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Judicial Reason or Judgement is the mental ability to understand and discriminate between relations.

Kant identified four types of judgment based on the analytic-synthetic and aposteriori-analytic distinctions.

A priori judgments are judgments which arise from reason alone. Such judgments are independent from any sort of experience or knowledge from the senses. These judgments apply with strict universality and necessity. On the other hand, a posteriori judgments are judgments that arise from experience. Such judgments cannot arise from reason — they must be derived from sensory knowledge. Judgments like the sun is warm is a posteriori. A posteriori judgments have no application of universality or necessity because judgments of experience give particular instances of how things are, not that they must be a certain way in every possible case.

Though these judgments are mutually exclusive, it should be clarified that all knowledge begins with experience. A priori judgments are causally rooted in experience, but remain a priori in that they cannot be epistemically justified by experience. For example, though the judgment 5+7=12 is an a priori judgment because there is nothing from experience that can justify the judgment, it would never be possible without the experience of developing the arithmetic in the first place. Once arithmetic skills have developed, I can divorce the judgment from experience.

Analytic judgments are judgments whose predicate is contained within the subject of the concept. An example of an analytic judgment would be, “all bodies are extended”. Such a judgment is only explicative as it adds no new information to the concept of bodies, (extension is the essence of bodies). Synthetic judgments are judgments whose predicate is not contained within the subject of the concept. An example of a synthetic judgment is “all crows are black”. Such a judgment is ampliative since the predicate gives me new information to the concept of crows — namely that they are black. The combination of these judgments give us a criteria for types of knowledge.

All analytic judgments are a priori because an analysis of a given concept does not require experience in order for me to to analyze it to get better clarity of that concept. Take, for example, the statement, “All bachelors are unmarried males”; I need not to experience a bachelor in the real world to analyze the concept and gain clarity that a bachelor and an unmarried male is the same thing. I simply just need to know the concept to attain such a clarification. Since all analytic judgments are a priori, it follows that no analytic statements are a posteriori.

All aposteriori judgments are synthetic. Anything derived from experience, from the senses, is synthetic. New ampliative knowledge is given to me when I experience that bodies have weight for example. I may not gain any new knowledge that such bodies have extension, since I cannot conceive of a body without extension, but I do gain new knowledge in finding that weight is an attribute of bodies. The previous example used earlier of crows being black is synthetic because there is nothing in the concept of a crow that infers it is black — rather once I experience that all the crows I’ve seen are black, it becomes new knowledge added to my concept of crow that they are black.

It does not follow that all synthetic judgments are a posteriori. There are a priori, synthetic judgments. These are judgments that are known through pure reason alone, independent of experience, and they are ampliative to knowledge. Most mathematical, geometrical and metaphysical judgments that we can be certain of fall under this combination. 5+7=12 is not analytic because the concept of 5, addition, 7 and summation cannot be analyzed and, with enough time, give me the number 12. It is simply a union of two numbers. All triangles have 3 sides is an analytic, a priori statement because it is within the concept of a triangle to have three sides; on the other hand, every triangle’s interior angles sum up to 180 degrees is a synthetic a priori statement. It is both strictly universal, (it must be the case in every instance), and necessary, (it is impossible that it could be any other case). The two criteria for a priori, (universality and necessity), are hardly distinguishable from one another and you cannot have one without the other. The judgment of the summation of a triangle’s angles fulfills the a priori criteria, but why is it ampliative? It provides new knowledge to my concept of triangle, specifically, knowledge that I would have never attained just by analyzing the concept of triangle itself. I can analyze the concept of triangle and understand three lines, three points, a three planed figure, but I would have never deduced the summation of its angles without bringing forth a different concept altogether. Through construction I can use postulates to come to such a judgment. In this case, I can use Euclid’s demonstration and begin by extending one of the lines from the triangle and continue from there until I have come to know that the interior angles of a triangle equal 180 degrees. Although the postulates are applied to a particular triangle, it was only the essential, general properties that allow me such a judgment, (three sides, three points, etc.), not the particular triangle, (triangle is faded, crooked, etc.). Other judgments of geometry, arithmetic and metaphysics also provide synthetic, a priori knowledge.

I have explained the distinction between a priori and a posteriori judgments. I have also explained the difference between synthetic and analytic claims and I have given the combinations of types of knowledge through examples and elaboration. Using Euclid’s proof as an example of construction, I have shown that I can come to know the summation of the angles of a triangle as synthetic, a priori through postulates and give understanding to what synthetic, a priori judgments are.


The Essential Dialectic of Judicial Reason is:

{Reflective-Quality ⇆ Quality-Reflective ⇵ Reflective-Reflective} ↻ Quality-Quality


The Complete Dialectic of Judicial Reason is:

{Quality-Judgment ⇆ Reflective-Judgment ⇅ Relation-Judgment} ↻ Notion



The Equivalency Dialectic of Judicial Reason is:

{Speculative ⇆ Theoretical ⇅ Practical} ↻ Judicial