Theories of Justification

Richard Fumerton

in The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology

Published in print October 2005 | ISBN: 9780195301700
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Theories of Justification


The task of explaining and evaluating theories of justification is daunting. There are not only a host of different theories of justification, there are also radical differences among epistemologists concerning how they understand what it is to offer such a theory. This article offers an overview of several prominent positions on the nature of justification. It begins by isolating epistemic justification from nonepistemic justification. It also distinguishes between “having justification for a belief” and “having a justified belief,” arguing that the former is conceptually more fundamental. It then addresses the possibility that justification is a normative matter, suggesting that this possibility has little to offer a concept of epistemic justification. It also critically examines more specific attempts to capture the structure and content of epistemic justification. These include traditional foundationalism and variants thereof, externalist versions of foundationalism; contextualism; coherentism; and “mixed” theories which combine aspects of coherentism and foundationalism.

Keywords: epistemic justification; nonepistemic justification; foundationalism; contextualism; coherentism

Article.  13209 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Epistemology

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