Foundationalism concerns philosophical theories of knowledge resting upon justified belief, or some secure foundation of certainty such as a conclusion inferred from a basis of sound premises. The main rival of the foundationalist theory of justification is the coherence theory of justification, whereby a body of knowledge, not requiring a secure foundation, can be established by the interlocking strength of its components, like a puzzle solved without prior certainty that each small region was solved correctly.
Identifying the alternatives as either circular reasoning or infinite regress, and thus exhibiting the regress problem, Aristotle made foundationalism his own clear choice, positing basic beliefs underpinning others. Descartes, the most famed foundationalist, discovered a foundation in the fact of his own existence and in the "clear and distinct" ideas of reason, whereas Locke found a foundation in experience. Differing foundations may reflect differing epistemological emphases—empiricists emphasizing experience, rationalists emphasizing reason—but may blend both.
In the 1930s, debate over foundationalism revived. Whereas Moritz Schlick viewed scientific knowledge like a pyramid where a special class of statements does not require verification through other beliefs and serves as a foundation, Otto Neurath argued that scientific knowledge lacks an ultimate foundation and acts like a raft. In the 1950s, foundationalism fell into decline – largely due to the influence of Willard Van Orman Quine, whose ontological relativity found any belief networked to one's beliefs on all of reality, while auxiliary beliefs somewhere in the vast network are readily modified to protect desired beliefs.
Classically, foundationalism had posited infallibility of basic beliefs and deductive reasoning between beliefs—a strong foundationalism. About 1975 weak foundationalism emerged. Thus recent foundationalists have variously allowed fallible basic beliefs, and inductive reasoning between them, either by enumerative induction or by inference to the best explanation. And whereas internalists require cognitive access to justificatory means, externalists find justification without such access.
Foundationalism was initiated by French early modern philosopher René Descartes. In his Meditations, Descartes challenged the contemporary principles of philosophy by arguing that everything he knew he learnt from or through his senses. He used various arguments to challenge the reliability of the senses, citing previous errors and the possibilities that he was dreaming or being deceived by an Evil Demon. Descartes attempted to establish the secure foundations for knowledge to avoid scepticism. He contrasted the information provided by senses, which is unclear and uncertain, with the truths of geometry, which are clear and distinct. Geometrical truths are also certain and indubitable; Descartes thus attempted to find truths which were clear and distinct because they would be indubitably true and a suitable foundation for knowledge. His method was to question all of his beliefs until he reached something clear and distinct that was indubitably true. The result was his cogito ergo sum – 'I think therefore I am', or the belief that he was thinking – as his indubitable belief suitable as a foundation for knowledge. This resolved Descartes' problem of the Evil Demon – the possibility that he was being deceived by an Evil Demon, rendering all of his beliefs about the external world false. Even if his beliefs about the external world were false, his beliefs about what he was experiencing were still indubitably true, even if those perceptions do not relate to anything in the world.
Several other philosophers of the early modern period, including John Locke, G. W. Leibniz, George Berkeley, David Hume, and Thomas Reid, all accepted foundationalism as well. Baruch Spinoza was interpreted as metaphysical foundationalist by G. W. F. Hegel, a proponent of coherentism. Immanuel Kant's foundationalism rests on his theory of categories.
In late modern philosophy, foundationalism was defended by J. G. Fichte in his book Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre (1794/1795), Wilhelm Windelband in his book Über die Gewißheit der Erkenntniss. (1873), and Gottlob Frege in his book Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik (1884).
Foundationalism is an attempt to respond to the regress problem of justification in epistemology. According to this argument, every proposition requires justification to support it, but any justification also needs to be justified itself. If this goes on ad infinitum, it is not clear how anything in the chain could be justified. Foundationalism holds that there are 'basic beliefs' which serve as foundations to anchor the rest of our beliefs. Strong versions of the theory assert that an indirectly justified belief is completely justified by basic beliefs; more moderate theories hold that indirectly justified beliefs require basic beliefs to be justified, but can be further justified by other factors.
