However, it is not the only source and there are limitations in its application and at times questions concerning its legitimacy. According to Kant, the foundation of all knowledge is the self, our own consciousness because without the self, experience is not possible. Be as succinct as possible. Does Descartes succeed or fail in that attempt? Justify your answer in full.

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BonJour wants to argue that the very concept of justification poses some obstacle to the idea of basic or immediately justified beliefs. So your justification for believing B depends on other beliefs, beliefs about the features that B has. BonJour begins by examining the concept of justification.

He notes that there are different kinds of justification: moral justification, pragmatic justification, religious justification, epistemic justification What seems to distinguish epistemic justification is that it has some special connection with truth. BonJour spells this connection out as follows: Knowledge requires epistemic justification, and the distinguishing characteristic of this particular species of justification is, I submit, its essential or internal relationship to the cognitive goal of truth.

Cognitive doings are epistemically justified, on this conception, only if and to the extent that they are aimed at this goal--which means roughly that one accepts all and only beliefs which one has good reason to think are true. To accept a belief in the absence of such a reason [i. My contention is that the idea of being epistemically responsible is the core of the concept of epistemic justification. BonJour thinks this follows from the very concept of epistemic justification.

He thinks this is the connection between justification and truth that makes epistemic justification different from other sorts of justification. If your belief in B is to be justified, then you need to have some reason to think B is true. On one reading this sounds innocuous enough. On that reading, "you have some reason to think B is true" just sounds like another way of saying "you are justified in believing B.

There is a problem for this reading. The justification-talk and the reason-talk here would be just two different ways of saying the same thing. But BonJour does want B1 to be saying something which does help explain the notion of justification. That is a point against this reading of B1. There are other readings of B1 where it says something more substantial. On these readings, a reason for believing B would be something that makes you justified in believing B.

Notice the connection BonJour draws between justification and notions like epistemic blame and responsibility. This should remind you of the idea that justification has a role to play in regulating or guiding our beliefs. We should not assume at this point that "having some reason to think B is true" means "having some other justified beliefs one could cite as evidence in support of B. BonJour is supposed to be giving a good argument against the foundationalist.

What is the next step in the argument? Without such a meta-justification, a proposed standard of epistemic justification lacks any underlying rationale. Why after all should an epistemically responsible inquirer prefer justified beliefs to unjustified ones, if not that the former are more likely to be true?

To insist that a certain belief is epistemically justified, while confessing in the same breath that this fact about it provides no good reason to think that it is true, would be to render nugatory the whole concept of epistemic justification. If your belief in B is justified, then the fact that it is justified must itself be a reason to think that B is true.

Notice that here BonJour is really just talking about what would follow, if you knew that a given belief was justified. B2 talks about what follows from the premise "My belief in B is justified. This will be important in our later discussions. This is all part of his conservative stance. But so far, BonJour has not given us any argument to believe that. If basic beliefs are to provide a secure foundation for empirical knowledge, if inference from them is to be the sole basis for the justification of other empirical beliefs, then that feature, whatever it may be, in virtue of which a belief qualifies as basic must also constitute a good reason for thinking that the belief is true.

If your belief B is a basic belief, then whatever it is about the belief that makes it basic must also be a reason to think that the belief is true.

This sounds plausible for the same reasons that B2 does. From the premise "Belief B is a basic, i. After all, B2 said that whenever you know that a belief is justified, you are entitled to conclude that it is likely to be true.

But the same qualification applies here as applied to B2. B3 talks about what follows from the premise "My belief in B is immediately justified. BonJour continues: If we let "F" represent this feature [in virtue of which your belief qualifies as basic], then for a belief B to qualify as basic in an acceptable foundationist account, the premises of the following justificatory argument must themselves be at least justified: Belief B has feature F Beliefs having feature F are highly likely to be true.

Therefore, B is highly likely to be true. And if we now assume, reasonably enough, that for B to be justified for a particular person at a particular time it is necessary, not merely that a justification for B exist in the abstract, but that the person in question be in cognitive possession of that justification That is: B4.

In order for your belief B to be justified, you also have to be in "cognitive possession" of some information about B--information to the effect that it has certain features, and that those features make B likely to be true. If you were not in possession of that sort of information, BonJour believes, it would be epistemically irresponsible of you to accept B;you would be unjustified in accepting B.

In order for your belief B to be justified, you have to be in "cognitive possession" of this information about B. And, BonJour says, if we understand being in "cognitive possession" of this information as having justification for believing this information, then we get the result that for your belief B to be justified, you have to be justified in holding certain other beliefs beliefs about B. An example might help make this clearer.

