Analytic-synthetic distinction

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The analytic-synthetic distinction is a distinction made in philosophy between two different types of statements or propositions. This distinction is also referred to as the analytic-synthetic dichotomy and the first elucidation of this distinction is credited to Immanuel Kant, who presented it in his work Critique of Pure Reason (1781).

Analytic statements are those that are made true by the meaning of their constituent concepts and thus do not require further experience for their validation. Or alternately such statements are true as they merely repeat what the content of the concepts presupposes.[1] Analytic statements are also often characterized as tautological in that nothing new is presented in such statements which was not already given in the meaning of the statements concepts.[2] Definitions as well as the propositions of mathematics and logic are analytic propositions. Synthetic statements, on the other hand, are those which require experience for the validation of their truth. Or in other words the truth of a synthetic statement cannot be determined solely by an analysis of the meaning or definitions of its concepts, but rather require a further act of experience for the verification of its truth.[3] Examples of analytic statements are "All bachelors are unmarried" and "A triangle has three sides". While examples of synthetic statement include "It is raining outside" and "There are owls in Austria".

Philosophers commonly relate the analytic-synthetic dichotomy to two other distinctions: firstly that between a priori and a posteriori truths and secondly that between necessary and contingent truths. For many philosopher the distinction lines up as follows: analaytic-a priori-neccessary statements are viewed in a similar light versus the similarity of synthetic-a posteriori-contingent statements. [4]


  1. Polleit Thorsten. "True Knowledge from A Priori Theory", June 2011.
  2. Schulak EM and Unterkofler H. "The Austrian School of Economics A History of Ideas, Ambassadors and Institutions", 2011, page 193.
  3. Peikoff Leonard. "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy", 1967.
  4. Gordon David. "Ayn Rand and Objectivism: Lecture 1", Mises Academy 2011.