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Philosophy of Epistemology - Essay Example

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It is not the task of this essay to offer a total refutation of the Skeptics' claim, rather to analyze arguments which look at the justification for our beliefs. Two such arguments, which have traditionally been in contest with one another, are Foundationalism and Coherentism. The former claims that there are basic, self-evident beliefs which act as a foundation upon which all other beliefs are built. The latter asserts that all beliefs are justified if and only if they cohere with one another. There are obvious problems with these two modes of thinking, which will form the primary investigation of this essay. A possible solution, as offered by Haack, lies somewhere in the middle and is understandably termed "Foundherentism". The heart of this essay will be in the exploration of Haack's reasoning, but first, a look at the two competing theories from which it stems.
Empirical Foundationalism claims that sense experiences offer the platform upon which we are able to place all other beliefs. They need no further justification and all other beliefs can ultimately be reduced to these basic beliefs. There is a clear initial problem with Foundationalism, in that it appears to rely on an essentially dogmatic approach. It does not seem unreasonable to ask, for example, how someone knows that it is Monday today. Is it because yesterday was Sunday In which case how does one know it was Sunday yesterday Did someone tell them If so, how did they know And so on for an infinite regress. However, it does seem reasonable, from a common-sense perspective to allow the pressed epistemologist sanctuary with his own sense experiences. Indeed, in her article, A Foundherentist Theory of Empirical Justification, Haack remarks that one of the merits of Foundationalism is that "it acknowledges that a person's experience- what he sees, hears etc.- is relevant to how justified he is in his belief about the world" (p.420). It certainly seems to be the case that our senses play a key role in deciding our beliefs about the world.

A further problem, one which is raised by supporters of Coherentism, is that sensory justification alone does not properly address the problem of why those beliefs have come about. There must be, according to Coherentism, some context within which the sensory beliefs make sense. Believing that one can see a computer in front of them is only justified in relation to another set of beliefs about what a computer is. Coherentism essentially allows justification on the merit of the coherence of the belief set within which it falls. It attempts to deny the validity of the regress argument by claiming that justification is a holistic approach. Though it may offer an alternative to the dogmatic approach of Foundationalism, it nevertheless leaves no room for the sense experience of the subject. It is quite plausible that a subject constructs a perfectly coherent set of beliefs which have little or no correspondence with the 'real world' to which it refers. It might, therefore be perfectly allow-able from a Coherentist perspective to hold a set of beliefs which are entirely justifiable but entirely untrue. Furthermore, the 'holistic' approach offered by Coherentists, is seen by its opponents as little more than a euphemism for circularity.

The focus of Foundherentism is the "standards of better or worse evidence, of more or less justified belief" ...Show more
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Summary

Haack writes that "we need a better understanding of the difference between legitimate mutual support and circularity." What is the understanding that she suggests Does it succeed in avoiding the difficulties of both Foundationalism and Coherentism
What do we know and how do we know it These are the two questions fundamental to epistemological pursuits…
Philosophy of Epistemology
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