A priori knowledge is propositional knowledge that can be had without experience. It is usually contrasted with a posteriori knowledge, which requires experience. Mathematics and logic are usually considered a priori disciplines. The natural and social sciences are usually considered a posteriori disciplines.

Philosophical thought

Pre-a priori thinkers included rationalists such as Rene Descartes and Gottfried Leibniz, who argued that knowledge is gained through reason, not experience. However, modern a priori thought began with Immanuel Kant who brought up the contemporary distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge.

He argues that propositions known a priori are necessarily true, while propositions known a posteriori are contingent, because a priori knowledge has always been true, according to Kant. (i.e. A triangle has three sides) A posteriori propositions will depend on external conditions, which may change in time, making the proposition false. (i.e. Jean Chrétien is Canada's Prime Minister)

Major contemporary philosophers of a priori thought include Alfred Ayer, Roderick Chisholm and W.V.O. Quine.

See also