Article

Coherentism

Jonathan L. Kvanvig

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online May 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0020
Coherentism

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Philosophy
  • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art
  • Epistemology
  • Feminist Philosophy
  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Metaphysics
  • Moral Philosophy
  • Non-Western Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Social and Political Philosophy

GO

Show Summary Details

Preview

Coherentism in epistemology is to be contrasted with coherentism in the theory of truth, which falls within the domain of semantics and philosophy of language. The focus of this bibliography is on coherentism in epistemology, which arises historically in opposition to foundationalism, a view about the structure of knowledge that required that all knowledge rest on a bedrock of infallible or metaphysically certain starting points. Foundationalism’s history can be traced to Aristotle, but the patron saint of classical foundationalism is Descartes, as embodied in his Meditations on First Philosophy. Coherentists object to this picture of the structure of knowledge, insisting on revisability in place of fixed starting points, and on the possibility of errors that might appear at any point in a conceptual scheme. Coherentism also arises conceptually in response to the regress argument for skepticism, according to which, when we have grounds for belief, the grounds themselves are in need of being grounded or justified, and a regress is thus launched. The options for avoiding a skeptical conclusion are that there is a nonarbitrary stopping point concerning the need for further grounds (foundationalism), that the regress is infinite but nonproblematic (infinitism), or that grounds can go in a circle in some sense or generate mutual support for each other apart from a need to trace grounds in the linear fashion presupposed by the regress argument (coherentism). To formulate a complete theory, a coherentist must specify the items that must cohere, and must also explain the notion of coherence itself. Both tasks lead to controversy. The nearly universal view is that the items that must cohere are beliefs, and this answer leads to a variety of objections pressed early on against coherence theories. Critics claim that the system of beliefs might be cut off from the world, not reliably connected to the way the world is, and not even respecting the role of experience in an account of knowledge and justification. These are the “isolation” and “input” objections, respectively. Early critics also claimed that one could replace every belief with its negation, and the system would be just as well justified on coherentist grounds, an objection typically called “the alternative systems objection.” In recent times, two other types of strong objections have arisen to coherentism. Formal work in probabilities has shown some impossibility results concerning when coherence among independent witnesses cannot make for greater likelihood of truth. If generalizable, such a result would lead to the disturbing conclusion that coherence can increase while likelihood of truth decreases. In addition, epistemologists have also turned their attention to the possibility of justified inconsistent beliefs, both when the inconsistency is known to the cognizer in question and when it isn’t. To the extent that logical consistency is a necessary condition for coherence, such possibilities pose a serious challenge to coherentist theories of knowledge and justification.

Article.  6692 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.