin Philosophical Dictionary, or any other respectable source, or text such as A Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, or A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (even though this is biased crap). All definitions are up for debate.
8. There are 5 rounds, of which 4 are for debate. Each round has a 10, 000 character upper limit, and a 2, 000 character lower limit (the judges should penalize any round below this other than the acceptance round), 48 hr/round, and my opponent will be taking the Con position or that against the resolution.
I shall provide my definitions in my first round. Or shall cite sources for easy understanding. As a note to the judges I would ask you not to vote on this debate unless you believe you have an able philosophical foundation. This debate is, and will be rather technical.
I thank bossyburrito for accepting. I want to give a fair warning to everyone, this is no mean debate, if you lack philosophical expertise, please abstain from voting. Once more I'd like to state that there is a 2, 000 Elo Minimum requirement for voting. I cannot define every term, so should anyone want to acquaint themselves with the complex terminilogy used, I suggest a reading of the Introduction of the Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, or a reading from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A disclaimer: I finally finished this round at 8:43 AM, and I think I've started to get delirious from a lack of sleep.
I first want to start with my conclusion, in order to allow the reader the knowledge of where the following train of logic is headed. I am to argue that a so-called synthetic truth (i.e. a truth which is true not because of the concepts involved, but rather the concepts’ relationships to those things not included in the proposition) is self-contradictory. I intend to show that the main quality which my opponent ascribes to analytic truths (“self-reference”) must be present in any truth, so that the idea of a non-self-referential truth (a synthetic truth) could be discarded.
A concept is a mental construct created to organize sense-data according to similar and dissimilar characteristics. For instance, if a young child saw three cars, he might recognize that they all have four wheels, headlights, etc. These would be the defining characteristics, or the essences, of cars, and any entity that did not have these characteristics would not be said to be a car. The concept covers all potential instances of concretes with those qualities, but it must be noted that concepts can only refer to legitimate and concrete existents (else the concept would refer to non-existents, and would have no value).
For instance, if it is said that the sentence "Humans have two eyes" is synthetic, it is proposed that "two-eyedness" is not a part of the concept of man - which ignores that concepts refer to specific referents that are just categorized because of similarities. To *only* look at these similarities (the essences of the things) would be to ignore the fact that concepts subsume individual existents, meaning that any existent that falls under a concept falls under it as a whole - the "essence" of something is not separate from the thing itself. Therefore, ignoring that the fact that some individual men have two eyes and claiming that that quality is not part of "manness" is to say that concepts do not reference existents, which invalidates the idea of conceptual abstraction altogether. If it is said that the knowledge is based on something outside of the concept under which the referent is subsumed, it is said that knowledge is based on what an existent is not – i.e. the opposite of the real.
Since all existents have qualities, and all qualities are subsumed by their respective concepts, then all concepts (and, as a result, all existents) can be said to be equal to themselves – all knowledge, then, can be reduced to tautologies in the form of A = A. The only way for synthetic knowledge to exist is for an existent to have a quality that its concept, by virtue of its identity, does not – which, if what I have said holds true, is impossible.
1. Of Mathematics:
“Consider the judgement 12, which was born out of the knowledge of 7, and 5, with the knowledge of addition. Neither 5, nor 7 indepdentently contain the knowledge of 12, unlike "all bachelors are unmarried" where the term "bachelors" in itself implies unmarried. Since the judgement does not belong to the predicate, but rather exists outside it, we may safely say ex ve termini that all judgements matheta are synthetic.”
While this reasoning might seem sound at first glance, a closer look shows the flaws in this reasoning. An example of a (supposedly) analytic statement is given: “all bachelors are unmarried”. This is compared with the statement “7+5=12”. My opponent argues as follows: the word “bachelor”, in itself, implies that any bachelor is unmarried, while none of the terms of the math equation given, in themselves, imply that the equation given should be true. Since, he says, 7+5=12, if the previous assumption holds true, the equation must be an example of synthetic knowledge – knowledge that does not come from the concepts in question themselves. If, though, it is shown that “7+5=12” can be known from an analysis of concepts only, it holds that math is analytic.
