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The A Priori in Philosophy$
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Albert Casullo and Joshua C. Thurow

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199695331

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695331.001.0001

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How Deep is the Distinction between A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge? 1

How Deep is the Distinction between A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge? 1

Chapter:
(p.291) 13 How Deep is the Distinction between A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge?1
Source:
The A Priori in Philosophy
Author(s):

Timothy Williamson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695331.003.0014

This chapter argues that, although a distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge (or justification) can be drawn, it is a superficial one, of little theoretical significance. The point is not that the distinction has borderline cases, for virtually all useful distinctions have such cases. Rather, it is argued by means of an example, the differences even between a clear case of a priori knowledge and a clear case of a posteriori knowledge may be superficial ones. In both cases, experience plays a role that is more than purely enabling but less than strictly evidential. It is also argued that the cases at issue are not special, but typical of a wide range of others, including knowledge of axioms of set theory and of elementary logical truths. Attempts by Quine and others to make all knowledge a posteriori (‘empirical’) are repudiated. The chapter ends with a call for a new framework to be developed for analysing the epistemology of cognitive uses of the imagination.

Keywords:   a priori, a posteriori, knowledge, imagination, logic, mathematics

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