Here's the quote:

“I was married, but that didn’t matter, either. She seemed to consider things like age and income and family to be of the same a priori order as shoe size and vocal pitch and the shape of one’s fingernails.”

So, I do understand that this quote is an example of parallelism, but is she comparing (in a one-to-one sense) the importance/unimportance of age to shoe size, and income to vocal pitch, and family to 'the shape of one's fingernails'? Is that what 'a priori order' means, in this context?

Or does the quote imply that everything listed has the same significance? For eg: age is as significant as family, which is as significant as vocal pitch and shoe size, which is as significant as fingernail shape and income; that they (family, vocal pitch, income, shoe size, age, fingernail shape) are all as significant as each other.


2 Answers 2


Things in life can be considered to be of some order. [importance]

  • age, income and family are of the same order [in the same category or have the same or similar importance]. They are measures of one's social position, for example.

Most people would agree those are categories of the same order. They have the similar importance.

whereas: shoe size, vocal pitch and fingernail shape would be much less important. And, therefore, are not of the same order. They have lesser significance or importance.

An a priori [whatever: noun] is something that would come first and that is a given.

a priori order = one that precedes all others in terms of importance and that is a given.

So, the narrator is saying the lady he married can't tell the difference between socially important signs used to label people and much lesser things like vocal pitch and shoe size. In most readings, that character would be understood as being shallow.

A typical use of a priori would be: He has a lot of a priori ideas about the world. In other words, pre-fashioned, already existing. Unmovable.

Everything posted in the other answer about a priori is conceptually correct.

That said, people can use a priori in regular speech (formal regular speech) without any reference to a posteriori at all. That is, without any reference to philosophy at all. Without any reference to what comes after some thing: a posteriori.

A priori order means: an order conceived in advance or existing in advance of any discussion with another: pre-conceived, usually a priori things are unmoveable in the head of the person. They hold onto to them tightly.

  • 2
    A priori doesn't mean "unmoveable". Instead, it is used to compare a state (or assumptions or what is known) before an event with the corresponding a posteriori state (or assumptions or what is known) after an event. A priori and a posteriori are often used this way in economics and statistics.
    – Jasper
    Apr 23, 2019 at 18:33
  • So I can replace "a priori order" with "level of importance"? Apr 23, 2019 at 18:34
  • @strawberries: Only if you want to ignore the meaning of "a priori". But you can replace "a priori order" with "a priori level of importance", or with "what she thought at the time was its level of importance" or with "what she thought before getting to know someone was the level of importance of kinds of information about that person".
    – Jasper
    Apr 23, 2019 at 19:01
  • @Jasper Someone who has a priori ideas does generally have them as unmoveable. A priori does not necessarily compare with a posteriori. If means that your ideas are set things in advance. In that sense, they are most definitely unmoveable: rigid.
    – Lambie
    Apr 24, 2019 at 21:29
  • "a priori" doesn't convey the meaning "unmovable". If you mean the meaning to bring the meaning "where human beings can not touch", then it is equivalent with the word "a priori" in the philosophical world, but it belongs to the metaphysical world. Not an earthly thing.
    – user17814
    Apr 24, 2019 at 22:41

The word "a priori" is quite often used in philosophical debate.

The term a priori is used in philosophy to indicate deductive reasoning. The term is Latin, meaning “from what comes before”, refering to that which comes before experience.

A priori is in contrast to a posteriori, which is a term used to indicate inductive reasoning. In short, something known a priori is known purely through reason while something known a posteriori is determined through empirical evidence.

Therefore in this below Murakami's context,

“I was married, but that didn’t matter, either. She seemed to consider things like age and income and family to be of the same a priori order as shoe size and vocal pitch and the shape of one’s fingernails.”

She thinks her age and income and family ( status ) to be a given things from the birth ( more simply saying, she doesn't even need to give a bit of consideration to these things ) like ordinary things in the world like shoe size, vocal pitch, and the shape of one's fingernails which human beings can't control by their own will.

  • Here, the word "order" inside the phrase "a priori order" can be translated simply "things" in my opinion.
    – user17814
    Apr 23, 2019 at 21:00
  • 1
    I don't think this is about given at birth. She just put age, income and family status on the same level as the other stuff, and in advance of anything else (prior to). The philosophical meaning here is not really relevant. This term is used much more in French than English. That said, it really means: preconceived as in having preconceived ideas.
    – Lambie
    Apr 24, 2019 at 21:31

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