Kant’s Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

sq_kant3One of the oldest and most problematic philosophical questions is the comparison of the a prioria posteriori distinction with that of the analyticsynthetic distinction. Both are used in epistemology to divide knowledge, or true statements, between the innate and the learned, or the immediate and the earned, so they might even be considered the same. A priori and a posteriori statements are before “experience” and after it, respectively. Analytic statements are true only by their “meaning”, whereas synthetic statements are true only when facts about the world are combined consistently with that meaning.

It seems we have complicated the issue because now we must define and understand “experience” and “meaning”. However, these concepts are not independent because we must experience meaning, and meaning in turn conditions experience. In addition, even the a priori or the analytic are not innate or immediately obvious because deductions and the rules of logic require effort just like inductions do. Otherwise we would have Fitch’s Paradox: all truths are in fact known. What a muddle! So both experience and meaning are necessarily locked into a cooperative spiral dance to improve each other.

Even so, these two distinctions can be distinguished and combined into a fourfold.

The web site of Stephen R. Palmquist has a great wealth of material on fourfolds in relation to Kant’s as well as his own philosophy. sq_kant3bFrom my own initial reading of his extensive material I have tried to choose a canonical Kantian fourfold which has the most relevance to my project.

The fourfold shown to the right Dr. Palmquist calls Kant’s “reflective perspectives on experience”. Consisting of the logical, the empirical, the transcendental, and the hypothetical, these facets bear a close analogical likeness to many of the fourfolds presented here.

Logical: Analytic a priori
Transcendental: Synthetic a priori
Hypothetical: Analytic a posteriori
Empirical: Synthetic a posteriorikant_table

Dr. Palmquist also has many of his own books available on his web site for the interested reader. I will certainly be returning to his web site in the future for much enjoyable study.


Revised diagrams to switch analytic and synthetic axes.













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3 Responses to “Kant’s Analytic-Synthetic Distinction”

  1. J.-Y. Girard’s Transcendental Syntax, V2 | Equivalent eXchange Says:

    […] a closer analogy for the fourfold of Transcendental Syntax is to Hjelmslev’s Net than to Kant’s Analytic-Synthetic Distinction. If so, then Performance and L’usage are Content (Implicit), whereas Constat and […]

  2. uttam Tripura Says:

    Sir i have to need this analytic and synthetic distinguish beetween question answer.how to create this answer i can not uderstand.so please elsborately tell me

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