Modal Empiricism: What is the Problem

Oxford Studies in Epistemology 6 (2019)
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Kant contends that necessity is a criterion of the a priori—that is, that all knowledge of necessary propositions is a priori. This contention, together with two others that Kant took to be evident—we know some mathematical propositions and such propositions are necessary—leads directly to the conclusion that some knowledge is a priori. Although many contemporary philosophers endorse Kant’s criterion, supporting arguments are hard to come by. Gordon Barnes provides one of the few examples. My purpose in this chapter is to articulate and examine his argument. I have two goals in doing so. The first is to uncover several significant gaps in the argument. The second is to show that it suffers from a common defect in rationalist arguments. If the argument were successful against empiricist accounts of modal knowledge, it would apply with equal force to extant rationalist accounts of such knowledge. Hence, the cost of refuting modal empiricism is modal scepticism.



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Albert Casullo
University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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