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Knowledge and RealitySelected Essays$
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Colin McGinn

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199251582

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199251584.001.0001

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A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge

A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge

Chapter:
(p.36) 2 A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge
Source:
Knowledge and Reality
Author(s):

Colin McGinn (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199251584.003.0003

McGinn defends a causal criterion for distinguishing a priori from a posteriori knowledge. In the case of a posteriori knowledge, the subject matter of a knower's ground for believing a proposition is the cause of that knower's coming to believe that proposition. In the case of a priori knowledge, it is not the case that the subject matter of the knower's ground for believing a proposition is the cause of that knower's coming to believe that proposition. In this essay's first section, McGinn argues that a causal condition for knowledge is no part of an analysis of knowledge tout court, but merely part of a naturalized account of a posteriori knowledge. McGinn then argues for the extensional adequacy of his account of a priori knowledge for the cases of mathematical, logical, and analytic knowledge. He concludes by considering the connections between the a priori and the a posteriori, on the one hand, and the modal notions of necessity and contingency, on the other.

Keywords:   a posteriori, a priori, causal theory of knowledge, knowledge, Kripke, mathematical knowledge, modality, necessity

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