Jenkins, Carrie, and . What can we know a priori?

2014, Neta, Ram (ed.), Current Controversies in Epistemology. London: Routledge. 11-22.

Abstract: Michael Devitt has been developing an influential two-pronged attack on the a priori for over thirteen years. This attack does not attempt to undermine the coherence or significance of the distinction between the a priori and the a posteriori, but rather to answer the question: ‘What Can We Know A Priori?’ with: ‘Nothing’. In this paper I explain why I am dissatisfied with key extant responses to Devitt’s attack, and then take my own steps towards resisting the attack as it appears in two recent incarnations. Devitt aims firstly to undermine the motivation for believing in any a priori knowledge, and secondly to provide reasons directly against believing in any. I argue that he misidentifies the motivations available to the a priorist, and that his reasons against believing in the a priori do not take account of all the options. I also argue that his attempt to combine the two prongs of the attack into an abductive argument for his anti-a priorist position does not succeed.

Comment: Suitable for an upper-level undergraduate courses or master courses on epistemology. It is good for teachings on topics of a priori knowledge.