Neither Tortoises nor Snakes: How to Be a Conscientious Objector in the Conflict Between Foundationalism and Coherentism

Dissertation, Georgetown University (2003)
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Abstract

A great deal of ink has been spilt debating the relative merits of foundationalism and coherentism in contemporary epistemology. In this dissertation, I argue that the debate itself, lively as it's been, rides atop a fundamental mistake. Careful examination of the defenses of these views indicates that both sides rest on a set of problematic presuppositions about justification and the nature of mind. More specifically, they all assume, in one form or another, that epistemic dependence must be inferential, and, as a result, that direct access to the world could only be understood as resting on a class of entities which asymmetrically convey justification to other beliefs without receiving support from them. Revealing these assumptions promises to show that there is a much larger range of options for explaining our knowledge of the world than we can see when we are in the grips of an approach to epistemology and the philosophy of mind which requires us to choose between foundationalism and coherentism

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Matthew Burstein
Washington and Lee University

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