Foundational Versus Nonfoundational Theories of Justification

  • James W. Cornman
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series in Philosophy book series (PSSP, volume 18)


One of the staunchest defenders of a foundational theory of the justification of empirical statements is R. M. Chisholm. His defense consists primarily in elaborating his own particular version of foundationalism, giving examples of how his theory works, and arguing that the main foundational and nonfoundational alternatives to his theory are flawed. As we saw in Chapter 4, his version, which he calls ‘critical cognitivism’, differs from both species of what I dubbed ‘traditional foundationalism’, Although he agrees with ‘Cartesian’ foundationalists that there must be ‘directly evident’ empirical statements at the base of justification and that all these statements are roughly what I call basic-reports, Chisholm disagrees with the Cartesian requirement that justification is to be extended from the directly evident only by deductive inference.


Acceptable Statement Infinite Regress Empirical Statement Subjectivist Theory Coherence Theory 
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  1. 1.
    R. Firth, ‘Coherence, Certainty, and Epistemic Priority’, in R. Chisholm and R Swartz (eds.), Empirical Knowledge, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973, p. 463Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    K. Lehrer, Knowledge, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974, p. 162Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    W. Quine, The Roots of Reference, La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1974, p. 39Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See W. Quine, From a Logical Point of View, New York: Harper and Row, 1961, p. 43Google Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1980

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  • James W. Cornman

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