[OPE-L:6429] Re: [OPE] What is prior? Response to Jerry

Alan Freeman (a.freeman@greenwich.ac.uk)
Tue, 07 Apr 1998 10:26:41 -0500

Gerald Levy wrote:
> I think I understand what Alan is suggesting, but I found it somewhat
> surprising in one sense. To say that two variables are "independent" from
> each other has meaning in a formal mathematical sense. However, the
> expression "prior" not only has a logical meaning but a *temporal*
> meaning. That is, if the quantity of one variable is determined "prior"
> to another it also suggests that it was determined at a prior *time*.
> Thus, if we look at M-C...P...C'-M' we can see that M and C exist "prior"
> to C' and M'.

Alan replies

Yes, I agree exactly. Part of my difficulty with the word 'prior' is that I
find it ill-defined. I actually wrote my post down first using only the
word 'prior' and then decided I had to add the extra qualification of
substituting the word 'independent' because I hoped thereby to make my own
meaning unambiguously clear, and to phrase the principle in the most
general way possible.

But I get the impression that whenever Fred uses the word 'prior', he does
so strictly in the sense of 'epistemologically prior'. I find this still
ambiguous which is why I don't like using the word if I can avoid it, since
I can never be sure how statements using this word will be read. 'Prior'
could refer to the order of derivation of categories; to the order of
mathematical calculation; or to a syllogistic precedence ordering in terms
of generality. I don't think these are in every case the same thing.
Perhaps Fred would like to comment.