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Kant, Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysic

In judging that matter is permanent therefore i go

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Unformatted text preview: contains synthetic judgments that can be known a priori, for example: ŸIn all changes in the physical world the quantity of matter remains unchanged. ŸWhen one body collides with another, action and reaction must always be equal. Clearly these are not only necessary and a priori in origin but are also synthetic. ·I shall show this of the first of them. It says that the total amount of matter in the universe never changes, which is to say that matter is permanent·. Now, in ·thinking· the concept of Ÿmatter I do not think its Ÿpermanence but only its Ÿpresence in the space that it fills. ·Thinking that matter is permanent is not like thinking that women are female, or that tigers are animals·. In judging that matter is permanent, therefore, I go beyond the concept of matter in order to add to it something that I did not think in it. So the proposition is not analytic but synthetic; yet it is thought a priori, as are the other propositions of the pure part of natural science - ·the ‘pure’ part being the part that owes nothing to experience·. [This paragraph on natural science is brought across from the Critique of Pure Reason. There is evidence that Kant intended such a paragraph to occur here, and omitted it by accident.] (4) Properly metaphysical judgments are all synthetic. The whole aim of metaphysics is to arrive at conclusions that are synthetic. Analytic judgments are also involved, but only as aids to constructing Ÿarguments; what metaphysics, properly so-called, is really about is the establishment of Ÿconclusions, which are always synthetic. If a concept (such as that of substance) belongs to metaphysics, then the ·analytic· judgments that analyse this 13 concept also belong there - for example the judgment that substance is that which exists only as subject etc. - and a set of such judgments can be used to work towards a definition of the concept in question. But such a Ÿjudgment belongs to metaphysics only because the analysed Ÿconcept does; the process of analysis is just the same as we use when analysing empirical concepts that don’t belong to metaphysics. The only judgments that are really strictly metaphysical are synthetic ones. When the a priori concepts that are the building-bricks of metaphysics have been gathered together in a systematic way, the analysis of them is of great value. The analytic judgments that are arrived at in this way can be separated out from the rest of metaphysics, and presented as a separate part of the whole system. The only use that these analyses have in metaphysics is as a useful preliminary to the procedure of arriving a priori at synthetic propositions involving the concepts that have been analysed. The upshot of this section is that metaphysics is centrally concerned with a priori knowledge of synthetic propositions. These are what metaphysics is for. We are helped to arrive at them by analyses and analytic judgments - indeed, ones using the very same process of analysis as we do when trying to clarify our concepts in other branches of knowledge. But the essential content of metaphysics is the generation of knowledge a priori, both according to intuition and according to concepts, leading ultimately to synthetic propositions a priori - philosophical knowledge. Section 3: A note about the analytic/synthetic distinction The distinction between analytic and synthetic is essential in the present kind of enquiry into the human understanding; it is not much use anywhere else, so far as I know. The reason why dogmatic philosophers overlooked this apparently obvious distinction is that they did not look for the sources of metaphysics in the pure laws of reason in general ·and so they did not see how metaphysical truths could be known a priori and yet be synthetic·. [By ‘dogmatic’ philosophers Kant means, broadly speaking, ones who plunge ahead doing metaphysics without first raising the question of how - or indeed whether - metaphysics is possible.] Thus two recent German philosophers tried to derive the law of sufficient reason, which is obviously synthetic, from the law of contradiction. [The law of sufficient reason says that there is a reason for everything that is the case, i.e. that there is a correct answer to every ‘Why?’-question.] Still, there is a hint of this distinction in Locke’s Essay at IV.iii.9ff. Having previously discussed the different kinds of judgments and how we arrive at them, including judgments of ‘identity or contradiction’ (which are analytic), and judgments of ‘co-existence’ (which are synthetic), he admits that our a priori knowledge of the latter is very narrow and almost nothing at all. ·Grudging as that is, it does at least admit the possibility of some synthetic a priori knowledge·. But what he says of this kind of knowledge is so skimpy and unsystematic that it’s not surprising that it didn’t prompt anyone - and in particular didn’t prompt Hume - to consider propositions of this kind. It is hard to learn universal and yet definite truths from someone who only had them floating obscurely before him in his thought. One needs to discover t...
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