This chapter, and it's companions, "Concepts," "Induction," and, "Cause," are necessary because these ideas are fundamental to all modern philosophy which has so corrupted them, no further progress in the field of philosophy is possible.
There are two disastrous mistakes in the philosophy of epistemology which have had devastating consequence in all of philosophy:
1. The wrong idea that concepts mean their definition.
2. That thinking (reason and logic) is the manipulation of symbols.
There are two other related mistakes addressed in separate chapters:
1. The corrected wrong view of induction (in the chapter, "Induction").
2. The corrected wrong view of cause (in the chapter "Cause)."
All these disastrous mistakes in philosophy can be attributed to two philosophers: David Hume, who's absurd views of epistemology permanently damaged it, and Immanuel Kant, whose improvements on Hume finished off epistemology for good. Philosophy has never recovered from the damage done by those two men.
Informally, knowledge may be described as everything one can identify and understand. That knowledge consists of every individual existent one recognizes, every kind of existent one can identify, and everything one understands about those existents and their relationships.
The process of gaining knowledge is discovering and learning what exists, and discovering and learning the nature of those existents, that is, their attributes, behavior, and relationships. The process of gaining knowledge is a twofold process. The first step in the process is conscious awareness of what exists, either by direct perception (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting) or indirectly from others (teachers and books, for example). The second is the rational process of identifying those existent and their natures.
The existents are rationally identified by means of concepts. The nature of existents, their attributes, behavior, and relationships are rationally described by means of propositions.
Knowledge consists of two primary components, concepts (by which existents are identified) and propositions (by which all that can be known about those existents is held). Knowledge begins with the concepts that identify that which all knowledge is about, and those concepts are the components of propositions by which all knowledge about what exists is described. One's knowledge consists of every concept and every proposition one has learned, stored in memory, and can recall.
[NOTE: Please see the short chapter, "Concepts," and the sections, "Knowledge and Propositions," and "All Knowledge Propositional," in the chapter, "Epistemology, Propositions"]
Hume never really defines what concepts are, except as fuzzy little pictures in one's head of what one has seen or experience, but does not let that oversight prevent him from making grand assertions about propositions. He divides propositions into two classes. One class are those proposition that are, "mere operations of thought," or "relations of ideas." The other class are those propositions, "concerned [with] matters of fact."
Examples of propositions Hume consider mere operations of thought are, "the interior angles of a Euclidean triangle sum to 180 degrees," and, "8 X 7 = 56," which Hume said can be known independent of any actual experience. Such propositions have to be true because to deny them is a contradiction.
Examples of propositions concerning matters of fact, "the cat is in the cupboard," or, "Paris is east of London," which can only be known by actual experience (or demonstration). Such propositions depend on experience or observation and do not have to be true, because they can be contradicted: Paris could be west of London and the cat could be outdoors.
The absurd distinction in kinds of propositions is called, "Hume's Fork." Kant took this simple confusion and turn it into a whole system of disintegration.
The whole of the Kantian destruction of epistemology is based on those two views of concepts. The division of knowledge into a priori/a posteriori, analytic/synthetic, necessary/contingent, deductive/inductive knowledge or truth turns all knowledge into a meaningless hodgepodge and truth into an impossibility.
Logically the mistake begins with the absurd analytic/synthetic dichotomy of propositions.
The Analytic/Synthetic Dichotomy
Analytic propositions are true, it is claimed, because the predicate is contained in the subject. Examples are:
All cats are animals.
Triangles have three sides.
All bachelors are unmarried.
Water is liquid.
All crows are birds.
Such propositions, it is said, can be shown to be true by mere analysis of the words. Since the definition of the subject terms include the definition of the predicate term, they must be true. "All cats are animals," is true, it is claimed, because, "cat," is defined as, "a species of animal."
The claim is that analytic propositions can be known by reason alone, without any reference to any observation or experience of evidence (existence).
The word, "cat," does not mean (or refer to) the definition, "a species of animal." The concept represented by the word, "cat," refers to actual existing feline animals. Symbols mean nothing and only represent concepts, and concepts mean actual existents. A symbol (word) that does not represent a concept identifying actual existents is non-cognitive. The word, "animal," is only a symbol as well. Unless, "animal," represents a concept for actual existents the symbol represents nothing.
The proposition itself is only true if there are actual existents, "cats," and actual existent, "animals," which cats are one kind of.
The reason the proposition, "All cats are animals," is true is because there are actual animals and one kind of animal is cats. The proposition cannot be known to be true by examining the words. It can only be known to be true if the concepts the words represent identify actual existents and the relationship between those existents is as described—there are actual animals and one variety is cats.
