A Priori

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Etymology

Latin, literally, from the former

Definitions

b : relating to or derived by reasoning from self-evident propositions — compare a posteriori
c : presupposed by experience
b : formed or conceived beforehand

Description

The terms a priori ("prior to") and a posteriori ("subsequent to") are used in philosophy (epistemology) to distinguish two types of knowledge, justifications or arguments. A priori knowledge or justification is independent of experience (for example 'All bachelors are unmarried'); a posteriori knowledge or justification is dependent on experience or empirical evidence (for example 'Some bachelors are very happy'). A priori justification makes reference to experience; but the issue concerns how one knows the proposition or claim in question—what justifies or grounds one's belief in it. Galen Strawson wrote that an a priori argument is one of which "you can see that it is true just lying on your couch. You don't have to get up off your couch and go outside and examine the way things are in the physical world. You don't have to do any science." There are many points of view on these two types of assertion, and their relationship is one of the oldest problems in modern philosophy.

See also the related distinctions: deductive/inductive, analytic/synthetic, necessary/contingent.[1]