IAS Main – 2014: Philosophy (Optional) Solutions

Q.1 (a): How are the Synthetic a priori Judgments justifiable according to Kant? Explain!

From Civil Services Main – 2014 : Philosophy Optional Paper (Section – A)

According to Hume, the sceptic, necessary truths, which alone constitute knowledge, are not possible. Mathematics which consists of necessary truths does not have any real world for its content and reference. Mathematical propositions are true because they contain definitions which cannot be denied. But these definitions are concepts and not the products of perceptual experience. In other words, mathematical propositions are only analytic. Hence they do not give us knowledge. Kant wanted to show, as against Hume, the mathematical propositions like in Physics are not analytic but synthetic. And yet they are not empirical but a priori. That is to say, the knowledge that they convey is necessary and universal and at the same time it conveys information about the world. This has been shown by Kant on the theory that space on which geometry in mathematics is based, is a form of perception and hence, spatial knowledge also is perceptual. It is also a priori at the same time because space, like, is universally the same in all. So far as the source of knowledge is concerned, spatial and temporal perception on which sciences like Geometry are based, are a priori; and in so far as the content of these perceptions are concerned, they are synthetic. Hence, geometry is synthetic and priori.

A synthetic proposition gives information in its predicate. This information cannot be explicated out of the subject purely as a matter of verbal definition as is possible in an analytic proposition. Kant said that a synthetic proposition need not necessarily be a posteriori. The reason for his saying so is obvious. He wants to ensure universality and necessarily along with an experiential basis for the systems of knowledge like Mathematics and Physics. Mathematics has, in addition to necessity and universality, an experiential reference and has a synthetic character. Physics, in addition to having an experiential basis, has a priori elements which give it universality and necessity. Thus true knowledge is possible and Hume is mistaken in his scepticism.

The distinction drawn by Hume that a priori knowledge is true but purely analytic and conceptual and a posteriori knowledge is empirical but not true, is therefore unjustified. In Mathematics and Physics, a knowledge that is both true and universal, in other words, that is synthetic and a priori, is available. Geometry and Mathematics are synthetic a priori. The arithmetic additions of 7 + 5 = 12 is not a self-evident truth as it sometimes appears to be. Its obviousness is due to the familiarity. The product “12” is not contained already in the separatenumbers as their very definition. That they should add up to “12” is a new arrival on the performance of an addition. That this is so is made quite clear when we deal with very large numbers for addition. Similarly, in geometry the proposition “a straight line is the shortest distance between two points” is synthetic because the idea of “shortest” is not contain in the idea of straight”. Though it is synthetic the proposition is universally true. Hence the above proposition is synthetic a priori.

In Physics, the statement. “Every event has a cause” is synthetic a priori. What happens when things are “caused” is only succession perceived in experience as Hume rightly perceived. This is the synthetic part of the above statement. But the concept “cause” itself is not given in experience but is subscribed by the very structure of thought. This is the a priori element which makes the statement universal and certain. Hence, the statements in Physics like the above one are synthetic a priori and true knowledge.

We have earlier seen that such synthetic a priori character which ensure the universality and certainty and at the same time the experiential character of mathematics and physics, ensuring their objectivity is possible according to Kant because there are always two elements distinguishable in any experience: (1) The sensory (2) The conceptual. But even in the sensory source of our perceptions, there are a priori elements of space and time. No knowledge could arise without the basic structure of space and time. They are a priori forms of intuition or sensibility. Though we get through our senses, information about the external world of objects, this information must have to pass the framework of space and time. Thus even as our sensory perceptions put into us, they are stamped with the a priori forms of space and time. But this does not make us conclude that all our informations are just subjective. On the contrary. Kant said that there is an objectivity in all that we perceive because the space-time forms of sensibility are common and universal framework. Hence, all of us cannot but perceive the same way. So the world of common knowledge is assured objectively. Since all of us perceive alike through the same mechanism, what is perceived by one is perceived by others, in the same way. And this is the only meaning of ‘objectivity’. Apart from this, we do not know whether there are objects outside us as we know them. A dream, Kant would say, dreamt by all is no more a subjective dream but becomes an objective world of experience. We cannot even conceive the contrary to this.

