General Question

kfingerman's avatar

A priori?

Asked by kfingerman (992points) December 12th, 2008

I know what it means (generally), and think it has its roots in stats. I want to be able to use it confidently in my writing. Let’s see some proper applications.

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9 Answers

Les's avatar

Lets start this way: What do you think it means?

kfingerman's avatar

I think it’s something along the lines of previous knowledge or understanding independent of later evidence

Harp's avatar

In common usage, a priori applies to an assertion that one can confidently make without having to go out and verify it’s truthfulness by crunching real world data.

“I would assume a priori that the majority of Flutherers are computer literate”

Les's avatar

@k: OK. A priori means basically you know something without having to do experimentation. So the classic example is “A bachelor is unmarried.” You would not have to go up the the gentleman and ask him if he is married. He is a bachelor, therefore, he is unmarried. A posteriori requires experimentation to get the knowledge. “He is a bachelor, so he is happy.” You would have to experiment (ask him) if he was happy to find this information out.

kfingerman's avatar

These are useful, but I’m curious about the nuance of how to incorporate this in writing. It’s seeming like an adjective so…“I have reason to assume a priori that…” or “we can make the a priori assumption that…” or it is evident, a priori, that…” It’s a useful phrase, but flubbing it seems tacky.

Harp's avatar

It can function as an adjective, describing a kind of proposition:
“Systems of geometry are developed from a set of a priori statements known as axioms”.

…as an adverb, describing a way of knowing;
“We know a priori that there will be 365 days in 2009”

…or as a noun meaning a proposition made a priori.
“Aristotle begins his exposition with an a priori…”

augustlan's avatar


Knotmyday's avatar

Also a legal term, meaning “I will bankrupt you.”

Just kidding. Sort of. Here’s the definition, in legalese.

Zuma's avatar

I believe it is latin, literally a (without) priori (anything coming before). Hence, an axiom, like a first principle, would be a priori.

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