Coherence and the Justification of Belief

Dissertation, City University of New York (1983)
Abstract
My dissertation is a formulation of a coherence theory of justified empirical belief. In my introductory chapter I argue that such a theory need not involve one in the coherence theory of truth or idealist metaphysics. Chapter two is a rejection of the argument that justified beliefs must have a foundation. The next two chapters are considerations of various psychologically plausible candidates for the role of immediately justified beliefs. ;In chapter five I discuss epistemic principles and their role in theories of justified belief. Chapter six is an exposition of my coherence theory of justification. The aim of chapters two through five is to show that immediate justification is neither necessary nor possible. Chapter six presupposes this discussion since coherence theories traditionally have denied that immediate justification is possible. I do not claim to have shown the impossibility of a foundationalist epistemology. Rather, I maintain that basic beliefs are not necessary for justification, and that the various candidates that could plausibly fill the foundationalist role are faulty. This makes foundationalism a highly suspect theory since my discussion involves a refutation of the epistemic regress argument and a criticism of the best proposed examples of basic beliefs. Once we have disarmed foundationalism of its two major arguments--justified belief must have a foundation and the foundations are --and presented a viable alternate, the coherence theory, we can afford to reject the foundationalist alternative
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