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Critiquing Foundationalism

  • Mar 7, 2013 · 7:00 PM
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Written by Tom:

Now it is time for the critics of foundationalism to present their cases. This is a free-ranging follow-up meeting to discuss "Staging Foundationalism" and "Building Knowledge" (Jan. 31, Feb. 7, Feb. 14).

Proponents of coherentism, reliabilism, and antirealism have criticized foundationalism on various technical features of its theory of justification, as they understand it. What are these features? How have they been attacked? Are they defeasible?

Rebuttally, what are the presuppositions of the critics' arguments? Are they valid? Are their premises coherent, reliable, justifiable, true, supportive, interpretive, meaningful, powerful?

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Written by Tim 2/25/2013:

I suggested to Tom that we explore criticisms against foundationalism. My hope is that after this meeting, we'll walk away with a stronger and more confident understanding of whichever epistemological view we choose to subscribe to, as well as a better understanding of our opponents'. As the host, I'll be tasked to guide the discussion.

I know not all of us agrees with foundationalism, so I encourage you share your views and why you disagree with foundationalism. If you would like to present your argument, please respond to this post. You do not need to explain why here, as I will fit you into the agenda.

Thanks, everyone! :)

P.S. If you'd like to take notes, please being your own pen!

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Additional context written by Tim 3/4/2013:

Hey gang,

I'm pleased to see so much discussion! I'm also passionate about epistemology since it's the basis for all thinking.

The main reason why I've become interested in philosophy is because I needed to know how do we know what we know is true. Foundationalism asserts that we know what we know to be true because of our perceptions. How do we know our perceptions are accurate? Is there a reason to doubt our perceptions? Our perceptions are given to us (thus the burden of proof is on the doubter). You either perceive or you don't. This is where it all starts.

You can say I am "searching." In order to be objective, I'd like to explore other epistemological views before I can confidently say foundationalism is THE answer. I can say, however, that I can no longer argue against foundationalism (you can ask Tom how long I've argued against it for the sake of objectivity).

Another concern of mine is that I'm subscribing to foundationalism because it appeals to my emotions rather than to logic. I really need to examine foundationalism, or ANY other epistemological view, with a fine-toothed comb.

I don't have any formal training in philosophy (and that's the beauty of philosophy - formal training is not required to think). Tom has said that because I haven't been indoctrinated, my acceptance of foundationalism came a lot easier than others. I didn't have much, if any, other epistemological beliefs to fight against. However, I can also see how one could I argue that I merely accepted the first epistemological view that I have spent significant time with. I don't believe I have because I have spent just as much time doubting it, but hey, maybe I'll find out otherwise this Thursday?

I have a feeling we're going to be really tight on time again. Probably more so than ever given all the discussion we already have on this page. I'd like to ask that we try to keep our discussion on Thursday as pertinent as possible and keep tangents to a minimum. This will be an important discussion for myself and many others.

Thank you!

P.S. Just because something opposes your view doesn't make it wrong. I'd like to remind everyone that we should be open to the idea that we could be wrong (given opposing proof), and that we make decisions based on the rigors of logic/reason/rational thinking (not sure what the correct word is here, so choose your poison :-P).

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  • A former member
    A former member

    I've just uploaded a PDF file titled: My Reasons for Doubting Foundationalism on this group's File section under the More menu. I'll include links to the document below so you can view, save, or print it.

    This is a compendium of items that I started in order to gather my reasons for having doubts about yet accepting Foundationalism as my Epistemology of choice. This is the starting point for my further study and as such it is still in it's early stages.

    Please let me know what you think.

    http://files.meetup.c...

    March 15, 2013

  • Mark G.

    At issue in much of the critique against Foundationalism was whether perception is direct or indirect. The critics thought it was indirect. We receive billions of sense impressions at any one time, which we could all agree on. The brain and nervous system, then, processes only about 2,000 of those impressions. That is the perception part. It is through that processing that we can see definition, movement and shapes of objects in reality. The question is whether this process of perception brings us an infallible and incorrigible awareness of the objects, or an interpretative, subjective version. Two theories of indirect perception were highlighted: Sensationalism and Representationalism. One thing is certain: perception is a highly complex activity. I would like to see more conversation on this topic.

    1 · March 8, 2013

    • Tim

      I have a question to the Sensationalists out there:

      When you see an ordinary object, e.g. a tree, what do you see first? The way you notice the light refracts to give off the impression of the color, green? Or the do you first recognize that you’re seeing a tree?

      Personally, I first recognize the tree. Then if I focus my attention, I will notice the colors, smells, etc. Extraordinary objects may make me recognize the size or smell first, but that is only because one of the extraordinary object’s attributes immediately catches my attention.

      March 8, 2013

    • Mark G.

      James, my understanding is that you can only be objective if the object in the subject-object relationship is given primacy in conscious awareness. This takes place only when perception is considered direct. Any theory of perception which says that perception cannot be direct, namely representationalism, and sensationalism, give primacy to the subject, since there is a subjective interpretation of the sense impressions by the mind during perception, and therefore can never be objective.

      March 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I had a great time too and got a better understanding of Foundationalism from my research and everyone’s participation. Again, I over-prepared and missed presenting dozens of items that are giving me reasons for doubt.

    I really appreciated Tim's point in his comments about increasing the breadth of his investigations before finally settling on Foundationalism. I think this is an excellent approach since either one can have no reasons to doubt either because those reasons to doubt were eliminated through conscious effort or only because no other alternatives are known well enough to gain or eliminate doubts. So I'd like to invite and challenge everyone again to view the Evolutionary Epistemology presentation from October in this group’s File area. I will also be soon posting and notifying everyone when the presentation I prepared last night will also be available in the Files section also in PDF PowerPoint format. I am available for questions and comments by email or in person.

