Overlooked Distinctions: The Mirage of Contingent A Priori

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In this chapter, I argue, with reference to Wittgenstein’s discussion of the standard meter in the Philosophical Investigations, that Kripke’s introduction of the epistemological-metaphysical category of contingent a priori in Naming and Necessity fails, due to his overlooking certain important distinctions in the use of relevant expressions and due to his unrecognized or unacknowledged wavering between different uses of relevant sentences. If the argument is correct, the notion of contingent a priori truths that Kripke seeks to introduce is merely a philosophical mirage that arises from bending the use of relevant sentences similarly to how the bending of light waves can create a mirage. I conclude with a discussion of the logical status of definitions and by outlining an alternative Wittgensteinian account of relevant kinds of definitional sentences in terms of their non-temporal use. The advantage of this account is that it helps to keep track of the distinctions that Kripke overlooks, and that it avoids the problems raised by Donnellan and Salmon for Kripke regarding the notion of knowledge of contingent a priori truths.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEngaging Kripke with Wittgenstein
Subtitle of host publicationThe Standard Meter, Contingent Apriori, and Beyond
EditorsMartin Gustafsson, Oskari Kuusela, Jakub Mácha
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781003240792
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2023


  • Wittgenstein
  • Kripke
  • contingent apriori
  • logic

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