During thousands of years, Western philosophy pursued a solid foundation as the ultimate and eternal reference system of knowledge called foundationalism. It has existed since ancient Greece, the focus of this theory is that all knowledge or cognitive awareness of the subject (human being) are based on a solid foundation. This foundation serves not only as the starting point merely as a basis for knowledge of the truth of existence. Thinking is the process of proving the validity of knowledge, not proving the rationality of the foundation from which knowledge is shaped. This means, with ultimate cause, the foundation is true, absolute, entire and impossible to prove. Neopragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty, a proponent of anti-foundationalism, said that the fundamentalism confirmed the existence of the privileged representation which constitutes the foundation, from which dominates epistemology. Plato's theory of Forms is the earliest foundationalism. So from the point of view of Plato, the Forms shows the general concept which plays as a model for the release of existence, which is only the faint copy of the Forms of eternity, that means, understanding the expression of objects leads to acquiring all knowledge, then acquiring knowledge accompanies achieving the truth. Achieving the truth means understanding the foundation. This idea still has some appeal in for example international relations studies.
Foundationalism holds basic beliefs exist, which are justified without reference to other beliefs, and that nonbasic beliefs must ultimately be justified by basic beliefs. Classical foundationalism maintains that basic beliefs must be infallible if they are to justify nonbasic beliefs, and that only deductive reasoning can be used to transfer justification from one belief to another. Laurence BonJour has argued that the classical formulation of foundationalism requires basic beliefs to be infallible, incorrigible, indubitable, and certain if they are to be adequately justified. Mental states and immediate experience are often taken as good candidates for basic beliefs because it is argued that beliefs about these do not need further support to be justified.
As an alternative to the classic view, modest foundationalism does not require that basic perceptual beliefs are infallible, but holds that it is reasonable to assume that perceptual beliefs are justified unless evidence to the contrary exists. This is still foundationalism because it maintains that all non-basic beliefs must be ultimately justified by basic beliefs, but it does not require that basic beliefs are infallible and allows inductive reasoning as an acceptable form of inference. For example, a belief that 'I see red' could be defeated with psychological evidence showing my mind to be confused or inattentive. Modest foundationalism can also be used to avoid the problem of inference. Even if perceptual beliefs are infallible, it is not clear that they can infallibly ground empirical knowledge (even if my belief that the table looks red to me is infallible, the inference to the belief that the table actually is red might not be infallible). Modest foundationalism does not require this link between perception and reality to be so strong; our perception of a table being yellow is adequate justification to believe that this is the case, even if it is not infallible.
Reformed epistemology is a form of modest foundationalism which takes religious beliefs as basic because they are non-inferentially justified: their justification arises from religious experience, rather than prior beliefs. This takes a modest approach to foundationalism – religious beliefs are not taken to be infallible, but are assumed to be prima facie justified unless evidence arises to the contrary.
Foundationalism can take internalist and externalist forms. Internalism requires that a believer's justification for a belief must be accessible to them for it to be justified. Foundationalist internalists have held that basic beliefs are justified by mental events or states, such as experiences, that do not constitute beliefs. Alternatively, basic beliefs may be justified by some special property of the belief itself, such as its being self-evident or infallible. Externalism maintains that it is unnecessary for the means of justification of a belief to be accessible to the believer.
Reliabilism is an externalist foundationalist theory, initially proposed by Alvin Goldman, which argues that a belief is justified if it is reliably produced, meaning that it will be probably true. Goldman distinguished between two kinds of justification for beliefs: belief-dependent and belief-independent. A belief-dependent process uses prior beliefs to produce new beliefs; a belief-independent process does not, using other stimuli instead. Beliefs produced this way are justified because the processes that cause them are reliable; this might be because we have evolved to reach good conclusions when presented with sense-data, meaning the conclusions we draw from our senses are usually true.
Critics of foundationalism often argue that for a belief to be justified it must be supported by other beliefs; in Donald Davidson's phrase, "only a belief can be a reason for another belief". For instance, Wilfrid Sellars argued that non-doxastic mental states cannot be reasons, and so noninferential warrant cannot be derived from them. Similarly, critics of externalist foundationalism argue that only mental states or properties the believer is aware of could make a belief justified.
According to skepticism, there are no beliefs that are so obviously certain that they require support from no other beliefs. Even if one does not accept this very strong claim, foundationalists have a problem with giving an uncontroversial or principled account of which beliefs are self-evident or indubitable.