If it is true that the concept of a bachelor is taken to be equal to the concept of an unmarried man (by virtue of identical definitions), then it can be said that all unmarried men are unmarried. This is because any bachelor has the same qualities as any unmarried man in the context of their being unmarried. In other words, since “bachelor” is synonymous with “unmarried man”, it holds that either could be substituted for each other. The only prerequisite is that both terms being substituted have the same meaning when placed in the same roles in the proposition – “salmon” and “the fish with qualities x, y, z (which are unique to salmon and are the defining characteristics of salmon)” are synonymous in the sentence “___ has the particular qualities x, y, z. “
Now, let us apply this to the math equation. It is true that the number seven is equal to the number seven, is counted as seven units, etc. It is also true that the number seven is five short of twelve. Likewise, it is true that it is a quality of the number five that it is seven short of twelve, and it is true that twelve, when seven and five are taken from it, is equal to zero. As explained earlier, these qualities are contained within the concept of these numbers, as concepts subsume all potential referents. So, if it is true that “seven” is equal to “a number five short of twelve” (as shown by the fact that, in the equation 7 + 5 = 12, either incarnation of “seven” would result in the validity of the equation), and if it is true that, by analyzing these synonymous (i.e. undoubtedly conceptually self-contained and equal) ways of stating each number, the equation 7 + 5 = 12 can be proved (by way of definitional analysis of the fully-substituted equation, five less than twelve in addition to seven less than twelve is equivalent to the sum of five less than twelve in addition to seven less than twelve), it has been made clear that math is, in fact, non-synthetic.
“Simply then since Mathematics provides objective truths, and no empirical means can provide such empirical truths, for they arise only of the intuition, we may safely deduce that Mathematics is a priori.”
As my opponent has admitted, he has taken for granted that sense-experience is, by nature, subjective (and, by extension, can only produce subjective results). This means that he has done nothing but arbitrarily assert that math is a priori, as a result of his unsupported premises. Regardless, I will try to show that math is, in fact, dependent on sense-experience.
Via the Kantian definition supplied by my opponent, it can be seen that math is based on units with specific values. This is all that is needed to make progress in the field, but there is a question which needs to be answered to determine if math can be known a priori: is it possible to create and recognize units without sense-experience? The answer seems fairly self-evident – the use of any unit presupposes the concept of units themselves. Any unit must be, in order to be comprehendible to man, be able to be a unit of something. A unit, contemplated by a mind in which the only experience with said units is in a vacuum, would be inconceivable – any such unit would be divorced from any substance or definition, as there is nothing to define it by. It would be a floating abstraction, detached from anything physical, and, as such, would not be able to be used or even understood (Unless, of course, “innate knowledge” can be unknowable).
“Thereby 1+1=2 (this is a hypothetical example, as the actual example is too technical to post here) may not be proved […] out of intuition.”
It is certainly true that any attempt to understand something such as 1+1=2 requires knowledge of all the concepts involved, but, as I have explained, the concepts of units must be formed a posteriori. My opponent has given no reason to believe that this is otherwise, especially in light of the concerns I have raised over his (unsupported) position.
“Space then must exist as a foundation […] in simpler words I mean to state that the knowledge of Space could not be borrowed from experience for experience has the condition of having the knowledge of Space as a foundation a priori.”
This can be shown to be false quite simply by imagining a world in which sense-organs did not exist. If space is an a priori concept, it could be understood without any help from sense-perception. The problem, then, is that space can only be understood if things which take up space are perceived – in a world in which there is no way to know that anything exists via a posteriori means, the concept of space (which you claim is a priori because sense-experience depends on it) would be meaningless to any man. This is because space is, as you pointed out, a result of human methods of cognition, or, in other words, completely intertwined with sense-experience. Space is one of the attributes of the result of the world being sensed by man – this, if anything, means that knowledge of space is clearly not a priori.
“For if such a case [...] Space is an intuition a priori.”
