A Virtue-Based Defense of Mathematical Apriorism

Document Type


Publication Date



Mathematical apriorists usually defend their view by contending that axioms are knowable a priori, and that the rules of inference in mathematics preserve this apriority for derived statements—so that by following the proof of a statement, we can trace the apriority being inherited. The empiricist Philip Kitcher attacked this claim by arguing there is no satisfactory theory that explains how mathematical axioms could be known a priori. I propose that in analyzing Ernest Sosa’s model of intuition as an intellectual virtue, we can construct an “intuition–virtue” that could supply the missing explanation for the apriority of axioms. I first argue that this intuition–virtue qualifies as an a priori warrant according to Kitcher’s account, and then show that it could produce beliefs about mathematical axioms independent of experience. If my argument stands, this paper could provide insight on how virtue epistemology could help defend mathematical apriorism on a larger scale.