While browsing this question I stumbled upon the concept of historicised a priori citing Dilthey and Foucalt.

Can somebody explain this concept to me?

Also, could anyone point me in the direction of specific texts that explain the concept of historicised a priori.

  • Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Dec 24, 2023 at 16:48
  • If you google: "historical a priori" you will find a number of references to this concept from both Foucault and Husserl. Dec 24, 2023 at 17:55
  • @IdiosyncraticSoul I am asking if someone could give an explanation or point me to specific references where I might find an explanation. Dec 24, 2023 at 18:25
  • A priori is from Latin ā priōrī, which means literally, "from what is earlier." A priori knowledge is knowledge that comes from the power of reasoning based on self-evident truths; a priori usually describes lines of reasoning or arguments that proceed from the general to the particular, or from causes to effects. 1 2
    – user71091
    Jan 24 at 13:31

1 Answer 1


What is it? In a sense, it is straightforward: the a priori, the epitome of something absolute and unchanging, is historicised and thereby becoming a historical a priori, having a particular place in history, ie. it is seen as a part of historical development, changing through history. What exactly is meant depends on the author. Dilthey, Husserl, and Foucault may roughly have meant the same - that the a priori of each person (that which structurally pre-forms their knowledge and cannot be changed by them) is dependant on their relation to their Lebenswelt and that these person - Lebenswelt relations undergo change through history. For example, the formative structures of (the possibility for) knowledge were quite different for monks in 13th century monasteries from free authors or professors in the secular Berlin of the 1920s.

Generally, it is a concept emerging from Hermeneutics and most prominent in this context. If you think about the absolute limits of understanding (both oneself and a text), you naturally reach the conclusion that you have to do so from a particular social, cultural, and historical situation that forms your language, how you think, and what you even are able to think. The historical a priori is merely an emphasis of that which is roughly the same yet still changes through history: reason and reasoning about the conditions of (the possibility of) knowledge. In my answer you linked I dropped the mentioning of Husserl exactly because of that: In his phenomenology, this is treated a bit as an afterthought instead of as the preliminary lines that have to be drawn.

For Husserl and Foucault, this issue does give a good overview of the systematic place, need for and problems with their particular conceptions. For Dilthey, there is a rather recent book in English that can shed some light on his project. Generally, Georg Misch's reconstruction of Dilthey's thought is the best I have encountered so far but I dont even know whether there are translations from German available.

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