There are two issues with this: firstly, the concept of space can be applied to every potential referent just as any other concept can do the same – the fact of the matter, though, is that, since there is a finite number of representations of space at any given time (the potential is infinite only because, at any point when counting, you can count to a higher number – much like slicing a cake into smaller and smaller pieces, although you could theoretically keep going forever, whenever you do stop you’ll have a finite number of slices), and, again, the concept of space is meaningless without sense experience.
I can most certainly believe that Gabby is delirious from lack of sleep, for I know him to not give unsupported claims. After all, seeing the number of baseless arguments, one would have concluded by themselves that Gabby was not in a fair state of mind (I love you Gabby, don't you forget it babe <3).
I shall start off by re-stating the three arguments presented by my honorable opponent.
1. There exists no synthetic truths.
2. That Mathematics is based on "unit values" and these values in themselves are taken a posteriori, therefore Mathematics is a posteriori.
3. That Space is a posteriori because the knowledge of Space is theoretically useless without sensory experience.
To begin, I realize my round was techincal, but by being technical it was also clear. My opponent's round suffers from delirium in so far as it hardly makes any coherent sense. Its also more than half a copy of my rounds with some Randian commentary.
The first argument was given in a general format, so I shall attack it in a general format, and therein I shall address the issues in relation to Mathematics, and Space. In contradistinction to spelling them out individually, for I feel they will only be rhetorical.
3. On Synthetic Truths:
(3.1) You will recall the Kantian definition of "synthetic truths" we gave in our previous round. So long as the predicate exists outside the subject, the said judgement should be synthetic. This can be easily determined in numerous ways. For this let us first determine that said qualities of a particular subject are limited to those which are positive; in simple terms a subject cannot possess a negative quality. If I were to say the Spaghetti Monster possess the negative quality of non-existence, it would be absurd. Similarly in all qualities that we attribute to Dasein, an Ontological (or in contradistinction an Ontical quality is non-Dasein being) would be presupposed to be a positive quality. We must also remember that we must not limit ourselves to inquiries pertaining to attributes alone, for our chief scrutiny is placed on judgement and judgement alone, by that judgement so far as it is knowledge.
(3.2) Consider then similarly that something must "be" for it to possess a property, for property is an afterthought to being. For if there is no existence then the property cannot also exist, however we have already considered the negative property of "non-existence", one which would directly contradict being. Thereby we have determined that to consider a negative property is an absurd thesis all together. All properties must be positive in nature.
(3.3) Take then the example of "children wear hats". It is for all purposes a synthetic proposition, for no where in the concept of children, is the concept of a hat to be found, but we may relate them with each other through the mind. It will not do to say that from the idea of children we have the idea of head, which possess the idea of a hat. Absurd! While the idea of a head correlates to an idea of a hat, it in no way possess it. We must differentiate between that which is "from a concept" and that which is "of a concept". While in analytic judgements the relation is "from" the concept itself: such as "all bodies are extended", in synthetic truths the relation is "of" a concept, and the relation must be made.
(3.4) Similarly in all Matheta, insofar as Mathematics itself is concerned my opponent says that within the number 7, is the concept that it is less than 12 by 5, and so addition of 5 will make it 12. My dear readers, even now the number 7 is empty (in this case) without the number 5, and without the connective of "addition". It is quite simple then, that without the other number to support it, without the relation of addition we could not go from 7 to 15. Think of it this way, from 7, and 7 alone we could not derive the entire judgement. Contrast this to "all bachelors are unmarried" where if we were given "bachelors" alone we could derive "unmarried" without using any negative with other terms.
(4.1) As far as Space is concerned, I in no way stated that Space is unconnected with the physical world. In the words of Kant himself: 'But although all our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it arises from experience' With regards to Space the knowledge is used in an a posteriori fashion, but we are not debating how knowlege is used. This debate is about the origins of said knowledge, and that knowledge, Space, is born a priori. I am not a rationalist, I simply wish to discuss where the birth of the concept of space came from. That I have shown must be a priori, and see no refutation from my opponent. In fact my opponent just proves my argument: s/he states that Space is necessary and is used in sense experience. I completely agree, the idea of Space is a condition of sense experience, and so it makes sense experience coherent. Then if Space is required for any sense experience, and space could only be concluded from sense experience, then it follows directly that Space is a priori.
