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Space and Time

An Exploration through Kantian Idealism, Euclidean Geometry, non-Euclidean Geometry, and Arithmetic

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Kevin Mattalo Ms. MacLellan ICZ-3O1 Friday June 17, 2011

Space and time are unquestionable qualities of the human condition which pervade all aspects of experience. The search for complete understanding of these experiences will only be satisfied if man open[s] a wedge into neutral nature (Ernest) and reasons the fundamental properties of space and time. The mind, however, is the most perplexing part of the human anatomy, for it permits this act of reasoning and it is the place where experience becomes manifest. Immanuel Kants Critique of Pure Reason explores the theme of the mind and how the human dependency on the nature of space and time can be derived from suppositions of synthetic a priori judgments, Euclidean geometry, and arithmetic. The invalidity of Euclidean geometry as a quantitative description of space, nonetheless, appears to subjugate Kants analysis. Through examination of Kants premises it will be shown that the understanding of space as a nonEuclidean construct is derivable and complete and adheres to the true form of nature. Geometry by definition is not a representation of the empirical world (Conrad, Flegle). Euclids ideas of lines that have no width and his circles which are perfectly round are nonexistent in the physical universe (Conrad, Flegele). If these objects are not observable in nature then how is it feasible for one to develop such ideas? Psychology defines such ideas as evolving from the human experience with objects like the sun or the moon which resemble circles (Shaw, Gaines). This suggestion of why geometrical ideas exist is essentially impartial to the question at hand since it doesnt propose an answer to where they come from but only how they developed.

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According to Kant, these geometrical ideas themselves are independent of any form of experience and one cant determine the truths of these ideas through sense experience. Furthermore, geometry is general, if we prove that all parallel lines never intersect then it must be satisfied in all cases that there are two parallel lines (Conrad, Flegle). Thus, Kant deduced that geometrical principles must be a priori since one can conclude that for instance the sum of the interior angles of all triangles is 180-degrees prior to experiencing that triangle. Upon understanding that geometry is a priori it is natural to ask whether geometrical propositions are synthetic or analytic judgments. An analytic judgment is one whos truth can be determined by analyzing its terms where as a synthetic judgment requires an appeal to something beyond its terms (Rey). A first impression would assume that the judgments of geometry are analytic since through education humans are taught geometry by definitions. Additionally, one often analyzes the terms by using the definitions when proving a statement. Regardless of this common interpretation, Kant states that the proved propositions and ideas of geometry are fundamentally synthetic. Kant proves this notion by explaining how one comes to know the truth of a particular proposition in Euclidean geometry: the sum of the interior angles of a triangle is equal to 180degrees. If this were an analytic judgment then by definition it can be proved by considering the terms given. Through analyzing the terms one comes to the conclusion that a triangle has three sides and angles and that a sum is the addition of multiple objects. There is no amount of analyzing possible that can allow one to begin with the term: the sum of the angles of a triangle and end with the judgment that its 180-degrees. In order to value Kants argument one requires an understanding of Euclids proof of the proposition. The proof follows that one begins with a triangle and extends its base outside the right part of the triangle. After that a line which is parallel to the left face of the triangle is drawn, bisecting the exterior angle created by extending

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the base. Euclid then proves the equality of angles that form the base extension to the angles inside of the triangle.

a = a b = b c + b + a = 180-degrees (Euclid)

The essential feature of this proof according to Kant is that fact that one made those constructions. The proof requires one to extend the base of the triangle and requires one to bisect the exterior angle of the triangle, none of these objects existed before the proof began. The primary question being alluded to according to Kant is where is one making these constructions? Since geometry isnt represented in a physical sense due to the reasoning that observable objects are imperfect, then the construction cannot exist on the paper without the proof being flawed. Kant concludes that the constructions are being made in space. Space by definition is not empirical, it is not an object of sense experience which can be touched or seen. Where then is space existent if all objects in the natural world are empirical? Like causality, Kant says that space inhabits our minds and is always present within our minds since we cant perceive the world without the conception of space. A simple experiment proving this point is the following: one can imagine a space without objects, a vacuum, where as inversely it is impossible to imagine objects without space. Within our minds space is a

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formulation that is used to order our sense perceptions and thus, space is the form of all possible perceptions. Space is also a pure a priori intuition of the intellect where an intuition is something singular and unique. There is then by definition only one space within our minds. If there is only one unique space and Euclids propositions indicate a synthetic a priori conception of geometry then the geometry of space must be Euclidean. Thus, are there any synthetic a priori judgments? It has been shown in mathematics that geometry contains many theorems that use synthetic a priori judgments to prove their statements but Kants primary concern was how they arise. Conclusively, in returning to his conception of space, Kant defines that one is capable of proving these theorems through a synthetic a priori judgment by appealing to the constructions of objects within our intuition of space. Arithmetic with respect to Kant is a synthetic a priori judgment in the same way as geometry. Contrastingly, Leibniz wanted to invent a symbolic logic so that two people who disagreed could easily resolve it through calculations. This idea ultimately makes arithmetic an analytic judgment since a proof can be deduced by strictly observing the terms and making a conclusion. Leibniz extended this idea through what he saw as a completely analytic judgment: 2 + 2 = 4. The proof follows: 2+2=4 2 by definition is (1 + 1), thus, 2 + 2 = (1 + 1) + (1 + 1) = (1 + 1) + 1 + 1, where (1 + 1) by definition is equal to 2, = (2 + 1) + 1, where (2 + 1) by definition is equal to 3, = (3 + 1), where (3 + 1) by definition is equal to 4, = 4 (Leibniz Stanford)

