One of the more visible recent developments in philosophical methodology is the experimental philosophy movement. On its surface, the experimentalist challenge looks like a dramatic threat to the apriority of philosophy; ‘experimentalist’ is nearly antonymic with ‘aprioristic’. This appearance, I suggest, is misleading; the experimentalist critique is entirely unrelated to questions about the apriority of philosophical investigation. There are many reasons to resist the skeptical conclusions of negative experimental philosophers; but even if they are granted—even if the experimentalists (...) are right to claim that we must do much more careful laboratory work in order legitimately to be confident in our philosophical judgments— the apriority of philosophy is unimpugned. The kinds of scientific investigation that experimental philosophers argue to be necessary involve merely enabling sensory experiences. Although they are not enabling in the sense of permitting concept acquisition, they are enabling in another epistemically significant way that is also consistent with the apriority of philosophy. (shrink)
In the 1960s and 1970s, Hilary Putnam articulated a notion of relativized apriority that was motivated to address the problem of scientific change. This paper examines Putnam’s account in its historical context and in relation to contemporary views. I begin by locating Putnam’s analysis in the historical context of Quine’s rejection of apriority, presenting Putnam as a sympathetic commentator on Quine. Subsequently, I explicate Putnam’s positive account of apriority, focusing on his analysis of the history of physics (...) and geometry. In the remainder of the paper, I explore connections between Putnam’s account of relativized a priori principles and contemporary views. In particular, I situate Putnam’s account in relation to analyses advanced by Michael Friedman, David Stump, and William Wimsatt. From this comparison, I address issues concerning whether a priori scientific principles are appropriately characterized as “constitutive” or “entrenched”. I argue that these two features need to be clearly distinguished, and that only the constitutive function is essential to apriority. By way of conclusion, I explore the relationship between the constitutive function of a priori principles and entrenchment. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with a propositional modal logic with operators for necessity, actuality and apriority. The logic is characterized by a class of relational structures deﬁned according to ideas of epistemic two-dimensional semantics, and can therefore be seen as formalizing the relations between necessity, actuality and apriority according to epistemic two-dimensional semantics. We can ask whether this logic is correct, in the sense that its theorems are all and only the informally valid formulas. This paper gives outlines (...) of two arguments that jointly show that this is the case. The first is intended to show that the logic is informally sound, in the sense that all of its theorems are informally valid. The second is intended to show that it is informally complete, in the sense that all informal validities are among its theorems. In order to give these arguments, a number of independently interesting results concerning the logic are proven. In particular, the soundness and completeness of two different proof systems with respect to the semantics is proven (Theorems 2.11. and 2.15.), as well as a normal form theorem (Theorem 3.23.), an elimination theorem for the actuality operator (Corollary 3.27.), and the decidability of the logic (Corollary 3.28.). (shrink)
Peacocke proposes a criterion for logical constancy in terms of a priori knowability conditions. An a priori knowability condition, Peacocke claims, meets a condition of adequacy for any criterion of logical constancy: expressions satisfying the criterion are topic-neutral. I’ll raise the objection that certain a posteriori knowability conditions would satisfy this adequacy condition. For the requirement of topic-neutrality is ambiguous between two conceptions. Under one conception, a truth is topic-neutral if it is characterized by its indifference to all worldly facts (...) or its abstraction from all semantic content whatsoever. According to another conception of topic-neutrality, to claim that a truth is topic-neutral is not to characterize it by its abstraction from all content whatsoever but rather to characterize it by its abstraction from the specific identities of things. A posteriori knowability conditions could yield expressions which are topic-neutral in this second sense, and so a priori knowability conditions are unnecessary to yield expressions which are topic-neutral in some sense or other. (shrink)
In interpretations of the "Transcendental Aesthetic" section of the first Critique, there is a widespread tendency to present Kant as establishing that the representation of space is a condition for individuating or distinguishing objects, and to claim that it is on this basis that Kant establishes the apriority of this representation. The aim of this paper is to criticize this way of interpreting the "Aesthetic," and to defend an alternative interpretation. On this alternative, questions about the formation of the (...) representation of space figure more centrally, and the anti-Leibnizian character of Kant's argument can be properly appreciated. (shrink)
The classical view of the relationship between necessity and apriority, defended by Leibniz and Kant, is that all necessary truths are known a priori. The classical view is now almost universally rejected, ever since Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam discovered that there are necessary truths that are known only a posteriori. However, in recent years a new debate has emerged over the epistemology of these necessary a posteriori truths. According to one view – call it the neo-classical view – (...) knowledge of a necessary truth always depends on at least one item of a priori knowledge. According to the rival view – call it the neoempiricist view – our knowledge of necessity is sometimes broadly empirical. In this paper I present and defend an argument against the neo-empiricist view. I argue that knowledge of the necessity of a necessary truth could not be broadly empirical. (shrink)
This essay motivates a revised version of the epistemic condition of safety and then employs the revision to (i) challenge the traditional conceptions of apriority, (ii) refute 'strong privileged access', and (iii) resolve a well-known puzzle about externalism and self-knowledge.
