In recent years, Reichenbach's 1920 conception of the principles of coordination has attracted increased attention after Michael Friedman's attempt to revive Reichenbach's idea of a "relativized a priori". This paper follows the origin and development of this idea in the framework of Reichenbach's distinction between the axioms of coordination and the axioms of connection. It suggests a further differentiation among the coordinating axioms and accordingly proposes a different account of Reichenbach's "relativized a priori".
I examine implications for structural realism of Michael Friedman’s view about relativized a priori principles. Friedman's argument implies that there is structural preservation of constitutive principles in theory change, which suggests that the structural realist should be committed to these principles, given that they satisfy her criterion of ontological commitment. Since these principles are not regarded as representing physical structure, I argue that a dilemma arises for the structural realist. Either a distinction between mathematical structures that represent and (...) mathematical structures that do not represent needs to be drawn, in order to block the structural realist from ontologically committing to relativized a priori principles, or the structural realist must ontologically commit to relativized a priori principles. Due to the dynamical nature of relativized a priori principles, the first option is untenable. The second option reveals implications for structural realism but also problems for Friedman's view. (shrink)
Building on a previously published contextualization of Marco Buzzoni’s Neo- Kantian account of scientific thought-experiments, this paper examines the explanatory power of this account. It is argued that Buzzoni’s account suffers from a number of shortcomings. Einstein’s clock-in-the-box thought experiment facilitates the demonstration of these deficits. In the light of both the identified inadequacies of Buzzoni’s account and the long-standing history of Kantian approaches to thought experiments, this paper finally sketches an alternative Neo-Kantian account. This alternative utilizes Michael Friedman’s reading (...) of Kant’s a priori within a Kuhnian account of thought experiments along the lines of conceptual constructivism as anticipated by Georg Lichtenberg and further developed recently by Tamar Gendler. (shrink)
This paper replies to objections that have been raised against my operational-Kantian account of thought experiments by Fehige 2012 and 2013. Fehige also sketches an alternative Neo-Kantian account that utilizes Michael Friedman’s concept of a contingent and changeable a priori. To this I shall reply, first, that Fehige’s objections not only neglect some fundamental points I had made as regards the realizability of TEs, but also underestimate the principle of empiricism, which was rightly defended by Kant. Secondly, in opposition (...) to what he states, my account does not differ in a very essential way from the empiricist solutions either as regards the power of TEs to predict something new about empirical reality, or as regards the criteria for telling apart good from bad TEs. Thirdly, in the light of the Kantian definition of the a priori, Friedman’s corresponding notion is contrary both to the spirit and to the letter of Kant’s philosophy; moreover, from a theoretical point of view, a material a priori is theoretically untenable since, counter to Friedman’s own intentions, it leads to relativism. -/- . (shrink)
In "Dynamics of Reason" (2001), Michael Friedman advocates a neo-Kantian perspective for philosophy of science that addresses the problem of scientific change and opposes both Quine's naturalism and Kuhn's relativism. This critical notice of Friedman's book focuses on the "relativized a priori" principles articulated by Friedman. Friedman's arguments against Quine and Kuhn are subsequently evaluated. It is concluded that Friedman succeeds in illustrating deficiencies of Quine's naturalism, however, he fails to sufficiently establish a "rational" basis for theory-choice and, (...) hence, his argument against Kuhn's "arational" view is unsuccessful. (shrink)
: This essay explores some themes in use of a relativized Kantian a priori in the work of Thomas Kuhn and Michael Friedman. It teases out some shared and some divergent beliefs and attitudes in these two philosophers by comparing their characteristic questions and problems to the questions and problems that seem most appropriately to attend to an adequate understanding of games and their histories. It argues for a way forward within a relativized Kantian framework that is (...) suggested but not argued for in Friedman (2001): philosophers of science should move from a concern with unreason as meaninglessness to a concern with unreason as argumentative coercion. It ends with a few suggestions regarding a place for philosophy in the history of reason. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue against the view there are contingent a priori truths, and against the related view that there are contingent logical truths. I will suggest that in general, predicates ›a priori‹ and ›contingent‹ are implicitly relativized to circumstances, and argue that apriority entails necessity, whenever the two are relativized to the same circumstance. I will then criticize the idea, inspired by David Kaplan's framework, of contingent contents »knowable under a priori characters.« I (...) will also argue, against Kaplan, that sentences of the form »The actual F is F« do not deserve the status of logical truths, since what they express is neither necessary nor a priori. (shrink)
