A question about A Priori.

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Reply Tue 30 Oct, 2007 04:56 pm
I have a random question about A Priori knowledge. As far as I understand it A Priori means knowledge that is gained without the use of information gleaned through the senses. Language, and thereby our ability to mentally use language to organize our thoughts in our minds, is learned throught our senses. The whole idea of language as a means to organize thougths is gained through our senses. This is partially seen in the fact that infants don't seem to have much organized thought; even medically speaking their brain's acitivity is dissimilar to an adult's awake/alert/thinking brain. If all this is true, can a person use language to come to A Priori knowledge? And is it possible to have organized thoughts without thinking in terms of the sense? In my mind I can think with language, I can imagine physical sensatioins, I can visualize pictures, I can recall smells and tastes, but what else? I can feel emotions; but what knowledge can I attain... :confused:
 
Arjen
 
Reply Tue 30 Oct, 2007 06:21 pm
@NeitherExtreme,
In this case a lot depends on your definitions. Before we get to defining, lets first examine your a priori quetsion:

A priori thoughts in itself has nothing to do with language. The question is if it is possible that I can have a priori knowledge of any kind. Let's take a door for example. I have a priori knowledge of doors. I know they have certain dimensions, a handle and usually a nice paint job. I aquired this knowledge through my senses though.

So, the real question is: do humans have any kind of a priori knowledge as of birth. The answer to that is yes. We do have a priori knowledge of the concepts of space and time. This knowledge is needed to structure the information gathered by our senses. Perhaps it is best to check out Immanuel Kant's work. We have a topic on him, right here.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 30 Oct, 2007 06:29 pm
@NeitherExtreme,
NeitherExtreme wrote:
I have a random question about A Priori knowledge. As far as I understand it A Priori means knowledge that is gained without the use of information gleaned through the senses. Language, and thereby our ability to mentally use language to organize our thoughts in our minds, is learned throught our senses. The whole idea of language as a means to organize thougths is gained through our senses. This is partially seen in the fact that infants don't seem to have much organized thought; even medically speaking their brain's acitivity is dissimilar to an adult's awake/alert/thinking brain. If all this is true, can a person use language to come to A Priori knowledge? And is it possible to have organized thoughts without thinking in terms of the sense? In my mind I can think with language, I can imagine physical sensatioins, I can visualize pictures, I can recall smells and tastes, but what else? I can feel emotions; but what knowledge can I attain... :confused:


Take the example of the statement, All Bachelors are unmarried males. It is true that we learn the concepts of bachelor, and unmarried males, via the senses. But, once we have learned these concepts (understand what they mean) we know, a priori that all bachelors are unmarried males.
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Tue 30 Oct, 2007 06:31 pm
@Arjen,
Arjen wrote:

So, the real question is: do humans have any kind of a priori knowledge as of birth. The answer to that is yes. We do have a priori knowledge of the concepts of space and time. This knowledge is needed to structure the information gathered by our senses. Perhaps it is best to check out Immanuel Kant's work. We have a topic on him, right here.

I was reading up on that topic a bit, and hopefully I'll keep learning.Smile

About our understanding space and time: I would have thought that we come to understand space and time through our experience of them in the physical universe. A newborn does not have a good understanding of space or time as far as I know. I've heard one of the reasons infants freak out when their mom leaves their field of vision is that they don't realise that the mom still exists, which would seem like a very incomplete idea of space, which is grown out of as the child gains in experience. I don't have any good examples, but young children also seem to me to have limited understanding of time as well. Am I wrong? :confused:
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Tue 30 Oct, 2007 06:42 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
Take the example of the statement, All Bachelors are unmarried males. It is true that we learn the concepts of bachelor, and unmarried males, via the senses. But, once we have learned these concepts (understand what they mean) we know, a priori that all bachelors are unmarried males.

Ok, I think I get what you're saying. Smile You're saying the fact that we need sensory-learned words to organize that thought doesn't affect the fact that we have grasped the concept. (I think) I still think there is something to the fact that even in our minds we can only function using "fake" senses. If we had somehow been born without any physical senses, would we be able to have a consious thought?

To me this might either discredit our thinking or give credit to the senses. Either way, I guess I just never thought about how linked our mind and senses are: We can sense without our minds, our minds can't think without our senses...

(One thing I noticed about that particular example is that it is stating a truth about the definition of a word. Can you think of an example of A Priori knowledge that would not involve defining a word?)
 
PoPpAScience
 
Reply Tue 30 Oct, 2007 06:53 pm
@NeitherExtreme,
Consciousness has many tools (senses) to help our individualized mind conceptualize the environment it is in.
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Tue 30 Oct, 2007 06:58 pm
@PoPpAScience,
PoPpAScience wrote:
Consciousness has many tools (senses) to help our individualized mind conceptualize the environment it is in.

Can you push this out a little for me? I'm not sure I follow...Surprised
 
PoPpAScience
 
Reply Tue 30 Oct, 2007 07:48 pm
@NeitherExtreme,
I guess when I read what you wrote below, this sentence came to me as away of agreeing with you, in short form. Mind needing the senses ether fake or not, to be conceptualized by consciousness so mind can think.
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Tue 30 Oct, 2007 07:50 pm
@PoPpAScience,
PoPpAScience wrote:
I guess when I read what you wrote below, this sentence came to me as away of agreeing with you, in short form. Mind needing the senses ether fake or not, to be conceptualized by consciousness so mind can think.

Oh, Ok. I see what you were saying...
I got it this time. Thanks.Smile
 
Arjen
 
Reply Wed 31 Oct, 2007 01:18 am
@NeitherExtreme,
NeitherExtreme wrote:
I was reading up on that topic a bit, and hopefully I'll keep learning.Smile

Just keep asking, I am fairly certain I can answer most questions. And if not, I would thank you even more.
Quote:

About our understanding space and time: I would have thought that we come to understand space and time through our experience of them in the physical universe. A newborn does not have a good understanding of space or time as far as I know.

Very true. The knowlegde is as base as it comes. It is refined by use of our senses and reason. However, the base concept of it must exist so categories can be understood through which our mind classifies things. Because this exists in us we really only need one thing and from there we could imagine everything else by use of these categories.

Quote:

I've heard one of the reasons infants freak out when their mom leaves their field of vision is that they don't realise that the mom still exists, which would seem like a very incomplete idea of space, which is grown out of as the child gains in experience. I don't have any good examples, but young children also seem to me to have limited understanding of time as well. Am I wrong? :confused:

Limited, yes. But it exists. In this case I am under the impression that it has more to do with the experience that mum is always there. But I am no expert.
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Wed 31 Oct, 2007 01:53 pm
@NeitherExtreme,
Thanks for the informative post, and for working through this with me.Smile

About the newborn's sense of space/time: I guess what I'm really sugesting (although certainly not proving) is that if our concepts of space and time start out very "small" or limited, and continue to grow by our experience of them, wouldn't it make sense to say that if experience was zero, our conceptualization of them would also be zero. I guess I'm picturing something like a line graph with three points on it. What I'm talking about is completely theoretical. I made a crude graph to show what I'm thinking. I my guess would be that the red line is acurate, while I think you would be saying the blue is. It all seems pretty theoretical though...

Anyhow, something I'm still not sure about: is all the understanding and reasoning ability we gain through our physical senses not to be used for trued A Priori knowledge? And if this is so, what level of organized understanding could we come to without what we learned through the senses?
 
 

 
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