The paper raises two questions, which seem central to understanding Kant's transcendental epistemology in the first Critique. First, Kant claims that the conditions for the possibility of experience are also conditions for the possibility of the objects of experience (A158/B197). Here the notion of an object is not conceived from the divine standpoint ('the view from nowhere') and is in some sense relativized to experience. But in what sense? Is the notion of an object relativized to one specific kind of (...) experience, human experience? Or is it relativized only to any possible experience? Second, in what sense is Kant's transcendental epistemology a priori? Is it a priori in the strong sense that its starting-point - the notion of experience in the question 'How is experience possible?' - is a priori? Or is it a priori only in the weak sense that, while the notion of experience is obtained empirically, a priori reasoning is required to establish how experience is possible? It has recently been argued (by Patricia Kitcher, Kant's Transcendental Psychology) that (a) the results that Kant wants to establish transcenden-tally about objects are relative to one specific kind of experience, human experience, and (b) Kant's transcendental epistemology is a priori only in the weak sense that the reasoning is a priori, while the starting-point is empirical. These claims are indeed crucial to Kitcher's overall aim of naturalizing Kant's transcendental epistemology. The aim of the paper is to resist both claims. I argue that Kant's notion of an object of experience is the notion of an object of any possible experience, not the notion of an object of one specific kind of experience, human experience. It follows, I argue, that Kant's transcendental epistemology is a priori in the strong sense that its starting-point is a priori. If we deny strong apriority, we fail to account for Kant's move from the nature of experience to the nature of empirical reality: empirical reality as such, not empirical reality as experienced by a particular variety of creatures capable of experience. The upshot is that, for better or worse, Kant's transcendental epistemology cannot be naturalized. (shrink)
This paper introduces a referential reading of Kant?s practical project, according to which maxims are made morally permissible by their correspondence to objects, though not the ontic objects of Kant?s theoretical project but deontic objects (what ought to be). It illustrates this model by showing how the content of the Formula of Universal Law might be determined by what our capacity of practical reason can stand in a referential relation to, rather than by facts about what kind of beings we (...) are (viz., uncaused causes). This solves the neglected puzzle of why there are passages in Kant?s works suggesting robust analogies between mathematics and ethics, since to universalize a maxim is to test a priori whether a practical object with that particular content can be constructed. An apparent problem with this hypothesis is that the medium of practical sensibility (feeling) does not play a role analogous to the medium of theoretical sensibility (intuition). In response I distinguish two separate Kantian accounts of mathematical apriority. The thesis that maxim universalization is a species of construction, and thus a priori, turns out to be consistent with the account of apriority that informs Kant?s understanding of actual mathematical practice. (shrink)
The paper argues that the use of epistemic terms, prominently “… knows” and even “… knows a priori/a posteriori” is context-sensitive along several dimensions. Besides the best known dimension of quality of evidence (lower quality for less demanding context, and higher one for more demanding), there is a dimension of depth (shallow justification for superficial evaluation, and deeper justification for deeper probing evaluation contexts). This claim is illustrated by context-dependent ascription of apriority and aposteriority. The argument proposed here focuses (...) upon the status of propositions that are analytic in empirical concepts (like “Whales are animals”). It is a commonplace in epistemology that any analytic proposition (including e-analytic ones) is a priori. The paper claims that propositions analyzing empirical concepts are an interesting counterexample. It develops the following argument: Many such propositions have empirical counterparts that are expressed by the same form-of-words. (E.g., the form of words “Whales are mammals” can express both an e-analytic proposition and an empirical statement.) They normally derive from their empirical counterparts. Beliefs in such propositions, can be explicitly justified either a priori, by pointing out their conceptual, analytic status, or by reverting to their empirical counterparts. In contexts of very superficial evaluation, one may justify such an analytic belief in the first, conceptual way. In most contexts a belief in a proposition analyzing an empirical concept is being justified by appeal to its empirical counterparts. The empirical justification is normally taken as being ultimate. Empirical counterparts are derivationally deeper than the corresponding analytic propositions, and empirical justification is deeper than a priori one as well. Therefore, propositions analyzing empirical concepts are deeply a posteriori and superficially a priori. (shrink)
