Is 'p is a priori' itself a priori?
My most recent posts have been far too long by blogging standards, so I am determined here to be brief. Most philosophers (though not all, e.g., anyone who holds the Quine-Putnam indispensibility thesis) believe the following sentences are true:
(1) "'2+3=5' is true a priori"
(2) "'The earth is round' is true a posteriori"
The question is: are (1) and (2) true a priori or a posteriori? Put metaphorically, does experience teach us that logical theorems are known independently of experience? I am not sure there are any non-question-begging arguments to be given one way or the other; if there is one, I would love to hear it.
That's all I wanted to say. If you are curious about what motivated me to think about this question, keep reading. There are two motivating sources:
First, my dissertation, which deals with the academic year Carnap, Tarski, and Quine spent together at Harvard in 1940-41. In a private conversation Carnap had with Quine, one way they formulate the difference between themselves is as follows.
Carnap: 'p is analytic in language L' is itself an analytic statement.
Quine: 'p is analytic in L' is a synthetic statement, to be settled by a behavioristic investigation into the linguistic habits of L-speakers.
Granted, 'analytic' is not identical to 'a priori' -- but for Carnap, they were extensionally equivalent, and the question above is very close to this issue.
Second, for the last 10 years, van Fraassen has been suggesting that we think of empiricism not as a theory or assertion but as a stance. (See "Against Naturalized Epistemology" (1995) in On Quine and 2002's The Empirical Stance.) The primary argument he offers is that empiricism, if conceived as an assertion, is self-defeating: "All knowledge about the world is a posteriori" (or any other slogan intended to capture the empiricist's thesis) will be difficult to construe as having experience as its source. And, van Fraassen says, if the empiricist thesis cannot be justified on the basis of experience alone, then it fails to live up to its own standards, and is therefore self-defeating. But van Fraassen is assuming that "such-and-such is a posteriori" must itself be an a posteriori claim. And that is taking for granted an answer to my question above.