Since Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, the view that there are contingent apriori truths has been surprisingly widespread. In this paper, I argue against that view. My first point is that in general, occurrences of predicates “a priori” and “contingent” are implicitly relativized to some circumstance, involving an agent, a time, a location. My second point is that apriority and necessity coineide when relativized to the same circumstance. That is to say, what is known apriori (by an (...) agent in a circumstance) cannot fail to be the case (in the same circumstance), hence it is necessary. (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)
In this paper I argue for a priori conjectural scientific knowledge about the world. Physics persistently only accepts unified theories, even though endlessly many empirically more successful disunified rivals are always available. This persistent preference for unified theories, against empirical considerations, means that physics makes a substantial, persistent metaphysical assumption, to the effect that the universe has a (more or less) unified dynamic structure. In order to clarify what this assumption amounts to, I solve the problem of what it (...) means to say of a theory that it is unified. There are, I argue, eight different kinds of unity important in theoretical physics, all varieties of one basic idea. This provides us with a precise way of partially ordering physical theories with respect to their degree of unity. It also leads to a hierarchical view of physics, according to which physics makes a number of increasingly insubstantial metaphysical assumptions concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe. Two of these are identified as constituting a priori conjectures. I conclude by arguing that the view developed in the paper resolves the traditional clash between empiricism and rationalism in the philosophy of science, and has important implications for science, and for academic inquiry more generally. (shrink)
On rationalist infallibilism, a wide range of both (i) analytic and (ii) synthetic a priori propositions can be infallibly justified (or absolutely warranted), i.e., justified to a degree that entails their truth and precludes their falsity. Though rationalist infallibilism is indisputably running its course, adherence to at least one of the two species of infallible a priori justification refuses to disappear from mainstream epistemology. Among others, Putnam (1978) still professes the a priori infallibility of some category (i) (...) propositions, while Burge (1986, 1988, 1996) and Lewis (1996) have recently affirmed the a priori infallibility of some category (ii) propositions. In this paper, I take aim at rationalist infallibilism by calling into question the a priori infallibility of both analytic and synthetic propositions. The upshot will be twofold: first, rationalist infallibilism unsurprisingly emerges as a defective epistemological doctrine, and second, more importantly, the case for the a priori infallibility of one or both categories of propositions turns out to lack cogency. (shrink)
Objective reasons are given by the facts. Subjective reasons are given by one’s perspective on the facts. Subjective reasons, not objective reasons, determine what it is rational to do. In this paper, I argue against a prominent account of subjective reasons. The problem with that account, I suggest, is that it makes what one has subjective reason to do, and hence what it is rational to do, turn on matters outside or independent of one’s perspective. After explaining and establishing this (...) point, I offer a novel account of subjective reasons which avoids the problem. (shrink)
We consider a natural-language sentence that cannot be formally represented in a first- order language for epistemic two-dimensional semantics. We also prove this claim in the appendix. It turns out, however, that the most natural ways to repair the expressive inadequacy of the first-order language render moot the original philosophical motivation of formalizing a priori knowability as necessity along the diagonal.
Many philosophers have proposed principles according to which the general modal status (contingency or non-contingency) of either all sentences or some broad range of sentences is knowable a priori. Nearly all such principles have fallen victim to decisive counterexamples. Recently, Kipper (2017) discusses a principle of this kind, restricted to atomic sentences, to which no decisive counterexamples have been presented. Kipper himself argues against the principle, but his purported counterexamples depend on highly contentious epistemological and metasemantic assumptions, so they (...) are far from decisive. We show that uncontentious counterexamples to Kipper’s principle arise in virtually any non-trivial first-order theory that deals with contingent subject matter. (shrink)
