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Foundationalism, Coherentism, And The Justification Of Knowledge

796 words - 4 pages

In this short paper I will examine the positions of foundationalism and coherentism, and argue that a form of weak foundationalism is the most satisfactory option as a valid theory of justification for knowledge and is therefore a viable way of avoiding any sort of vicious regress problem and skepticism.
Foundationalism addresses the infinite regress problem in the following way: if person O is to be justified in having belief X, X must be justified by a further belief Y, which must inferentially justify belief X. Furthermore, Y must be justified by another belief, Z. Instead of following this line infinitely, the foundationalist argues that eventually there must be a foundational belief ...view middle of the document...

Simply put, instead of arguing that there are noninferentially justified beliefs, the coherentist states that justification does not progress linearly, but rather beliefs mutually justify one another. Therefore, for person O, belief X is justified by Y, which is justified by Z, which is in turn justified by X. Obviously this coherence of beliefs would be much larger. Various imageries have been given to explain this, such as a web of belief, or a ship, where any of the parts can be restored at a given time without putting the whole vessel in jeopardy. Internal consistency is necessary, but no single belief or set of beliefs props up the system. For person O, then, his belief Y is justified not because it is inferentially justified by another particular belief; rather, it is justified because it coheres with a comprehensive system of beliefs.
There are many strong objections to coherentism. First of all, it is hard to give a precise meaning to “coherence” so as to explain what is meant by beliefs cohering and in some sense increasing the justification of each other. A second and more obvious problem is that coherentism runs the risk of circularity: if all of person O’s beliefs cohere and increase the justification of one another, they could still be false. In addition, if it is hard to understand in a foundationalist scheme how beliefs can be self-justified, it is even more problematic to...

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