• Curious Layman
    14
    Foundationalism proposes that a belief must be justified by another belief, in a linear fashion. Coherentism proposes that we shouldn't justify a particular belief but a system as a whole. A system of beliefs is justified when all beliefs, within the system, are coherent. Then every belief of that system is justified, by the virtue of being in a justified belief system.
    Can you justify any of the two propositions above without arguing that the other system is unfeasible or incorrect? In other words, can you justify one without referring to and criticizing the other?
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    When I'm going to make a specific decision based on specific information, I have to be able to set up an explicit chain of inference connecting what I know and how I know it. I used to do this all the time writing engineering reports. I guess that's foundationalism.

    When I'm evaluating the plausibility of new information in general, I'm more likely to do it based on intuition, which, for me, is a reflection of all the other things I know and how they fit together. I carry a model of the universe around in my head. When I hear something new, I hold it up against the model and see if and where it fits in. I guess that's coherentism.

    Why are you starting this new discussion when you have one that's almost exactly the same already open?
  • Curious Layman
    14
    It seems your definition of foundationalism only applies to the physical world. For instance, do you set up an explicit chain of inference when making a moral decision? If you define foundationalism as a justification system that is only applicable to the beliefs about the physical world, then your definition may work. However some fellows may disagree with you.

    Your definition of coherentism sounds right. You have a system of coherent beliefs. Hence you feel like you are justified in believing them. You accept a new proposition based on how well it fits in the system.

    The question still remains, why do you set up an explicit chain of inference? Can you epistemically justify doing it? Why you don't do it when building your opinion about the world?
  • Curious Layman
    14
    ]

    And i believe the two discussions are significantly different. One focuses on truth conductivity of the two theories. Other focuses on epistemic justification.
  • Manuel
    105
    Likely not. Susan Haack talks about this in Evidence And Enquiry. But from my perspective, I'm unsure how far such views take you. We don't have access to an infallible belief and we can't make an argument if we don't have a certain foundation of what it is we are trying to illustrate. We make use of whatever is relevant for each type of enquiry and use the relevant methods: math differs from biology which differs from psychology which differs from everyday living.

    But I don't see how talking about foundationalism or coherentism solves issues concerning knowledge and belief in day to day affairs. In other words, a portion of epistemology doesn't seem to me to cast light on the problem of knowledge. Though I am the first to admit that maybe I'm missing the point or that this area in philosophy isn't for me.
  • Curious Layman
    14
    Thanks for the reference . I will definitely check it out.

    Let me make a case for why the understanding of the concepts of foundationalism and coherentism is important. The entire scientific method is based on foundationalism and referred as reductionism. Although it is completely intuitive way to justify beliefs in the scientific (or physical world), it may not be such in other domains. For instance it may be reasonable to apply coherentism when justifying beliefs about metaphysical world or.....religion.

    If one tries to justify his religious beliefs using foundationalism approach, he is likely to fail. Hence, the very least, he should abandon his religious beliefs in favour of scepticism. There are no basic beliefs (that i know) that can justify the entire system of beliefs of any religion. However, if coherentism is applied, one can justify adapting a religion, as long as he can demonstrate that the beliefs are coherent.

    So then it is natural to ask, why should I use foundational/coherentist method at all?
  • bongo fury
    850
    The entire scientific method is based on foundationalismCurious Layman

    Contra Duhem and Quine?
  • Curious Layman
    14
    The thesis claims that every scientific hypothesis requires a belief in a set of assumptions. Well, foundationalism also says that justification of all propositional knowledge starts with basic knowledge, i.e. a set of beliefs that don't require justification. So the method is essentially identical. The Duhem–Quine thesis to Scientific Method is the same as the Regress Problem to Foundationalism.
  • bongo fury
    850
    The thesis claims that every scientific hypothesis requires a belief in a set of assumptions.Curious Layman

    Not some clearly defined set from which to reason deductively, no.

