Intuition, Thought Experiments, and the A Priori

Albert Casullo
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
There has been a significant shift in the discussion of a priori knowledge. The shift is due largely to the influence of Quine. The traditional debate focused on the epistemic status of mathematics and logic. Kant, for example, maintained that arithmetic and geometry provide clear examples of synthetic a priori knowledge and that principles of logic, such as the principle of contradiction, provide the basis for analytic a priori knowledge. Quine’s rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction and his holistic empiricist account of mathematic and logical knowledge undercut the traditional defenses of the a priori in two ways. First, one could no longer defend the view that mathematical and logical knowledge is a priori solely by rejecting Mill’s inductive empiricism. Moreover, holistic empiricism proved to be a more challenging position to refute than inductive empiricism. Second, the rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction blocked an alternative defense of the a priori status of mathematics and logic that appealed to their alleged analyticity
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