Grades of A Priori Justification

David Henderson and Terence Horgan

in The Epistemological Spectrum

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608546
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729584 | DOI:
Grades of A Priori Justification

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This chapter develops a revisionary account of a kind of a priori reflection that is central to much philosophy—viz., conceptual analysis. It argues that this kind of a priori inquiry has subtle empirical elements rather than being a wholly non-empirical enterprise. This break with more traditional conceptions of the a priori is marked by writing of “low-grade a priori” justification. The chapter begins with the observation that philosophical reflection commonly commences with intuitive judgments having to do with concrete scenarios. This is as it should be, for one's conceptual competence typically is much better at applying concepts to concrete cases then it is at directly yielding highly abstract, highly general, conceptually grounded necessary truths. To arrive at the sorts of general conceptually grounded necessary truths to which philosophers typically aspire, one must go beyond the direct and reasonably reliable deliverances of one's conceptual competence: one must engage in what is essentially an abductive inference—an inference to the best explanatory account of the workings of the relevant concepts and of one's conceptual competence. It is argued that the needed abductive inference has an ineliminable empirical component.

Keywords: a priori; justification; analysis; low-grade a priori

Chapter.  24918 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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