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The Problem of Certainty

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Certainty is where you are sure of something. But have you ever really thought about something you were sure is true, like your basic knowledge of everyday things. For example, two plus two equals four. We all know that it true because that is what we were taught, but have you ever thought about it. How do we know that two plus two equals four? How are we certain? Maybe the number two is not what we really think it is. Maybe two plus two does not equal four because the number two actually stands for one thing and not two. Certainty at first glance does not seem to propose a problem, but look at the above example; certainty really does pose a problem. The idea of certainty is not simple. In this chapter, they discuss the German philosopher Immanuel Kant and his disagreement of the views of the philosopher David Hume.

Kant stated, "I openly confess my recollection of David Hume was the very thing which many years ago first interrupted my dogmatic slumber and gave me my investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a quite new direction". (Pg 199) Here Kant is stating that he sees something very wrong with the way David Hume thinks and teaches philosophy that is has awaken him to see a whole new light on things and need to prove Hume wrong. Kant feels that there is something wrong with the way of thinking, and that was when he started to criticize Hume. Kant stated how he was certain about something that Hume called "matters of fact." Kant wanted to know how us humans posses knowledge and not question whether we possess knowledge. Kant's questioning and knowledge established a different approach to the problems between rationalism and empiricism, and by this makes himself to be known as one of the greatest epistemologist of all times.

Here we learn some terminology that was established by Kant. Kant came up with the terminology a priori knowledge and a posteriori knowledge. A priori knowledge is knowledge that comes before an experience making it independent of an experience. This represents a rationalist. A posteriori knowledge is knowledge that comes after an experience making it dependent on an experience. This represents the empiricist emphasis. Next, we look at the difference between analytic and synthetic knowledge. Analytic knowledge is when having the predicate already in the subject makes a statement. Analytic knowledge is the truth based off of a definition, but does not bear on reality. The book gives an example of, "All barking dogs bark" (pg. 200). With this statement the knowledge we are given must be true due to the definition. It would be hard to disagree with this statement. Once again it states all barking dogs bark. Meaning that if there are barking dogs then they must be barking because we were already told that there are barking dogs, making this a true statement whether or not there are dogs. This statement is a priori, because the knowledge is not based off of experience. Synthetic knowledge correlates with Hume's "matter of fact". Here instead of the predicate being already contained in the subject, the predicate adds something to the subject, making to ideas arise. The book gives the example of, "water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit". Here the example given informs us of something, letting us know and actual fact about the world. Synthetic knowledge confirms or denies a fact about our world by bearing on reality.

Kant now argues how Synthetic a priori knowledge is possible. He states, "If by them only it is possible to think any object of experience, it follows that they refer by necessity and a priori to all objects of experience." (Pg 207-208) Here Kant is stating that the perception of objects is how they are represented by our intellect and knowledge. He then goes on by stating

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