How is "All bachelors are unmarried males" an a priori judgement? For it to be a priori there has to be an innate concept of bachelor-ness which evidently man does not have. In order to acquire this concept, the mind is exposed to a variety of stimuli in the forms of words or other didactic methods by which one learns the concept of bachelor-ness. This would make this an a posteriori statement (derived from experience) rather than being a priori. Indeed what I'm claiming is that why do we insist on calling this statement or any other statement 'a priori' when obviously the content of these statements is not known to us at birth.

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    This is not how "a priori" is defined. It is not that the concepts involved are supposed to be innate, it is controversial whether innate concepts exist at all. They can be as empirical or culturally relative as one wishes, and require as much experience to acquire as one wishes. It is that once they are in place no further empirical inquiry is needed to settle whether the statement is true or not. The meanings (or rules of usage, if one prefers) of concepts themselves are enough. In contrast, no mastery of concepts "salt", "dissolve" and "water" will tell us that salt dissolves in water.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 1:26
  • I see. Thanks for clearing this up. Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 8:30
  • It is not; it is usually considered analytic. Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 8:53
  • It's an analytic a priori proposition. Which means to say that the predicate is contained within the subject of the proposition. And the concept itself requires no empirical verification which is why it's characterized as an a priori judgement. Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 9:56
  • I am with Mauro here. It is analytic, but acquired. The concept requires meaning about social concepts like marriage, which can only come from external evidence. Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 4:16

3 Answers 3


Contrary to what Geoffrey wrote, "bachelors are unmarried males" is an a priori proposition. Moreover, it is one of the most common examples to explain the difference between a priori and empirical statements.

See https://iep.utm.edu/apriori/:

The terms “a priori” and “a posteriori” are used primarily to denote the foundations upon which a proposition is known. A given proposition is knowable a priori if it can be known independent of any experience other than the experience of learning the language in which the proposition is expressed, whereas a proposition that is knowable a posteriori is known on the basis of experience. For example, the proposition that all bachelors are unmarried is a priori, and the proposition that it is raining outside now is a posteriori.

The distinction between the two terms is epistemological and immediately relates to the justification for why a given item of knowledge is held. For instance, a person who knows (a priori) that “All bachelors are unmarried” need not have experienced the unmarried status of all—or indeed any—bachelors to justify this proposition. By contrast, if I know that “It is raining outside,” knowledge of this proposition must be justified by appealing to someone’s experience of the weather.

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    Finally! An unconvoluted answer. Thank you. Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 13:23
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    Question: are there any example of analytic a priori propositions, that are not just "true by definition"?
    – gardenhead
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 17:42
  • By definition, an analytic statement is one that is true or false by definition. If the truth of a statement cannot be determined by the definition of its terms, it isnot analytic but synthetic. Most philosophers and scientists would deny there is such thing as synthetic a priori propositions (which tells you something more than the definition of the terms (synthetic), but yet can be known without empirical investigation (a priori). Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 7:41

'All bachelors are unmarried men' is not an a priori judgement and is not generally regarded as such. It is an analytic judgement, i.e. a judgement which is true by virtue of the meaning of words. That is, if one regards the notion of analyticity as in good order in the light of Quine's criticisms in 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism'.

The analytic and the a priori are quite distinct from each other. (Kant claimed that analytic truths can be known a priori but he had a different notion of the analytic.) I know that 'All bachelors are unmarried men' is true because I have, through a process of experience (how else?), learned the language in which it is expressed or formulated. It is indeed as you intimate, a truth known (and knowable only) a posteriori. So your comment below, 'It would seem from this answer that no linguistic judgement can be characterized as a priori', is dead right: no linguistic judgement can correctly be so characterised. An a priori judgement is one which is known prior to or independent of experience. This agrees with your own characterisation of the a priori.

You ask in your comment: 'Then what would actually be characterized as a priori?' It is an open question whether anything is knowable a priori. Is there a non-experience-dependent way of coming to know something?

Let's think. Given perceptual experience it might be the case that in reflecting on one's experience one derives non-experiential knowledge. I know perceptually, i.e. by experience, what green and red are and what kinds of thing can be coloured. By reflection, and not as a matter of experience, I also know that nothing can be green and red all over at the same time. Without experience I could not have this knowledge but, given experience of the two colours, I can reflectively derive this further item of knowledge non-experientially. If non-experiential, then a priori. I have taken this suggestion from ch. 6 of Quassim Cassam's The Possibility of knowledge, Oxford: 2007: 195. Cassam extends the a priori beyond this example but I cannot give a full account of his view of the a priori here.

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    Then what would actually be characterized as a priori? It would seem from this answer that no linguistic judgement can be characterized as a priori. Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 17:47
  • I have revised the answer to provide a fuller response that takes note of your comment.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 17:21
  • What about prophecy? Is that independent of experience or by creating something tangible with the mind one is creating an experience? What I mean to say is let's say I say the answer lies here = "appositive deixis" (read Parallax View randomly) ..and I read about miracle of dove yesterday ..or I read the Book of Mormon in random pages and read in line..if you do not believe you are not a member of this church..then read about Baptism..then learn the Chinese word for Baptism..anyway. What I mean is if I had no knowledge of what "appositive deixis" was, but its relatable..is that a priori?
    – Abe Shudug
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 19:38
  • This is a bad prophetic example, but on a general level, while perhaps innate a/o transcendent, is it a priori or a posteriori ? Perhaps not such a bad example considering HERE is innate in the idea of Deixis hahahaha. If you read the prior paragraph books.google.ca/… that's exactly what I'm talking about lol
    – Abe Shudug
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 19:39

Apriority maps to proactivity or "spontaneity" (an older use of the term) of knowledge, whereas experience is reactive/passive, something that happens to us. Since we are semantically autonomous, words meaning this or that is something that we do instead of something that just happens to us.

Now these definitions leave room for what you might call interactive knowledge, a strong mix of the a priori and empirical: science involves this to a great extent, but language does too, since there is a social element to a lot of meaning. We don't define words in a void, we cooperate to fix their references, there is social reactivity involved in learning meaning that others have developed for terms that we use.

"The definition of the word bachelor is unmarried man": is this actually synthetic a priori to some extent, then? For it is synthetic, whether a word is used to refer to this or that. The word could've been used to refer differently. Still, it is proactively assigned as it is, so there is that apriority to it...

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