One of Laurence BonJour’s main arguments for the existence of the a priori is an argument that a priori justification is indispensable for making inferences from experience to conclusions that go beyond experience. This argument has recently come under heavy fire from Albert Casullo, who has dubbed BonJour’s argument, “The Generality Argument.” In this paper I (i) defend the Generality Argument against Casullo’s criticisms, and (ii) develop a new, more plausible, version of the Generality Argument in response to (...) some other objections of my own. Two of these objections stem out of BonJour’s failing to fully consider the importance of the distinction between being justified in believing that an inference is good and being justified in making an inference. The final version of the argument that I develop sees the Generality Argument as one part of a cumulative case argument for the existence of a priori justification, rather than as a stand-alone knock-down argument. (shrink)
in his prolegomena to any future metaphysics, Kant states that “[a]ll metaphysicians are … suspended from their occupations until such a time as they will have satisfactorily answered the question: How are synthetic cognitions a priori possible?” (Prolegomena, 4:278).1 In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant describes the issue of the synthetic a priori as “[t]he real problem of pure reason” (B19), and in the Critique of the Power of Judgment as “the general problem of transcendental philosophy” (Judgment, (...) 5:289). Kant attempts to answer this question for certain synthetic a priori cognitions (for example, those of mathematics and of natural science), and argues that no such answer can be found for others (in .. (shrink)
The Marburg neo-Kantians argue that Hermann von Helmholtz's empiricist account of the a priori does not account for certain knowledge, since it is based on a psychological phenomenon, trust in the regularities of nature. They argue that Helmholtz's account raises the 'problem of validity' (Gueltigkeitsproblem): how to establish a warranted claim that observed regularities are based on actual relations. I reconstruct Heinrich Hertz's and Ludwig Wittgenstein's Bild theoretic answer to the problem of validity: that scientists and philosophers can depict (...) the necessary a priori constraints on states of affairs in a given system, and can establish whether these relations are actual relations in nature. The analysis of necessity within a system is a lasting contribution of the Bild theory. However, Hertz and Wittgenstein argue that the logical and mathematical sentences of a Bild are rules, tools for constructing relations, and the rules themselves are meaningless outside the theory. Carnap revises the argument for validity by attempting to give semantic rules for translation between frameworks. Russell and Quine object that pragmatics better accounts for the role of a priori reasoning in translating between frameworks. The conclusion of the tale, then, is a partial vindication of Helmholtz's original account. (shrink)
This paper argues that a priori justification is, in principle, compatible with naturalism—if the a priori is understood in a way that is free of the inessential properties that, historically, have been associated with the concept. I argue that empirical indefeasibility is essential to the primary notion of the a priori ; however, the indefeasibility requirement should be interpreted in such a way that we can be fallibilist about apriori-justified claims. This fallibilist notion of the a (...) class='Hi'>priori accords with the naturalist’s commitment to scientific methodology in that it allows for apriori-justified claims to be sensitive to further conceptual developments and the expansion of evidence. The fallibilist apriorist allows that an a priori claim is revisable in only a purely epistemic sense. This modal claim is weaker than what is required for a revisability thesis to establish empiricism, so fallibilist apriorism represents a distinct position. (shrink)
In this article I investigate a neglected form of radical skepticism that questions whether any of our logical, mathematical and other seemingly self-evident beliefs count as knowledge. ‘A priori skepticism,’ as I will call it, challenges our ability to know any of the following sorts of propositions: (1.1) The sum of two and three is five. (1.2) Whatever is square is rectangular. (1.3) Whatever is red is colored. (1.4) No surface can be uniformly red and uniformly blue at the (...) same time. (1.5) If ‘if p then q’ is true and ‘p’ is true, then ‘q’ is true. (1.6) No statement can be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect. (1.7) If A is taller than B, and B is taller than C, then A is taller than C. (1.8) Everything is identical to itself. (1.9) If the conclusion of an inductive argument is contingent, it is possible for the premises of that argument to be true and its conclusion to be false. (1.10) George W. Bush could have been a plumber. (1.11) George W. Bush could not have been a prime number. (1.12) ‘2 + 3 = 5’ is necessarily true. (shrink)
