Philosophical Studies

, Volume 165, Issue 2, pp 509-526

First online:

Presupposition and the a priori

  • Nate CharlowAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Toronto Email author 

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This paper argues for and explores the implications of the following epistemological principle for knowability a priori (with ‘\(\mathcal{K}_\mathcal{A}\)’ abbreviating ‘it is knowable a priori that’).
  • (AK) For all ϕ, ψ such that ϕ semantically presupposes ψ: if \(\mathcal{K}_\mathcal{A}\phi, \,\mathcal{K}_\mathcal{A}\psi .\)

Well-known arguments for the contingent a priori and a priori knowledge of logical truth founder when the semantic presuppositions of the putative items of knowledge are made explicit. Likewise, certain kinds of analytic truth turn out to carry semantic presuppositions that make them ineligible as items of a priori knowledge. On a happier note, I argue that (AK) offers an appealing, theory-neutral explanation of the a posteriori character of certain necessary identities, as well as an interesting rationalization for a commonplace linguistic maneuver in philosophical work on the a priori.


A priori Semantic presupposition Contingent a priori Necessary a posteriori Kripke Epistemology of logic