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The Contingent "A Priori": An Example Free of Existential Worry Author(s): David Cowles Source: Philosophical Studies: An International Journal

for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, Vol. 74, No. 2 (May, 1994), pp. 137-141 Published by: Springer Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4320489 . Accessed: 20/04/2013 02:46
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the speakeris not in a positionto know (1) a priori. then as a result of this kind of 'definition'(which is not an abbreviativeor synonymousdefinition). the speaker is in a position to know. a priori. a pnonz: (1) StickS is one meterlong at to.41. withoutfurtherinvestigation." Kripkearguesthat in each case the speakerwindsup in a positionto know.and conPhilosophical Studies74:137-141.the referentof 'one meter'is are by now quitefamiliar.3 About (1) Kripkesays: What then. Accordingto Carter's objection.for knowing(1) requiresknowingthat S exists. And in the second case: (2) Neptunecausesperturbations in the orbitof Uranus. p.the referentof 'Neptune'is fixed by a similaract:"Let'Neptune'be a rigiddesignatorof the planet that causes perturbations in the orbit of Uranus. is the epistemological status of the statement'StickS is one meter long at to'."In anotherexample.DAVID COWLES THE CONTINGENT A PRIORI: AN EXAMPLE FREE OF EXISTENTIAL WORRY (Received1 August1993) Kripke'sexamples of contingenttruths apparentlyknowable a priori In one example. For if he used stick S to fix the referenceof the term 'one meter'. 20 Apr 2013 02:46:49 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . How then does a mere linguistic act of 'definition'put a speaker in a position to know a truthlike (1) or (2) a priori? contingent Carterraisedan objectionto the firstexample. Because such existentialknowledge is contingent. that S is one meterlong.102.(Kripke. C 1994 KluwerAcademic Publishers. a contingent truth.he knows automatically. 56) And this is quite puzzling.an objectionI call the ExistentialWorty.240 on Sat. This content downloaded from 164. Printedin theNetherlands.for someone who has fixed the metricsystemby referenceto stick S? It would seem that he knows it a priori.1994.2In the first case.for (1) reports a contingentfact about the world.1 fixed by a stipulativeact relevantlylike: "Let'one meter'designatethe length of stick S at to. Stick S could have been longer at to.

if causesperturbations in the orbitof Uranus.the claim that our speaker knows (1) a thanthe claimthat prioriis no moreinteresting the statementthat my pen is on my desk is for me an a priori statement. 106) uponsense experienceto knowthatmy pen is on my desk.5 a contingent thing.if S exists Neptune causes perturbationsin the orbit of Uranus.138 DAVID COWLES vivid way:no mere linguisticact can guarantee tingentin a particularly the existence of a particularstick .and since one cannot know a priori This content downloaded from 164. Nathan Salmon lengthof S at to): writes(using'Leonard' as a namefor the particular I include the proviso 'if S exists'for the benefit of purists. 20 Apr 2013 02:46:49 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .(Carter.we shouldconsider(1c) and(2c): (1c) (2c) StickS is one meterlong at to. she cannot in following Kripke's procedure come to know (as a result of the procedure) any truth a priori. something For instance. each of which entailsthe existenceof examples.perhaps.who will point out that S's havingLeonardas its length entails S's existence.in his discussion of the meter sentence.(1) entails: (1) a priori. the There seemed to many to be an obvious way out: conditionalize Insteadof (1) and (2).41.4 Carter correctlypoints out that nobody could be in a position to know (le) a she is.this on the groundsthat once I have observed the location of my pen I do not then have to rely p.insteadof (2c).no matterhow skilleda "definer" As Cartersees it.240 on Sat. the speakermust first come to know that S exists. Thusthe ExistentialWorry.102. (2c') Neptune causes perturbationsin the orbit of Uranus.We can statethisworrysuccinctly (le) S exists Since being in a position to know a priori that seems obviouslyto be closed under entailment.the speakerclearly doesn't know as follows. According to Carter.Since the speakercannotcome to know (le) except by experience.the speaker is in a position to know (le) a priori. and then proceed with the definition. Or. priori. assuming that she is in a position to know (1) a priori. if Neptuneexists.

