The essence of apriori
Many dozens of dissertations could be found devoted to this topic, or to the exploration of the question of what exactly apriori means. The most typical answer one can find is that it simply means prior to experience. In that regard, what exactly is the entity in question that is prior to experience. Is it knowledge that is prior to experience? Is it skill? Potential for knowledge? Potential for skill? Something else that appears to be possible prior to experience. I suggest that we explore each of these phenomena one at a time.
I. Is it possible to have knowledge prior to experience?
If we were to imagine that it is, an example that would follow is very similar to what Plato had in mind. Namely that all knowledge is innate, and we somehow have it stored in our unconscious. What we need to do is not to acquire knowledge, but merely to recover it. Such a cognitive activity is more similar to remembering than to mastering a new skill or attaining new information. How could this be possible? For example, a mathematician who seems to be learning new concepts is mysteriously recovering what he has already known. Why would someone be led to think that way? Perhaps it is the case that the mathematician seems to have an uncanny talent to acquire skill and knowledge in mathematics. He appears to be so adept at what he does, that one may say that he is simply a natural. In other words he is learning the concepts of mathematics so quickly and so effortlessly that it seems like he already knows the material he was dealing with. It is understandable why one would be motivated to make such a conjecture, yet it appears completely foundationless. That is the case because we simply do not see how knowledge of mathematics could be stored within oneís memory independent of prior experience with the subject. In order to ensure that we acquire the most reliable knowledge we must ensure that the information we collect, which we use to establish the premises for our argument derived from our observations of the external world. If our information is not clearly traceable to external world, it is unlikely to be accurate because it simply will have no relevance to the problem we are observing in the external world. In this case the problem we are observing in the external world is the work and the learning process of a gifted mathematician. It is such an observation that in the first place made us wonder if knowledge could be innate. In order to do justice to this problem, we must attempt to refute the thesis that some knowledge is innate.
When we observe newborn children, we see that they tend to have the potential for acquiring knowledge. That is why we teach them to speak, or teach them to memorize the names of certain objects. The question to follow is, what exactly is such a potential? We know that children are born with an ability to sense external objects and with some ability to recollect what has been observed. Hence, they have, to a certain degree, sensation and a faculty of intellectual cognition. Or quite simply an ability to store what they have observed in their memories and recollect what has been stored when what has been stored is evoked. Since our question is that of possibility of apriori knowledge, we must clearly define what knowledge is. Knowledge is a set of true beliefs that we are consciously aware of and are able to refer to when we choose to do so. On that note, skills one is aware of with regard to doing a mathematical problem should be considered knowledge, yet the instinct that one has to breathe is not. Hence, if we are to argue that knowledge is innate as Plato has, it would follow that the relationship an infant has to knowledge, as hung over drunkard has to memories of what has occurred the night before. We simply see no reason to believe that an infant is able to act in a deliberate and an intelligent matter. The infant does not appear to be consciously aware of what he is doing. He is always acting on impulse and will continue to do so until knowledge is imparted within him.
II. What is truly innate?
We clearly see that some skills are innate and among them is the ability to breathe, or the ability to emit sounds, as infants are clearly able to do this. However, a more important question to ask is with regard to potentiality to develop certain qualities. For example, it appears nearly incontestable that not every infant has the potential to become an athlete, or a scholar, or a musician and so on. The question that we are forced to ask at this point is, did X develop the potential to become as intelligent as Einstein primarily because of his innate, or apriori dispositions, or because of the way he was treated as an infant and as a child. This appears to be unclear. It seems most likely to me that the most salient factor consisted in the apriori psychological predispositions of the child because most infants are treated in a very similar fashion, as well as most children are, yet only very few emerge as intelligent as Einstein or with any particular set of qualities. If this was not the case, than we simply could devise a recipe for how to ensure that our children age with a certain set of qualities. For instance, we may investigate how a child should be nurtured in order for him to become highly intelligent, or highly artistic, or highly athletic. At this point, I am inclined to reject such a thesis because I simply see no reason to believe that there is a direct and a very strong correlation between nurturing a child in a certain way, especially an infant, and the child maturing with a set of specific qualities. This, however is the question that I pose to the rest of the group. The question that I wish to discuss is, what degree are oneís natural talents a result of oneís apriori dispositions and to what degree have oneís natural talents been influenced by interaction with the world. Jungian typology is a subject that merits consideration in this essay. The definition of a type is a solidified unconscious tendency of thought. Empirical investigation has shown that Extroversion is a solidified tendency of thought and Introversion also is. In other words, one has a tendency to derive positive emotive stimuli through interaction with the world. One also has a tendency to derive positive emotive stimuli through contemplation. One is an extrovert if the former tendency is stronger than the latter. One is an introvert if the latter tendency is more pronounced than the former. It is unlikely that infants are born with one of the two tendencies clearly being more distinct than the other.
