PHIL 450:  Study Questions for A Priori Justification

1.  Explain or distinguish the following terms.  You may use examples to do so:

Analytic/synthetic proposition

Necessary/contingent proposition

A Priori/A Posteriori justification

Putative/Apparent/Genuine A Priori Insight

2.  For each of the authors on the following list, answer the following questions:  (i) Does the author believe that there are any analytic propositions?  Explain.  If the answer is yes, give an example of a proposition that the author would regard as analytic.  (ii) Does the author believe that there are any synthetic propositions justifiable a priori?  Explain.  If the answer is yes, give an example of a proposition that the author would regard as a synthetic proposition justifiable a priori?

(a) Kant

(b) Quine

(c) BonJour

(d) What is your opinion?  Explain.

3.  (a) What is Kant's formula for the synthetic a priori?  (b) Why does Quine think that no propositions satisfy that formula?

4.  (a) According to Quine, what are the two dogmas of empiricism?  (b) Why does Quine believe they are at root one?  [Explain why Quine thinks that the second supports the first.]  (c) What is the mistake about confirmation/infirmation that Quine thinks empiricists make?  (d) How does he propose to correct that mistake?

5.  In class we identified one important issue concerning a priori justification on which Quine and BonJour agree and one important one on which they disagree.  (a) What is the issue on which they agree?  Explain.  (b) What is the issue on which they disagree?  Explain.

6. (a) According to BonJour, a priori justification plays two roles in rational belief.  What are they?  (b) What is BonJour's "companions in guilt" strategy for defending the possibility of a priori justification of synthetic propositions?

7.  Call the following claim by BonJour the Intellectual Suicide Thesis:  Human beings must have a source of a priori insight into necessary truths for reasoning to be possible at all.  (The idea is that denying such rational insight into necessary truths would be intellectual suicide.)  (a) Why does BonJour believe that the Intellectual Suicide Thesis is true?  (b) In a typical example of reasoning, what would be the content of the relevant belief (or beliefs) that BonJour holds is (are) necessary for the reasoning to take place?  (c) Could someone rationally argue against the Intellectual Suicide Thesis?  (Is there a way to rationally defend an alternative explanation of reasoning that does not require any a priori justified beliefs of the kind BonJour believes to be required?) Explain.

8.  In your opinion, what bearing does the experimental evidence of widespread defects in deductive and probabilistic reasoning have on BonJour's claim that reasoning involves a priori insight into necessary truths?  In your answer, you must discuss at least one type of experimental evidence and you must consider whether the evidence is evidence against BonJour's claim.

9.  (a) According to Stich, what are the sources of the norms by which we should judge whether or not a person's reasoning is rational or irrational?  (b) What is the puzzle about Stich's view of the source of such norms?  (c) How would Stich respond to it?

10.  (a) Why does BonJour classify his account of a priori justification as moderate rationalism?  (b) On BonJour's account, how do we determine whether an a priori insight is genuine or not?  (c) What does it mean for a mistaken a priori insight to be internally correctable?  (c) What does it mean for such a mistake to be only externally correctable?  (d) Does BonJour believe that some such mistakes are only externally correctable?  Explain.  (e) According to BonJour, can experience play a role in the correction of such a mistake?  Explain.

11.  (a) According to BonJour, is it possible for people to believe that they have a priori justification for a belief and to be mistaken in the belief that they have a priori justification for the relevant proposition?  Explain with an example.  (b) Why does BonJour think that there is a condition of cognitive sanity on being a priori justified?  (c) On BonJour’s account, can one be justified in believing a proposition to be justified a priori without being justified in believing oneself to be cognitively sane?  Explain.  (d) On BonJour’s account, could one be justified in believing oneself to be cognitively sane?  Explain.

12.  Could there be a meta-justification for an account of a priori justification?  Explain.

13. For each of the authors on the following list, state whether their epistemology is top-down or bottom-up and explain:

(a) Kant

(b) Quine

(c) BonJour

(d) Stich