The a priori method...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by orchard, Nov 11, 2009.

  1. orchard Senior Member



    I have a problem with the following sentence. I am not sure whether I could grasp the intended meaning or not. Could you please reformulate the sentence, especially the part in bold-face in order for it to make more sense?

    Many thanks in advance.

    "The a priori method consists of demonstrating the necessary agreement or disagreement of anything with a rational and social nature, whereas the a posteriori method follows the more fallible course of concluding, if not with absolute assurance, at least with every probability, that that is according to the law of nature which is believed to be such among all nations, or among all those that are more advanced in civilization."
  2. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    I'll reformulate this long sentence by casting it into shorter ones. The a priori method demonstrates that any statement either agrees or disagrees with a rational and social nature. The a posteriori method concludes that in all probability those things which civilized nations believe to accord with natural law in fact do so.

    To tell you the truth, I still find the language to be difficult and abstract even after rewriting it. This is usually the case with philosophy because the things that philosophers talk about generally are hard to understand.
  3. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    "According" here means "in agreement with" or "in accordance with." Thus, one could read this as saying that the conclusions are "in agreement with the law of nature that is accepted by all nations, or at least those that are more civilized."
  4. Eigenfunction Senior Member

    England - English
    Philosophical concepts are generally confusing enough without being expressed using such convoluted sentence structures. Even considering the fact that most languages evolved to tell people where the tastiest fruit is, and are thus ill equipped to explain abstract philosophical concepts, this sentence seems to me to be badly written and full of unnecessary ambiguity.
    As I read it, hidden in the bold bit are the following smidgens of information (as I read it, although to be honest it's so vague in parts that it's open to interpretation):

    • The a posteriori method draws conclusions (from some sort of evidence, observation or knowledge)
    • It concludes that something is according to the laws of nature. (A banana is yellow, so we conclude that the laws of nature say that bananas should be yellow)
    • Everyone except uncivilised people thinks these laws of nature exist. (This bit is still confusing me, as first the writer uses that to refer to something he has already mentioned. The only concept I can see it referring to is the anything mentioned in the first sentence, which is quite vague. The word which I assume to refer to 'the law of nature')

    So, all in all, I understand the paragraph as:

    The a priori method takes logical/rational arguments to prove if something is true or not. (I would love to give an example but the very nature of the concept in question makes it difficult - there has been considerable debate in philosophy as whether a priori knowledge can exist, i.e. Is there some rational logic underlying everything? Can you conceivably deduce that bananas must be yellow, without observing the universe at all?)

    The a posteriori method looks at whether it has been observed to be true in order to predict whether it is true. (e.g I have seen many yellow bananas hence I think all bananas are yellow)

    I may be wrong…
  5. Cypherpunk Senior Member

    Springdale, AR
    US, English
    You have not included the entire argument, so it is difficult to say how this description of a priori and a posteriori knowledge relate to what you are reading. Furthermore, this quote seems to be using a priori and a posteriori differently than they are commonly defined. I would take a look at this article, which discusses the two types of knowledge (a priori knowledge can be reasoned solely from knowledge that one possesses, while a posteriori knowledge must be determined using empirical facts).

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