(4.2) In Immauel Kant's own words: "Space is a necessary a priori representation which underlines all outer intuitions. It is impossible to have a representation of there being no space, though one can very well think of space without objects to fill it. Space is therefore regarded as the condition of the possibility of appearences, not as a determination dependent upon them. It is an a priori representation which necessarily underlines all outer appearences." This answers all of Gabby's refutations.
(5.1) I have already previously answered any claim of Matheta, and by extension ta Mathemata being analytical. I shall not solely focus on the bold statements which claim that such apodictic systems are a posteriori, and developed from experience. For the first part, we should note that no method, nor framework, no system, to be said, has been outlined in any way which would explain how Mathematics is born out of experience. This is a problem our opponent should remedy immediately.
(5.2) My opponent seems to equate ta Matheta with Mathematics, and by extension with units. The simple reply to whether "is it possible to create and recognize units without sense-experience?" is a yes. Let us consider the example of Algebra, or really any Mathematics (take Differential Equations). There is no empirical experiment to verify Calculus per say, it was developed as a theoretical discipline and has run such. We use Mathematics to identify, and make equations for Quantum Mechanics, an entire field which cannot be experimentally verified.
(5.3) This aside if Mathematics does depend on sense experience then how is it that Mathematics, and all such systems follow with a conceptualization of necessity? What I find warm, you may find hot. Surely a person who lives in Greenland will find the climate of Pakistan in the winters as pleasent, when one from Africa may find it extremely chilly. Sense experience does not possess a necessity, my opponent agrees that all senses provide subjective knowledge, and so I ask him how is it that Mathematics provides objective answers. To anyone who undrstands this, 7+5 will always be 12. There is no man who can show it to be otherwise, and if they do try to do so, they shall do so with paper, they shall not align people in a row and count (for that would also require an idea of 12 a priori) but they will use reason. Mathematics, or more precisely ta Matheta (so we may limit it to Pure Mathematics) is a purely theoretical discipline, and while it may be used in physical cirumstances I have already informed the readers of how we are discussing the birth of such knowledge, not its applications. In such Mathematics is an a priori discipline.
Critique of Pure Reason, Introduction by Immanuel Kant
Critique of Pure Reason, Metaphysical Exposition of the Concept of Space by Immauel Kant
Over to bossy then! :)
I want to make clear that the three arguments my opponent cited me as giving are, for all intents and purposes, accurate. Let me begin with my rebuttles, then.
As I explained in my previous round, the fatal mistake with arguments of this kind is that the “essence” of a concept is conflated with the concept as a whole. It is true that all conceptual referents of a certain kind must have those attributes which are unique to the concept, but this does not mean that all other characteristics of those referents can be ignored. The fact that an <em> individual </em> man is a rational animal does not mean that he is not also two-eyed, to use the example I gave previously. If this is so, and if a concept only consists of the individual concretes (potential or otherwise) it subsumes, then the fact that that individual man has two eyes directly means that it would not be incorrect to say that men have two eyes (for this is valid by looking at the example man given – a conceptual referent which is wholly in-the-concept). In the same way, since some individual and concrete children have and do wear hats (i.e. they have the quality of “hat-wearing”, and thus hats are included in the concept of children), it is true that “children wear hats” by virtue of the concept of “child”.
The issue at hand is my opponent’s insistence on viewing concepts not as collections of concretes, but as existing in some ethereal realm of essences. This view has been shown to be false, however, by way of the fact that, if I think of something with the quality “manness”, for example, I necessarily refer to an entity with other qualities (such as a body which takes up space, a brain, etc), and entities of this kind can have even more unessential qualities (such as weight or hair colour). These unessential qualities are <em> just as real </em> as the quality of being a “rational animal”, as a being can be a rational animal while holding other qualities. Therefore, if it is true that concepts refer only to essences, it would only be fair to conclude that we should think only of disembodied essences when the concepts are evoked – this is known to not be the case by anyone who has any knowledge of unessential qualities existing in a conceptual referent.
