In Andrew Cullison (ed.), The Continuum Companion to Epistemology. Continuum. pp. 37 (2012)
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Foundationalists distinguish basic from nonbasic beliefs. At a first approximation, to say that a belief of a person is basic is to say that it is epistemically justified and it owes its justification to something other than her other beliefs, where “belief” refers to the mental state that goes by that name. To say that a belief of a person is nonbasic is to say that it is epistemically justified and not basic. Two theses constitute Foundationalism: (a) Minimality: There are some basic beliefs, and (b) Exclusivity: If there are any nonbasic beliefs, that is solely because they (ultimately) owe their justification to some basic belief. Proponents of Minimality but not Exclusivity endorse Minimal Foundationalism. Proponents of Exclusivity but not Minimality endorse either Epistemic Nihilism, the view that there are no justified beliefs, or some non-foundationalist epistemology such as Coherentism or Infinitism. In this essay I aim to characterize the notion of a basic belief more precisely and to assess some arguments for and against Foundationalism. In the process, I hope to exhibit the resilience and attractiveness of Foundationalism.

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Daniel Howard-Snyder
Western Washington University


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