there are no such sentences. 20 Apr 2013 02:46:49 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 60).when it is of a contingentlyexistingthing . (Schiffer. thatsimplyby virtueof his linguistic act: (3) RalphknowsthatVladimir murdered Smith.of Smith'smurderer. p.can be a priori.41. Then it seems. therefore. His case involves "the ubiquitousRalph"(Schiffer. As I understandhim. one therefore cannot know a priori that S has that length.there is not even a candidatefor the status of contingenta priori. But no such knowledge .p. no matter whatnamesone has.THE CONTINGENT A PRIORI 139 that S exists. he has it just by virtueof knowing that some one person murdered Smith.is his knowledge.or how theyhavebeen introduced. 6) Thusthe Existential Worryappearsto be met. for he evidently thinks that.and so.No matterhow a name may be embeddedin a sentence.and not at all by virtueof havingnamedSmith'smurderer"Vladimir.6 Unless a sentence containing the [Kripkean] name . 6 1) And againa bit later: Now I do not mind sayingthat Smith'smurderer is knownby Ralphto have murdered Smith. GarethEvans also denies that conditionalizing answersthe Existential Worry.andthe truthof the wholesentencerequires thatthe namerefer. . upon learning that Smithwas murdered(by exactlyone person).that name is accessibleto existentialquantification. anddoes so withoutqualification: of existentialcommitment.introducesthe name 'Vladimir' as a rigid designatorof the murderer.102. p. who. 197. and S(t) is a sentence in which t occurs. 62) (Schiffer.240 on Sat. thatthatpersonmurdered Smith. (Salmon.and. to have murderedSmith if anyone did." Yet Ralph'sknowledgethat some one person murderedSmith is certainlysomething that he has only a posteriori. following Kripke's line of reasoning. p. Or is it? StephenSchifferapparently does not thinkthingsare quite as simple as all that. But if Ralph has this knowledge. n.but withina classicalframework. And the Existential Worrysurfacesjust after his explanationof what sortof ascription (3) is: If t is a name of x (and not equivalentin meaningto a definite descriptionnecessarily' true of x).if Ralphhas thatknowledge.if anyone did. can be formulated which is free Evans's position is clearly quite strong. This content downloaded from 164. then rRalphknows that S(t)' attributedto Ralph de re knowledge of x. he raises a version of the Existential Worryfor even the conditionalized sentences. . if Ralph can reason a little. and rRalphknows that S(t) attributesto Ralph knowledge of a propositionthat is contingentbecause there is a possible world in which x does not satisfythe propositional functionexpressedby S( ).

240 on Sat. 20 Apr 2013 02:46:49 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .) Jones can know a priori that numbersexist. In short. We have two issues before us.41.102. Following Kripke's reasoning. a priori. I am sure.it seems that Jones would then be in a position to know. the truth contingent (5) Thereare alphaplanets. And second. and that exactlyone of them numbersthe planets.there is nothingknowableonly a posteriorithatJones needs to knowin orderto know(4) and(5).thereis the questionwhetherthe Existential Worryis a telling objection to Kripke's examples. in which the Kripkeanname does not bringwithit existential to any contingently commitment existingthing. But notice: there is no ExistentialWorry in this case. There is a shockinglysimple and vivid way to establishthese points.that the exampleshows that the Existential Worryis not a telling objection (if there is one) to Kripke's examples. whatever it is. there is the questionwhetherthe obvious reply to the Existential Worry the conditionalization move - adequately answers the objection. and contra Evans it is possible to generatethe puzzle despite the fact that the Kripkeanname is not free of existential commitment.I do not know exactlywhat to make of that issue. I think both questions can be answered definitively.(If there are no planets. 'alpha'refersto zero. Jones would be in a position to know. that the description'the numberof planets'is uniquelysatisfied. a priori.is an example free of existen- tial worry.Hence.7 I do not take this to show that it is possible to have a priori knowledgeof contingenttruths.The ExistentialWorry is not a telling objection. the puzzle simply cannotbe generated.140 DAVID COWLES owing to the existentialimport of Kripkeannames. Jones can know.an example. Suppose Jones introducesthe name 'alpha'as a rigid designatorof the (actual) number of planets.8 This content downloaded from 164. however.the contingent truth (4) Alphanumbersthe planets. a priori. Put anotherway. First.that is. 'Alpha' gets a referentwhetheror not there are any planets. What's needed - and what's available .

