Arbitrary Foundations? On Klein’s Objection to Foundationalism

Acta Analytica 30 (4):389-408 (2015)
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Abstract

This paper evaluates Peter Klein’s objection to foundationalism. According to Klein, foundationalism fails because it allows arbitrariness “at the base.” I first explain that this objection can be interpreted in two ways: either as targeting dialectical foundationalism or as targeting epistemic foundationalism. I then clarify Klein’s concept of arbitrariness. An assertion or belief is assumed to be arbitrary if and only if it lacks a reason that is “objectively and subjectively available.” Drawing on this notion, I evaluate Klein’s objection. I first argue that his objection construed as targeting dialectical foundationalism fails, since nothing prevents dialectical foundationalism from ruling out arbitrary assertions. I then argue that the objection seen as targeting epistemic foundationalism cannot be disqualified in the way some foundationalists believe. However, I show that also the objection so construed does not succeed, since epistemic foundationalism need not countenance arbitrary beliefs

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Coos Engelsma
University of Groningen

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