The Instigator
socialpinko
Pro (for)
Winning
5 Points
The Contender
carpediem
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Foundationalism is a sound theory of epistemic justification

Do you like this debate?NoYes+3
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
socialpinko
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/12/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,632 times Debate No: 23552
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
Votes (2)

 

socialpinko

Pro

===Resolution and BoP===

The burden on Pro in this debate will be to provide and defend argument(s) in favor of the epistemic soundness of foundationalism as a theory. The burden of Con will be to show why these arguments or reasons are either flawed or insufficient to justify foundationalism.

===Definitions===

Foundationalism will be defined as the epistemological theory that all knowledge and justified belief rests ultimately on a foundation of noninferential knowldge or justified belief[1].

Theories of epistemic justification deal with the conditions necessary for the justification of knowledge or justified belief. A theory of epistemic justifcation is sound if it is valid or correct.

===Definition===

1. Drops will count as concessions.

2. Semantic or abusive arguments will not be counted.

3. New arguments brought in the last round will not be counted.

4. R1 is for acceptance. Argumentation will begin in R2.

===Sources===

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
carpediem

Con

In order to clarify the debate for any readers, I would like to break down the definitions into a more understandable format.


I offer the following definitions:


1. Epistemic: Relating to knowledge and to the degree of its validation.

2. Non-inferential knowledge: Knowledge gained without the use of inference. (Referred to throughout the debate as “justified belief.”)


3. Foundationalism: A theory in epistemology that holds that beliefs are justified (known) based on basic beliefs.


4. Basic beliefs: Beliefs that give justificatory support to other beliefs, and more derivative beliefs are based on those more basic beliefs.



With this being said I accept the debate: “Resolved, Foundationalism is a sound theory of epistemic justification.” Please state your case.
Debate Round No. 1
socialpinko

Pro

Overview: The attempts of foundationalist epistemology and the epistemic regress argument.

Foundationalism seeks to provide justification for what properly counts as justified true belief. The specific method of justification which foundationalism employs may be contrasted with competing epistemic theories of justification such as infinitism, coherentism, and lesser known foundherentism. These theories all employ specific conditions under which knowledge may be justified. The most common and well known argument for foundationalism specifically (and the one which I will choose to employ in this debate) is the regress argument. Written in formally, the argument may be expressed as the following:

To be justified in believing some proposition A, one must have reason B for believing so.

No proposition is self-justifying. I am not justified in believing something without some reason at least for believing so. Take for example the color of the underwear I am currently wearing. Consider the proposition ‘Socialpinko is currently wearing plaid pink and black boxers.’ Surely in order to be epistemically justified in believing this proposition one would need to have a reason in the first place. Why does one believe I am wearing that specific type of undergarment and not green boxers or none at all? Whether that reason is because one saw me put them on or because I have a habit of wearing undergarments of that type isn’t important here. The fact remains that it is not some necessary fact that I will be wearing plaid pink and black boxers at this time in all possible worlds and thus inference is necessary.

To be justified in believing reason B (in order to justify belief in proposition A), one must have further reason C for believing so.

This premise follows straightforwardly from the above. If one needs a reason (B) to believe a proposition (A), there must also be a reason supporting belief that that specific reason is also true. If C is false then neither B nor A can be said to be truly justified belief. Even if B and A are true propositions, one will not be justified in holding them on the basis of C. Consider the example of my underwear choice. Proposition A is that I am currently wearing plaid pink and black boxers. Some reason B can be given in support of proposition A such as the reason that wearing plaid pink and black boxers is the necessary result of having red hair. But it isn’t clear that having red hair necessitates wearing any specific type of undergarment. Some other reason C must therefore be given to believe that hair color determines underwear type, color, and style.

Conclusion: Infinite inferential series and the need for termination via non-inferential propositions.

Considering the previous points, it should be clear that without some foundational propositions on which to non-inferentially base knowledge, true justified belief is not possible. The infinite regress argument shows that so long as the proposition in question is inferentially known, there will be the need to justify some proposition on the end of an ever-growing (infinite in fact as the name of the argument suggests) series of propositions. True justification will never be attained as the source of knowledge will always elude the questioner. Imagine that your reason why hair color determines the details of one’s undergarments is because a little birdie told you. Pressed you say a baby rat brought you a message detailing the reliability of the bird, etc. etc. on ad infinitum. We never get to the ultimate justification of whether or not the proposition that I am wearing plaid pink and white boxers are justified true belief. Some non-inferential proposition or propositions will always be necessary for true justified belief, to fulfill the role of terminating an infinite inferential series.

carpediem

Con

As my opponent stated in the beginning of the round, that “The burden of Con will be to show why these arguments or reasons [in favor of the epistemic soundness of foundationalism as a theory] are either flawed or insufficient to justify foundationalism,” I will not state a constructive case, but merely one which will deconstruct the points of my opponent and thereby negate the resolution, “Resolved: Foundationalism is a sound theory of epistemic justification.”



“To be justified in believing some proposition A, one must have reason B for believing so.”

AND

“To be justified in believing reason B (in order justify belief in proposition A), one must have further reason C for believing so.”



