James Cook on "How to tell if you are Not a Foundationalist"­

The San Diego Philosophy Forum is pleased to announce that Independent Scholar James Cook will speak on "How to tell if you are not a Foundationalist."

This event, open to the public, will take place 6:30-8:00 PM, Tuesday, June 24 at the North University Public Library: 8820 Judicial Dr. (near the 805 highway's Nobel Exit).

More information, if any, will be posted, as available, to SDPhil.org.


James Cook is a serious independent scholar with wide-ranging interests, who is an active member of both San Diego's and Portland Oregon's philosophical communities.  Jim's writing on philosophy can be found at: dialecticcormagh.blogspot.com, and you may recognize him from his attendance at both the Forum, and Philosophy Roundtable Meetups.

He concentrates on science, but loves philosophy and the great philosophers of all ages, having read widely while in school, including works by Fromm, Thoreau, Sartre, Emerson, and William James. His early interests also included Marxism, Zen Buddhism and psychology. His favorite philosophers are Plato, Hegel, Heidegger and Russell (sometimes).  He is currently reading Aristotle. 

Besides being an amateur philosopher, Mr. Cook has worked as a computer programmer, musician, and music teacher.  In addition to strong early work in photography, (both technical and artistic), he served as First Chair French Horn in the All Southern California Honor Orchestra.  He continues to pursue a strong interest in science.

Jim feels that his biggest fault is "having an accidentalist  tendency towards having ‘one-off’ life experiences," and that his strong suit is "understanding methodologies and ideologies, including whatever I happen to be thinking now." 

He has a widely-dispersed family, with one child living in Canada, one in Chile, and a third living at home building a rocket.

Jim's paper on the topic can be found on the SDPhil[dot]org website.



Foundationalism is a view about the structure of justification or knowledge. The foundationalist's thesis in short is that all knowledge and justified belief rest ultimately on a foundation of noninferential knowledge or justified belief.

A little reflection suggests that the vast majority of the propositions we know or justifiably believe have that status only because we know or justifiably believe other different propositions. So, for example, I know or justifiably believe that Caesar was an assassinated Roman leader, but only because I know or justifiably believe (among other things) that various historical texts describe the event. Arguably, my knowledge (justified belief) about Caesar's death also depends on my knowing (justifiably believing) that the texts in question are reliable guides to the past.

Foundationalists want to contrast my inferential knowledge (justified belief) about Caesar with a kind of knowledge (justified belief) that doesn't involve the having of other knowledge (justified belief).       (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Foundationalism")

Foundationalism is [thus,] an attempt to respond to the regress problem of justification in epistemology. According to this argument, every proposition requires justification to support it, but any justification also needs to be justified itself. If this goes on ad infinitum, it is not clear how anything in the chain could be justified. Foundationalism holds that there are 'basic beliefs' which serve as foundations to anchor the rest of our beliefs.[3] Strong versions of the theory assert that an indirectly justified belief is completely justified by basic beliefs; more moderate theories hold that indirectly justified beliefs require basic beliefs to be justified, but can be further justified by other factors.[4]

During thousands of years, Western philosophy always controverts and pursues a solid foundation, playing as the ultimate and eternal reference system, called Foundationalism. It has existed since ancient Greece, the focus of this theory is that all knowledge or cognitive awareness of the subject (human being) are based on a solid foundation. This foundation serves not only as the starting point merely as a basis for knowledge of the truth of existence. Thinking is the process of proving the validity of knowledge, not proving the rationality of the foundation from which knowledge is shaped. This means, with ultimate cause, the foundation is true, absolute, entire and impossible to prove. Neo-Pragmatic philosopher Richard Rorty said that the fundamentalism confirmed the existence of the privileged representation[5] which constitutes the foundation, from which dominates epistemology.

Plato's theory of Forms is the earliest foundationalism. So from the point of view of Plato, the Forms shows the general concept which plays as a model for the release of existence, which is only the faint copy of the Forms of eternity, that means, understanding the expression of objects leads to acquiring all knowledge, then acquiring knowledge accompanies achieving the truth. Achieving the truth means understanding the foundation. (Wikipedia: "Foundationalism")

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  • James C.

    Janice, The reference to Adler I mentioned is from Radiant Science, Dark Politics by Martin D. Kamen, 1985, University of California Press.

    June 25

    • Brent

      James, I'm sorry to have missed your presentation. I'm attending to some family business, and it has taken me longer than I thought. I read your essay on the website, and I was looking forward to asking questions.

      June 25

  • James C.

    I mentioned that I believe words like belief and opinion to be synonyms. I draw the line at 'fact' and 'truth', however. I believe 'fact' denotes something verifiable in existence (not mental), while 'truth' is a freely motivated decision regarding a fact, opinion, or belief.

    June 25

    • Derek B.

      Hehe... Hence the platitude, "Facts are stubborn things" and the all but exclamatory, "Who's truth?" <g>

      June 25

  • Ron S.

    Would really like to her this one but I can't drive car after sun goes down or I lose my drivers license.

    June 23

  • Andrew

    Mr. Cook has graciously agreed to be our June speaker on short notice. I believe this forum will be exceptional, however, in that it addresses a topic covered in depth at the Philosophy Roundtable. So, if you are unable to attend Tom's events, I think you will really enjoy this discussion.

    June 11

    • Derek B.

      Hehe... I am unable to attend Tom's events. <g>

      My take on this topic is to mangle de la Rochefoucauld a bit in that, "the sincerity of any form of foundationalism is best guaged by the fact that it's adherents are never altogether displeased at the suppression of critical analysis, often to the point of censorship."

      June 16

  • Derek B.

    You've drawn foundationalism with such a wide brush that only the sceptic and the mystic peek through. <g>

    And I would have to disagree with Neil deGrasse Tyson in that he does, in fact, from time to time, harbour opinions. <g>

    1 · June 14

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