The thesis defends the view that the concept of a priori knowledge can be naturalised
without sacrificing the core aspects of the traditional conception of apriority. I proceed
by arguing for three related claims.
The first claim is that the adoption of naturalism in philosophy is not
automatically inconsistent with belief in the existence of a priori knowledge. A
widespread view to the contrary has come about through the joint influence of Quine
and the logical empiricists. I hold that by rejecting a key assumption made by the logical
empiricists (the assumption that apriority can be explained only by appeal to the
concept of analyticity), we can develop an account of naturalism in philosophy which
does not automatically rule out the possibility of a priori knowledge, and which retains
Quine's proposals that philosophy be seen as continuous with the enterprise of natural
science, and that the theory of knowledge be developed within the conceptual
framework of psychology.
The first attempt to provide a theory of a priori knowledge within such a
framework was made by Philip Kitcher. Kitcher's strategy involves giving an account of
the idea of "experience-independence" independently of the theory of knowledge in
general (he assumes that an appropriate account of the latter will be reliabilist). Later
authors in the tradition Kitcher inaugurated have followed him on this, while criticising
him for adopting too strong a notion of experience-independence. The second claim I
make is in qualified agreement with this: it is that only a weak notion of experienceindependence
will give a viable account of a priori knowledge, but that the reasons why
this is so have been obscured by Kitcher's segregation of the issues. Strong reasons for
adopting a weak notion are provided by consideration of the theory of knowledge, but
these same reasons also highlight severe problems for the project of providing a
naturalistic theory of knowledge in general.
The third claim is that a plausible naturalistic theory of knowledge in general can
be given, and that it provides an appropriate framework within which to give an account
of minimally experience-independent knowledge.
I conclude with a consideration of some of the problems that an account of
minimal a priori knowledge will have to address.