Natural kind terms don’t have descriptive meanings, Devitt claims. The paper argues that this claim is tantamount to denying the existence of natural kind concepts, in the usual sense of “concept”, since concepts are predicate meanings. The denial is counterintuitive, and has bad epistemological consequences, since natural kind concepts are among the building blocks of our understanding of the world. The paper ends with a positive proposal, featuring a bold claim: if the standard Kripke-Putnam, line on semantics of natural kind (...) terms is correct, and if there are natural kind concepts, then propositions analyzing these concepts are not apriori knowable. Analyticity does not entail apriority. (shrink)
In this essay I discuss Fichte's changing understanding of the a priori/a posteriori distinction from the earliest writings on the Wissenschaftslehre to the System of Ethics. I argue that Fichte moves decisively away from the Kantian conception of the a priori, due to his development of the ideal/real distinction in his elaboration of the Wissenschaftslehre. Since Fichte's conception of apriority is not Kant's, we can only understand his claim that the System of Ethics can provide an answer a priori (...) to the question: what is our duty? (shrink)
The paper critically discusses the Chalmers-and-Jackson strategy of accounting for the dynamics of conceptual intuitions. In contrast to this strategy, it is argued that concepts alone do not determine in advance rational responses to new evidence. An initial concept is often revised in the light of new data, the revision being guided by the goal of detecting the deep causal structure of the domain investigated. Using examples from the history of science (concept REFLEX ARC) as an illustration, it is argued (...) that the dilemma of either irrational messy updating of intuitions (Yablo) or strict rails of conceptual pre-determination (Chalmers-Jackson) is a false one. Rationality does not lie in the alleged conceptual apriority, but in the flexible pursuit of reasonable epistemic goals. (shrink)
The apriority of moral feeling is an indispensable part of Kant's insistence on moral certainty as a foundation for ethics. Even though the moral feeling of respect cannot be the source of our knowledge of the authority of the moral law, moral feeling is a catalyst to self-criticism and moral self-confidence. It is argued that moral feeling reveals a nonempirical object, one's moral character. In fact, moral feeling plays a representational role that parallels sense experience, but does not derive (...) from sense experience. His general remarks on sensibility and representations and his specific discussion of moral sensibility make it hard to take feeling as central to his ethics, but this paper explains how they in no way preclude a representational function for moral sense. (shrink)
The paper critically discusses the Chalmers and Jackson strategy of accounting for the dynamics of conceptual intuitions. In contrast to this strategy, it is argued that concepts alone do not determine in advance rational responses to new evidence. An initial concept is often revised in the light of new data, the revision being guided by the goal of detecting the deep causal structure of the domain investigated. Using examples from the history of science (concept Reflex Arc) as an illustration, it (...) is argued that the dilemma of either irrational messy updating of intuitions (Yablo) or strict rails of conceptual predetermination (Chalmers-Jackson) is a false one. Rationality does not lie in the alleged conceptual apriority, but in the flexible pursuit of reasonable epistemic goals. (shrink)
The paper considers two—in author’s belief fundamental—approaches to apriority, which he proposes to call “absolute” and “relative.” The first was most fully expressed by Immanuel Kant, the second by Ludwig Wittgenstein. In author’s opinion, both derive from empiricist philosophy in its modern form. The concept of experience which is characteristic of modern empiricism forces acceptance of certain experienceindependent (a priori) assumptions, thanks to which only experience can provide information about objects. Depending on whether we regard these assumptions as independent (...) of all experience or only from a specific context and reference frame and empirical in other contexts, we receive respectively absolute and relative apriority. The author attempts to prove that relative apriority is the continuation, generalisation and radicalisation of the absolute variant. (shrink)
Epistemic two-dimensional semantics is a theory in the philosophy of language that provides an account of meaning which is sensitive to the distinction between necessity and apriority. While this theory is usually presented in an informal manner, I take some steps in formalizing it in this paper. To do so, I define a semantics for a propositional modal logic with operators for the modalities of necessity, actuality, and apriority that captures the relevant ideas of epistemic two-dimensional semantics. I (...) also describe some properties of the logic that are interesting from a philosophical perspective, and apply it to the so-called nesting problem. (shrink)
