I have read secondary sources claiming that Kant conceives of knowledge as a strictly synthetic affair, and that analytic judgments are thus not knowledge. This is relatively consistent with what Kant says, but in the CPR does he ever actually make this claim, that knowledge is a synthesis of representations? He seems to conceive of cognition as synthetic or analytic.

  • Possible duplicate: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/31239/… - part of the answer is that the (synthetic) a priori judgements are the only principles of knowledge, but all propositions analytically derived from them are part of knowledge (and - therefore - science) proper as well.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 17:26

2 Answers 2


According to Kant, analytic propositions are logical truths ( or instances of abstract logical truths).

For example: A OR not-A , or any of its instances , such as

                    the soul is mortal OR the soul is non-mortal.  

So, your question amounts to asking what is the status of logic in Kant's epistemology.

In the Preface of the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason , Kant says that, since Aristotle, Logic has entered on the " sure path of science". So, Kant admits that logic, though consisting of purely analytic propositions, deserves the title of " science".

But, after that, he adds that logic is a purely formal science ( a science having, strictly speaking, no object) . In this sence, logic is not a genuine scientific knowledge as are mathematics and physics :

" it is a science which has for its object nothing but the exposition and proof of the formal laws of all thought, whether it be a priori or empirical, whatever be its origin or its object, and whatever the difficulties—natural or accidental—which it encounters in the human mind.

The early success of logic must be attributed exclusively to the narrowness of its field, in which abstraction may, or rather must, be made of all the objects of cognition with their characteristic distinctions, and in which the understanding has only to deal with itself and with its own forms. It is, obviously, a much more difficult task for reason to strike into the sure path of science, where it has to deal not simply with itself, but with objects external to itself. Hence, logic is properly only a propaedeutic—forms, as it were, the vestibule of the sciences; and while it is necessary to enable us to form a correct judgement with regard to the various branches of knowledge, still the acquisition of real, substantive knowledge is to be sought only in the sciences properly so called, that is, in the objective sciences."

So knowledge of analytic propositions (1) is actually knowledge (2) but not "substantive knowledge".


Kant asks what we can know, and how we can know it.

This is one of the central questions of philosophy—the theory of knowledge or cognition ("epistemology").

One derive the greater part of our knowledge from observing the real world. From an early age, we see things, we listen, we touch, and so on. Gradually, we build up a picture of the world in which we live. This kind of knowledge is the knowledge of sense-perception. For empiricists like Locke, there is no other kind. Here Kant disagrees. In getting to know the world, the mind is not merely an empty vessel, which can be filled with any content (Locke described it as a tabula rasa—a blank slate).

For Kant, the act of cognition is not passive, but active. We do not simply make a list of the things we see, but consciously select, order and interpret them. For this, the mind has its own method and rules. There are forms of thought which we apply, consciously or unconsciously, when we attempt to understand the information provided by our senses ("sense data").

Kant argues that while most knowledge is derived from experience, part of our knowledge is a priori, and not derived from experience.

In Kant’s opinion, we can only know what is given to us in sense experience. However, the things in themselves, which cause our sensations, cannot be known.

Here, Kant is skating on thin ice. Although he denied it, these views seem to be similar to the subjective idealism of Hume and Berkeley.

Kant changed some of his formulations in the second edition, precisely to avoid this conclusion. In the first edition, he implied that the thinking subject might be the same thing as the object which it perceives. Later, he changed this, maintaining that things outside ourselves certainly exist, but they manifest themselves to us only in appearance, not as they are in themselves.

According to Kant, there are some ideas which are not derived from sense-perception. This shows the difference between the philosophy of Kant and that of Locke, who held that all knowledge whatsoever came from the senses. By contrast, Kant claimed that some knowledge was inborn, namely, the knowledge of space and time. If we make abstraction from all physical aspects of phenomena, he says, we are left with just two things—time and space. Now time and space, together with motion, are the most general and fundamental properties of matter. The only way that it is possible to understand them is in relation to material things. But Kant was an idealist. He insisted that the notions of time and space were inborn. They did not come from experience but were what he called a priori (from the Latin meaning "from the beginning").

To support his idea that space and time are a priori phenomena, Kant uses a very peculiar mode of reasoning. He maintains that, whereas it is impossible to think of objects without time, it is quite possible to think of the time without objects; the same in relation to space. In point of fact, space and time are inseparable from matter, and it is impossible to conceive of them as "things in themselves."

Kant states that it is possible to imagine space with nothing in it, but impossible to imagine no space. But this is not so.

Kant's view of knowledge presents a synthesis of experiences either in present or 'a priory'

Space without matter is just as much an empty abstraction as matter without space. In point of fact, time, space and motion are the mode of existence of matter, and can be conceived of in no other way. Kant’s idea that time and space are outside the range of sense-experience has been refuted by the discoveries of non-Euclidian geometry.

*In Anti Duhring, Engels shows that the whole concept of a priori knowledge is false. All ideas are ultimately derived from reality, even the axioms of mathematics.

It is true that, if we leave aside all the material qualities of a thing, all that is left is space and time. However, these are now empty abstractions.

They cannot stand on their own, any more than there can be fruit, without apples, pears, oranges etc.; or humanity, without human beings, and so on.

The only difference is that the idea of fruit, or humanity, are abstractions of a particular kind of matter, whereas time and space are the most general features, or, more correctly, the mode of existence, of matter in general.*

Kant claims that we have synthetic apriori knowledge. Indeed, this claim is absolutely central to all of his philosophy. But what is synthetic a priori knowledge? Scott Edgar helpfully breaks-down this category of knowledge by first walking through Kant's distinction between empirical and apriori knowledge and then his distinction between analytic and synthetic judgments. The interaction between these distinctions is then illustrated with numerous examples, making it clear why Kant, unlike Hume, thought that there is the knowledge that is both apriori and synthetic and that this is the type of knowledge philosophers seek.https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/wi-phi/wiphi-history/wiphi-kant/v/kant-on-metaphysical-knowledge



  • Yes, but could knowledge be analytic? For instance, when we say ‘all bachelors are unmarried,’ is this, in Kant’s system, knowledge? Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 13:28
  • Kant presented a synthesis of sources of knowledge and didn't rely on individual categories alone such as 'analytic' sources ...in your example ‘all bachelors are unmarried,’ will not be 'knowledge' in his way of approach.
    – drvrm
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 18:49
  • Okay, this makes sense. But where, if anywhere, does Kant actually make this claim? That’s what I haven’t been able to find. Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 21:45
  • 1
    The first half of the Critique of Pure Reason argues that we can only obtain substantive knowledge of the world via sensibility and understanding. Very roughly, our capacities of sense experience and concept formation cooperate so that we can form empirical judgments. ... to offer knowledge of a “transcendent” world, that is, a world beyond that revealed by the senses. “Dialectic,” says Kant, is “a logic of illusion” (A293): so in his vocabulary, a dialectical idea is empty or false.....see the details<plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-reason/#TheReaReaCogRolLim>
    – drvrm
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 6:21
  • @WolandBarthes-see the discussion and quotes in the above article...<Wisdom, as the idea of a practical use of reason that conforms perfectly with the law [or: is perfectly law-like—gesetzmäßig-vollkommen], is no doubt too much to demand of human beings. But also, not even the slightest degree of wisdom can be poured into a man by others; rather he must bring it forth from himself. The precept for reaching it contains three leading maxims: (1) Think for oneself, (2) Think into the place of the other [person] (in communication with human beings), (3) Always think consistently with oneself.>
    – drvrm
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 6:31

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