Postmodernists and post-structuralists such as Richard Rorty and Jacques Derrida have attacked foundationalism on the grounds that the truth of a statement or discourse is only verifiable in accordance with other statements and discourses. Rorty in particular elaborates further on this, claiming that the individual, the community, the human body as a whole have a 'means by which they know the world' (this entails language, culture, semiotic systems, mathematics, science etc.). In order to verify particular means, or particular statements belonging to certain means (e.g. the propositions of the natural sciences), a person would have to 'step outside' the means and critique them neutrally, in order to provide a foundation for adopting them. However, this is impossible. The only way in which one can know the world is through the means by which they know the world; a method cannot justify itself. This argument can be seen as directly related to Wittgenstein's theory of language, drawing a parallel between postmodernism and late logical positivism that is united in critique of foundationalism.
Anti-foundationalism (also called nonfoundationalism) is any philosophy which rejects a foundationalist approach. An anti-foundationalist is one who does not believe that there is some fundamental belief or principle which is the basic ground or foundation of inquiry and knowledge.Australian philosophy
Australian philosophy refers to the philosophical tradition of the people of Australia and of its citizens abroad.Basic belief
Basic beliefs (also commonly called foundational beliefs or core beliefs) are, under the epistemological view called foundationalism, the axioms of a belief system.Cartesianism
The Cartesian Method is the philosophical and scientific system of René Descartes and its subsequent development by other seventeenth century thinkers, most notably Nicolas Malebranche and Baruch Spinoza. Descartes is often regarded as the first thinker to emphasize the use of reason to develop the natural sciences. For him, the philosophy was a thinking system that embodied all knowledge, and expressed it in this way:Aristotle and St. Augusta’s work influenced Descartes's cogito argument and there can be little doubt that they were epistemologists. Additionally, there is a remarkable similarity between Descartes’s work and that of the Scottish philosopher, George Campbell’s 1776 publication, titled Philosophy of Rhetoric. In his Meditations on First Philosophy he writes, “[b]ut what then am I? A thing which thinks. What is a thing which thinks? It is a thing which doubts, understands, [conceives], affirms, denies, wills, refuses, which also imagines and feels."Cartesians view the mind as being wholly separate from the corporeal body. Sensation and the perception of reality are thought to be the source of untruth and illusions, with the only reliable truths to be had in the existence of a metaphysical mind. Such a mind can perhaps interact with a physical body, but it does not exist in the body, nor even in the same physical plane as the body. The question of how mind and body interact would be a persistent difficulty for Descartes and his followers, with different Cartesians providing different answers. To this point Descartes wrote, "we should conclude from all this, that those things which we conceive clearly and distinctly as being diverse substances; as we regard mind and body to be, are really substances essentially distinct one from the other; and this is the conclusion of the Sixth Meditation." Therefore, we can see that, while mind and body are indeed separate, because they can be separated from each other, but, Descartes realizes, the mind is a whole, inseparable from itself, while the body can become separated from itself to some extent, as in when one loses an arm or a leg.Coherentism
Coherentism is the name given to a few philosophical theories in modern epistemology.
There are two distinct types of coherentism. One is the coherence theory of truth; the other, the coherence theory of justification (also known as epistemic coherentism). Coherent truth is divided between an anthropological approach, which applies only to localized networks ('true within a given sample of a population, given our understanding of the population'), and an approach that is judged on the basis of universals, such as categorical sets. The anthropological approach belongs more properly to the correspondence theory of truth, while the universal theories are a small development within analytic philosophy. The coherentist theory of justification, which may be interpreted as relating to either theory of coherent truth, characterizes epistemic justification as a property of a belief only if that belief is a member of a coherent set. What distinguishes coherentism from other theories of justification is that the set is the primary bearer of justification. As an epistemological theory, coherentism opposes dogmatic foundationalism and also infinitism through its insistence on definitions. It also attempts to offer a solution to the regress argument that plagues correspondence theory. In an epistemological sense, it is a theory about how belief can be proof-theoretically justified.
