The modal argument for a priori justification

Ratio 22 (2):191-205 (2009)
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Kant famously argued that, from experience, we can only learn how something actually is, but not that it must be so. In this paper, I defend an improved version of Kant's argument for the existence of a priori knowledge, the Modal Argument , against recent objections by Casullo and Kitcher. For the sake of the argument, I concede Casullo's claim that we may know certain counterfactuals in an empirical way and thereby gain epistemic access to some nearby, nomologically possible worlds. But I maintain that our beliefs about metaphysical necessities still cannot be justified empirically. Furthermore, I reject Casullo's deflationary thesis about the significance of such justification. Kitcher's most troublesome objection is that we can gain any modal justification whatsoever through testimony , i.e. in an experiential way. This can be countered by distinguishing between productive sources of justification, like perception, and merely reproductive sources, like testimony. Thus, some productive a priori source will always be needed somewhere.



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Joachim Horvath
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Citations of this work

On what is a priori about necessities.Jens Kipper - 2018 - Analysis 78 (2):235-243.

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References found in this work

Naming and Necessity: Lectures Given to the Princeton University Philosophy Colloquium.Saul A. Kripke - 1980 - Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Edited by Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel.
Critique of pure reason.Immanuel Kant - 1781/1998 - In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Blackwell. pp. 449-451.
Content preservation.Tyler Burge - 1993 - Philosophical Review 102 (4):457-488.
A Priori Justification.Albert Casullo - 2003 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press USA.
Testimonial knowledge and transmission.Jennifer Lackey - 1999 - Philosophical Quarterly 49 (197):471-490.

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