THE PAPER BEGINS BY CONSIDERING THREE ALTERNATIVE DEFINITIONS OF "ANALYTIC," ONE IN TERMS OF LOGICAL TRUTH, ONE IN TERMS OF THE MEANINGS OF WORDS, AND ONE IN TERMS OF SELF-CONTRADICTION OR INCOHERENCE. NEXT, FIVE DEFINITIONS OF "NECESSARY" ARE CONSIDERED, ONE IN TERMS OF ANALYTICITY, AND ONE PICKING OUT THE BROADER KIND OF LOGICAL NECESSITY DISCUSSED BY KRIPKE AND PLANTINGA. FINALLY, THREE DEFINITIONS OF "A PRIORI" ARE CONSIDERED. ONLY ON A FEW OF THESE DEFINITIONS DO THE CATEGORIES OF ANALYTIC, NECESSARY, AND (...) A PRIORI COINCIDE. (shrink)
Graeme Forbes (2011) raises some problems for two-dimensional semantic theories. The problems concern nested environments: linguistic environments where sentences are nested under both modal and epistemic operators. Closely related problems involving nested environments have been raised by Scott Soames (2005) and Josh Dever (2007). Soames (forthcoming) goes so far as to say that nested environments pose the “chief technical problem” for strong two-dimensionalism. We might call the problem of handling nested environments within two-dimensional semantics the nesting problem. We first lay (...) out the basic principles of two-dimensional semantics and a simple treatment of necessity and apriority operators, and spell out how Forbes' puzzle arises within this framework. We then show how a generalized version of the puzzle arises independently of two-dimensional semantics. We go on to spell out a two-dimensional treatment of attitude verbs and spell out a two-dimensional treatment of the apriority operator that fits the two-dimensional treatment of attitude verbs and show how these handle Forbes' puzzles. (shrink)
In what follows, I argue that Hume works with a notion of the a priori that, though unfamiliar today, was standard in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. On this notion of the a priori, to know (consider, prove) something a priori is to know (consider, prove) it from the grounds that make it true. I will refer to this as the "from-grounds" notion of the a priori, and to the now-familiar and dominant notion—on which to know something a priori is (...) to know it with a justification that is independent of experience—as the "non-empirical" notion.Hume holds, as a substantive thesis, that one knows something a priori, where 'a priori' is understood in the from-grounds sense, only if one knows it independently of .. (shrink)
I argue that we need not accept Quine's holistic conception of mathematics and empirical science. Specifically, I argue that we should reject Quine's holism for two reasons. One, his argument for this position fails to appreciate that the revision of the mathematics employed in scientific theories is often related to an expansion of the possibilities of describing the empirical world, and that this reveals that mathematics serves as a kind of rational framework for empirical theorizing. Two, this holistic conception does (...) not clearly demarcate pure mathematics from applied mathematics. In arguing against Quine, I present a formal account of applied mathematics in which the mathematics employed in an empirical theory plays a role that is analogous to the epistemological role Kant assigned synthetic a priori propositions. According to this account, it is possible to insulate pure mathematics from empirical falsification, and there is a sense in which applied mathematics can also be labeled as a priori. (shrink)
In my 1991 paper, AAnti-Individualism and Privileged Access,@ I argued that externalism in the philosophy of mind is incompatible with the thesis that we have privileged , nonempirical access to the contents of our own thoughts.1 One of the most interesting responses to my argument has been that of Martin Davies (1998, 2000, and Chapter _ above) and Crispin Wright (2000 and Chapter _ above), who describe several types of cases to show that warrant for a premise does not always (...) transmit to a known deductive consequence of that premise, and who contend that this fact under-mines my argument for incompatibilism. I will try to show here that the Davies/Wright point about transmission of warrant does not adversely affect my argument. (shrink)
The paper argues that there is such a thing as luck in acquisition of candidate a priori beliefs and knowledge, and that the possibility of luck in this “armchair” domain shows that definitions of believing by luck that p offered in literature are inadequate, since they mostly rely on the possibility of it being the case that not- p. When p is necessary, such a definition should be supplemented by one pointing to variation in belief, not in the fact believed. (...) Thus the paper suggests a focus upon the agent and her epistemic virtue in the account of epistemic luck in general. (shrink)