Kant then said that what is given to us is from outside, not from within ourselves. Yet, what is given is received only through the space and time which are innate and a priori. Therefore, our knowledge is confined to what is thus given, conditioned by space and time, though these conditions are universal and common to all observers. In other words, Kant said that we know only the phenomena, not actually the things-in-themselves which cause the phenomena. The things-in-themselves are called noumena which must be forever beyond our knowing. They do not, and cannot, enter our scientific knowledge. But this does not at all affect adversely the possibility of genuine knowledge characterized by certainty and universality, because objectivity and universality and certainty are assured by a priori space and time conditions being common to all observers.

(b) Bring out the significance of ‘language game’ in Wittgenstein’s use theory of meaning?

From Civil Services Main – 2014 : Philosophy Optional Paper (Section – A)

There is no certain and definite method of playing the language game. In the process named as language game as the problem arises, we have to play different game and there is no way of sorting out all the problems in one go, but we have -to play an independent game in reference to the each problem as it arises to get the solution. In order to address the countless multiplicity of uses, their un- fixedness, and their being “part of an activity”, Wittgenstein introduced the key concept of ‘language-game’. He never explicitly defined it since, as opposed to the earlier ‘picture theory’, this new concept is made to do work for a more fluid, more diversified, and more activity-oriented perspective on language.

Wittgenstein used the term “language-game” (Sprachspiel) to designate forms of language simpler than the entirety of a language itself, “consisting of language and the actions into which it is woven” and connected by family resemblance. The concept was intended “to bring into prominence the fact that the speaking of language is part of an activity, or a form of life”. The term ‘language game’ is used to refer to- Fictional examples of language use that are simpler than our own everyday language, Simple uses of language with which children are first taught language, Specific regions of our language with their own grammars and relations to other language-games and All of a natural language composed of a family of language-games. These meanings are not separated from each other by sharp boundaries, but blend into one another (as suggested by the idea of family resemblance). The concept is based on the following analogy: The rules of language (grammar) are analogous to the rules of games; meaning something in language is thus analogous to making a move in a game. The analogy between a language and a game brings out the fact that only in the various and multiform activities of human life do words have meaning. Thus, the central component of language games is that they are uses of language, and language is used in multifarious ways. For example, in one language-game, a word might be used to stand for (or refer to) an object, but in another the same word might be used for giving orders, or for asking questions, and so on.

The famous example is the meaning of the word “game”. We speak of various kinds of games: board games, betting games, sports, “war games”. These are all different uses of the word “games”.  Wittgenstein asks us to “consider for example the proceedings that we call “games”, look and see whether there is anything common to all.” He mentions card games, board games, ball games, games like ring-a-ring-a-roses and concludes: “And we can go through the many, many other groups of games in the same way; we can see how similarities crop up and disappear…….. And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities.” Wittgenstein’s point was that things which may be thought to be connected by one essential common feature may in fact be connected by a series of overlapping similarities, where no one feature is common to all. Games, which Wittgenstein used to explain the notion, have become the paradigmatic example of a group that is related by family resemblances. He explains it by stating:”I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than “family resemblances”; for the various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, colour of eyes, gait, temperament, etc. etc. overlap and criss-cross in the same way.- And I shall say: “games” form a family.

Some properties of language-games can be noticed in Wittgenstein’s several examples and comments. They are, first, a part of a broader context termed by Wittgenstein a form of life. Secondly, the concept of language-games points at the rule-governed character of language. This does not entail strict and definite systems of rules for each and every language-game, but points to the conventional nature of this sort of human activity. Finally, Wittgenstein’s choice of ‘game’ is based on the over-all analogy between language and game, assuming that we have a clearer perception of what games are. Still, just as we cannot give a final, essential definition of ‘game’, so we cannot find what is common to all these activities and what makes them into language or parts of language” Instead of these symptoms of the philosopher’s “craving for generality”, he points to ‘family resemblance’ as the more suitable analogy for the means of connecting particular uses of the same word. There is no reason to look, as we have done traditionally — and dogmatically — for one, essential core in which the meaning of a word is located and which is, therefore, common to all uses of that word. We should, instead, travel with the word’s uses through “a complicated network of similarities, overlapping and criss-crossing”. Family resemblance also serves to exhibit the lack of boundaries and the distance from exactness that characterize different uses of the same concept.

