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Err - Apriori Knowledge...

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    I was reading through this thread, and something suddenly occurred to me. Should we really make as black and white a distinction as we do between the a priori and a posteriori? As humans we have sense experience, and the brain/mind - but they don't seem to be as distinct as Descartes implies, but rather intertwined. It's difficult to express a concept of numbers without alluding to some "experience" of it because of our limited experiential and mental status as humans. So while we may have the *capacity* to know that 2+2=4 as an a priori, self-evident and general truth, doesn't this come after our experience of say, seeing 2 and 2 apples and realising they make 4? But clearly there is the "a priori" element/aspect to it, whereby we know that this can be universally applied. With other things we experience, we know that they cannot be universally applied - maybe with the exception of the black swan. And as Calvin suggested - could even ideas alone (the domain of the a priori) be considered "experiencing" of sorts? Can we restrict the notion of experience to something objectively existing "out there" affecting our senses? Can we even *define* experience?
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    You know, it's funny, in Philosophy - I see an awful lot of questions and not many answers. :p:
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    As humans we have sense experience, and the brain/mind - but they don't seem to be as distinct as Descartes implies, but rather intertwined.
    Descartes does indeed conclude that the body and mind are somehow connected (he uses the French equivalent of the word 'intermingled')
    It's a tough topic and raises points that are hard to prove or disprove. Personally I believe that we can indeed know some things without the need for experience.

    Whether or not thoughts count as experience is more of a problem for semantics. I believe in this case the word must be used to define information we obtain via the senses.

    You know, it's funny, in Philosophy - I see an awful lot of questions and not many answers.
    Lol, yeah that's Philosophy. It seldom provides answers, just opinions and arguments. But then that's what Philosophy is like really... you couldn't get differing opinions and views on a question to which a definite answer was known!
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    We were actually discussing whether the mind and the brain were seperate today - like if you had a brain transplanty ou would still have your "mind". I disagree with that being possible though... I mean, how can your mind exist without the brain, after all, the mind is based and moulded on memories and experiences within the brain...
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    (Original post by trunksss6)
    Descartes does indeed conclude that the body and mind are somehow connected (he uses the French equivalent of the word 'intermingled')
    It's a tough topic and raises points that are hard to prove or disprove. Personally I believe that we can indeed know some things without the need for experience.
    He does - but he also argues for the case of dualism - that body and mind are entirely separate from each other and thus distinct. And that the mind can operate without use of external experience via the body, hence the cogito/evil demon hypothesis; it is this that I disagree with. I think it is a mistake to assume such scepticism when we ourselves are inherently and intrinsically part of the demon's "world" - I take a very holistic attitude to the Self.

    (Original post by trunksss6)
    Whether or not thoughts count as experience is more of a problem for semantics. I believe in this case the word must be used to define information we obtain via the senses.
    I don't think we can reduce it to an issue of semantics because of the implications the word "experience" has in this scenario. What justifies your assertion that it should be used to define information obtained via the senses? Isn't a dream just as much an "experience" in the sense that it can have a significant impact on some people, and that it feels very much like an experience - but not necessarily immediately obtained by senses, and is at that point very much a construct of the mind? The term "experience" is rich, and at the same time very vague and difficult to pin down - some would argue, like Calvin suggests, that the process of thoughts is experience of a sort. It certainly connotes interaction of the self with something, whether something obtained by senses, or with itself (as in the case of dreams, or perhaps thoughts?). But then we return back where we are, with the prospect of a divisive self.
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    I disagree. If we're using the word 'experience' in the context of 'a priori' and 'a posteriori' ideas, then I believe it should be taken as referring to sense experience.

    You may be able to count dreaming as 'experiencing'; I don't think it matters.
    If you happen to learn something from a dream and the subject matter of this dream is in no way based on anything you have ever experienced in the external world (I know it's hard to imagine such a scenario) then I would be inclined to say this counts as 'a priori' knowledge. If the subject matter was based on that which you have experienced in the external world then I would be inclined to say the knowledge is 'a posteriori'.

    Anyway, I do indeed agree that dreaming is a form of experiencing. But since the poster of the thread was asking in the context of AS level epistemology, I still believe 'experiencing' should be restricted to sense experience.
    Hence I stand by my view that this is a semantics related problem, the sort of problem Wittgenstein said arises when "language goes on holiday".
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    (Original post by trunksss6)
    I disagree. If we're using the word 'experience' in the context of 'a priori' and 'a posteriori' ideas, then I believe it should be taken as referring to sense experience.
    My original post states that I don't accept the clear distinction between an "a priori" and "a posteriori" idea. I believe that some statements and ideas are a combination of both to some extent, and cannot fall into a category of one or the other. No man, in my view, is an island. In my opinion the proposition 2+2=4 is one such statement.

    You may be able to count dreaming as 'experiencing'; I don't think it matters.
    If you happen to learn something from a dream and the subject matter of this dream is in no way based on anything you have ever experienced in the external world (I know it's hard to imagine such a scenario) then I would be inclined to say this counts as 'a priori' knowledge. If the subject matter was based on that which you have experienced in the external world then I would be inclined to say the knowledge is 'a posteriori'.
    I do think it matters. In the first example of a dream you have given - have you ever experienced such a dream? I know no one who purports to have experienced such a dream - usually a dream is very closely tied to the reality in which we live in and draws on and recalls via memory incidents of the past, only reorganises them in a different format. The problem with clearly bracketing this in the "a posteriori" world, however, is that there seems to be no stimulus there when the dream occurs, other than that of the mind/self. For me, whilst previous "a posteriori" experiences have an impact on the way we think, we are, through the use of our memory and mind capable of recalling and totally reorganising the information in a variety of different ways without stimulus or any additional sense experience at the time. I find this, firstly, fascinating and inexplicable - and I also think it suggests that the clear-cut distinction between the notion of "a posteriori" and "a priori" is in some cases fallacious. Whilst there are traces of the a posteriori in the dream, it is the self/mind that actually produces the dream or experience. Certainly I feel the mind has some part to play in dream-making outside of the a posteriori element;I know I have experienced some extremely surreal dreams that could never possibly have occurred IRL. And while the concepts for it may have been borrowed from a posteriori experience, perhaps the way in which it unfolds implies an a priori element to the dream.