This paper argues for and explores the implications of the following epistemological principle for knowability a priori (with 'Ka' abbreviating 'it is knowable a priori that'). -/- (AK) For all ϕ, ψ such that ϕ semantically presupposes ψ: if Ka(ϕ), Ka(ψ). -/- Well-known arguments for the contingent a priori and a priori knowledge of logical truth founder when the semantic presuppositions of the putative items of knowledge are made explicit. Likewise, certain kinds of analytic truth turn (...) out to carry semantic presuppositions that make them ineligible as items of a priori knowledge. -/- On a happier note, I argue that (AK) offers an appealing, theory-neutral explanation of the a posteriori character of certain necessary identities, as well as an interesting rationalization for a commonplace linguistic maneuver in philosophical work on the a priori. (shrink)
This is the second in a two part series of articles that attempt to clarify the nature and enduring relevance of Kant's concept of a priori knowledge. (For Part I, see below.) In this article I focus mainly on Saul Kripke's critique of Kant, in Naming and Necessity. I argue that Kripke draws attention to a genuine defect in Kant's epistemological framework, but that he used definitions of certain key terms that were quite different from Kant's definitions. When Kripke's (...) definitions are replaced by Kant's definitions, Kripke's account of the status of naming turns out to be a defense of analytic aposteriority as a significant classification of knowledge that Kant neglected. I also introduce here a new way of understanding such epistemological labels, as defining the perspective adopted by the knowing subject in a given situation, rather than an objective characteristic of certain propositions as such. (shrink)
This paper attempts to shed light on three sets of issues that bear directly on our understanding of Locke and Kant. The first is whether Kant believes Locke merely anticipates his distinction between analytic and synthetic judgments or also believes Locke anticipates his notion of synthetic a priori cognition. The second is what should we as readers of Kant and Locke should think about Kant’s view whatever it turns out to be, and the third is the nature of Kant’s (...) justification for the comparison he draws between his philosophy and Locke’s. I argue (1) that Kant believes Locke anticipates both the analytic-synthetic distinction and Kant’s notion of synthetic a priori cognition, (2) that the best justification for Kant’s claim draws on Locke’s distinction between trifling and instructive knowledge, (3) that the arguments against this claim developed by Carson, Allison, and Newman fail to undermine it, and (4) that Kant’s own justification for his claim is quite different from what many commentators have thought it was (or should have been). (shrink)
I argue that you can have a priori knowledge of propositions that neither are nor appear necessarily true. You can know a priori contingent propositions that you recognize as such. This overturns a standard view in contemporary epistemology and the traditional view of the a priori, which restrict a priori knowledge to necessary truths, or at least to truths that appear necessary.
The distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge has been the subject of an enormous amount of discussion, but the literature is biased against recognizing the intimate relationship between these forms of knowledge. For instance, it seems to be almost impossible to find a sample of pure a priori or a posteriori knowledge. In this paper, it will be suggested that distinguishing between a priori and a posteriori is more problematic than is often suggested, and that (...) a priori and a posteriori resources are in fact used in parallel. We will define this relationship between a priori and a posteriori knowledge as the bootstrapping relationship. As we will see, this relationship gives us reasons to seek for an altogether novel definition of a priori and a posteriori knowledge. Specifically, we will have to analyse the relationship between a priori knowledge and a priori reasoning , and it will be suggested that the latter serves as a more promising starting point for the analysis of aprioricity. We will also analyse a number of examples from the natural sciences and consider the role of a priori reasoning in these examples. The focus of this paper is the analysis of the concepts of a priori and a posteriori knowledge rather than the epistemic domain of a posteriori and a priori justification. (shrink)
Carrie Jenkins (2005, 2008) has developed a theory of the a priori that she claims solves the problem of how justification regarding our concepts can give us justification regarding the world. She claims that concepts themselves can be justified, and that beliefs formed by examining such concepts can be justified a priori. I object that we can have a priori justified beliefs with unjustified concepts if those beliefs have no existential import. I then argue that only beliefs (...) without existential import can be justified a priori on the widely held conceptual approach. This limits the scope of the a priori and undermines arguments for essentialism. (shrink)
Sober and Elgin defend the claim that there are a priori causal laws in biology. Lange and Rosenberg take issue with this on Humean grounds, among others. I will argue that Sober and Elgin don’t go far enough – there are a priori causal laws in many sciences. Furthermore, I will argue that this thesis is compatible with a Humean metaphysics and an empiricist epistemology.
