Ramble. Focus. Ramble.

Reply to Peter Tramel

This post in in response to the article Peter Tramel wrote in 2008, called Haack’s Foundherentism is a Foundationalism. Let us look into Susan Haack‘s article first, this one is called Precis of “Evidence and Inquiry: Towards Reconstruction in Epistemology (1997)” BonJour wrote an article in response to this one, called Haack on Justification and Experience (1997) and then Haack replied it with Reply to BonJour (1997).

Firstly, let’s look into how Susan Haack defines foundherentism in the Precis of Evidence and Inquiry: Towards Reconstruction in Epistemology (1997).

(1). Empirical justification requires empirical evidence.

(2). Justification goes up and back all the way down.

(3). There is no need for a distinction between basic and derived beliefs.

Now the elaboration, she takes (1) from the foundationalists and she takes (2) and (3) from the coherentists and forms foundherentism.

Let’s Deal with (2)

Bonjour believes that Haack is underestimating Foundationalism because there is a kind of foundationalism that entails (2). What is (2)? (2) is to say that justification does not have to be linear. Classical foundationalists believe that justification is linear, it can only go from basic belief to derived belief and not the other way around. Now do I know of any classical foundationalists who said that? Maybe not but it is safe to assume that Foundationalism was taken thus.

BonJour says that ‘Weak Foundationalism’ is a type of foundationalism that entails that justification does not have to be linear, it can be circular. Here is how BonJour defines ‘Weak foundationalism’ in Haack on Justification and Experience:

..weak foundationalism, after all, is one in which basic beliefs have some relatively weak initial degree of justification which is then enhanced by something like coherence to a level sufficient for knowledge.

In Reply to BonJour, Haack says that she calls BonJour’s weak foundationalism ‘Feeble Foundationalism.’ But then she gives a few comments, not arguments and suggests that this Feeble Foundationalism should probably be rearranged and it should be called Foundherentism because it allows circular justification.

Let’s Deal with (3) Now

Tramel says there is a problem with the third statement. He says that there is a distinction between derived and basic beliefs according to foundherentism. All beliefs are basic according to Foundherentism because they all have direct experiential evidence. I say they all have doxastic justification too, does that make them coherent then? He says there is a type of foundationalism that takes care of doxastic justification. So a basic belief can be made stronger by doxastic justification according to Haack’s Feeble Foundationalism and BonJour’s Weak Foundationalism. Therefore, foundherentism is the view that all beliefs are basic.

His next proposition is the definition of Foundationalism. He says that

If a theory of justification stops all dependence regresses of justification–with basic beliefs, then it is a foundationalism.

And since, Foundherentism does so, it is a Foundationalism (Feeble but a Foundationalism nevertheless).

My Argument

It is true that foundationalism solves the regress problem through basic belief and Susan Haack has escaped the regress problem with her foundherentism too but why does it have to mean that they are both the same? I think Tramel should look at the bigger picture when he defines foundationalism. The more general the definition is the more theories it will include. I am going to go with this definition:

Foundationalism is the view that our beliefs are supported by a small number of beliefs that make the foundation.

Foundherentism says all my beliefs are based on experiential evidence and some doxastic justification from neighboring beliefs. I there a foundation? No! Is there a small number of beliefs on which all the other are based? No! Is Foundherentism Foundationalism? No! I don’t think so.


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