    March 8, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Hi Jim, these message boards can be confusing to me, so I'm not really understanding what the question is. Let's talk a little before the next meetup.

      1 · March 9, 2013

  • Patricia

    Functionalism stands!

    March 8, 2013

  • Patricia

    Great meeting, great participation!

    March 8, 2013

  • Tom O.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting. Thanks for bringing up externalist third-person-perspective evidence of pain, the rubber hand, the frozen phantom limb, primed impoverished perceptual stimuli, subhuman mental capacities, sense-organ limitations, alien-form perceptions, sense-data packets, and many other examples in order to try to critique certain features of foundationalism. Was that it? I had expected an ocean liner colliding or at least a canoe torpedoing. But that was not the case, just floating sea foam.

    March 8, 2013

    • Patricia

      Calm down Tom! I can already see your philosophical smiling face! Thank you for all your contributions. Great job!

      March 8, 2013

  • Tim

    While we may not all come to an agreement as a group, I think everyone now understands Foundationalism much better. I also like that I understand others' perspectives and objections.

    1 · March 8, 2013

  • Tim

    If you'd like to take notes, please being your own pen!

    March 7, 2013

  • Tim

    Hey gang,

    I suggested to Tom that we explore criticisms against Foundationalism. My hope is that after this meeting, we'll walk away with a stronger and more confident understanding of whichever epistemological view you choose to subscribe to, as well as better understand your opponents'. As the host, I'll be tasked to guide the discussion.

    I know not all of us agrees with Foundationalism, so I encourage you share your views and why you disagree with Foundationalism. If you would like to present your argument, please respond to this post. You do not need to explain why here, as I will fit you into the agenda.

    Thanks, everyone! :)

    February 25, 2013

    • Tom O.

      Chris, I made this very point at the meeting "Building Knowledge" (Feb. 14). There, I made the key distinction between infallible, incorrigible cognition versus fallible, corrigible cognition. Missing this distinction can easily cause one to loop.

      March 5, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Thanks Tom, that does help...I'm running into those definitions in the literature. I know I missed that meeting. I can use the literature definitions or yours if you prefer. Oh, and this may be important in terms of their usage in the Gettier Barn Facade case.

      March 5, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'm sure there are others in the group who are, at least for now, are leaning toward Naturalized Epistemology. I'd like to represent this position and perhaps coordinate with any other members to give a non-overlapping presentation. If you are one of these and you agree, please contact me.

    Also, for all the other members, especially those who did not attend my presentation on the Natural Epistemology named Reliabilism, please read or re-read the PDF Powerpoint presentation before this upcoming meetup. It can be found at: http://files.meetup.com/1769665/SDPhilosophersRoundtable-EvolutionaryEpistemology.pdf

    I've left it unmodified since that October meetup. If I had to change one thing, I would change the concession to skepticism and the Gettier challenge by taking the same tact used by Foundationalism, and that is redefining Knowledge and Justification.

    March 5, 2013

  • Tim

    Hey gang, I just added some much needed context, as well as my nutshell definition of Foundationalism, to the meetup description above. When you have the chance, please read it. Thanks!

    March 4, 2013

  • Tom O.

    A query at last Thursday's meeting about the link between certainty and infallibility is very telling. It is a Platonic error to think there must be such a link. And an error of this kind necessarily leads one to skepticism and may sufficiently drop one over the edge and into mysticism. I have addressed this as thoroughly as I knew between March and May of last year. http://www.meetup.com/The-San-Diego-Philosophers-Roundtable/events/64076302/ My approach to these meetings has been to discuss things in a foundational, hierarchical order. Missing or mistaken over certain crucial components of epistemology can hamper one's understanding of philosophy in general. And until one get them filled in or reconceived, one is forever looping, never building anything foundationally new other than on the confusion one already has. "To err is human, to ..." Well, if so, and if a vestige of Platonism bids that certainty required infallibility, then it's hell on earth.

    March 3, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      "A query at last Thursday's meeting about the link between certainty and infallibility is very telling. It is a Platonic error to think there must be such a link. And an error of this kind necessarily leads one to skepticism and may sufficiently drop one over the edge and into mysticism. "

      LOL, I think Tom is knowledgeable with regards to logic but he certainly also has at least as much in rhetoric as this hyperbolic expression tells.

      1 · March 4, 2013

  • Mark G.

    If this is the correct venue, I would like to know more about first principles, what they are and where they might fit into foundationalism.

    March 1, 2013

    • Tom O.

      I formulated and posted my most concise summary of what first principles are back in September of last year. For your convenience, here is the link. http://www.meetup.com...­

      March 1, 2013

  • Tom O.

    The more I am reading to catch up on the topic to be discussed here, the more I realize that a theory of truth is at the foundation of antifoundationalism. To defend antifoundationalism coherently, you need to understand truth perspectivally. And that might require a whole discussion in itself to do it justice.

    February 27, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I really want to attend this, but I have a previous engagement. Why isn't this on Feb 28.

    February 23, 2013

    • Tom O.

      I think swapping the dates is doable and really is up to the event host to determine if that will maximize attendances for both meetings.

      I suspect that it will take a little more preparation time for the critics of foundationalism to mount their cases. Who will be its defenders? I am going to try to knock it down, too, if I can.

      February 23, 2013

    • Tim

      Hey Phil! I'm going to be the host for Feb. 28 and March 7. Since our last meeting was about mathematics, we figured it would be best to make the next meeting a follow up on the same topic since we didn't have time for discussion.

      February 24, 2013

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