On a Priori Knowledge of Necessity


The idea that the epistemology of modality is in some sense a priori is a popular one, but it has turned out to be difficult to precisify in a way that does not expose it to decisive counterexamples. The most common precisifications follow Kripke’s suggestion that cases of necessary a posteriori truth that can be known a priori to be necessary if true ‘may give a clue to a general characterization of a posteriori knowledge of necessary truths’. The idea is that whether it is contingent whether p can be known a priori for at least some broad range of sentences ‘p’. Recently, Al Casullo and Jens Kipper have discussed restrictions of such principles to atomic sentences. We show that decisive counterexamples even to such dramatically restricted Kripke-style principles can be constructed using minimal logical resources. We then consider further restrictions, and show that the counterexamples to the original principles can be turned into counterexamples to the further restricted principles. We conclude that, if there are any true restrictions of Kripke-style principles, then they are so weak as to be of little epistemological interest.

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Margot Strohminger
Australian Catholic University


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