Merely superficially contingent a priori knowledge and the McKinsey paradox

Joshua Rowan THORPE*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

The conclusion of the McKinsey paradox is that certain contingent claims about the external world are knowable a priori. Almost all of the literature on the paradox assumes that this conclusion is unacceptable, and focuses on finding a way of avoiding it. However, there is no consensus that any of these responses work. In this paper I take a different approach, arguing that the conclusion is acceptable. First, I develop our understanding of what Evans calls merely superficially contingent a priori knowledge, and explain why there is no reason to deny that merely superficially contingent a priori knowledge of the external world is possible. I then argue that, properly understood, the conclusion of the McKinsey paradox is that merely superficially contingent knowledge of certain claims about the external world is possible, and so the conclusion is acceptable. Finally, I respond to the two main arguments that the conclusion of the paradox is unacceptable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38
Number of pages15
JournalSynthese
Volume200
Issue number1
Early online date24 Feb 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thanks to Bernhard Salow, Crispin Wright, David Horst and Marco Ruffino for helpful discussion. I am also grateful to two anonymous Synthese referees for helpful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • A priori
  • Epistemology
  • McKinsey paradox
  • Philosophy of language
  • Scepticism

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