Chapter

A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge

Colin McGinn

in Knowledge and Reality

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780199251582
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598012 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199251584.003.0003
 A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge

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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

Chapter.  6279 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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