Self-evident

In epistemology (theory of knowledge), a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof.

Some epistemologists deny that any proposition can be self-evident. For most others, the belief that oneself is conscious is offered as an example of self-evidence. However, one's belief that someone else is conscious is not epistemically self-evident.

The following proposition is often said to be self-evident:

  • A finite whole is greater than, or equal to, any of its parts

Certain forms of argument from self-evidence are considered fallacious or abusive in debate. For example, if a proposition is claimed to be self-evident, it is an argumentative fallacy to assert that disagreement with the proposition indicates misunderstanding of it.

Analytic propositions

It is sometimes said that a self-evident proposition is one whose denial is self-contradictory. It is also sometimes said that an analytic proposition is one whose denial is self-contradictory. But the concepts do mean different things.

Provided that one understands a self-evident proposition, one believes it, and self evident propositions are not in need of proof. Likewise, that their denial is self contradictory does not have to be proven. It is in this sense that the self contradiction at work in self evident and analytic propositions are different.

Not all analytic propositions are self evident, and it is sometimes claimed that not all self-evident proposition are analytic: e.g. my knowledge that I am conscious.

Other uses

Claims of self-evidence also exist outside of epistemology.

Informal speech

In informal speech, self-evident often merely means obvious, but the epistemological definition is more strict.

Moral propositions

Moral propositions can also be said to be self-evident. For example, Alexander Hamilton cited the following moral propositions as self-evident in the Federalist No. 37:

  • The means ought to be proportioned to the end.
  • Every power ought to be commensurate with its object.
  • There ought to be no limitation of a power destined to effect a purpose which is itself incapable of limitation.

A famous claim of the self-evidence of a moral truth is in the United States Declaration of Independence, which states, "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."; philosophically, that proposition is not necessarily self-evident, and the subsequent propositions surely are not.

See also

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.