Is anyone aware of any books or articles that explicitly discuss the relationship between Kant’s notion of the Synthetic a Priori [judgment], e.g. “every color is extended,” "Nothing can be simultaneously red and green all over," “2+2=4,” etc. (to the extent such a notion retains viability after Quines Two Dogmas), and Wittgenstein’s notion, in On Certainty, of hinge propositions (see OC, §§341-3), such as “My body has never disappeared and reappeared again after an interval.” (OC 101): That is, propositions that are not necessarily/exclusively empirical, i.e. whose function is not necessarily/exclusively to describe the world, but, rather [or additionally] to provide the norms/rules that make empirical investigation possible. (I would also appreciate, and consider an "answer," the commentary of any user that has considered the relationship between these concepts.)

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    We should keep in mind that late Wittgenstein blurs the analytic/synthetic distinction in his concept of unified "grammar". See Morawetz, Wittgenstein and Synthetic a Priori Judgments for assimilating the two, and Moyal-Sharrock's critique of Coliva's assimilation of them. There is much more commentary in her book Understanding Wittgenstein’s On Certainty.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 1:56
  • @Conifold Thank you. While I have run into articles by Coliva, Moyal Sharrock, Prichard and others over the past few years in the context of what has apparently come to be known as hinge epistemology, I have not encountered Morawetz's essay, which appears to address my precise query. I have been able to download and will peruse MS's attached critique of Coliva, but how do you suggest I access Morawetz essay without purchasing the entire journal issue?
    – gonzo
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 3:09
  • @Conifold Also, please say a few words about how Wittgenstein's notion of "grammar" goes beyond Two Dogmas in blurring the the analytic/synthetic distinction.
    – gonzo
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 3:10
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    Most academic institutions have a subscription to Jstor, so it should be accessible through their libraries. Wittgenstein's "grammar" is "elusive network of rules which determine what linguistic move is allowed as making sense", as SEP puts it, without codification or separation into syntax and semantics. So it would be hard to split his "a priori" into analytic and synthetic, whatever governs language use is all "grammar".
    – Conifold
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 4:00
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    You may also like Orłowicz's 2017 thesis that gives comparative analysis of a number of commentators who wrote on Kant and hinges, including Morawetz. It is freely accessible.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 4:02

1 Answer 1


Hinge propositions are much more subtle concept than synthetic a priori judgements.

Synthetic a priori judgements are equivalent to what Wittgenstein calls tautologies in the Tractatus (or contradictions when they are false):

4.461 The proposition shows what it says, the tautology and the contradiction that they say nothing.

The tautology has no truth-conditions, for it is unconditionally true; and the contradiction is on no condition true.

Tautology and contradiction are without sense. (Like the point from which two arrows go out in opposite directions.)

(I know, e.g. nothing about the weather, when I know that it rains or does not rain.)

In other words synthetic judgements are ones that cannot ever be challenged or disproved.

Hinge propositions on the other hand are propositions that can be challenged potentially, but are never challenged in practice, simply because there is no point.

  1. Why is it not possible for me to doubt that I have never been on the moon? And how could I try to doubt it? First and foremost, the supposition that perhaps I have been there would strike me as idle. Nothing would follow from it, nothing be explained by it. It would not tie in with anything in my life. When I say “Nothing speaks for, everything against it,” this presupposes a principle of speaking for and against. That is, I must be able to say what would speak for it.
  • @Conifold (see his comment above) recommended these two very good articles: "Morawetz, Wittgenstein and Synthetic a Priori Judgments for assimilating the two, and Moyal-Sharrock's critique of Coliva's assimilation of them." My advise is to not fail to peruse anything Conifold recommends.
    – gonzo
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 1:00

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