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Kant influentially distinguished analytic from synthetic a priori propositions, and he took certain propositions in the latter category to be of immense philosophical importance. His distinction between the analytic and the synthetic has been accepted by many and attacked by others; but despite its importance, a number of discussions of it since at least W. V. Quine’s have paid insufficient attention to some of the passages in which Kant draws the distinction. This paper seeks to clarify what appear to be three distinct conceptions of the analytic (and implicitly of the synthetic) that are presented in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and in some other Kantian texts. The conceptions are important in themselves, and their differences are significant even if they are extensionally equivalent. The paper is also aimed at showing how the proposed understanding of these conceptions—and especially the one that has received insufficient attention from philosophers—may bear on how we should conceive the synthetic a priori, in and beyond Kant’s own writings.

In: History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis