99a4b9e837c2398c6d700d326bf3631bOkay, so I have an issue that’s been bouncing around in my mind for a few years. It’s a complicated issue that I don’t actually have an answer to at all. So the question has to do with two epistemological theories: Foundationalism and Coherentism. The best way that I’ve found to explain Foundationalism is that it sees knowledge like building a house. You start with the foundations, which are properly basic beliefs (i.e. my senses generally tell me the truth about the world, 2+2=4 in base 10 math, two contradictory claims cannot be true, etc). From these properly basic beliefs then you build your more complicated beliefs (i.e. I need to be careful about sugar because diabetes runs in my family, I should read books assigned by my professors in order to do well in school, etc, etc). Foundationalism argues that any complex belief must be able to trace a direct line to a suitable properly basic belief or it is an invalid belief (much of Enlightenment philosophy is based on Foundationalistic epistemology). However, Foundationlism has two major problems: 1) it isn’t generally the way we think (i.e. I hold both of the above complicated beliefs, but I’m not sure I could trace them back to properly basic beliefs, and certainly I haven’t traced them back to properly basic beliefs). 2) It is difficult to determine what is or is not a properly basic belief. Aside from some obvious examples (which severely limit the nature of the knowable world), they aren’t clear and can often be argued.

Coherentism, on the other hand, is more like building a web. Coherentists posit the claim that there are no properly basic beliefs. Instead, every belief must be put to the test (though how you test the claim that two contradictory claims cannot be true I’m not entirely sure), and thus only an interconnected web of beliefs that is completely consistent can given us confidence in our beliefs. Coherentism has the advantage of being much more like the way that we generally think, but it lacks the foundation that Foundationalism provides. Consider that it is entirely conceivable that a completely consistent web of beliefs could be formed that includes many false beliefs (i.e. for instance, Shintoism and Christianity may serve as an example of two consistent sets of beliefs that cannot both be true).

So, here is my question for you today: which is a better theory, Foundationalism or Coherentism? Would you support one over the other? Is there another theory that you would support?

As always, write me a story of 1000 words that presents and defends your response to the question.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s