In this paper I will offer a novel understanding of a priori knowledge. My claim is that the sharp distinction that is usually made between a priori and a posteriori knowledge is groundless. It will be argued that a plausible understanding of a priori and a posteriori knowledge has to acknowledge that they are in a constant bootstrapping relationship. It is also crucial that we distinguish between a priori propositions that hold in the actual world and (...) merely possible, non-actual a priori propositions, as we will see when considering cases like Euclidean geometry. Furthermore, contrary to what Kripke seems to suggest, a priori knowledge is intimately connected with metaphysical modality, indeed, grounded in it. The task of a priori reasoning, according to this account, is to delimit the space of metaphysically possible worlds in order for us to be able to determine what is actual. (shrink)
One strategy for blocking Chalmers's overall case against physicalism has been to deny his claim that showing that phenomenal properties are in some sense physical requires an a priori entailment of the phenomenal truths from the physical ones. Here I avoid this well-trodden ground and argue instead that an a priori entailment of the phenomenal truths from the physical ones does not require an analysis in the Jackson/Chalmers sense. This is to sever the dualist's link between conceptual analysis (...) and a priori entailment by showing that the lack of the former does not imply the absence of the latter. Moreover, given the role of the argument from conceptual analysis in Chalmers's overall case for dualism, undermining that argument effectively undermines that case as a whole in a way that, I'll argue, undermining the conceivability arguments as stand-alone arguments does not. (shrink)
In this paper I examine Chalmers and Jackson’s defence of the a priori entailment thesis, that is, the claim that microphysical truths a priori entail ordinary non-phenomenal truths such as ‘water covers 60% of the Earth surface’, which they use as a premise for an argument against the possibility of a reductive explanation of consciousness. Their argument relies on a certain view about the possession conditions of macroscopic concepts such as WATER, known as ascriptivism. In the paper I (...) distinguish two versions of ascriptivism: reductive versus non-reductive ascriptivism. According to reductive ascriptivism, competent users of a concept have the ability to infer truths involving such concept from lower-level truths, whereas according to non-reductive ascriptivism, all that is required in order to be a competent user of a concept is to be able to infer truths involving that concept from other truths, which need not be lower-level truths. I argue, first, that the a priori entailment thesis is committed to reductive ascriptivism, and secondly, that reductive ascriptivism is problematic because it trivializes the notion of a priori knowledge. Therefore, I conclude that Chalmers and Jackson have not presented a convincing case for the claim that microphysical truths entail ordinary non-phenomenal truths a priori, especially when we understand this claim in the sense that is relevant for their argument against the possibility of a reductive explanation of consciousness. (shrink)
On rationalist infallibilism, a wide range of both (i) analytic and (ii) synthetic a priori propositions can be infallibly justified, i.e., justified in a way that is truth-entailing. In this paper, I examine the second thesis of rationalist infallibilism, what might be called ‘synthetic a priori infallibilism’. Exploring the seemingly only potentially plausible species of synthetic a priori infallibility, I reject the infallible justification of so-called self-justifying propositions.
This notice of Hanna's book Cognition, Content, and the A Priori discusses Hanna's criticisms of traditional conceptions of analyticity and how Kant's synthetic a priori provides for the explanatory lack. I address the question in which transcendental logic is a condition even on what Kant calls general logic.
In his recent book Constructing the World, David Chalmers defends A Priori Scrutability, the thesis that there is a compact class of truths such that for any truth p, a Laplacian intellect could know a priori that if the truths in that class hold, then p. In this paper, I develop an objection to Chalmers’ thesis that focuses on his treatment of a so-called that’s-all truth. My objection draws on Theodore Sider’s discussion of border-sensitive properties, and also on (...) the causal phenomenon of double prevention. (shrink)
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)
Kripke maintains that one who stipulatively introduces the term ' one meter' as a rigid designator for the length of a certain stick s at time t is in a position to know a priori that if s exists at t then the length of s at t is one meter. Some (e.g., Soames 2003) have objected to this alleged instance of the contingent a priori on the grounds that the stipulator's knowledge would have to be based in (...) part on substantive metalinguistic knowledge. I examine Soames's argument for the a posteriority of the relevant metalinguistic knowledge, and I argue that its main premise is false. (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 (1) provide a framework for organizing the challenges, (2) articulate and assess a range of the challenges, (...) and (3) present two challenges of my own. (shrink)
Joel Pust has recently challenged the Thomas Reid-inspired argument against the reliability of the a priori defended by Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, William Alston, and Michael Bergmann. The Reidian argument alleges that the Cartesian insistence on the primacy of a priori rationality and subjective sensory experience as the foundations of epistemic justification is unwarranted because the same kind of global skeptical scenario that Cartesians recognize as challenging the legitimacy of perceptual beliefs about the external world also undermine the (...) reliability of a priori rationality. In reply, Pust contends that some a priori propositions are beyond doubt and that fact can be used to support the overall reliability of reason. This paper challenges Pust’s argument. I argue that while Pust successfully undermines a radical skeptical view of reason, he does not refute a more modest skepticism. I conclude with some suggestions for Cartesian a priorists. (shrink)