Coherentism is a view about the structure and system of knowledge, or else justified belief. The coherentist's thesis is normally formulated in terms of a denial of its contrary, such as dogmatic foundationalism, which lacks a proof-theoretical framework, or correspondence theory, which lacks universalism. Counterfactualism, through a vocabulary developed by David K. Lewis and his many worlds theory although popular with philosophers, has had the effect of creating wide disbelief of universals amongst academics. Many difficulties lie in between hypothetical coherence and its effective actualization. Coherentism claims, at a minimum, that not all knowledge and justified belief rest ultimately on a foundation of noninferential knowledge or justified belief. To defend this view, they may argue that conjunctions (and) are more specific, and thus in some way more defensible, than disjunctions (or).
After responding to foundationalism, coherentists normally characterize their view positively by replacing the foundationalism metaphor of a building as a model for the structure of knowledge with different metaphors, such as the metaphor that models our knowledge on a ship at sea whose seaworthiness must be ensured by repairs to any part in need of it. This metaphor fulfills the purpose of explaining the problem of incoherence, which was first raised in mathematics. Coherentists typically hold that justification is solely a function of some relationship between beliefs, none of which are privileged beliefs in the way maintained by dogmatic foundationalists. In this way universal truths are in closer reach. Different varieties of coherentism are individuated by the specific relationship between a system of knowledge and justified belief, which can be interpreted in terms of predicate logic, or ideally, proof theory.Cosmology (philosophy)
Philosophical cosmology, philosophy of cosmology or philosophy of cosmos is a discipline directed to the philosophical contemplation of the universe as a totality, and to its conceptual foundations. It draws on several branches of philosophy—metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of physics, philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, and on the fundamental theories of physics. The term cosmology was used at least as early as 1730, by German philosopher Christian Wolff, in Cosmologia Generalis.Danish philosophy
Danish philosophy has a long tradition as part of Western philosophy.
Perhaps the most influential Danish philosopher was Søren Kierkegaard, the creator of Christian existentialism, which inspired the philosophical movement of Existentialism. Kierkegaard had a few Danish followers, including Harald Høffding, who later in his life moved on to join the movement of positivism. Among Kierkegaard's other followers include Jean-Paul Sartre who was impressed with Kierkegaard's views on the individual, and Rollo May, who helped create humanistic psychology.Fallibilism
Broadly speaking, fallibilism (from Medieval Latin: fallibilis, "liable to err") is the philosophical claim that no belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief. However, not all fallibilists believe that fallibilism extends to all domains of knowledge.First principle
A first principle is a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption. In philosophy, first principles are taught by Aristotelians, and nuanced versions of first principles are referred to as postulates by Kantians. In mathematics, first principles are referred to as axioms or postulates. In physics and other sciences, theoretical work is said to be from first principles, or ab initio, if it starts directly at the level of established science and does not make assumptions such as empirical model and parameter fitting.Foundherentism
In epistemology, foundherentism is a theory of justification that combines elements from the two rival theories addressing infinite regress, foundationalism prone to arbitrariness, and coherentism prone to circularity (problems raised by the Münchhausen trilemma).Laurence BonJour
Laurence BonJour (born August 31, 1943) is an American philosopher and Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Washington.List of philosophies
Philosophies: particular schools of thought, styles of philosophy, or descriptions of philosophical ideas attributed to a particular group or culture - listed in alphabetical order.Münchhausen trilemma
In epistemology, the Münchhausen trilemma is a thought experiment used to demonstrate the impossibility of proving any truth, even in the fields of logic and mathematics. If it is asked how any knowledge is known to be true, proof may be provided. Yet that same question can be asked of the proof, and any subsequent proof. The Münchhausen trilemma is that there are only three options when providing proof in this situation:
The circular argument, in which theory and proof support each other
The regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum
The axiomatic argument, which rests on accepted preceptsThe trilemma, then, is the decision among the three equally unsatisfying options.
The name Münchhausen-Trilemma was coined by the German philosopher Hans Albert in 1968 in reference to a trilemma of "dogmatism versus infinite regress versus psychologism" used by Karl Popper. It is a reference to the problem of "bootstrapping", based on the story of Baron Munchausen (in German, "Münchhausen") pulling himself and the horse on which he was sitting out of a mire by his own hair.
