The a priori

The existence and nature of the a priori are defining issues for philosophy. A philosopher’s attitude to the a priori is a touchstone for his whole approach to the subject. Sometimes, as in Kant’s critical philosophy, or in Quine’s epistemology, a major new position emerges from reflection on questions that explicitly involve the notions of the a priori or the empirical. But even when no explicit use is made of the notion of the a priori in the questions addressed, a philosopher’s methodology, the range of considerations to which the philosopher is open, his conception of the goals of the subject, his idea of what is involved in justification—all of these cannot fail to involve commitments about the nature and the existence of the a priori. So understanding the a priori is not only of interest in itself. It is also essential for self-understanding, if we are to understand ourselves as philosophers.
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