Foundationalism and Coherentism

 

 

1.The Epistemic Regress Problem

 

2.The Foundationalist's Way Out

††††††† Basic and Non-Basic Beliefs

††††††††††††††† Logically Basic and Causally Basic

††††††† Basic beliefs are justified beliefs that justify other beliefs, but their justification does not come from other beliefs.It comes from states that are not beliefs, referred to as the Given.

††††††† Classical foundationalism holds that basic beliefs are infallible or incorrigible.

††††††† Moderate (fallibilist) foundationalism allows for basic beliefs that are not infallible.

††††††† The Puzzle of the Given

††††††† The Doxastic Thesis

 

3.The Coherentist's Way Out

††††††† Linear and Non-Linear Justification

††††††††††††††† Logically Linear and Causally Linear

††††††† The Alternative Systems Objection

††††††† The Input Problem

 

4.BonJour's Defense of Foundationalism

††††††† Conceptual and Non-Conceptual Content

††††††† Non-Doxastic Justificatory Relations

 

††††††† What makes BonJour a Foundationalist?

 

AN EXAMPLE OF EPISITEMIC JUSTIFICATION BY REASONS

 

 

All crows are black.

The bird outside my window is a crow.

 

Therefore, the bird outside my window is black.

 

 


Four Potential Solutions to the Epistemic Regress Problem

 

 

Four solutions to the regress problem (on the assumption that I am justified in believing that I am mortal):

 

(1) infinite chain of justification

 

(2) turtle beliefs:beliefs that are unjustified but can justify other beliefs.

 

(3) basic beliefs:justified beliefs that justify other beliefs but do not get their justification from other beliefs.

 

(4) circular chains:chains of justification form closed curves, so that the chain of justification for a belief p eventually includes p itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Puzzle of the Given as an Explanation of Basic Beliefs

(due to Kant, Sellars, Davidson, and BonJour)

 

††††††† Pojman states it as a problem about the Given as a justification for infallible basic belief (classical Foundationalism), but BonJour correctly states the puzzle as a problem for the Given as a justification for both classical and fallibilist Foundationalism.The Puzzle of the Given is to understand how basic beliefs can solve the regress problem.The puzzle can be stated in two ways.The simplest employs the Doxastic Thesis:

 

(1) Consider the example of justification given above.Justification proceeds by way of logical or quasi-logical relations among propositional contents.

 

(2) Only things with propositional content need to be justified and only things with propositional content can be justifiers.

 

(3) Basic beliefs have propositional content, so they need to be justified.

 

(4) Basic beliefs are justified by something that is not a belief.

 

Doxastic Thesis:Only beliefs have propositional content. (compare Pojman p. 129)

 

Conclusion:There are no basic beliefs.

 

This is a reductio of the Foundationalist solution to the regress problem.

††††††† If we donít accept the Doxastic Thesis, the reductio takes the form of a dilemma:

 

(1) Consider the example of justification given above.Justification proceeds by way of logical or quasi-logical relations among propositional contents.

 

(2) Only things with propositional content need to be justified and only things with propositional content can be justifiers.

 

(3) Basic beliefs have propositional content, so they need to be justified.

 

(4) Basic beliefs are justified by something that is not a belief.

 

(5) Basic beliefs are justified by conscious experience.

 

First Horn of the Dilemma:(6a) Conscious experience does not have propositional content.

 

First Conclusion: Conscious experience cannot justify any basic beliefs.So there are no basic beliefs.

 

 

 

 

 

Second Horn of the Dilemma:(6b) Conscious experience includes a state of awareness with propositional content.

 

(7b) Then this state of awareness can justify other beliefs.But because it has propositional content, it also needs justification.If it needs, justification, then this state of awareness does not solve the regress problem.Anything that can justify it will have propositional content, and thus will itself need to be justified.

 

Overall Conclusion:There is no Foundationalist solution to the regress problem.