    Nevertheless, I do agree that in the context of AS Epistemology the poster should stick to the standard definitions. But true philosophy is never about a norm, so I doubt that should he decide to introduce an argument challenging the black and white definitions of a priori and a posteriori, however new, if backed-up well, he would be marked-down. But then you can never trust these bloody exam boards .
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    I am not arguing further as the argument will end up going in circles! :p:

    Instead I'll just have to make it crystal clear where I stand on the matter.

    it suggests that the clear-cut distinction between the notion of "a posteriori" and "a priori" is in some cases fallacious
    I do believe ideas can be categorised into either 'a priori' or 'a posteriori' - probably my scientific disposition yearning for clear cut distinction.
    The reason being this:
    The way I see it, no matter what, an idea will either have its origins in the 'a priori' or the 'a posteriori'.

    have you ever experienced such a dream? I know no one who purports to have experienced such a dream - usually a dream is very closely tied to the reality in which we live in and draws on and recalls via memory incidents of the past, only reorganises them in a different format.
    It may be the case that no-one has ever experienced such a dream - it would be very hard to set up the necessary conditions. But, assuming such a dream is not possible, the subject matter of the dream still has its origins in the 'a posteriori' and should be categorised as such.

    The problem with clearly bracketing this in the "a posteriori" world, however, is that there seems to be no stimulus there when the dream occurs, other than that of the mind/self.
    If we take the example of the idea "grass is green": If we shut our eyes and conceive of this thought then sure enough the mind/self is the only stimulus for it. Yet surely you would not deny that the idea is purely 'a posteriori'.

    If I've missed your point forgive me, I am but a humble A level student....
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    What are we going to count as sense experience? We decide its sight sound, touch, taste and smell. But is there a logical difference between those and say the experiencing of ideas. Do we need to have a sense for concepts, imagination etc- a Mind's Eye for instance? We certainly make a distinction and limit experience to our five senses but should we. I read recently scientists have identified something like 22 distinct senses that we have.

    That said things aren't split black and white between a priori and a posteriori. You also have futher intertwined ideas like analytic and synthetic or necessary and contingent. So its certainly not clear cut on the whole. Philosophy has moved on a little from the Rationalist Vs Empiricist debates of the early period.
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    Very difficult to conclusively say what would be a priori anyway. Take the angles of a triangle adding up to 180 degrees. Having seen real triangles and learned the proof, its then very easy to claim - this is a priori knowledge, and isn't coloured by my experience. However, the angles of a triangle don't always add up to 180 degrees (thanks to the mind-boggling wonders of non-Euclidean geometry) - our a priori certainty of it is certainly coloured by the fact that we only directly experience standard euclidean geometry.
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    Mathematicians... :rolleyes:
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    Mathematicians... :rolleyes:
    Thats philosophically-inclined mathematician to you! :p:
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    (Original post by trunksss6)
    If we take the example of the idea "grass is green": If we shut our eyes and conceive of this thought then sure enough the mind/self is the only stimulus for it. Yet surely you would not deny that the idea is purely 'a posteriori'.

    If I've missed your point forgive me, I am but a humble A level student....
    The difference between the dream and the shutting of our eyes to "conceive" of this thought is that the mind does not seem to structure or reorganise a series of concepts. With a dream we are dealing with a series of sense "memories" which are, as I've earlier mentioned, reorganised and restructured to form an entirely different "world".

    What I find interesting is that deaf-blind people often use words relating to sound or sight even though they are deaf-blind. That is, they themselves have not "experienced" a certain facet of the language they use - but they are able to create in their minds an idea of what such a world would be like. I for one would refuse to believe that they are spouting utter nonsense, but they can extend their imagination thus far. It is examples like these which makes me feel that *some* knowledge is not purely a posteriori, but has a very strong a priori element to it as well.
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    (Original post by HearTheThunder)
    Ok so I had my first Philosophy lesson today and I understand what a posteriori is, but what exactly is apriori knowledge... is it posessing knowledge without learning it?? but hows that possible? how did it get there?

    also i dont understand that 2 + 2 = 4 can be apriori, surely you need to learn that 2 + 2 = 4 first and then itd be apostiori..?

    any other examples of apriori?
    HTT,

    Don't know if this is still an issue for you, but I paste below a paragraph copied from a worksheet I produced for my ethics teacher last year on a priori and such like.

    It might help clear up confusion in that it focuses more on the Kantian view of a priori knowledge - as expressed in propositions or judgements' - as being that which does not logically entail any empirical propositions, rather than that which must necessarily be formed prior to empirical experience: (Meh, I've practically said it now, but...)

    a priori- propositions that are independent of all experience (meaning logically independent – an a priori proposition does not entail any proposition regarding experience). Eg. 2+2=4. They may have kind of dependence on experience insofar as they may be formed as a result of certain experiences (we see instances of couples and the fact that their combination makes four particulars, but we reach a point where we can abstract from this the general notion that 2+2=4, without reference to particulars such as ‘two coins’, and realise the necessity of its truth) but they are not logically dependent on experience as they would be equally true in, for example, a world with no countable objects. They are strictly universal & necessary.
    ZarathustraX
Updated: September 18, 2005
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