The major divide in contemporary epistemology is between those who embrace and those who reject a priori knowledge. Albert Casullo provides a systematic treatment of the primary epistemological issues associated with the controversy. By freeing the a priori from traditional assumptions about the nature of knowledge and justification, he offers a novel approach to resolving these issues which assigns a prominent role to empirical evidence. He concludes by arguing that traditional approaches to the a priori, which focus primarily on the (...) concepts of necessity and analyticity, are misguided. (shrink)
During the past decade a new twist in the debate regarding the a priori has unfolded. A number of prominent epistemologists have challenged the coherence or importance of the a priori—a posteriori distinction or, alternatively, of the concept of a priori knowledge. My focus in this paper is on these new challenges to the a priori. My goals are to provide a framework for organizing the challenges, articulate and assess a range of the challenges, and present two challenges of my (...) own. (shrink)
In his seminal paper, Content Preservation, Tyler Burge defends an original account of testimonial knowledge. The originality of the account is due, in part, to the fact that it is cast within a novel epistemic framework. The central feature of that framework is the introduction of the concept of entitlement, which is alleged to be a distinctive type of positive epistemic support or warrant. Entitlement and justification, according to Burge, are sub-species of warrant. Justification is the internalist form of warrant, (...) but entitlement is epistemically externalist. My focus in this paper is Burgeâs conception of entitlement, and there are three primary issues that I wish to address. What is the relationship between entitlement and the more traditional concept of justification? In what sense is entitlement epistemically externalist? Has Burge introduced a new epistemic concept or merely coined a new term for a familiar epistemic concept? (shrink)
One infl uential argument in support of the existence of a priori knowledge is due to Kant, who claimed that necessity is a criterion of the a prioriâ€”that is, that all knowledge of necessary propositions is a priori. Th at claim, together with two others that Kant took to be evidentâ€”we know some mathematical propositions and such propositions are necessaryâ€”led directly to the conclusion that some knowledge is a priori. Kripke ( 1971 , 1980 ) challenged Kantâ€™s central claim by (...) off ering examples of necessary a posteriori propositions. 1 Kripkeâ€™s challenge has led epistemologists to reconsider questions about the relationship between a priori knowledge and necessary truth and the nature of modal knowledge. (shrink)
Tyler Burge offers a theory of testimony that allows for the possibility of both testimonial a priori warrant and testimonial a priori knowledge. I uncover a tension in his account of the relationship between the two, and locate its source in the analogy that Burge draws between testimonial warrant and preservative memory. I contend that this analogy should be rejected, and offer a revision of Burge's theory that eliminates the tension. I conclude by assessing the impact of the revised theory (...) on the scope of a priori knowledge. (shrink)
The past twenty-five years have seen a major renewal of interest in the topic of a priori knowledge. In the sixteen essays collected here, which span this entire period, philosopher Albert Casullo documents the complex set of issues motivating the renewed interest, identifies the central epistemological questions, and provides the leading ideas of a unified response to them.
It seems to me that discussions of the past decades have made clear how intricate and complex the classical notion of the a priori is, and neither the Strong conception nor the Weak conception (nor anything else) can provide a coherent explication. (Kitcher 2000.
There are four approaches to analyzing the concept of a priori knowledge. The primary target of the reductive approach is the concept of a priori justification. The primary target of the nonreductive approach is the concept of a priori knowledge. There are two approaches to analyzing each primary target. A theory-neutral approach provides an analysis that does not presuppose any general theory of knowledge or justification. A theory-laden approach provides an analysis that does presuppose some general theory of knowledge or (...) justification. Those who embrace a theory-laden analysis incur a special burden: they must separate the features of their analysis that are constitutive of the a priori from those that are constitutive of the background theory. My goal is to illustrate how the failure to separate these features leads to erroneous conclusions about the nature of a priori knowledge. (shrink)
Radical empiricism is the view that experience is the only source of knowledge. Hence, radical empiricism denies the existence of a priori knowledge. Its most famous proponents are John Stuart Mill and W. V. Quine. Although both reject a priori knowledge, they offer different empiricist accounts of the knowledge alleged by their opponents to be a priori. My primary concern in this paper is not with the cogency of their positive accounts. My focus is their arguments against a priori knowledge. (...) My goal is to establish that although they offer very different arguments against the existence of a priori knowledge, each of their arguments suffers from a common defect. They both fail to appreciate the phenomenon of epistemic overdetermination and its role in the theory of knowledge. (shrink)
The primary purpose of this paper is to argue that particulars in the actual world are nothing but complexes of universals. I begin by briefly presenting bertrand russell's version of this view and exposing its primary difficulty. I then examine the key assumption which leads russell to difficulty and show that it is mistaken. The rejection of this assumption forms the basis of an alternative version of the view which is articulated and defended.
