Tag Archives: a-priori knowledge

Apriori Cognition

Children do not have well developed cognition. For example, when someone hides their face behind their hands and does the peek-a-boo thing, they become all excited because they do not have a fully developed sense of a-priori cognition. A-priori cognition here is as Kant states it. We do not have innate knowledge but from a-posteriori knowledge, a-priori knowledge can be derived. That is, if we see a ball rolling down a particular path and it disappears from our eye-sight, we still have an idea of where the ball lies. Seeing the ball rolling away is a-posteriori cognition and knowing where the ball would be is a-priori cognition. As we grow older, our a-priori cognition gets strengthened. Although, most people, it seems put a stop to the development of their a-priori cognitive sense.

Let’s go back to my first example. As children, the peek-a-boo thing would amuse us, probably because we were fascinated with all the sudden appearances and disappearances. One shouldn’t expect the same thing to work on a grumpy teenager. S/he probably punch your face as you pop out from behind your palms, “peek-a-b…ouch”. The teenager knows that you haven’t disappeared and magically reappeared. The teenager knows you hid behind your filthy hands and revealed your displeasing face again.

Most human emotions are based on the absence of consistent a-priori knowledge. Fear, because we do not know how something would go down. Anger, because we feel inadequate, or unable to help a situation or simply an outburst of emotions that force us into action. Sadness, because we face a loss. These emotions can be overcome easily. Say, you’d have fear if you did not study for an exam but if you did study for it, it can be overcome. Otherwise, it can be overcome by playing out in your mind what would happen if you did fail the exam and what course of action you could pursue. By action or reasoning any emotion can be overcome.

Let’s see what emotions most humans overcome this way and which ones they do not overcome. Fear of the dark. This is a splendid example. Initially when we have a poor grasp on a-priori cognition, we are scared. We are caught unawares as to what creepy-crawlies, what predators may lurk in the dark waiting for us to switch off the lights, only to pounce on us and devour us despite our bloodcurdling screams. As time goes on, we gain a-posteriori knowledge that nothing is going to attack us and we gain a-priori cognition. We take a look at things before switching off the lights and know that the things exist the way they were even when the lights are switched off. We can navigate in the dark now and have overcome our fear, a base response from an untrained mind. Humans overcome a bunch of emotions this way.

What intrigues me is how they stop developing their a-priori cognition. They develop it to brave their fear of the dark, fear of heights, to deal with sadness and control their anger by gaining a-priori knowledge by the process of reasoning, but then they stop completely at a point. They do not go on to develop it beyond a certain point. For example, the death of a loved one. Everyone is going to die. Chances are you’ve already seen a person die or even a whole bunch of people you’ve known. Everyday in the news, we hear thousands have been killed off in one corner of the world or another, be it natural disasters or army invasions or civil wars. Hell, there’s even an obituary column to remind you daily that you are temporary. Still, I’m confounded by the fact, I’m totally stumped when I see people crying. They saw it coming, all their life but still they grasp at straws instead of seeing the light. For a less morbid example, take how teenagers react when they see their friends at the mall or the sidewalk. They go crazy! Like yeah, you live in the same city and what do all folk do except go to the mall or some other stupid place. They go haywire when they see their friends,  like they won the noble prize for running hundred meters under 7 seconds, underwater in a zero gravity field.

So, yep. Develop it.

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