The conclusion of the McKinsey paradox is that certain contingent claims about the external world are knowable a priori. Almost all of the literature on the paradox assumes that this conclusion is unacceptable, and focuses on finding a way of avoiding it. However, there is no consensus that any of these responses work. In this paper I take a different approach, arguing that the conclusion is acceptable. First, I develop our understanding of what Evans calls merely superficially contingent a priori knowledge, and explain why there is no reason to deny that merely superficially contingent a priori knowledge of the external world is possible. I then argue that, properly understood, the conclusion of the McKinsey paradox is that merely superficially contingent knowledge of certain claims about the external world is possible, and so the conclusion is acceptable. Finally, I respond to the two main arguments that the conclusion of the paradox is unacceptable.
Thanks to Bernhard Salow, Crispin Wright, David Horst and Marco Ruffino for helpful discussion. I am also grateful to two anonymous Synthese referees for helpful comments.
- Philosophy of language
- A priori
- McKinsey paradox