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Transcript of Foundationalism
Jemimah Mitchell-Levy, Delia Leal, & Humberto Reinoso
Theory-Dependent & Theory-Ladenness
Difficulties of Foundationalism
Are Basic Beliefs Infallible?
The problem with arbitrariness
WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?
Underlying Principles of Foundationalism
Underlying Principles of Foundationalism
There are four foundationalist views namely;
Alternative views are anti-foundationalism
Foundationalism started in an attempt to answer regress problem in epistemology
Epistemology is branch of philosophy concerned with nature of knowledge.
Epistemology question what is knowledge and how it is acquired
Whether belief true is not an important justification for the belief
Descartes questioned reliability of senses
He wanted to find truths that are clear and distinct because they could be used as foundation for knowledge
Famous statement by Descartes “I think therefore I am” (latin phrase used- cogito ergo sum)
He believed that beliefs about experience are true even if those beliefs about the external world are false.
Philosophy is an attempt to provide critically acceptable answers to ultimate questions.
What is an ultimate question?
Meanings of ‘ultimate’ relevant to phil. are –
1: arrived at as the last result
2: basic, fundamental
3: incapable of further analysis, division or separation
* (Colin, 2011)
Is Kuhn foudationalist or an anti-foundtionalist?
Kuhn rejects the traditional, empiricist source of certainty
In explaining how science works it is natural to invoke a distinction between theory and observation.
Scientific theories are supposed to be based on known facts, and the facts are determined be observation.
Kuhn was one of who emphasized what has become known as the theory-laden nature of observation.
Seeing is not only the having of a visual experience; it is also the way in which the visual experience is had
Interpretation cannot be separated from seeing.
Observation of x is shaped by prior knowledge of x
Some of one’s beliefs are justified by reference to others
Acquired a new, different, justified belief (inferentially justified belief)
reductio ad absurdum, circularity
vicious infinite regress
Are our beliefs about our own sensory states infallible in any of these ways? And would it be a vindication of the classical foundationalist doctrine if they were?
Make a mistake in describing our sensory
Beliefs about sensory experience might well be too weak, too uninformative, to support claims about physical objects
The Relationship Between Basic and Derived Beliefs
Coherentists and infinitists deny that there are any ultimate premises
Infinitists think that both the foundationalist and coherentist options are epistemically objectionable
Doxastic foundationalism is the view that the justification of one’s beliefs is exclusively a matter of what other beliefs one holds. Regarding the basic beliefs, a doxastic foundationalist holds that these beliefs are ‘self-justified’
Epistemically certain foundations are beliefs that cannot be misleading and so cannot provide a foothold for arbitrariness concerns
Examples of ultimate questions are:
How do we know anything?
Can we prove that the external world exists?
How does the mind relate to the body?
How do words mean?
Are there abstract objects?
* (Colin, 2011)
Classical foundationalism maintains that basic beliefs are certain if they are to justify non basic beliefs
Deductive reasoning used to transfer justification of one belief to another
Modest foundationalism is an alternate to classical foundationalism
Does not require that basic beliefs are certain even though they justify non basic beliefs
Beliefs are justified unless evidence of something different exists
Problem of inference avoided here because practice inductive reasoning
Reformed epistemology is form of modest foundationalism
Internalist and Externalist
Foundationalist internalist believes that justification for a belief must be available to person for it to be justified
Foundationalist externalist believes that it is not necessary for the means of justification of a belief to be available to the person
Knowledge was studied by Plato and Socrates
Later Rene Descartes initiated modern foundationalism in an effort to answer justification of truths which are foundations for knowledge
Believed in mind- body-dualism-mind controlled body and body controlled mind independent of god
Descartes questioned existence of god
Distinction between two languages -
one made up of theoretical terms and another consisting of observation terms.
Observational Terms speaks directly of our sensory experiences
This was the presumed basis for the rationality and objectivity of scientific choices.
If the observation language was constant in the face of the diversity - and rivalry – of theories, it is something by means of which those rival theories could compared.
Kuhn questioned the distinction between observational and theoretical terms, denying the existence of theory neutral observation reports.
Although existing theories guide us in developing new theories, and tell us which observations are significant and so on, the distinction between the context of discovery and the context of justification can be invoked to maintain the idea that scientific theories are tested by observations.
Many empiricist philosophers have drawn a sharp distinction between the observational and theoretical.
The theory-independent or neutrality of observable facts makes them suitable foundation for scientific knowledge, or at least for testing theories.
The received view incorporated a distinction between observational terms, such as – red, heavy, and wet, and theoretical terms, such as – electron, charge, and gravity.
Ernest Nagel – observational term is associated with at least one overt procedure for applying the term
Many other writers analyze the logic of theory testing relying upon this distinction between observational and theoretical terms.
Foundationalist conceptions of knowledge in general are invalid in many of the ways suggested both because of the theory-dependence of scientific methods and for independent reasons arising from causal theories of perception.
Any account of scientific knowledge must embody at least some naturalistic elements, whatever its author’s ultimate position on epistemological matters.
Some famous examples -
An example of scientific observation is that of looking through a microscope or reading x-rays.
Kuhn and others used such examples to argue that what scientists perceive is partly determined by their beliefs.
This threatens to undermine the objectivity of scientific theory testing
History of science is likely to involve various cases where the gathering of observational evidence is biased by the presuppositions of the observers.
The line between observational and theoretical terms is blurred, but much more controversial to argue that what theories we believe actually affect the content of our observations, rather than just what we pay attention to and how we describe it.
Colin, J. (2011, September 23). Introduction to philosophy, HSN 703. Barry University, Miami Shores, FL.
Fumerton, R. (Summer 2010 edition). Foundationalist theories of epistemic justification, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2010.
Ladyman, J. (2002). Understanding Philosophy of Science. New York, NY: Routledge.
Sharrock, W., & Read, R. (2002). Kuhn philosopher of scientific revolution. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
Howard-Snyder, Daniel. 2005. “Foundationalism and Arbitrariness,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86, 18-24.
Huemer, Michael. 2003. “Arbitrary Foundations?” The Philosophical Forum XXXIV, 141-152.
Klein, Peter. 2004. “What is wrong with foundationalism is that it cannot solve the epistemic regress problem,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research LXVIII, 166-171.
McGrew, T. 2003. “A Defense of Classical Foundationalism,” in The Theory of Knowledge, ed. Louis Pojman, Belmont: CA. Wadsworth, pp. 194-206.
The Problem of Empirical Content
One the one hand we have the requirement that they be infallible, and other the other hand we must require that they have adequate empirical content
But paradigm cases of beliefs which are infallible, such a mathematical beliefs, simply don’t have much (if any) empirical content
Empirical content is inversely proportional to infallibility! To aim at the one is necessarily to fall short of the other.
The Sellarsian dilemma
“Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind.” Sellars’s main goal in this essay is to undermine the entire framework of givenness
Representational content is the kind of content possessed by beliefs, hopes, and fears.
Assertive representational content is content that is presented as being true but may, in fact, be false.
Foundationalism is any theory in epistemology
Attempt to respond to the regress problem in epistemology
Theory of justification (beliefs are justified)
Based on basic beliefs that give support to other beliefs (called foundational beliefs)
These beliefs can be priori or posteriori
Basic beliefs serve to support the rest of our other beliefs to prevent justifying every belief