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The proof thus succeeds by solving it through analyzing the term 2 + 2 and showing that two is a sum of ones and that this sum constructs the number four. It appears then that Leibniz justifies the use of an analytic judgment in proving this general statement. Adversely, Kant did not believe that a proof of this form is analytic. He illustrates that the act of reducing 2 into it its constituent parts and reforming it is part of the process of a construction or creating something which didnt exist in the original statement 2 + 2 = 4. This construction doesnt arise in space like geometry but rather occurs in time since Leibnizs proof only works if these steps are acted upon in order within time. Time, like space, is an a priori intuition within our minds by which we order events in sequence. Climactically, time, with space, creates a stable architecture within the human mind by which one can discern and logically analyze the movement of objects, the interaction of atoms and the essential features of the physical universe. In the nineteenth century, mathematics developed the concept of non-Euclidean geometries which initiated the concern that Kants theory of space being Euclidean isnt an a priori synthetic judgment. A non-Euclidean geometry is one where the propositions of Euclid are untrue, for instance triangles add up to more than 180-degrees or less than 180-degrees.


For Kant the geometric propositions of Euclid in proving that the angles of a triangle add up to 180-degrees is justified through the construction of ideas through a priori intuitions. [I]t follows that the propositions of geometry are not determinations of a mere creation of our poetic

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imagination, which could therefore not be referred with assurance to actual objects; but rather that they are necessarily valid of space and consequently of all that may be found in space(Prol. 287: 31). Within Kants theory there are several notions which dont permit the introduction of non-Euclidean geometries. One states that the propositions of non-Euclidean cannot be known a priori. In understanding this, it is important to know that non-Euclidean geometries have been proven to apply to the universe around us and that it is the actual geometry of the space that is within our minds. So long as Kants intuitions are determined to be a priori then it is feasible to derive any such geometry if they correspond to physical space. Thus, the contradiction in this matter is that fact that both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries can be extracted from their postulates. Although Kants theory was built on the basis of Euclidean geometry it actually works equally as well with non-Euclidean geometries. Take for instance the fabrication of two parallel lines within my intuition. The nature of these two lines can be determined by the shape in which my intuition is constructed since it can either be Euclidean or non-Euclidean. In each instance that I construct the parallel lines then I can determine their properties with pure a priori intuition (Jones). In fact it is argued that the mathematicians who devised such non-Euclidean geometries made these ideas on a priori intuition alone. However, Kant states that the space of the geometer is exactly the form of sensuous intuition which we find a priori in us, and contains the ground of the possibility of all appearances (Prol. 288: 32). Thus, which one describes the physical space we experience? Since it has been shown that Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries are viable formulations of space one can easily come to the conclusion that both geometries are manifest based on the empirical observation being considered (Hopkins). In the instance that I shine a light at a mirror and it reflects, the properties of the optical reflection strictly follow Euclidean postulates, there is no consideration of curved

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spaces or non-Euclidean ideas. However, if one were to observe the nature of a black hole and then shine a light the propositions of non-Euclidean geometries are clearly defined. The light beam warps and curves as it follows the path of the curved space around it. There is no need for a singular geometry if the properties of objects such as light rays or black holes can be determined a priori by considering these two geometries. (Jones) In essence, Kantian space is able to allow two separate geometries based solely on the fact of intuition and the context being discussed. As humans we dont appreciate the depth of our minds and the significance it plays in the universe itself. Our perceptions and judgments rely solely on the framework of space and time that we experience within our minds and the fact that what we observe is purely synthetic a priori. It is these notions of space and time that persist within our lives, all things we know, love and understand will always be subject to the these constructs even our own minds fall to the persistence of time in death. Through a better understanding of the way space and time is manifested within us the human condition can be improved since one can come to realize the full capacity of the mind and its importance to the universe itself. Through such contemplations one sees that the universe created the mind to understand itself.

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Citations 1. Kant, I. (1985). Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. In Philosophy of

Material Nature, trans. James W. Ellington. Indianapolis: Hackett.

2. Hopkins, J. (1973). Visual Geometry, The Philosophical Review 82, 1: 334. 3. Jones, P. C. (1946). Kant, Euclid, and the Non-Euclideans, Philosophy of
Science 13:2, 137143.


Ernest, "Quote - When We Understand That Man Is the Only Animal Who Must Create Meaning, Who Must Open a Wedge into Neutral Nat.. on Quotations Book." Welcome to Quotations Book - The Home of Famous Quotes. Web. 17 June 2011. <http://quotationsbook.com/quote/24375/>.


Leibniz, "Analysis Early Modern Conceptions of Analysis (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)."Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 17 June 2011. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/analysis/s4.html>.


Euclid, "Euclid's Elements, Book I, Proposition 16." Web. 17 June 2011. <http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/java/elements/bookI/propI16.html>.

7. 8. 9.

Mildred L G Shaw & Brian R Gaines, "Geometry of Psychological Space" and its Significance for Cognitive Modeling, http://pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/~gaines/reports/PSYCH/NewPsych92/index.html Steve Conrad and Dan Flegle 2007 Geometry, http://www.mathleague.com/help/geometry/basicterms.htm "The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 17 June 2011. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/analytic-synthetic/>.

10. Georges Rey, "The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)." Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy. Web. 17 June 2011. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/analytic-synthetic/>.