It is difficult to envisage an infant who has a clearly more distinct tendency towards contemplation than interaction with the external world. In order to have a strong tendency towards contemplation one needs to have a rich inner life, or intellectual capabilities in order to contemplate. An infant obviously does not have this as all the content of the inner life he may have consists in the very little information he has collected from the external world. Inevitably, he is forced to interact with the external world in order to acquire the material necessary to engage his mind. On that note all infants have a slight tendency towards extroversion. However, that does not mean that they are of the extroverted type. The definition of type is a solidified unconscious tendency. The minds of infants must obviously be malleable because they simply have not had enough experiences of the same kind to strongly prefer one experience over the other. We tend to prefer one experience over the other strongly only when we have developed a positive sentiment towards one kind of an experience and therefore experience displeasure when we are forced to stop engaging in such an experience. For instance, one begins to like sugar after he has experienced sugar many times and sugar has instilled itself within the mind of the experience. If the taste of sugar produced contrary sentiments to the taste of salt, oneís attachment to sugar would lead one to become averse to the taste of salt. However, in order for one to make an attachment to the taste, the experience of sugar must produce such an intensely pleasant sentiment within the mind of an experiencer than the experiencer will not wish to cease having the experience. Such intensity of sentiment is unlikely to occur unless the experience has taken place multiple times. For the very least, we can establish that we are much more likely to develop an attachment to a particular sentiment if it has occurred many times. From this it follows that because infants had not had many experiences with extroversion or one particular way of cognitively functioning, they are unlikely to have a firm attachment to such a way of cognitive functioning. As evidence for this, we could cite how all infants appear to be behaving in an extroverted fashion when they are merely a few weeks or a few months old, but this changes when they age, as some clearly display introverted characteristics. It certainly would be interesting to see how strong of an apriori disposition a baby has towards extroversion or introversion, or towards imagination (Intuition) for example. Perhaps at one point when our technology is advanced enough we will be able to identify the activity in the brain that is responsible for the tendency or the activity of imagination and on that discover to what degree one has a nearly inborn tendency towards such a way of thinking. To clarify the matter, we should consider the following example; assume that a baby has a clear-cut disposition towards extroversion. Assume that we are able to identify certain activity in the brain that corresponds to extroversion. In order for a baby to become an extrovert, it must develop a strong, nearly unshakable attachment to the positive emotion associated with the activity of extroversion. If the baby naturally and most easily derives positive sentiment from extroversion (than from all other cognitive functioning), the baby obviously will develop a strong attachment to the activity of extroversion. The question to follow is, to what degree is the baby predisposed to do so.
We may conclude that we are born with certain dispositions to behave in particular fashion, we are inevitably led to question why this is the case. The principle of evolution seems to explain this phenomenon. This is illustrated clearly in the following regard. Monkeys had an ability to climb trees well, therefore the offspring of such monkeys had a strong instinctual tendency towards such an activity as well.
At this point, we return to the question of what is truly innate. What is clearly innate is our ability to function physically on a certain level and our dispositions to function physically and psychology in certain other manners.
III. Some metaphysical considerations of apriori
"Consequently, there is no pure knowledge outside of the world based on our senses, and no objectivity of knowledge possible without being founded on subjectivity. The way we perceive the world seems to consist simply in receiving outside information, and yet, according to Kant, it is a rather complicated relation of first giving and then taking, and consequently any epistemic relation we have to another implies a relation also to ourselves. Kant is not thereby advocating a subjectivism; he invites us to reconsider the nature of objectivity as dependent on our subjectivity. Thinghood or causality, for instance, which Hume sceptically claimed to be merely subjective constructs (subjective in the bad sense of representing something that in reality does not exist), are acknowledged by Kant as indeed subjective concepts, but subjective to a degree that all objectivity of our knowledge depends on them. They are so fundamental, so deeply rooted in our subjectivity, that without them no empirical world remains for us to know." Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason.
Isaac Newton thought that the universe functions like a simple mechanism. A causes B, B causes C, and C caused D. His view was the most intuitive, or that we are part of the big mechanism in the external world, and what we observe around us, is the external world itself, which is as real as it could be. Hume, though pointed out, quite correctly that what we know is that our sensations deliver information to us that we have a hunch has something to do with the external world, yet we do not have any reason to believe that this hunch is correct. We merely know that we have access to the information the senses gave us, but if the senses have collected the information adequately. Kant has suggested that it is not the case as Newton thought, that we are in the world, but the world is in us which is plausible. Newtonís intuitive worldview is manifestly untenable. Newtonís world is finite because it has many attributes. It means it has been created by another entity, because a finite entity is by definition limited. Yet what created this one another entity, another entity? We shall proceed ad infinitum seeking the first cause without having found one. This leads to the absurdity that something came from nothing. Such a thesis could not be true. Therefore Newtonís claim that the world of our finite experience is as real as it gets must be false. If we posit that the ultimate reality is infinite, we shall have an opportunity to explain the first cause of the universe. What is infinite is by definition without limits. Therefore what is infinite is all that exists. Thus it by definition has no limits, that means no constrains of time. Therefore it has always existed and will always exist. It also by definition has no creator because it is all that exists. Our world is not infinite, therefore it is an illusion. It is however, our apriori representation of the infinite realm. Because our mind is unable to properly process the infinite realm, it unconsciously represents it in terms of what it can properly process. Hence, this is a clear-cut example of an apriori faculty within the human mind. When a baby is born, it unconsciously translates the infinite realm into finite terms and as a result of this envisages the world as we know it. This is not to be counted as knowledge because the representation of the finite world as we experience is unconscious rather than conscious. In other words, this merely represents the opportunity one has to experience the external world directly. We can conclude that three entities are completely apriori, the vision of the external world or the opportunity to experience it, our physical functions and the potential to function in a certain physical or a psychological way.