[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.

Roger Jones

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