Philosophical Studies

, Volume 142, Issue 3, pp 403–426 | Cite as

Naturalism, fallibilism, and the a priori

Article

Abstract

This paper argues that a priori justification is, in principle, compatible with naturalism—if the a priori is understood in a way that is free of the inessential properties that, historically, have been associated with the concept. I argue that empirical indefeasibility is essential to the primary notion of the a priori; however, the indefeasibility requirement should be interpreted in such a way that we can be fallibilist about apriori-justified claims. This fallibilist notion of the a priori accords with the naturalist’s commitment to scientific methodology in that it allows for apriori-justified claims to be sensitive to further conceptual developments and the expansion of evidence. The fallibilist apriorist allows that an a priori claim is revisable in only a purely epistemic sense. This modal claim is weaker than what is required for a revisability thesis to establish empiricism, so fallibilist apriorism represents a distinct position.

Keywords

Naturalism Fallibilism A priori Epistemic possibility 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper began as a talk for SUNY Albany’s Philosophy Department, which I gave in May 2006. I subsequently presented versions of the paper at the British Society for Philosophy of Science Annual Conference and the Joint Session of the Mind Association and Aristotelian Society in July 2007, and to the University of Connecticut Philosophy Department in October 2007. I am grateful to audience members at all the talks, especially JC Beall, Tom Bontly, Octávio Bueno, Alexander Jackson, Michael Lynch, Robert Meyers, and Ron McClamrock, for useful questions and comments. I would like to thank Ken Akiba, Michael Bishop, and an anonymous referee from this journal for helpful comments on a draft of the paper, and Brad Armour-Garb for stimulating discussion. Special thanks are due to Jonathan Adler and Hartry Field for very helpful comments and discussion.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PhilosophyUnion CollegeSchenectadyUSA

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