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Putting Metaphysics FirstEssays on Metaphysics and Epistemology$
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Michael Devitt

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199280803.001.0001

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Naturalism and the A Priori *

Naturalism and the A Priori *

(p.253) 12 Naturalism and the A Priori*
Putting Metaphysics First

Michael Devitt (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter starts from the rejection of a priori knowledge on two grounds: first, confirmation holism removes any strong motivation for thinking that mathematics and logic are immune from empirical revision; second, the idea of a priori knowledge is deeply obscure, as the history of failed attempts to explain it show. The chapter defends this position from Rey's argument for a reliablist a priori and Field's for an a priori logic. It argues that Rey has not explained a way of knowing at all, hence not an a priori one: he has not shown how the beliefs reliably generated by his ‘logical sub-system’ are epistemically nonaccidental. The dominant idea of Field's argument is that logic must be seen as a priori because we need logic to get evidence for anything. The chapter gives a reason for thinking that this idea is ‘fishy’: an evidential system can undermine itself.

Keywords:   naturalism, a priori, mathematics, logic, confirmation holism, empirical, Rey, reliablism, Field

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