PHL220. Quine and Ullian, C3 and C4

Quine and Ullian, C3 and C4

Chapter 3

It might be useful to contrast explicitly coherentism with foundationalism. Briefly:

General TheoryParticular Example
Foundationalism Some beliefs have some special feature which makes them justified; these beliefs provide the "foundation." All other beliefs are justified if they either have this special feature, or if they are derived from the foundational beliefs. Descartes argued that the special beliefs were the indubitable ones. Justified beliefs are then either indubitable beliefs or derived from indubitable beliefs (or, perhaps also, clear and distinct and consistent with indubitable beliefs)
Coherentism Beliefs are justified to the degree that they cohere with other beliefs the individual holds. Coherence is typically consistency with those other beliefs, but may also include that (some of) the beliefs entail each other. Quine: theories stand and fall typically as a whole. We seek to make them as internally consistent as possible.

It is very important to note that just as the rationalist allows that some knowledge comes from sensory experience, the foundationalist will typically grant that coherence is important (Descartes clearly would expect that the foundational beliefs would be consistent with each other). Similarly, coherentists typically grant that some beliefs are more well founded than others for reason other than just coherence (Quine and Ullian allow that observation sentences deserve to be believed more than other kinds of sentences).

Chapter 4