Richard Foley: Intellectual trust in oneself and others [Book Review]

In his previous books, The Theory of Epistemic Rationality (1987) and Working Without a Net (1993), Richard Foley presented a highly influential account of what it means for one’s beliefs and belief-forming practices to be rational. Developing a positive new account of epistemic rationality, however, has never been Foley’s sole concern. His project is metaepistemological in character as much as it is epistemological. Put crudely, questions such as ‘What makes some beliefs knowledge?’ are of equal importance to Foley as such questions as ‘How is scepticism possible?’. Indeed, given the way in which philosophical debates tend to be shaped, it may be the more fruitful way of tackling a philosophical problem to start from questions of the latter type and work one’s way backward to the fundamental questions that gave rise to the debate in the first place. Such an approach need not be strictly historical; rather, it will be meta-epistemological in that it probes deeply into the possibility of an epistemological theory, its prospective subject matter as well as its limitations. Given the difficulty of constructing a coherent epistemological theory and defending it against the various objections that are standardly run against such theories, it should often prove more viable to illustrate the general meta-epistemological ‘lessons’ by way of referring to previous epistemological theories and the long-standing debates that surround them. Hence, a metaepistemological approach naturally gives rise to an historically informed outlook.
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