Suppose you have a toothache, and you form the belief "I have a toothache. And at first glance, it seems a good candidate to be a basic belief. But now BonJour asks, what makes this belief basic? Presumably the fact that it is a belief about your own sensations. Furthermore, BonJour says, if you are really going to be justified in believing B, you need to be justified in believing that it has feature F and that this makes B likely to be true.

But then it follows that B is not a basic belief after all. Your justification for believing B does rest in part on other beliefs, namely the beliefs: B is a belief about my own sensations. The same argument can be given no matter what feature F is, and no matter what you choose as a putative basic belief.

Hence, BonJour concludes, it is impossible for there to be any basic beliefs If this is correct, [foundationalism] is untenable as a solution to the regress problem You also have to know what those facts are, and that they do make your belief justified.

In order to be justified in believing you have a toothache, you have to have justification for believing that your beliefs about toothaches are generally reliable. In order to be justified in your perceptual beliefs about the external world, you have to have justification for believing your senses are reliable. And so on. These kinds of claims are central to the conservative framework. BonJour considers two ways the foundationalist might respond to his argument.

One way is by being more liberal than BonJour is. It would be enough if the belief has such features, and you lack any evidence that defeats or undermines the belief. BonJour considers this reply: [The foundationalist] might argue that although it is indeed necessary for a belief to be justified, and a fortiori [this means, "all the more so"] for it to be basic, that a justifying argument of the sort schematized above be in principle available in the situation, it is not always necessary that the person for whom the belief is basic or anyone else know or even justifiably believe that it is available; instead, in the case of basic beliefs at least, it is sufficient that the premises for an argument of that general sort But liberal internalists would also reject step B4.

So if those criticisms work, they will probably work against the liberal internalist as well as they work against the externalist. BonJour introduces this response as follows: [The foundationalist] might grant that it is necessary both that [a justifying argument of the form i - iii ] exist and that the person for whom the belief is basic be in cognitive possession of it, but insist that his cognitive grasp of the premises required for that justification does not involve further empirical beliefs which would then require justification, but instead involves cognitive states of a more rudimentary sort which do not themselves require justification: intuitions or immediate apprehensions.

We will discuss the Given Theory later. Alston will be pushing a more liberal stance than BonJour does. So for our purposes, I will treat Alston as championing a liberal position. So too are beliefs to the effect that What makes me justified in believing B is such-and-such. And even if you are justified in holding that epistemic belief, what justifies you in holding it might be different more complicated and sophisticated from what justifies you in holding the simple belief B.

In particular, the mere fact that other beliefs are required to justify you in holding the epistemic belief does not show that your justification for the simple belief B rests on those other beliefs. So it does not show that it is impossible for B to be a basic belief.

B might be a basic belief, even if I am justified in believing B is not. Perhaps you need reasons for believing that your belief has features that make it likely to be true, in order to be justified in the epistemic belief I am justified in believing B. But B4 says you need reasons for believing such things, merely to be justified in the simple belief B, itself.

This is what Alston denies. A Level Ascent Argument asks us to consider some justified belief B. It then argues that B depends for its justification on some evidence the subject has about B evidence concerning whether B is justified, or if so, what makes B justified; evidence concerning whether B was reliably formed; that sort of thing. Level Ascent Arguments seem to build into justified beliefs about the world conditions which are really more appropriate to our higher-level, reflective beliefs about our beliefs and our epistemic status.

Why then should we accept Level Ascent Arguments? BonJour says that what drives his argument are his observations about the notion of epistemic justification, and its connection with truth. BonJour spells out that connection by appealing to the notion of epistemic responsibility. BonJour objects to these liberal views because his model of a justified believer is a person who is especially reflective, scrupulous, and careful when deciding what to believe.

Someone like Descartes in the First Meditation. BonJour thinks that a person who accepts a belief before it has met such rigorous standards would be epistemically irresponsible, and hence unjustified. BonJour realizes that this makes justified belief quite hard to attain. On his account, unreflective subjects including children and animals would not be able to have justified beliefs. In "Externalist Theories of Empirical Knowledge," he writes: Any non-externalist account of empirical knowledge that has any plausibility will impose standards for justification which very many beliefs that seem commonsensically to be cases of knowledge fail to meet in any full and explicit fashion.

And thus on such a view, such beliefs will not strictly speaking be instances of adequate justification and of knowledge But notice BonJour is going even farther, and denying that our unreflective beliefs are even reasonable or justified! BonJour thinks we have to accept these consequences, if we reflect on the concept of epistemic justification, and its connection to notions like epistemic blame and responsibility. I think we should be cautious to accept any tight connection between justification and notions of epistemic blame and responsibility.


BonJour's Arguments against Foundationalism



Laurence BonJour



Laurence BonJour: "Can Empirical Knowledge Have a Foundation?"


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