Coherentism and Foundationalism

Topics: Epistemology, Foundationalism, Theory of justification Pages: 4 (1424 words) Published: April 2, 2013
Foundationalism vs. Coherentism

Throughout history, philosophers have been trying to come up with a clear way to provide the justification of our beliefs and knowledge. Noah Lemos offers readers explanations of both foundationalism and coherentism for theories of justification. These two different theories offer very different ways to explain the basis of our beliefs. For a foundationalist, they believe that all of our beliefs can be broken down until we reach a basic belief. This belief would be largely independent of other beliefs and not derived from other beliefs. A coherentist feels that a belief can be reasonably justified if it is coheres with our other beliefs.

The foundationalist theory of justification boils everything down to our justified basic beliefs, of which there are two kinds: “beliefs about simple logical or mathematical truths and beliefs about our own mental states” (Lemos 45). An example of logical beliefs would be seeing a picture of a colored square. We know that it is a square because it is what we learned that squares are. To justify that idea that this square really is a square, we simply had to see it and we could know that it was true. As far as beliefs about our own mental state, we know that what we think about things is what we think about them, we do not need further justification for this to be a belief of ours. I think it is going to snow today. I do not need any further reasoning because it is something I believe and it is expressing the feelings that I have. It is from these basic beliefs that we base other beliefs, which we call nonbasic beliefs. Ultimately, foundationalists believe that our nonbasic beliefs depend on justified beliefs in order to be justified themselves.

The coherentist theory of justification does not believe that we need to have roots in basic beliefs in order for these beliefs to be justified. For a coherentist, our beliefs simply need to jive with our other beliefs. A belief will be more...
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