[hist-analytic] Aune and the meter stick
Roger Bishop Jones
rbj at rbjones.com
Tue Oct 27 10:48:29 EDT 2009
In Chapter 2 of his ETK Bruce Aune presents an argument which purports to
exhibit a proposition which is a priori but contingent.
I believe this argument to be fallacious.
This is because I see no adequate basis for the claim that the proposition in
question is a priori.
The proposition is held to be a priori because it is known from a stipulative
definition of the concept of standard meter. However, this is insufficient
ground for it to be a priori. A proposition can be known a priori if it is
logically derivable from the content of such a stipulation. But an a priori
derivation may not make use of any aspect of the stipulation other than the
meaning assigned to the term. The form of the definition, the manner of its
presentation, the accidents leading to and from the stipulation, are all
information which we might happen to have about this stipulation and from
which we might draw further conclusions, but no conclusion based on such
information would be a priori.
Considerable emphasis is sometimes placed in the case of stipulations of the
referent of supposedly rigid designators, that the manner in which the
referent is picked out is irrelevant to the reference of the designator in
other possible worlds. This information is not a part of the meaning, of the
designator and may not be used in any a priori argument.
The proposition in question is about a rod r which happens to be used in
defining the standard meter. What we know about r from our knowledge of the
stipulation comes from aspects of the stipulation other than its content, and
this knowledge is not therefore a priori.
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