[FOM] Foundationalism

praatika@mappi.helsinki.fi praatika at mappi.helsinki.fi
Fri Sep 26 05:10:23 EDT 2003

It is perhaps useful to distinguish, following a distinguished 
epistemologist William Alston, further two kinds of foundationalism, say, 
strong and modest foundationalism: 

Modest foundationalism only states, roughly, that knowledge constitutes a 
structure the foundations of which support all the rest.  (MF)

Strong foundationalism adds that the foundations consists in infallible, 
indubitable, immediately self-evident and self-jusfying beliefs. (SF)

Traditionally, one has assumed that it is SF that is required in order to 
reply radical scepticism. Nowadays, SF is generally considered problematic, 
but very few think that this leads one to radical scepticism. The strandard 
opposition in philosophy is indeed between coherentism and foundationalism, 
just as Allen said in his posting. But one has often assumed that the 
problems of SF show that coherentism is right. But this is too hasty: there 
is also MF.  I think it is fair to say that today MF is actually quite 
popular among philosophers (I am inclined to symphatize it). 

See W. Alston: Epistemic Justification, Cornell University Press 1989,
- esp. the first three essays. 

I think that reasonable quasi-empiricism (say, in Putnam's style) enables 
one to further undermine SF, but that it is actually consistent with MF. 

Steve wrote:
> Under this notion of "foundationalism", I am certainly a
> foundationalist.  Indeed, I firmly insist that the best method of
> organizing mathematics -- the "gold standard" -- is the orthodox,
> rigorous method, involving axioms, definitions, lemmas, theorems, and
> proofs.
> Furthermore, a look at the contemporary mathematical literature
> reveals that the definition-theorem-proof methodology continues to
> pervade contemporary mathematical practice.  This methodology is a key
> component of the high standard of rigor which continues to prevail in
> mathematics textbooks, mathematics research articles, mathematics
> Ph. D. theses, etc.  In this sense, virtually the entire mathematics
> community -- core and non-core -- is foundationalist.

All this I find correct. I also think that it is consistent with a 
reasonable quasi-empiricist view.



Panu Raatikainen

PhD., Docent in Theoretical Philosophy
Fellow, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
University of Helsinki
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
P.O. Box 4
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki

E-mail: panu.raatikainen at helsinki.fi

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