Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Is there such a concept of "A priori" reasoning?

A priori reasoning is reasoning without experience nor empirical evidence:

A priori knowkedge is knowledge which can be established independently of experience or reasoning from experience. Examples of a priori truths: ‘Bachelors are male’; ‘2+2=4’. ANALYTIC truths are a priori

I realised yesterday, much of what I despise in jurisprudence, economics and philosophy in general is down to a priori reasoning. I guess that makes me a logical positivist or empircist. I just think it is completely fruitless to reason without looking at the world. But the more fundamental question is: can you even begin to reason without experience?

I submit you cannot. Pure axiomatic systems are often given as examples of pure a priori reasoning i.e. mathematics, so lets take that. In a Darwinian analysis we are copies of information that has been generated, imperfectly and with mutations, over billions of years. Postulating natural selection has lead to us evolving the faculty of reasoning and the ability to perform mathematical operations in abstract. However far from being outside experience, the very reason we evolved this faculty is because of our genetic constitution. It is precisely the experience of our distant ancestors over billions of years we can reason a priori, if the environment had not lead natural selection to select the faculty of mathematics, we could not reason in such a manor.

Perhaps this is fanciful semantics. I just cannot fathom how one could reason, instantly, without any experience. Perhaps this is what Socrates theory of universal forms would look like with a Darwinian spin. His theory concluded:

we do not learn anything - we remember what we already know; all the knowledge of forms or universals, is already in our minds.

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