Groundless Beliefs

Alan Millar

in Reasons and Experience

Published in print March 1991 | ISBN: 9780198242703
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680540 | DOI:
Groundless Beliefs

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This chapter begins with a brief critique of foundationalist epistemology largely based on the claim that it is psychologically unrealistic. This serves to underline the fact that the book's treatment of the justificatory role of experience is not motivated by foundationalism. It also advances the general epistemological approach since the critique of foundationalism testifies to the importance in our thinking of groundless beliefs, which would not count as being legitimately held on any foundationalist view as normally conceived. This theme is developed further via a discussion of Wittgenstein's On Certainty. Drawing on hints provided by Wittgenstein, the chapter uses the notion that certain propositions have a normative role in our thinking in that they are placed beyond doubt and dispute and their acceptance can be legitimate even in the absence of grounds. These propositions and the concepts we possess form our perspective on the world. In learning how to manage our own beliefs and evaluate beliefs generally we must acquire a mastery of a perspective. This means that we must learn not only how to employ concepts but how to make use of the propositions which are normative for us.

Keywords: foundationalism; Wittgenstein; normativity; belief; competence

Chapter.  11601 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Metaphysics

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