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Thread: Contingent a priori truth?

  1. #1
    Creepy-

    Default Contingent a priori truth?

    I read that some thinkers (or maybe "thinkers") claim that there is such thing as "contingent a priori truth", allegedly contradicting Kant's claim. Ok here's the example I found:
    Some philosophers have argued that there are contingent a priori truths (Kripke 1972; Kitcher 1980b). An example of such a truth is the proposition that the standard meter bar in Paris is one meter long. This claim appears to be knowable a priori since the bar in question defines the length of a meter. And yet it also seems that there are possible worlds in which this claim would be false (e.g., worlds in which the meter bar is damaged or exposed to extreme heat).
    This is obviously false to me and I have a hard time to understand how these people can be taken seriously. Nevertheless, I would like to know sensible opinions regarding this matter, and possibly examples that are not flawed, in case I'm missing something.

    Here's my reasoning why that bar example draws a false conclusion: it is asserted that it is an a-priori truth because the meter is defined as the length of that bar, no problem here. But the claim that there are hypothetical cases when it is false fails, because no matter how long that bar is, it will still define a meter - because that's the definition. When the bar corrodes to the half if its length at the time the convention was made, then the new meter unit will simply be half of old one, there is no way to invalidate this fact, as long as the definition stands in place.

    Now some try to argue that it is "obvious" that the bar can't stay exactly one meter long in different worlds. You can prove that by cutting a stick or a wire to exactly one meter and come later to measure the rod by it. Well, first of all, when you decide that the reference (the definition) of the meter is the length of that stick/wire, you basically redefined the meter, as the length of that object - that is now the a-priori truth which is in fact necessary. If you now measure the original rod, no matter what length it will be, your finding will be a a-posteriori type of knowledge, and therefore being contingent is consistent with Kant's view.

    This case of "transferring" the definition and measuring, but also the idea claiming that you "intuitively know" that one meter is not exactly the length of that bar are anyway not applicable to the first definition, it's just a gross and outrageous relativism: the definition was initially understood as "the length of the bar defines one meter". Basically to claim that "one meter is a fixed dimension in all worlds" and "one meter is the length of this bar" are equivalent, one must use an additional assertion in the first place: "the bar has a fixed dimension in all worlds", which is incorrect and not accepted as truth from the start.

    Edit: note that the literal statement in the example, "the standard meter bar in Paris is one meter long" is actually a-posteriori, unless it is acknowledged that it means - and is therefore replaced by - "the bar in question defines the length of a meter".

    -- Bolt
    Last edited by Parasite; 02-05-2011 at 12:56 PM. Reason: it's a posteriori

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    It appears to be an IM disorder. Something that is a priori true is positive Alpha Ti that is unchangeable. What seems to be going on is that they are assuming a disconnect between Ti and Te: Ti is subordinate to Te. However of course, the meter is an idea of a thing that has a certain length.

    They are arguing that if you destroy the representation, you destroy the means by which meters can be measured. No one will actually remember what a meter is if you destroy all traces of the idea, that's true. But so long as the meter is remembered, it can be known as "true". Seems like it's a belief that things only exist if you know them.

    At root, it's an assertion that an unchangeable idea may be destroyed, therefore it is changeable. While it is indeed possible to destroy an idea, destroying the meter is simply not feasible today. It's wasted energy which is, quite frankly, only of genuine interest to me and whoever else is viewing reality in terms of information subelements. Although now, that they would obsess over it to this degree, suggests that they have some level of cognitive difficulty with probability, which is what we base notions of permanence on. I believe there was some cognitive research on that, that it was correlated to neuron threshold potentials I believe.

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    The standard now is apparently how far light can travel in a vacuum in a certain period of time - even that might be flawed, if for example light is slowly slowing down as has apparently been observed.

  4. #4
    Creepy-

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    I made a mistake, I used "post-priori" instead of "a-posteriori" in the text, so if someone did not understood because of a supposed different term invented by me, should read the corrected OP.
    (seems that I'm not the only one doing this mistake https://duckduckgo.com/?v=n&q=%22post+priori%22)
    Quote Originally Posted by tcaudilllg View Post
    It appears to be an IM disorder. Something that is a priori true is positive Alpha Ti that is unchangeable. What seems to be going on is that they are assuming a disconnect between Ti and Te: Ti is subordinate to Te. However of course, the meter is an idea of a thing that has a certain length.
    What are you calling "disorder"?

    I think that what's going on is rather a Fi view. In our terminology, Kant deals with External IEs (Logic and Sensing) exclusively, but the authors of the revision - at least Kripke, who has given the example - use an Internal interpretation of the a-priori statements, where you have the freedom to interpret the meanings freely, think of what the statements mean to you (in our case it would be Fi, but I won't discuss this here).

    The deviation from Kant's strict framework (seemingly infringement of Ti) appears in the key statement: "there is an intuitive difference between the phrase ‘one meter’ and the phrase ‘the length of S at t0’.". This was not written in the OP, but it was explored in my examples. Basically, the example is valid in the original context of Kant when having exclusively one meaning, while the example's interpretation has two meanings! One is the definition of one meter, whatever it is, the other is a, contingent indeed, a-posteriori statement: "the length of S is".
    Quote Originally Posted by tcaudilllg View Post
    At root, it's an assertion that an unchangeable idea may be destroyed, therefore it is changeable.
    Precisely.


    -Bolt
    Last edited by Parasite; 03-29-2011 at 09:20 AM.

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