It is also known as Agrippa's trilemma after a similar argument by Sextus Empiricus, which was attributed to Agrippa the Skeptic by Diogenes Laërtius. Sextus' argument, however, consists of five (not three) "modes". Popper in his original 1935 publication mentions neither Sextus nor Agrippa, but attributes his trilemma to Jakob Fries.In contemporary epistemology, advocates of coherentism are supposed to accept the "circular" horn of the trilemma; foundationalists rely on the axiomatic argument. The view that accepts infinite regress is called infinitism.Postfoundationalism
Postfoundationalism is a theory of epistemology denoting a rejection of an assumed or given authority for a specific action or belief, but arguing, in dialectical fashion, for a rationale for action or belief. The term was originally used in philosophical theology, although since that time it has been used in wider philosophical discourse.Regress argument
The regress argument (also known as the diallelus (Latin) or diallelon, from Greek di allelon "through or by means of one another") is a problem in epistemology and, in general, a problem in any situation where a statement has to be justified.According to this argument, any proposition requires a justification. However, any justification itself requires support. This means that any proposition whatsoever can be endlessly (infinitely) questioned.Religious epistemology
Religious epistemology as a broad label covers any approach to epistemological questions from a religious perspective, or attempts to understand the epistemological issues that come from religious belief. The questions which epistemologists may ask about any particular belief also apply to religious beliefs and propositions: whether they seem rational, justified, warranted, reasonable, based on evidence and so on. Religious views also influence epistemological theories, such as in the case of Reformed epistemology.Reformed epistemology has developed in contemporary Christian religious epistemology, as in the work of Alvin Plantinga (born 1932), William P. Alston (1921-2009), Nicholas Wolterstorff (born 1932) and Kelly James Clark, as a critique of and alternative to the idea of "evidentialism" of the sort proposed by W. K. Clifford (1845-1879). Alvin Plantinga, for instance, is critical of the evidentialist analysis of knowledge provided by Richard Feldman and by Earl Conee.D. Z. Phillips (1934-2006) takes this further and says that the argument of the reformed epistemologists goes further and challenges a view he dubs "foundationalism":
The essence of the Reformed challenge is to accuse the foundationalist of claiming to have a criterion of rationality which, in fact, he does not possess. By means of this alleged criterion the foundationalist claims to discern which epistemic practices are rational and which are not. Non-rational practices, he claims, include those of religion.
Much work in recent epistemology of religion goes beyond debates over foundationalism and reformed epistemology to consider contemporary issues deriving from social epistemology (especially concerning the epistemology of testimony, or the epistemology of disagreement), or formal epistemology's use of probability theory. Other notable work draws on the idea that knowing God is akin to knowing a person, which is not reducible to knowing propositions about a person.Self-refuting idea
Self-refuting ideas or self-defeating ideas are ideas or statements whose falsehood is a logical consequence of the act or situation of holding them to be true. Many ideas are called self-refuting by their detractors, and such accusations are therefore almost always controversial, with defenders stating that the idea is being misunderstood or that the argument is invalid. For these reasons, none of the ideas below are unambiguously or incontrovertibly self-refuting. These ideas are often used as axioms, which are definitions taken to be true (tautological assumptions), and cannot be used to test themselves, for doing so would lead to only two consequences: consistency (circular reasoning) or exception (self-contradiction). It is important to know that the conclusion of an argument that is self-refuting is not necessarily false, since it could be supported by another, more valid, argument.Turkish philosophy
Turkish philosophy has long been affected by Islam and the country's proximity to Greece and ancient Greek philosophy.Verificationism
Verificationism, also known as the verification idea or the verifiability criterion of meaning, is the philosophical doctrine that only statements that are empirically verifiable (i.e. verifiable through the senses) are cognitively meaningful, or else they are truths of logic (tautologies).
Verificationism thus rejects as cognitively "meaningless" statements specific to entire fields such as metaphysics, spirituality, theology, ethics and aesthetics. Such statements may be meaningful in influencing emotions or behavior, but not in terms of truth value, information or factual content. Verificationism was a central thesis of logical positivism, a movement in analytic philosophy that emerged in the 1920s by the efforts of a group of philosophers who sought to unify philosophy and science under a common naturalistic theory of knowledge.