I defend the claim that physicalism is not committed to the view that non-phenomenal macrophysical truths are a priori entailed by the conjunction of microphysical truths , basic indexical facts , and a 'that's all' claim . I do so by showing that Chalmers and Jackson's most popular and influential argument in support of the claim that PIT ⊃ M is a priori, where 'M' stands for any ordinary, non-phenomenal, macroscopic truth, falls short of establishing its conclusion. My (...) objection to Chalmers and Jackson's argument takes the form of a nested dilemma. Let 'Conceptual Competence Principle ' stand for the following claim: for any complete microphysical description D of a world w, a subject who is in possession of and competent with a macrophysical concept C is capable of determining a priori the extension of C. Either Jackson and Chalmers accept CCP or not. If the latter, then they cannot demonstrate that the conditional PIT ⊃ M is a priori. If the former, then they have a choice: they can either cite reasons that support the principle or argue that the principle should be taken for granted since it is entailed by the very notion of conceptual competence. But both alternatives are problematic. In regard to the first horn of this latter dilemma, I show not only that there are no good reasons to support the principle, but that there are also reasons to reject it. In regard to the second horn, I show that it cannot be the case that CCP is part of the very notion of conceptual competence. The conceptual capacity expressed by CCP requires that certain bridge principles or conditionals, which link the microphysical level to the macroscopic level, are either implicitly or explicitly given to the subject. But, as I argue, Chalmers and Jackson have no way of accounting for these bridge principles or conditionals in a manner that does not trivialize their position. (shrink)
This book is concerned with the alleged capacity of the human mind to arrive at beliefs and knowledge about the world on the basis of pure reason without any dependence on sensory experience. Most recent philosophers reject the view and argue that all substantive knowledge must be sensory in origin. Laurence BonJour provocatively reopens the debate by presenting the most comprehensive exposition and defence of the rationalist view that a priori insight is a genuine basis for knowledge. This important (...) book will be at the centre of debate about the theory of knowledge for many years to come. (shrink)
What has come to be known as “a priori physicalism” is the thesis, roughly, that the non-physical truths in the actual world can be deduced a priori from a complete physical description of the actual world. To many contemporary philosophers, a priori physicalism seems extremely implausible. In this paper I distinguish two kinds of a priori physicalism. One sort – strict a priori physicalism – I reject as both unmotivated and implausible. The other sort – (...) liberal a priori physicalism – I argue is both motivated and plausible. This variety of a priori physicalism insists that the necessitation of non-physical truths by the physical facts must be underwritten in a certain fashion by a priori knowledge, but the a priori knowledge need not amount to a simple deduction of the non-physical truths from a complete physical description of the world. Further, this sort of liberal a priori physicalism has the advantage that it offers hope for a genuinely satisfying account of how the physical facts manage to necessitate the facts about phenomenal consciousness – thereby in effect solving the “hard problem” of consciousness. The first half of the paper sets out the motivation for liberal a priori physicalism and its superiority to the strict version; the second half presents one strategy available to the liberal a priori physicalist for showing how consciousness can be accommodated in a purely physical world. (shrink)
This paper offers an account of the a priori. According to this account, the fundamental notion is not that of a priori knowledge, or even of a priori justified belief, but a notion of an a priori justified inferential disposition. The rationality or justification of such a priori justified inferential dispositions is explained purely by some of the basic cognitive capacities that the thinker possesses, independently of any further experiences or other conscious mental states that (...) the thinker happens to have had. It is then shown how a priori justified inferences and beliefs can be explained on the basis of such a priori justified inferential dispositions. (shrink)
Popper uses the "Humean challenge" as a justification for his falsificationism. It is claimed that in his basic argument he confuses two different doubts: (a) the Humean doubt (Popper's problem of induction), and (b) the "Popperean" doubt whether - presupposing that there are laws of nature - the laws we accept are in fact valid. Popper's alleged solution of the problem of induction does not solve the problem in a straightforward way (as Levison and Salmon have remarked before). But if (...) Popper's solution of the Humean challenge is re-interpreted as being close to Kant's it makes sense. Even though Popper explicitly rejects Kant's synthetic judgements a priori, it is claimed here that this is so because he misinterprets Kant's argument. If he had understood Kant correctly he should have been a modern "Kantianer"! (shrink)
This paper responds to Achinstein’s criticism of the thesis that the only empirical fact that can affect the truth of an objective evidence claim such as ‘e is evidence for h’ (or ‘e confirms h to degree r’) is the truth of e. It shows that cases involving evidential flaws, which form the basis for Achinstein’s objections to the thesis, can satisfactorily be accounted for by appeal to changes in background information and working assumptions. The paper also argues that the (...) a priori and empirical accounts of evidence are on a par when we consider scientific practice, but that a study of artificial intelligence might serve to differentiate them. (shrink)