Bolzanian knowing: infallibility, virtue and foundational truth

Synthese 183 (1):27 - 45 (2011)
Abstract
The paper discusses Bernard Bolzano's epistemological approach to believing and knowing with regard to the epistemic requirements of an axiomatic model of science. It relates Bolzano's notions of believing, knowing and evaluation to notions of infallibility, immediacy and foundational truth. If axiomatic systems require their foundational truths to be infallibly known, this knowledge involves both evaluation of the infallibility of the asserted truth and evaluation of its being foundational. The twofold attempt to examine one's assertions and to do so by searching for the objective grounds of the truths asserted lies at the heart of Bolzano's notion of knowledge. However, the explanatory task of searching for grounds requires methods that cannot warrant infallibility. Hence, its constitutive role in a conception of knowledge seems to imply the fallibility of such knowledge. I argue that the explanatory task contained in Bolzanian knowing involves a high degree of epistemic virtues, and that it is only through some salient virtue that the credit of infallibility can distinguish Bolzanian knowing from a high degree of Bolzanian believing
Keywords Believing  Knowing  Infallibility  Immediacy  Foundational truth  Epistemic evaluation  Explanation  Epistemic virtue
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