(e) How far are Quine’s arguments in “Two Dogmas of Empricism” justified? Discuss.

From Civil Services Main – 2014 : Philosophy Optional Paper (Section – A)

As far as, second dogma of empiricism is concerned, then it is known as REDUCTIONISM, which means that all the statements are the logical constructions of the terms which indicates towards the immediate experience or in other words, the statement indicating towards the objects can be converted in the empirical statement, can be verified independently because a statement is supposed to be verified only when all the concerning statements can be verified as well. Actually, the conventional and modern empiricist had preferred the experience over the object that’s why the empiricist Locke said that we do have only the knowledge of ideas and the material objects are something but I don’t know what. While the renowned empiricist Hume said that all knowledge is confined only up to the impressions and ideas, on which basis even we can’t prove the existence of material objects, because we have no direct knowledge of the objects. Even Russell and logical positivists also said that the external objects are the logical construction of the sense data. That’s why according to empiricist, the experience and the sense data is the base of whole philosophical analysis, but Quine opposed it and said that the existence of material objects can’t supposed to be secondary, because to receive the experience, the existence of the material objects is necessary, otherwise no experience is possible. So, according to Quine priority shall be given to the objects which used to be reflected up to our eyes. It suppose to be the input of the knowledge and Then after, we do have the knowledge of the objects and we can explain and describe it, which is output of the knowledge which is not possible without the existence of the material objects.

After criticizing, both the dogmas of empiricism it appears that Quine is totally against the empiricism but it is not the reality as well, because  he was a Radical Empiricist. This term was primarily introduced in the nineteenth century for the philosophy of William James, who used the term empiricism in the extended manner and included all kinds of perceptions, conceptions, fear, knowledge, doubts, feelings etc. in it. But, Quine is a radical empiricist in a different way because even after criticizing the dogmas of empiricism Quine does believe that the ultimate evidence behind each and every ontological and scientific theory can be only empirical, and the language and its meaning can be explained on the basis of experience as well. Although, these suppositions were also recognized by the conventional empiricist, but definitely the radical empiricism of Quine is different from the conventional empiricism, because Quine was against the dogmas of conventional empiricism.

Finally, In order to give his opinion, Quine said that each and every statement have the meaning and factuality as well, but there ratio may be increased or decreased. In the statements of mathematics and logic, definitely the percentage of meaning is very high, but it doesn’t mean that it has no factuality; similarly in the empirical statements the percentage of factuality is very high, but it doesn’t mean it has no meaning.          The modern empiricist categorized the first one as analytical and second one as synthetical, but according to Quine, since both meaning and factuality are available in every statement, so no such distinction can be made.

Due to above reasons he titled his article as “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”. But later on, Strawson and Grice criticized the Quine’s view as well and in his article “In defense of Dogmas”, Strawson said that it is really difficult to reject the distinction between analytical and synthetical, because in mathematics and logic, we do have numbers of necessary statements and even in the descriptive languages we can have the analytical statements as well, but the condition is our language must be clear and shall have no ambiguity at all. In order to prove his opinion, Strawson said that perhaps Quine couldn’t make out the difference between the logical impossibility and natural impossibility

Here strawson had given the example of two statements:–

1. The three year old child of my neighbor is adult.
2. The three year old child of my neighbor understands the critical philosophy of Russell.

According to strawson, both the statements are wrong and impossible as well, but where in the first statement, impossibility is logical then in the second statement, impossibility is natural. So, if we negate the logical impossibility, then we can have the analytical statement, which will definitely be true. So, according to Strawson and Grice, Quine’s attack on distinction between analytical and synthetical is not supposed to be justified at all.