a priori & a posteriori

jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
Is my use of a priori and a posteriori right in this writing :

Sometime, I commit the fundamental thinking error of holding a priori view. This is the view that I often make before I check the evidence and I reason through it. I am better off holding a posteriori views that are formed after examining the evidence with open mind. In most cases, reality contraindicates the a priori views.

Thank you in advance.
 
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I think your question is about the phrase 'hold an a priori/a posteriori view'.

    The main thing is that because view is a countable noun, you will need an article if you use it in the singular. Therefore, an a priori view.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    No, for two reasons. First, the a in a prior is not an article, so you would need to add an article in "error of holding an a priori view." Second, "a priori" doesn't mean "held without evidence; held on faith"; it is a term in philosophy and logic referring to an axiom or a proposition that is necessarily true for reasons of logic alone. Reality cannot contradict (rather than "contraindicate") an a priori proposition, because an a priori proposition is, by definition, necessarily true.
     

    MuttQuad

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    Where did you get that idea?

    My first dictionary (AHD4) provides quite a different explanation:

    1. Proceeding from a known or assumed cause to a necessarily related effect; deductive.

    2.
    a. Derived by or designating the process of reasoning without reference to particular facts or experience.
    b. Knowable without appeal to particular experience.

    3. Made before or without examination; not supported by factual study.

    M-W Unabridged gives much lengthier definitions of the adjective and adverb uses, but they are not consonant with yours.
     
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    jacdac

    Senior Member
    Lebanese
    Thank you all. In (to ?) my understanding, an a priori view is a view that was formed before examining the evidence. I did not say ' without the evidence'. After all, with the evidence examined, it becomes a posteriori view, doesn't it ?
    Why contradict rather than contraindicate ?
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    Thank you all. In (to ?) my understanding, an a priori view is a view that was formed before examining the evidence. I did not say ' without the evidence'. After all, with the evidence examined, it becomes a posteriori view, doesn't it ?
    A priori and a posteriori are technical terms in epistemology. I just don't think they're what you're looking for, and anyway they relate more properly to the logical status of the proposition that is at issue rather than to the state of your belief about it.

    I think the words you want are some combination of "assumption," "hunch," "guess," "unsupported," "warranted," etc.

    Why contradict rather than contraindicate ?
    I have never in my life seen the word "contraindicate" outside of pharmacology.
     

    AmaryllisBunny

    Senior Member
    Here is what I found in Black's Law Dictionary: Deluxe Tenth Edition.

    A priori - [Latin "from what is before"] (17c) Deductively; from the general to the particular, or from previous experiences or facts to an inference of what the likely result or effect will be <as an analyst, he reasoned a priori – from seemingly self-evident propositions to particular conclusions>.

    A posteriori - [Latin "from what comes after"] (16c) Inductively; from the particular to the general, or from known effects to their inferred causes <as a legal analyst, she reasoned a posteriori – from countless individual cases to generalized rules that she finally applied>.

    From Fowler's Dictionary of Modern: Fourth.

    A priori - this phrase is used to characterize reasoning or arguing from causes to effects, deductively. Because they were wearing handcuffs it was obvious that they had been taken into custody and Because I've failed I live on her money are examples of a priori reasoning. Contrasted with A POSTERIORI.

    A posteriori - It is a phrase used to characterize reasoning or arguing from known facts to probable causes. 'The prisoners have weals on their backs, so they must have been whipped' is an example of a posteriori reasoning. Contrasted with A PRIORI.
     
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    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    Is my use of a priori and a posteriori right in this writing :

    Sometime, I commit the fundamental thinking error of holding a priori view. This is the view that I often make before I check the evidence and I reason through it. I am better off holding a posteriori views that are formed after examining the evidence with open mind. In most cases, reality contraindicates the a priori views.

    Thank you in advance.
    I don't think that it makes much sense to talk about holding an a priori view.
    I don't think that 'a priori' (adj.) can be applied to views.
    Typically, it's applied to reason; reasoning; chains of reasoning; knowledge - all that good stuff.

    It strikes me that you may be thinking of prima facie.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, I think it a priori is typically used to modify reason or knowledge - a priori knowledge is not based on experience whereas a posteriori knowledge is.

    It might be possible to have an a priori view of something, eg morality, though. For example, if you think morality should be based on logical reasoning rather than your experience of life.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    No, for two reasons. First, the a in a prior is not an article, so you would need to add an article in "error of holding an a priori view." Second, "a priori" doesn't mean "held without evidence; held on faith"; it is a term in philosophy and logic referring to an axiom or a proposition that is necessarily true for reasons of logic alone. Reality cannot contradict (rather than "contraindicate") an a priori proposition, because an a priori proposition is, by definition, necessarily true.
    Some propositions which are verifiable a priori are not necessarily true - like 2 + 2 = 5.
    [...]It might be possible to have an a priori view of something, eg morality, though. For example, if you think morality should be based on logical reasoning rather than your experience of life.
    I think that would be a slightly odd way of presenting this interesting idea, Nat. I'd probably prefer to say that such a person felt that moral truths could be established a priori.

    The French when they wish to sound impressive, which can be quite often, use a priori where an English philosophy student would say prima facie, ie. at first sight, on the surface, apparently. I hope that use doesn't migrate commonly into English.
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I'd probably prefer to say that such a person felt that moral truths could be established a priori.
    Oh yes, TT. That's a much more elegant way of saying it. There is a lot in language that is inelegant, though not strictly speaking wrong or ungrammatical.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Once upon a time, a rather younger panj was taught information theory in relation to communications.
    In that context the a priori probability of a particular signal event is the probability that it has occurred.
    The a posteriori probability is the probability, when that signal event has been received, that it is the signal event that was actually transmitted.
    I'm not posting to put forward this definition in opposition to what has been said alredy, much more to suggest that these terms are applied in a range of specialist contexts and there is no necessity for them to be identical in all respects.
     
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