Debating the A Priori

ISBN : 9780198851707

Paul Boghossian; Timothy Williamson
288 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
Apr 2020
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What kind of knowledge could be obtainable just by thinking? Debating the A Priori presents a series of exchanges between two leading philosophers on how to answer this question. In this extended debate, Boghossian and Williamson contribute alternating chapters which develop radically contrasting views and present detailed replies to each other's arguments. A central case is the nature of basic logical knowledge and the justification for basic deductive inferences, but the arguments range widely across epistemology, the philosophy of language, and metaphilosophy. The debate takes in the status of the distinctions between analytic and synthetic and between a priori and a posteriori, as well as problems concerning the conditions for linguistic understanding and competence, and the question of what it might be to grasp a concept or to have an intuition. Both authors explore implications for how philosophy itself works, or should work. The result vividly exposes some of the main fault lines in contemporary philosophy, concerning the relation between reason and experience, the status of basic beliefs, the nature of concepts and intuitions, the role of language in our understanding of the world, how to study knowledge, and what it is to do philosophy. Both authors provide conclusions which sum up their positions and place the arguments in context. Their lively and engaging exchanges
allow the reader to follow up-close how a philosophical debatte evolves.


1 Analyticity Reconsidered

2 Blind Reasoning

3 Understanding and Inference

4 Williamson on the A Priori and the Analytic

5 Reply to Boghossian on the A Priori and the Analytic

6 Inferentialism and the Epistemology of Logic: Reflections on Casalegno and Williamson

7 Boghossian and Casalegno on Understanding and Inference

8 How Deep is the Distinction Between A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge?

9 Paul Boghossian: Do We Have Reason to Doubt the Importance of the Distinction Between A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge?

10 Reply to Boghossian on the Distinction between the A Priori and the A Posteriori

11 Williamson on the Distinction Between the A Priori and the A Posteriori Once Again

12 Knowing by Imagining

13 Intuition, Understanding and the A Priori

14 Reply to Boghossian on Intuition, Understanding and the A Priori

15 Reply to Williamson on Intuition, Understanding and the A Priori

16 Boghossian on Intuition, Understanding and the A Priori Once Again

17 Closing Reflections (Timothy Williamson)

18 Closing Reflections (Paul Boghossian)

About the author: 

Timothy Williamson is the Wykeham Professor of Logic at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of New College Oxford. He was previously Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh, and has also taught at Trinity College Dublin, and as a visitor at MIT, Princeton, the Australian National University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and elsewhere. He has published Identity and Discrimination (Wiley-Blackwell, 1990), Vagueness (Routledge, 1994), Knowledge and its Limits (Clarendon Press, 2000), The Philosophy of Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007), Modal Logic as Metaphysics (OUP, 2013), Tetralogue: I'm Right,You're Wrong (OUP, 2015), and many articles on logic and philosophy.; Paul A. Boghossian is Silver Professor of Philosophy at New York University and the director of the New York Institute of Philosophy. He has also taught at Michigan, Princeton, Birmingham and the Ecole Normale Superieure. His research interests are primarily in epistemology and the philosophy of mind, although he has written on a wide range of topics, including: color, rule-following, naturalism, self-knowledge, a priori knowledge, analytic truth, realism, relativism, the aesthetics of music and the concept of genocide. He is the author of Fear of Knowledge (2006) and Content and Justification (2008). He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012.

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