Unformatted text preview: contains synthetic judgments that can be known a priori, for
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
(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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