This paper examines the view that ordinary particulars are complexes of universals. Russell's attempt to develop such a theory is articulated and defended against some common misinterpretations and unfounded criticisms in Section I. The next two sections address an argument which is standardly cited as the primary problem confronting the theory: (1) it is committed to the necessary truth of the principle of the identity of indiscernibles; (2) the principle is not necessarily true. It is argued in Section II that (...) a proponent of the theory need not accept (1) and an argument against (2) is presented in Section III. The final section attempts to show that Russell's theory ultimately fails because of inadequacies in its treatment of space and time. The paper closes with a suggestion for remedying this difficulty. (shrink)
Scott Sturgeon has recently challenged Pollock’s account of undercutting defeaters. The challenge involves three primary contentions: the account is both too strong and too weak, undercutting defeaters exercise their power to defeat only in conjunction with higher-order beliefs about the basis of the lower-order beliefs whose justification they target, and since rebutting defeaters exercise their power to defeat in isolation, rebutting and undercutting defeaters work in fundamentally different ways. My goal is to reject each of these contentions. I maintain that (...) Sturgeon fails to show that Pollock’s account of undercutting defeaters is either too strong or too weak, his own account of how undercutting defeaters exercise their power to defeat is both too strong and too weak, and his claim that rebutting and undercutting defeaters work in fundamentally different ways is mistaken. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Hume's maxim consists of two principles which are logically independent of each other: (1) whatever is conceivable is possible; and (2) whatever is inconceivable is impossible. Thomas Reid offered several arguments against the former principle, while John Stuart mill argued against the latter. The primary concern of this paper is to examine whether Reid and mill were successful in calling Hume's maxim into question.
(K1) All knowledge of necessary propositions is a priori. (K2) All propositions known a priori are necessary. (K3) All knowledge of analytic propositions is a priori; and (K4) Some propositions known a priori are synthetic.
The purpose of this article is to defend Hume's claim that whatever is conceivable is possible from a criticism by William Kneale. Kneale argues that although a mathematician can conceive of the falsehood of the Goldbach conjecture, he does not conclude that it is not necessarily true. The author suggests that by taking into account Hume's distinction between intuitive and demonstrative knowledge, a revised version of his claim can be offered which is not open to Kneale's criticism.
In recent years empiricism has come under attack. Some argue that the view is incoherent and conclude, on that basis, that some knowledge is a priori. Whatever the merits of such arguments against empiricism, they cannot be parlayed into an argument in support of the a priori unless the latter is not open to those arguments. My primary contention is that the a priori is open to the arguments offered against empiricism. Hence, they do not advance the case for the (...) a priori. I go on to offer an alternative strategy. The leading idea is that, instead of arguing against empiricism, rationalists should marshal empirical support for their position. (shrink)
David Henderson and Terry Horgan offer a detailed account of the structure of conceptual analysis that is embedded within a more general account of a priori justification. Their account highlights an important feature of conceptual analysis that has been overlooked in the recent debate. Although it is generally recognized that conceptual analysis involves an inference from premises to the effect that some concept does (or does not) apply to a range of particular cases to a general conclusion about the nature (...) of the concept itself, the details of that inference have not been fully articulated. Henderson and Horgan offer an articulation of the inferential connection which, taken in conjunction with their account of a priori justification, yields a startling conclusion about the epistemic status of the results of conceptual analysis. My view is that their account of a priori justification misses the mark and, as a consequence, they arrive at a conclusion about the epistemic status of the results of conceptual analysis that many will find implausible. Moreover, I fear that because many will find their overall conclusion implausible, they will either overlook or dismiss the important feature of the inferential connection that Henderson and Horgan correctly highlight. Hence, I have two goals. First, I want to track down the source of their mischaracterization of the a priori and to show why it is a mischaracterization. Second, I want to highlight the important feature of the inferential connection involved in conceptual analysis that they identify, articulate its bearing on the debate over the existence of a priori knowledge and assess its implications. (shrink)
Joshua Thurow offers a defence of the claim that if a belief is defeasible by non-experiential evidence then it is defeasible by experiential evidence. He responds to an objection which I make against this claim, and offers two arguments in support of his own position. I show that Thurow's response misconstrues my objection, and that his supporting arguments fall short of their goal.
This is my response to the papers by Chris Pincock, Lisa Warenski and Jonathan Weinberg, which were presented at the Book Symposium on my Essays on A Priori Knowledge and Justification, American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meetings, March 16–19, 2014.
At any given time, an individual has certain beliefs and certain procedures or methods for modifying those beliefs. In The Realm of Reason, as in his previous book, Being Known (1999), Christopher Peacocke is concerned with the elusive question of what it is for someone to be “entitled” to a given belief or procedure.1..