If the concept cat identified a plant and the concept animal identified a chemical compound, even if the definition of, "cat," is, "a kind of animal," it would actual mean "a plant is a kind of chemical compound," so both the definitions and the proposition are not true.
[NOTE: The whole of this falacy is based on Kant's (and Hume's) absurd assertion that words mean their definition. See the, "What A Concept Means," section of, "Epistemology, Concepts."]
The synthetic half of the false analytic/synthetic dichotomy of propositions is even worse.
Synthetic propositions it is stated, are based on observation or experience and the predicate is not contained in the subject. Examples are:
The cat is in the cupboard.
The triangle is red.
All bachelors are unhappy.
Water boils at 100 C.
All crows are black.
Such propositions, it is said, can only be known by means of observation or experience of actual existing evidence. To know if the cat is in the cupboard, one must look in the cupboard. The worst claim of this dichotomy is that synthetic propositions do not have to be true.
The absurd argument is that such propositions as, "the cat is in cupboard," might be true, but could be untrue if the cat is actually outdoors. Whether the cat is in the cupboard or not could be untrue. Since such proposition can only be known by observation of evidence (the facts of reality) they can never be known for certain.
If the cat is in the cupboard, it is in the cupboard and could not possibly be someplace else. The so-called "synthetic propositions," doubtfulness is simply untrue. To know if the cat is in the one looks in the cupboard and if they see the cat, that is where the cat is.
The Necessary/Contingent Dichotomy
Analytic propositions are said to be necessarily true, because to deny them would contradict the definition of the subject, while synthetic propositions are said to be contingent, because they depend on observation or experience of actual existence, which does not have to be true.
The absurd argument goes, "Triangles have three sides," is necessarily true because a triangle is defined as a three sided figure and denying the proposition (saying a triangle has four sides, for example) would contradict the definition of a triangle, but the proposition, "The triangle is red," is not necessarily true because triangles can be any color, and the actual color of any triangle is contingent on whatever made it that color. Even if observed, the argument is, it could have been a different color.
The argument for "necessary propositions," is based on the same wrong idea that concepts mean their definition used to describe, "analytic propositions." The argument for, "contingent," propositions resorts a logical contradiction and an appeal to the mystical.
The logical contradiction is implying, "what is," could be other than what it is. In essence it says, a red triangle could be some other color than red. The proposition, "the triangle is red," is true because the actual triangle is a red triangle. A red triangle cannot be some other color. A red triangle cannot be, "not red."
The other argument may be difficult to believe, but it actually asserts that even if a thing is a fact (is observed to be what it is), if it can be imagined to be different, in another world, (or universe), it could be different. While, "water is liquid," is necessarily true by definition, that, "water boils at 100 C," is only true in this world, but in another world (or universe) it might freeze at 100 C.
In addition to the fact that what one can imagine such as the science fiction of other realities, the fact that all knowledge is contextual is completely ignored. The proposition, "water boils at 100 C," means in the actual world where water freezing at that temperature is observed and discovered. Even if the impossible other world's did exist, they cannot be the context of any proposition conceived by a human being in the actual world in which they exist.
The a priori/a posteriori Dichotomy
A priori propositions, it is claimed, are those that can be known to be true independent of experience.
The proposition, "all bachelors are unmarried," is true, even if one has never met a bachelor or attended a wedding or had any other related experience. The proposition is true for the same fallacious reason analytic and necessary propositions are supposedly true, "by definition."
A priori supposedly does not mean having knowledge without learning. It means knowing that a proposition is true independent of any observation or experience, based only on the meaning of the words. But words have no meaning other than the meaning of the concepts they represent, and concepts have no meaning other than actual existents they refer to. It is not possible to know the meaning of words independent of one's observation or experience of the existents the concepts identify.
The concept, "bachelor," refers to (means), "actual male human beings," without the relative attribute of, "being married," which is the meaning of the concept, "unmarried." The proposition, "all bachelors are unmarried," is true because there are actual male human beings without the attribute married. Whether one knows what a male human being is, or what the attribute, "unmarried," means from their own experience or leaned it from someone else, someone had to actually learn those facts from experience.
A Kantian will deny that a priori knowledge means some form of mystic knowledge one is just born with, nevertheless to claim any knowledge that is not based on observation or experience and not about what exists, but only on what one, "has in their head," is a claim of such knowledge.
