It is common to distinguish what is a priori knowable from what is a posteriori knowable. The distinction itself is not really what needs defending. Rather, there are many advocates of radical empiricism, such as early Quine, who question whether anything is truly a priori at all. So, what needs defending is the possibility of the a priori.
One might attempt to defend the possibility of a priori knowledge by appeal to innate intuitions or perhaps, with Kant, as arising from some kind of fundamental category of understanding. But such attempts run contrary to the modern preference for scientific explanations, preferably of the reductive kind.
If we try to explain our intuitions in terms of our experiences, or from our genetic inheritance, there is a huge plausibility gap. Our ancient ancestors' ability to survive and thrive has far more to do with their capacity to climb trees, use tools, and migrate long distances than it has with the performing of abstract reasoning. Also, studies by psychologists such as Kahneman and Tversky have shown that human beings are not particularly good at reasoning. We are subject to all kinds of cognitive biases. And specific tests of ability to solve problems have shown that people are pretty bad at logic, and spectacularly bad at reasoning with probabilities.
But all is not hopeless for defenders of the a priori. Some modern philosophers have defended the idea that we do have a priori knowledge based on rational insight. One of these is Laurence BonJour "In Defense of Pure Reason", Cambridge University Press (1998). Also, Robert Hanna, "Rationality and Logic", MIT Press (2006) advocates the view that logic is cognitively constructed and that humans are essentially rational animals.