<strong> In reply to (3.4): </strong>
My opponent ignores that the concept “7”, <em> by the fact of equaling 12 when added with five </em>, includes in it the quality as just stated. If it is taken to be true that 7 + 5 = 12, then it is true of 7 that, when five is added to it, it equals 12. The same logic I have given before on the idea on concepts being made of concrete referents shows that, if it is observed that an instance of the above equation is true, then it is true not only of that individual “7”, but of all “7s” in like scenarios, that 5 added equals 12. 7 automatically subsumes “+ 5 = 12” by virtue of it being 7 – as such, it cannot be considered a synthetic truth that 7 + 5 = 12.
In other words, since it is true that 7 + 5 = 12, it is true of the concept “7” that 7 + 5 = 12, and, as such, it is not a synthetic truth. This same logic can be cross-applied to any expression to show that none can be truly synthetic.
“In fact my opponent just proves my argument: s/he states that Space is necessary and is used in sense experience. I completely agree, the idea of Space is a condition of sense experience, and so it makes sense experience coherent. Then if Space is required for any sense experience, and space could only be concluded from sense experience, then it follows directly that Space is a priori. “
I want to clarify something: I argued that knowledge of space is necessary <em> in gaining sense-experience only</em>, not necessary when sense-experience is not concerned. As such, I never argued that space could be understood without sense-experience. The misinterpretation comes, however, when my opponent assumes that space being necessary to understand sense-experience means that it is <em> prior </em> to sense-experience. That is the position I argued against in my previous round, and I showed, not that understanding of space was prior to sense experience, but rather that knowledge of space and sense-experience come at one and the same time, in an intertwined manner. For if nothing is sensed, space cannot be understood, and is space is not understood, things cannot be sensed – this shows that space is inseparable from sense-experience, not that one is prior to the other. An accurate conclusion is that space is not a priori, as for space to be a priori it would be necessary for it to be known before things are sensed, which is absurd. They must, then, occur simultaneously, and not one without the other (meaning that sense experience is a prerequisite for knowledge of space – the exact definition of the a posteriori).
<strong> On “Mathematics”: </strong>
I have showed that any consideration of Mathematics without the concept of units built from sense-experience is absurd, and, as such, the above accusation by my opponent is false.
My opponent, here, makes the claim that, for a thing to be founded and based on sense-experience, it must be able to be verified by experiment. He says that things such as QM and Calculus cannot be verified through experiment, and, as such, must be based in a priori knowledge (and, as a result, not on sense-based units). He ignores, however, the fact that higher-level Maths are rightfully dependent on those fields below them, and are mere logical extentions of the basic groundwork, in the same way as the top floors of a skyscraper are dependent on those below them. Since logical deduction, I assume, will be given as a valid system, and since things are as they are (A is A), it can be seen that, even if the logical arguments used to build these fields are “untestable” themselves, the things that they are deduced from can be compared with reality. As I showed in my last round (and my opponent has not refuted this outright – he just tried to give an example of a system that does not rely on sense-experience), if the concept of units is formed via sense-experience, then anything deduced from them is, by extension, based in sense-experience.
As referenced earlier, the Law of Identity governs all things, perceptions alike. If I sense something, it can only be so that I sense a real thing (as unreal things do not exist and cannot invoke sensations). As such, any concepts which have their root in sense-experience have their root in an outside world that is sensed – and if this is so, the veracity of any claim based in so-called “subjective” perception can be found by comparing the conclusions drawn from the sensations to the actual world. If two men sense an apple, for example, the apple acts on their sense organs such that they feel certain sensations. It is true that both feel different sensations, but neither is <em> incorrect </em> - they are merely different because of the two different sensors. The outside reality is still the same for both, meaning that, by application of logic to sense-experience, non-contradictory (with reality) conclusions can be reached that are the same for all observers.
On to you, Ajab! This is fun!
Due to bad internet, I have asked bossyburrito to let me post this as a docs.google (well within 10, 000 characters) and I shall type it out before tomorrow. Thanks again bossy.
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