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A posteriori Knowledge A priori knowledge. A posteriori knowledge is based on experience. A priori knowledge is knowledge that is not based on experience. If you can know something just by thinking about it, without consulting how the world appears to you, that is a priori knowledge.

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a posteriori knowledge a priori knowledge
A posteriori Knowledge A priori knowledge
  • A posteriori knowledge is based on experience.
  • A priori knowledge is knowledge that is not based on experience.
  • If you can know something just by thinking about it, without consulting how the world appears to you, that is a priori knowledge.
possible examples of a priori knowledge
Possible examples of a priori knowledge
  • “bachelors are unmarried”
  • 2+2=4
  • There cannot be a round square
  • Any logical truth—the connection between premises and conclusion in a valid argument
slide3
The dream argument calls into question knowledge based on experience, but it leaves a priori knowledge untouched
  • But the evil demon argument questions also a priori knowledge
the evil demon
The EVIL DEMON!
  • It is possible that there is a demon, with nearly godlike powers, who aims to deceive me.
  • Therefore it is possible that all my beliefs, are the result of the deceptive powers of a demon
  • Therefore I cannot trust any of my beliefs
meditation 2
Meditation 2
  • Descartes now tries to discover some belief or beliefs that can be known with certainty. These beliefs would have to be true even if there is a demon
  • He finds one: I exist.
  • But could an evil demon deceive him (or you) about your own existence?
slide6
Descartes answers no. Deception requires that there be something to be deceived.

Even if all my thoughts are mistaken, the thoughts must exist in order for them to be mistaken

Everytime I reflect on my thinking I can know with absolute certainty that I exist.

but what sort of thing is this i
But what sort of thing is this “I”
  • Am I a rational animal?
  • Am I a human being?
  • What is essential to this “I” that I know to exist?

Essentially, what I am is not human being, not rational animal, but a thinking thing

Why?

slide8
The knowledge that I am human or an animal, or even have any body, is still in doubt. A demon can deceive me about these things. So I cannot know anything about my physical being. But there is something I know. What I know is the residuum, it is what is left over after all that can be doubted is doubted—thinking, consciousness.
solipsism
Solipsism!
  • Solipsism is a view that can only be stated in the first person.
  • My mind is all that exists, everything else only exists as I experience it.

There are few if any solipsists. But is there any way to refute solipsism?

the piece of wax
The piece of wax
  • Therefore we know the mind with much more clarity than we know the body.
  • But this is hard to believe. Its easy to think that knowledge of the physical world is much more concrete, “tangible,” and that the mind is somehow mysterious
  • The piece of wax example shows us this is an error
slide11
Take a piece of wax, melt it.
  • All the sensible properties change
  • Yet we still believe, we still take the wax to be the same thing
  • This shows: [supposed] knowledge of physical things is based on the mind. We need to think to know the physical world
  • Our concept of the physical world is not a bundle of sensible qualities.
slide12
What we understand when we understand that the piece of wax is the same is a “flexible, extended substance”
  • It is what underlies or causes our perceptions, not what we directly perceive
  • Descartes is foreshadowing future conclusions in the Meditations.
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