Philosophy A Priori Knowledge
by
Albert Casullo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0001

Introduction

Questions about the existence, nature, and scope of a priori knowledge have been central to both the historical and contemporary literature in the theory of knowledge. This entry focuses on the contemporary literature, in which two questions are prominent: What is a priori knowledge? Is there such knowledge? The discussion of these two questions frequently introduces two others: What is the relationship between a priori knowledge and necessary truth? What is the relationship between a priori knowledge and analytic truth?

General Overviews

There are a number of general overviews of the contemporary literature that differ in focus and breadth of coverage. Baehr 2006 provides a useful survey of basic concepts, distinctions, and views of the a priori, with a limited bibliography. Bealer 1999 presents a condensed version of the author’s case against radical empiricism, defense of the view that intuitions are evidence, and explanation of why they are evidence. BonJour 2005 offers an introduction to the author’s arguments against empiricism and his rationalist account of a priori knowledge. Casullo 2006 provides a comprehensive and up-to-date introduction to the main issues that focuses on the concept of a priori knowledge and on the arguments for and against the existence of such knowledge. Devitt 2005 offers a defense of the view that all knowledge is empirical. Moser 1998 provides a short introduction to the basic concepts and some main issues. Peacocke 2005 contains a wide-ranging and up-to-date introduction that addresses the concept, scope, and source of the a priori, with an emphasis on the author’s metasemantic theory. Russell 2007 provides a very comprehensive and up-to-date introduction to the contemporary literature that defends a version of rationalism; it includes an excellent bibliography.

  • Baehr, Jason S. “A Priori and A Posteriori.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden. 2006.

    E-mail Citation »

    A useful survey of basic concepts, distinctions, and views of the a priori, with a limited bibliography.

  • Bealer, George. “The A Priori.” In The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. Edited by John Greco and Ernest Sosa, 243–270. Blackwell Philosophy Guides. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999.

    E-mail Citation »

    A condensed version of the author’s case against radical empiricism, his defense of the view that intuitions are evidence, and his explanation of why they are evidence.

  • BonJour, Laurence. “In Defense of the A Priori.” In Contemporary Debates in Epistemology. Edited by Matthias Steup and Ernest Sosa, 98–105. Contemporary Debates in Philosophy 3. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

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    An introduction to the author’s arguments against empiricism and his rationalist account of a priori knowledge. Devitt 2005 is a response to this article.

  • Casullo, Albert. “Knowledge, A Priori.” In The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2d ed. Vol. 5. Edited by Donald M. Borchert, 79–86. Detroit: Macmillian Reference, 2006.

    E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive and up-to-date introduction to the main issues that focuses on the concept of a priori knowledge and on the arguments for and against the existence of such knowledge.

  • Devitt, Michael. “There is No A Priori.” In Contemporary Debates in Epistemology. Edited by Matthias Steup and Ernest Sosa, 105–115. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

    E-mail Citation »

    A defense of the view that all knowledge is empirical. This article is a response to BonJour 2005.

  • Moser, Paul K. “A Priori.” In the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 1. Edited by Edward Craig, 3–5. London: Routledge, 1998.

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    A short introduction to the basic concepts and some main issues.

  • Peacocke, Christopher. “The A Priori.” In The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy. Edited by Frank Jackson and Michael Smith, 739–763. Oxford Handbooks. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    E-mail Citation »

    A wide-ranging and up-to-date introduction which addresses the concept, scope, and source of the a priori, with an emphasis on the author’s metasemantic theory.

  • Russell, Bruce. “A Priori Justification and Knowledge.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2007.

    E-mail Citation »

    A very comprehensive and up-to-date introduction to the contemporary literature that defends a version of rationalism. Excellent bibliography.

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