    Inductive, associative, habitual, holistic. On this more inclusive view of reason, a finite web doesn't need a clear starting point. Morality, science etc. are large going concerns with unclear sources.bongo fury
  • Curious Layman
    14
    I am not sure what you mean by clearly defined set. The entire calculus can be derived from 15 based assumptions. Those assumptions are reasonably basic and self evident.
    Now you may point out that the assumptions that are held by science are not as self evident as "Cogito, ergo sum". I agree with you. All i am saying that scientific method tries to resemble the foundationalist approach to justification. It doesn't seem to resemble coherentism, if you ask me. And i agree that it also fails to address the challenge of justifying belief in its assumption.
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    When scientists work out the implications (predictions) of a theory, this is akin to foundationalism in that they are taking the theory's postulates as given and making logical deductions from them. But this is only one element of the scientific method, not the whole of it.
  • Curious Layman
    14


    Are there any parallels between the scientific method and coherentism?
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    It seems your definition of foundationalism only applies to the physical world. For instance, do you set up an explicit chain of inference when making a moral decision?Curious Layman

    Moral decisions, in my experience, are not rational, although I guess they could be. A rational argument starts with assumptions. In a non-moral decision about the world, those assumptions may come from induction - experience with the world. With a moral decision, the assumptions come from inside. Here's what Lao Tzu wrote:

    Therefore, when the Way is lost, only then do we have virtue;
    When virtue is lost, only then do we have humanity;
    When humanity is lost, only then do we have righteousness;
    And when righteousness is lost, only then do we have propriety.


    To dramatically oversimplify, the Way, or the Tao, is the world unmediated by human thought. Virtue, or Te, is our experience of the Tao. The rest of the moral behaviors are in a descending ladder - humanity, righteousness, and propriety. Virtuous behavior comes through direct human experience of the Tao.

    True moral behavior comes from inside.
  • T Clark
    4.2k


    The question still remains, why do you set up an explicit chain of inference? Can you epistemically justify doing it?Curious Layman

    The explicit chain of inference is justification. If not, what is?


    Why you don't do it when building your opinion about the world?Curious Layman

    My opinion, what I called a model, of the world comes from the sum total of my experience. For me, it isn't made up of statements that are true or false. It's a picture. That doesn't mean it can't be wrong, but it's not all wrong just because part of it is. It constantly changes based on new experience.
  • Paul S
    114


    It's a nice post. I see value in both and actually I think they are stronger together, as opposed to puritanical adherence to just one. I would certainly lean more towards Coherentism as I see great value in logic to create a medium of understanding from the outset sooner rather than later, and we don't seem to have much limitation in terms of grammars for these logics to express ideas. We wouldn't need to be weary of Artificial Intelligence if these grammars were lacking. They are not lacking, I think.

    It's almost like a question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. One allows you to skip ahead a bit more but to retrospectively empower yourself to appreciate the other, whereas one is slower and steadier and makes less assumptions but is arguably a bit less accepting. It's safer.

    In other words, can you justify one without referring to and criticizing the other?Curious Layman

    No need really for me. Either is a fine choice. I will counter your question with another question.
    Can you justify both without criticizing either. I think both should be embraced. In which proportions is another matter. Weak foundationalism looks interesting and I think it's something I will now read up on.

    Thanks for that.
  • Curious Layman
    14
    The explicit chain of inference is justification.T Clark

    Well question was exactly, ca you justify that statement? Why does it have to be an inference chain? Coherentism reject that as a justification method. Instead, it focuses on the coherence. If you decided to choose one over another, than can you justify why? Sorry I don't mean you per say. I am just explaining the questioned I raising in here.

    My opinion, what I called a model, of the world comes from the sum total of my experience.T Clark

    I am not sure what you are trying to say. Your opinion or vision of the world is a set of your beliefs. What is the connection between your experiences and beliefs. That connection is the justification method you use. You should specify what method you use and why.
  • Curious Layman
    14
    Moral decisions, in my experience, are not rational, although I guess they could be. A rational argument starts with assumptions.T Clark

    I like your insights. However i wasn't talking about decisions and rationality. I was discussing beliefs and the methods of their justifications, particularly coherentism and foundationalism. A moral proposition may lead to a irrational behaviour but doesn't mean it can't be justified.
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    Are there any parallels between the scientific method and coherentism?Curious Layman

    Sure.