generality 3 I realizethatthis is not the wayKripkehimselfput it.Stephen (1979) "Namingand Knowing". 7.Kripke conditionalizes: "such statementsas 'if such and such perturbations are caused by a planet. she would surelythen know (le) a 2 priori. and in favor of his own.every truth is a priori equivalentto a I thankGregRayfor makingTharp's necessarytruth.102. 33.Philosophical Studies 74.THE CONTINGENT A PRIORI NOTES 141 See especiallyKripke(1980). 33).In fact. Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press. 63. 8 I thank StewartCohen. REFERENCES William R. andp. Some will preferto think of the thingsknown as propositions. n.Greg Fitch. 26. 7 Tharp (1989) puts the strategyof namingnecessaryexistents to very differentand very interestinguse.Keith S.andfor helpfuldiscussions.1n. I Virtually all who have written on the problem have considered conditionalized versionsof the examples. and I thank GregRayfor puttingme onto the topic. in his own discussionof the Neptuneexample. 198. p. 56-57.Jr.) workknownto me. Fred Feldman. 172. I It is unimportantwhat exactly it is to 'be in a position.In: Peter A. Truths". 6 Evans (1979). n. and come to believe (le) on this basis. andRay(1994).) Contemporary Perspectivesin the 61-74. Tharp. 207-214. . Ned Markosian.45-60.240 on Sat. n. AZ 85287-2004 USA This content downloaded from 164. This is part of Evans's argument againstDonnellan's(1979) treatmentof the issue. Wettstein(eds. p. Jr. argument. 161-189. pp. 79.Gareth(1979) "Reference andContingency". Salmon.. p. Cambridge: Harvard Press.but in the interestof I willbe as vagueas possibleon thismatter.they are caused by Neptune'had the statusof a priori truths"(Kripke1980. See note 5 below. and Theodore Sider for helpful discussion.' It is clear that if the speakerwere to know (1) a priori.. (1979) "TheContingent In:Peter A. Kripke. Uehling. Department of Philosophy ArizonaStateUniversity Tempe.Leslie(1989) "Three Theoremsof Metaphysics". Uehling. then if she were in additionto recognize that (1) entails (le). Donnellan. A Priori and RigidDesignators".TheProceedings of the Aristotelian SocietyLXXXVIII. 20 Apr 2013 02:46:49 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Schiffer. 79. University Ray.) Contemporary Perspectivesin the Philosophy of Language.This short note grew out of commentson Ray (1994) 1 deliveredat the PacificDivisionMeetingsof the APA (1993). (Briefly. p. French. and Howard K.193-217.Tharparguesthat from Kripke'sviews about names one can derive some startlingresults. Minneapolis: Philosophy of Language. and HowardK. For good discussions of Evans's see Salmon(1987). Evans. Mind62. of Minnesota University Press.Saul(1980) Namingand Necessity. Theodore E. 105-106. French.41.TheodoreE. Wettstein (eds. Analysis36. (1976) "OnA PrioriContingent Carter. Greg (1994) "Kripke& the Existential Complaint".Nathan(1987) "Howto Measurethe Standard Metre".For example. NathanSalmon. 121-135 (thisissue). Synthese 81.

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