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Recent defenses of a priori knowledge can be applied to the idea of conventions in science in order to indicate one important sense in which conventionalism is correct—some elements of physical theory have a unique epistemological status as a functionally a priori part of our physical theory. I will argue that the former a priori should be treated as empirical in a very abstract sense, but still conventional. Though actually coming closer to the Quinean position than recent defenses of a priori knowledge, the picture of science developed here is very different from that developed in Quinean holism in that categories of knowledge can be differentiated.


Article published in Philosophy of Science, 70 (December 2003) pp. 1149–1160. 0031-8248/2003/7005-0024.

Copyright 2003 by the Philosophy of Science Association.

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