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Title: Naturalising the 'a priori' : reliabilism and experience-independent knowledge
Author: Young, Benedict
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2000
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The thesis defends the view that the concept of a priori knowledge can be naturalised without sacrificing the core aspects of the traditional conception of apriority. I proceed by arguing for three related claims. The first claim is that the adoption of naturalism in philosophy is not automatically inconsistent with belief in the existence of a priori knowledge. A widespread view to the contrary has come about through the joint influence of Quine and the logical empiricists. I hold that by rejecting a key assumption made by the logical empiricists (the assumption that apriority can be explained only by appeal to the concept of analyticity), we can develop an account of naturalism in philosophy which does not automatically rule out the possibility of a priori knowledge, and which retains Quine's proposals that philosophy be seen as continuous with the enterprise of natural science, and that the theory of knowledge be developed within the conceptual framework of psychology. The first attempt to provide a theory of a priori knowledge within such a framework was made by Philip Kitcher. Kitcher's strategy involves giving an account of the idea of "experience-independence" independently of the theory of knowledge in general (he assumes that an appropriate account of the latter will be reliabilist). Later authors in the tradition Kitcher inaugurated have followed him on this, while criticising him for adopting too strong a notion of experience-independence. The second claim I make is an qualified agreement with this: it is that only a weak notion of experience-independence will give a viable account of a priori knowledge, but that the reasons why this is so have been obscured by Kitcher's segregation of the issues. Strong reasons for adopting a weak notion are provided by consideration of the theory of knowledge, but these same reasons also highlight severe problems for the project of providing a naturalistic theory of knowledge in general. The third claim is that a plausible naturalistic theory of knowledge in general can be given, and that it provides an appropriate framework within which to give an account of minimally experience-independent knowledge.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available