    When we are looking for a scientific explanation of an observation, we try to fit it within established theories, preferring more secure theories over less secure ones. If the best fit is not exact, we can supplement is with an auxiliary hypothesis (measurement error, etc.). If the disparity cannot be convincingly patched over with auxiliary hypotheses, only then we will consider modifying a theory. Throwing out an established theory is the very last thing we will consider.

    When we develop a new theory, we prefer theories that fit better with other established theories.
  • Curious Layman
    14
    You are welcome. And thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    No need really for me. Either is a fine choice. I will counter your question with another question.
    Can you justify both without criticizing either. I think both should be embraced. In which proportions is another matter
    Paul S

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I am leaning toward the conclusion that one can justify both, but in different domains of knowledge. I'd argue that Foundationalist theory of justification is a default method in almost all circumstance, especially when assessing the propositions that originate in the physical world, and especially through our experiences. Coherentism must exclusively be applied to assessing the propositions that came in the form of a testimony. The reason is simple, it is often impossible to apply an inference from first principles to someone else's testimony. (At least, it is unlikely to find the basic truths that one can use for justifying his belief in the testimony)

    For example, suppose your friend enters your house and says that "he feels cold" and "he has a fever". You assess your other beliefs such as that "the weather is warm outside ", "it is a flue season", "he appears sick". You conclude that those beliefs are consistent with his statements. Hence you are justified to believe the proposition that he has a cold.

    Now suppose one was to apply foundationalism to justify believing in your friends statement. I don't see how one can make an inference chain that can justify it. The only possibility is something like the following: 1) i believe in his statement because he isn't a lier. 2) He isn't a lier because he has always said truth 3) ......and so on. The point is, >>the chain must start from a statement, "i believe the testimony because the source of the testimony is trustworthy"<<. The problem is that >>such chain of inference doesn't start from the basic truths<<. It starts from a necessary conclusion and goes toward basic truths. That contradicts foundationalism.
  • Manuel
    105

    I mean, that's assuming that reductionism even works. In some domains it has, chemistry to physics, but in most domains I don't see how it's possible, despite the claims of some that it can be done. I don't know what sense it has to say, for example, that the behavior of a worm will eventually be cashed out in terms of fermions or bosons or any other basic stuff of the universe. I think there are real gaps in understanding that we have as human beings. I'm not clear that all scientists have a basic belief "reduction" and that's what allows them to think about what they do.

    On the other hand with religion, sure, aspects of coherentism are used, as happens in almost every area of enquiry. Last I saw a while back, philosophy of religion relied on hermeneutics - not that I follow that literature, I just stumbled across it.

    As to your question. Exactly. I don't think that you need either to be able to work out any concrete problem. I don't even see how it helps, though clearly it does, since there's many people talking about these issues. I missing something in this discussion, cause I don't see how it helps understanding, outside of very select and unusual cases that are entertaining and interesting in that they highlight some aspects of human cognition: illusions, ambiguity, paradox, and so forth.
  • Curious Layman
    14


    Overall i agree with you. We can argue about the fields that constitute science or about the definition of the scientific method, but in general you are right.
  • Curious Layman
    14
    As to your question. Exactly. I don't think that you need either to be able to work out any concrete problem. IManuel

    Yes you don't need foundationalist or coherentist justification methods to come to a belief. Your beliefs can be prompted by an emotional impulse, social pressure or many other factors. But to have a justified belief, you must employ one of them. Justified belief is a prerequisite to knowledge. Knowledge leads to truth.

    That is the benefit of this conversation number one. The second benefit i explained in my response to your previous comment. In short, your beliefs about the world can vary, depending on the method you choose to apply.
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