The Role of A Priori Belief in the Design and Analysis of Fault-Tolerant Distributed Systems

Minds and Machines 33 (2):293-319 (2023)
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The debate around the notions of a priori knowledge and a posteriori knowledge has proven crucial for the development of many fields in philosophy, such as metaphysics, epistemology, metametaphysics etc. We advocate that the recent debate on the two notions is also fruitful for man-made distributed computing systems and for the epistemic analysis thereof. Following a recently proposed modal and fallibilistic account of a priori knowledge, we elaborate the corresponding concept of a priori belief: We propose a rich taxonomy of types of a priori beliefs and their role for the different agents that participate in the system engineering process, which match the existing view exceedingly well and are particularly promising for explaining and dealing with unexpected behaviors in fault-tolerant distributed systems. Developing such a philosophical foundation will provide a sound basis for eventually implementing our ideas in a suitable epistemic reasoning and analysis framework and, hence, constitutes a mandatory first step for developing methods and tools to cope with the various challenges that emerge in such systems.

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