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Volume 53 • Number 2

April 2015



Embodied Knowledge, Conceptual Change, and the A Priori; or, Justification, Revision, and the Ways Life Could Go

by Robert D. Rupert


This essay defends a qualified version of Quine's thesis of universal revisability against David Chalmers's recent conditionalization-based criticisms of it. It is argued that an embodied view of cognitive processing undermines Chalmers's account of nonrevisable a priori justification, which presupposes that concepts prefigure the confirmation-relations into which they enter so as to make such relations rationally accessible to anyone who possesses those concepts. On the view developed here, bodily interaction with the world and the accompanying subconscious processing can change subjects' dispositions to apply their concepts in ways that are not rationally accessible to them, even given a complete description of that interaction, and do not constitute a change in the content of the concepts involved. Thus a subject who treats a proposition as indefeasibly justified a priori might nevertheless significantly lower her credence in that proposition, in ways that are not accessible to the subject on the basis of her grasp of the content of the relevant concepts. This discussion has further implications concerning the role of the a priori in the philosophical enterprise.

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ISSN: 2152-1123