Synthetic A Priori Argumentation

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  • #703

    Spooner Bookman

    Elsewhere, @jacob says “I reject synthetic a priori argumentation because I want to understand the real world, not just play logic games, and to do so I must derive my ideas from the evidence available.”

    What about, for example, in the real world, if the cost of something goes up, all things being equal, demand for it will go down — that’s useful, practical (common sense) information about the world that can be deduced — only — aprioristically, is it not?

    If I would like to understand the world as best I can, I *must* make full use of all my reasoning, including aprioristic reasoning (especially with regards to economics), else I wouldn’t be able to understand things like this.

    Convince me I’m wrong? Wouldn’t I be limiting my understanding of the world if reject synthetic a priori reasoning in at least some areas of life (e.g., economics)?

    . . .

    The following is from Hoppe, should be good fuel for the fire, so to speak:

    The ultimate difference from which all disagreements at the levels of economic theory and economic policy stem concerns the answer to the very first question that any economist must raise: What is the subject matter of economics, and what kind of propositions are economic theorems?

    Mises’s answer is that economics is the science of human action. In itself, this may not sound very controversial. But then Mises says of the science of economics:

    Its statements and propositions are not derived from experience. They are, like those of logic and mathematics, a priori. They are not subject to verification and falsification on the ground of experience and facts. They are both logically and temporally antecedent to any comprehension of historical facts. They are a necessary requirement of any intellectual grasp of historical events.

    It is this assessment of economics as an a priori science, a science whose propositions can be given a rigorous logical justification, which distinguishes Austrians, or more precisely Misesians, from all other current economic schools. All the others… regard as dogmatic and unscientific Mises’s view that [Austrian] economic theorems… can be given definite proof, such that it can be shown to be plainly contradictory to deny their validity.

    The view of Mark Blaug, highly representative of mainstream methodological thought, illustrates this almost universal opposition to Austrianism. Blaug says of Mises, “His writings on the foundations of economic science are so cranky and idiosyncratic that one can only wonder that they have been taken seriously by anyone.”

    Blaug does not provide one argument to substantiate his outrage. His chapter on Austrianism simply ends with that statement. Could it be that Blaug’s and others’ rejection of Mises’s apriorism may have more to do with the fact that the demanding standards of argumentative rigor, which an apriorist methodology implies, prove too much for them?

    • This topic was modified 1 week, 6 days ago by  Spooner Bookman. Reason: Formatting (block quotes format is hard to read...)
  • #716


    I doubt if Jacob rejects mathematics. Reviewing the terms used, I found the following concise explanation on a philosophy site:

    — long quote: —

    Unlike his predecessors, Kant maintained that synthetic a priori judgments not only are possible but actually provide the basis for significant portions of human knowledge. In fact, he supposed (pace Hume) that arithmetic and geometry comprise such judgments and that natural science depends on them for its power to explain and predict events. What is more, metaphysics—if it turns out to be possible at all—must rest upon synthetic a priori judgments, since anything else would be either uninformative or unjustifiable. But how are synthetic a priori judgments possible at all? This is the central question Kant sought to answer.

    Consider, for example, our knowledge that two plus three is equal to five and that the interior angles of any triangle add up to a straight line. These (and similar) truths of mathematics are synthetic judgments, Kant held, since they contribute significantly to our knowledge of the world; the sum of the interior angles is not contained in the concept of a triangle. Yet, clearly, such truths are known a priori, since they apply with strict and universal necessity to all of the objects of our experience, without having been derived from that experience itself. In these instances, Kant supposed, no one will ask whether or not we have synthetic a priori knowledge; plainly, we do. The question is, how do we come to have such knowledge? If experience does not supply the required connection between the concepts involved, what does?

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