Discussion 15: Kant on Pure Reason and Empirical Knowledge

Question: How does Kant distinguish between pure reason and empirical knowledge, and what role does a priori knowledge play? Do you agree with Kant’s assessment? Explain your answer.

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Kant states that pure reason leads to priori knowledge while empirical knowledge is the result of experiences. This means that knowledge may come from pure reasoning, that is, following logical analysis to determine the truth about something, or knowledge can come from experiences. Kant does not refute either of the statements about priori knowledge and empirical knowledge. Instead, Kant states that a combination of pure reasoning and empirical knowledge can be used to produce more valid knowledge. According to Kant, priori knowledge involves the use of pure reasoning to make a conclusion. For instance, the statement, “Every bachelor is unmarried” is pure reasoning and leads to priori knowledge since one does not have to experience it first before knowing. Priori knowledge helps in determining the truth before experience. Kant’s analysis of priori knowledge is consistent with the principle of cause and effect. Furthermore, Kant uses transcendent deduction to explain how to arrive at priori knowledge. For example, “Only if A then B, B from which we can infer A.” Therefore, if A causes B, then it can be deduced that if A happens, then B will happen without experiencing A.

I agree with Kant’s assessment that a combination of reason and experience helps in producing valid knowledge.  This because a person may have knowledge of something without having the experience. By reasoning and logical analysis, one can have knowledge of something. This is consistent with the principle of cause and effect whereby it is possible to determine the effect of something by reasoning. Also, Kant’s analysis is consistent with the Book of Proverbs which states, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). Therefore, through thinking, a person creates the circumstances. The circumstance becomes the effect of thought. If a person thinks bad thoughts, bad circumstances are manifested. Conversely, good thoughts lead to good circumstances. Also, I agree with Kant that a person can have empirical knowledge. For instance, a person may reason out that an egg hatches into a chick (this is priori knowledge), because a person has never seen an egg hatch into a chick. When the egg is seen hatching into a chick, this becomes posteriori knowledge, which leads to empirical knowledge because the person has experienced the process by which an egg hatches into a chick. If a person thinks thoughts of malice and hatred and turns out to be hated by others, then the person has had both priori knowledge and empirical knowledge.

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