A priori Definition
A priori is a philosophy term used to describe a type of knowledge. A priori means “from the earlier”, but this is kind of obvious because it sounds like the word “prior”. A priori knowledge is something you can figure out on your own with no research. A priori knowledge needs no investigation to justify or use it as a position in an argument. A priori is knowledge gained from other knowledge that was in turn gained through sense data. It is really just a technical definition meant to explain away 100% empiricism which says ALL knowledge must be experienced.
A Priori Example
“All fathers have a child” is a statement that is a priori. We know that a man is a father when he has a child. This statement is known without having to actively investigate. What’s more is with this knowledge even if you had to gain it through experience you can deduce other pieces of knowledge from it alone without having to experience anything.
This seems so obvious right? Well it’s time to go deeper…
…A Priori Knowledge, Deeper
In order to analyze a piece of data and figure out it’s a priori is actually an a priori process in itself. Let’s go back to the prior example. ”All fathers have a child”, actually needs prior knowledge gained by experience. One must experience the sense data of of birth or parenthood to understand the concept. The mental process we possess to understand this is actually the a priori knowledge we seek.
Logical Absolutes and A Priori Knowledge
There is a set of logic laws that are a priori. They exist as part of the brains base utility . These are the logical absolutes:
- Law of identity -> A thing is what it is and not what it is not
- Law of Excluded Middle -> A thing is either true or false but not both
- Law of Non-Contradiction -> Two opposing statements cannot both be true
These formulate a strong base for rummaging through sense data and appropriating it in such a way as to formulate opinions and beliefs about the world. Is there something even deeper?
More A Priori Knowledge?
To know the logical absolutes we have to be able to identify a thing. Identifying a thing is a priori knowledge in its process, we can see something, some object, and then we can know the object. This is essential in being able to state that this object is what it is and it’s not what it’s not. This a priori knowledge is the knowledge of objects not in details alone but the knowledge to be able to know an object. The knowing is a priori and this forms the basis of “feeling” or “experiencing” existence.
Now on to Kant
Immanuel Kant was the philosopher that invented the term to define knowledge garnered from pure knowledge. This is not to say that all knowledges source isn’t in the material world. In fact he admits or argues that all knowledge originates from sense data, it’s just that some knowledge is created from other knowledge in turn gained from experience.