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Carnap and the A Priori

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Marschall, Benjamin 


What are Carnap’s views on the epistemology of mathematics? Did he believe in a priori justification, and if so, what is his account of it? One might think that such questions are misguided, since in the 1930s Carnap came to reject traditional epistemology as a confused mixture of logic and psychology. But things are not that simple. Drawing on recent work by Richardson and Uebel, I will show that Carnap’s mature metaphilosophy leaves room for two distinct notions of a priori justification: one propositional, the other doxastic. The latter is especially interesting since it comes closest to a traditional understanding of a priority. On the other hand, Carnap has little to say about doxastic justification in his writings. This lacuna can be filled by drawing on an unpublished exchange with Irving M. Copi. In it, so I will show, Carnap endorses the view that agents can come to know all mathematical truths a priori. This fact, so I will further argue, can be used to adjudicate a dispute between Ricketts and Friedman about the nature and viability of Carnap’s philosophy of mathematics – specifically his reliance on infinitary methods.



5003 Philosophy, 50 Philosophy and Religious Studies, 5002 History and Philosophy Of Specific Fields

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European Journal of Philosophy

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