Apriorism

2007-05-16

Overnight I received the following note about the definition of apriorism to be found in my philosophical dictionary:

I think the content of the square brackets below make the definition of apriorism more truthful.

apriorism ... The view (opposed to empiricism) that some or all knowledge can be gained without reference to [personal] experience.

Well there are deep philosophical questions wrapped up in that one little word, aren't there? :) Such as: is there any experience outside the experience of individuals? I have long tended to methodological or epistemological individualism, so in the past I have doubted that there is such a thing as societal experience. But my immersion in the study of history and science makes me doubt my doubts. In a sense, science (in the broadest sense) is accumulated knowledge and a kind of societal experience. Yet in the end, it is an individual mind that must come to grasp any given piece of knowledge (there is no societal mind). And in any case I don't think we use the term "apriorism" to refer to science as accumulated knowledge, but to that individual grasp of something before one has had experience of the realities from which the relevant knowledge has been abstracted (yes, I also tend to epistemological abstractionism). So while perhaps the definition is made clearer by adding the word "personal", I also happen to think it's redundant.


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