The thesis that the necessary and the a priori are extensionally equivalent consists of two independent claims: 1) All a priori truths are necessary and 2) all necessary truths are a priori. In Naming and Necessity1 Saul A. Kripke gives examples of necessary but a posteriori truths, so he disagrees with the second leg of the thesis.2 His examples are of two types; on the one hand statements involving essential properties and on the other hand true identity statements. My concern (...) will be with examples of the second type and whether they refute (2). (2), however, is ambiguous and can mean one of three things. (shrink)
It is sometimes argued that mathematical knowledge must be a priori, since mathematical truths are necessary, and experience tells us only what is true, not what must be true. This argument can be undermined either by showing that experience can yield knowledge of the necessity of some truths, or by arguing that mathematical theorems are contingent. Recent work by Albert Casullo and Timothy Williamson argues (or can be used to argue) the first of these lines; W. V. Quine and Hartry (...) Field take the latter line. I defend a version of the argument against these, and other objections. (shrink)
I argue that beliefs that are true whenever held-like I exist, I am thinking about myself, and (in an object-dependent framework) Jack = Jack-needn't on that account be a priori. It does however seem possible to remove the existential commitment from the last example, to get a belief that is knowable a priori. I discuss some difficulties concerning how to do that.
I examine Reichenbach’s theory of relative a priori and Michael Friedman’s interpretation of it. I argue that Reichenbach’s view remains at bottom conventionalist and that one issue which separates Reichenbach’s account from Kant’s apriorism is the problem of mathematical applicability. I then discuss Hermann Weyl’s theory of blank forms which in many ways runs parallel to the theory of relative a priori. I argue that it is capable of dealing with the problem of applicability, but with a cost.
If the a priori is the proper subject matter of transcendental philosophy, then the problems of the a priori are also problems for transcendental philosophy. the idea that defines transcendental philosophy is the idea that there are stable general structures which are discernible in experience, provide the foundations of our knowledge of it, and collectively constitute an a priori which transcends experience and informs it. the a priori is traditionally conceived as a nexus of relations which is held to be (...) logically/temporally prior to experience and responsible for its organization. in this essay, i challenge this traditional (kantian) understanding of the a priori and set forth an alternative to it based on the writings of maurice merleau-ponty. the intent is to provide a new conception of transcendental philosophy. (shrink)
The melting temperature is not a suﬃcient characteristic, but a necessary one. Suppose there is a given solid substance X. To verify whether X is phosphorus we heat it to 44◦C and observe its behaviour. If it starts melting, there are other tests to perform for establishing the nature of X. If it fails, we raise a hypothesis that X is not in fact phosphorus.
Logical structure may explain the necessity and a priori knowability of such truths as that if A is red then A is either red or green. But this explanation cannot be extended to sentences that, while necessary and knowable a priori, do not wear the appropriate logical structure on their sleeves – sentences like ''''if A is a point and A is red, then A is not green,'''' or ''''if A is a sphere, then A is not a cube.'''' The (...) real origin of these sentences'' necessity and a priori knowability is a relationship between the meanings of their component atomic sentences – a relationship which cannot be systematically reduced to logical structure by translating those atomic sentences into any kind of ''''ideal'''' language. Moreover, this kind of relationship is one to which any atomic sentences are susceptible if they have a classifying, or comparison-implying, content. Arguably, then, all atomic sentences are capable of being related to others in ways that are necessary and knowable a priori. (shrink)
Since the argument is a valid one, in order to evaluate it we have to look at its premisses. In this paper I shall conﬁne my attention to the second premiss. I shall look at two species of moral realism. Within the more attractive form..
This paper addresses problems associated with the role of the empirical concept of matter in Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, offering an interpretation emphasizing two points consistently neglected in the secondary literature: the distinction between logical and real essence, and Kant's claim that motion must be represented in pure intuition by static geometrical figures. I conclude that special metaphysics cannot achieve its stated and systematically justified goal of discovering the real essence of matter, but that Kant requires this failure (...) for his larger philosophical presentation of the dialectic that (A298/B354). (shrink)