A posteriori knowledge, it is claimed, requires observation or experience to be known. "All crows are birds," it is claimed is true because crows are defined as a kind of bird and no observation of crows is required to know it, but, "All crows are black," cannot be known to be true unless all the crows there are have been observed, because one might be red or white.
The concept crow (represented by the word, "crow") means actual crows. If only one crow was ever observed and it was a black bird, the concept crow would mean a black bird. A bird of another color, no matter how similar to a crow would not be a crow. If a bird that is, in every other way, like a crow but a different color is discovered, either a new concept, like "crowverdi" could be formed to identify the newly discovered green crow-like bird, or the concept crow could be expanded (in its definition) to include green crows.
It is not the definition of a word that determines what it means. It is the actual existents identified by the concept that are its meaning. A definition only describes what the existents are the concept identifies. Concepts are a knowledge method of identification invented and used by human beings, not some form of metaphysically mandated laws. Every concept only identifies existents within the context of what is already known. No concept excludes the possibility of new knowledge requiring the modification of present concepts or the forming of new ones.
The Destruction Of Knowledge
The absurd premise that all knowledge and reason can be divided into two classes: 1. a priori, analytic, and necessary—which are certain knowledge based solely on the manipulation of symbols (words) in the mind and require no evidence, and 2. a posteriori, synthetic, and contingent&meash;which cannot be certain knowledge because they require evidence means that no true knowledge is possible. This is the ultimate disintegration of knowledge into certain knowledge for what there is no evidence and no certain knowledge of whatever there is evidence for which means if knowledge is certain it does not describe any aspect of reality and that no description of any aspect of reality can be known for certain.
There is only one kind of reason and one kind of knowledge. All knowledge is derived by means of reason about the evidence of existence we are conscious of. Existence is all there is to know, our consciousness of it is our only means of knowing it. But just being conscious of existence does not produce knowledge. To know existence one must use reason to identify what exists and what its nature is. All knowledge is achieved by using reason to identify and explain what exists. There is no other method and no other kind of knowledge.
The Idealism/Empiricism Dichotomy
The Humean/Kantian destruction of knowledge by dividing knowledge into a priori-analytic-necessary vs. a posteriori-synthetic-contingent exists in another form called idealism vs. empiricism, another false dichotomy of knowledge that reduces knowledge to reason without evidence (idealism) vs. evidence alone (without reason) empiricism. Like the a priori-analytic-necessary, idealism reduces knowledge to what machinations of the mind, sans evidence, and in some versions, actually denies the reality of perceived existence. Like the a posteriori-synthetic-contingent, empiricism reduces knowledge to what is perceived and regards the evidence of the senses as the only source of knowledge, like da Vinci's, "to see is to know." But to see is not to know. Knowledge is about what is perceived achieved by the exercise of reason about that evidence. Reason without evidence is mysticism. Evidence without reason is immediacy or base concretism reducing consciousness to the level of any sub-human animal that lives by immediate response to what is perceived without ever identifying what it experiences and no sense of relationship, purpose, or future.
The Deductive/Inductive Dichotomy
Induction is supposedly a method of reason which is the complement of inductive reasoning. It is sometimes described as reasoning from the particular to the general in contrast with deductive reasoning which is reasoning from the general to the particular.
Called inductive logic, it is not a form of logic at all. Please see the chapter, "Induction," for an explanation of this mistake that has done so much damage to both philosophy and science.
The Destruction Of Reason
The simple but profoundly wrong view that concepts mean there definition has all but destroyed the entire field of logical reason, replacing the concept of truth with a synthetic concept of, "logical validity," and the concept of logic, with the meaningless manipulation of symbols.
Symbols, whether words, or the more abstract symbols of mathematics, geometry, or symbolic logic, have no meaning of their own. The only meaning that can be associated with symbols is the meaning of whatever concepts symbols represent.
Abstract symbols, whether in mathematics or symbolic logic, are not concepts, and have no meaning in themselves. Much of modern philosophy attempts to treat these symbols as though they actually represented reality and could in themselves produce true propositions without reference to actual ontological or epistemological existents.
[NOTE: An even worse corruption of epistemology was foisted on philosophy by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein did not recognize concepts at all and said the meaning of words is determined by however they were used in language. And worse, that whatever words "stand for," had to be determined by some kind of agreement or consensus.
"For a large class of cases of the employment of the word "meaning"—though not for all—this word can be explained in this way: the meaning of a word is its use in the language" (Philosophical Investigations 43).
"The signs in language can only function when there is a possibility of judging the correctness of their use, "so the use of [a] word stands in need of a justification which everybody understands'" (Philosophical Investigations 261).]