A. Locke’s Veil of Perception


Locke’s Veil of Perception notes that proposition A must not necessarily have a reason B to justify that proposition, because every proposition is created by one’s own observation through his perception, therefore proposition A has the ability to stand alone. It also eliminates the ability of an absolute truth to exist.

“The important thing to note about this account of perception is that all our evidence for it comes from our observations of the world, which are themselves perceptions. If this account is correct then we can’t directly observe the basis of our perceptions, since any observation we make is itself a perception, and perceptions are representations of things, not the things themselves. And so from what we do perceive directly – the images in our minds – we can only infer the things that we do not perceive directly – the material world beyond our minds. This serves to create a ‘veil of perception’ between our minds and the world.” [1]

As this reflection points out, everything in the world around us is an inference because it has evolved from our observations which have stemmed from our perception. In the affirmative’s world, however, in accordance with the foundationalist theory of epistemic justification, “all justified belief must rest ultimately on non inferential knowledge, or an absolute truth.” [2] Therefore because everything we observe is observed through our own perceptions, we can believe nothing to be true as absolute truth cannot exist.



B. Hume’s Skepticism


“According to Hume, no proof exists in support of cause and effect relationships within the universe. This is the case because through habitual observation, one infers a relationship between two independent events. Since one cannot experience the necessary connection between two events such as, the Law of Gravity, one cannot necessarily prove that event ‘A’ caused event ‘B.’ Therefore, even though experience and reasoning indicate that objects act in a predictable way, this fails to necessarily prove how objects will act in the future based upon previous interactions.” [3]

Again, as mentioned above in Locke’s Veil of Perception, knowledge is gained through experience and the relation of causal ideas gained in such a way. By advocating for non inferential justification, the Affirmative leaves no one the ability to truly believe anything, because even the beliefs we know to be most intrinsically true merely stem from our own perceptions and experiences and thus cannot qualify as an absolute truth. Propositions can be inferentially justified because all propositions stem from the human perceptions and are thus naturally inferred.




Sources:

[1] http://alonelyphilosopher.wordpress.com...

[2] http://plato.stanford.edu...

[3] http://schoonmaker.wordpress.com...

Debate Round No. 2
socialpinko

Pro

A. Locke's Veil of Perception


My opponent brings up John Locke's idea that the empirically minded senses which we rely on to sense the world are unreliable and hence a sound theory of absolute epistemic justification (at least in the foundationalist list sense) is not possible. My opponent's point however fails to realize that even if empirical observations are not sufficient to yield justified belief, this does not prove that either (A) no justified belief is possible or (B) that foundationalism fails to justify the type of knowledge possible.


Lock's 'Veil of Perception' argument understandably calls into question whether or not one's sensual faculties are able to sufficiently justify belief or relate true pictures of the outside world to the sensor. After all, my feeling of a stove being hot doesn't necessarily prove that it actually is, only that I am at that point feeling heat. It's within the realm of possibility that some evil Demon is simply playing a trick on my senses[1] or that my brain has been secretly transferred into a vat[2]. However, this does not mean justified belief is an impossible ideal. Consider Descartes famous dictum, "Cogito ergo sum" (I think therefore I am). Surely one is justified in believing that one's self exists out of necessity (meaning we know this non-inferentially) since the very action of calling one's existence into questions implies existence. Hence denial of one's existence results in performance contradiction[3].


On whether or not foundationaslist best comrd to explain how we come to justify this belief, one must simply look to the concepts inherent in foundationalism. Foundationalism is based off of the idea that all justified belief necessarily comes back to a single (or set of) non-inferentially justified beliefs. Cog It ergo sum fulfills the criterion for this exactly seeing as it is non-inferentially justified and seems the best building block upon which other pieces of knowledge may be added. After all, one can't prove that other entities exist, reflect on their characteristics or relations to others, etc. unless one may actually be justified in believing in an observer to observe these facts in the first place.


B. Hume's Skepticism


On causation and Mr. Hume's characteristic skepticism of such a thing being proved to exist, I will respond with Kant and his principle of causality. Kant begins with the observation that we are in a state of "temporal irreversibility", meaning that time goes "forward" and not backward. The sequence of events has a certain temporal order. From this Kant reasoned, the only way in which we are able to make sense of the "direction" in which time and the sequence of events move is by recognizing cause and effect (later events being caused by earlier events) is a necessary conclusion.[4]


On the point of non-inferential epistemic justification, my opponent suggests that it cannot be a method to justified true belief because even "the most intrinsically true" propositions i.e. non-inferential propositions are mere extensions of perception. From what I can understand, what my opponent is saying is that since all knowledge comes from perception, all knowledge is necessarily inferred, meaning non-inferential knowledge is impossible, destroying the crux of the entire foundationalist argument. I would ask my opponent why non-inferential knowledge must necessarily be an extension of perception. The reason I know that adding two to itself produces the sum of four is not because I have inferred this from countless observations of this occurring in the outside world, but because it's definition entails the sum. Therefore it must be admitted that at the very least some knowledge doesn't need to go through a sensory channel as in the case of mathematics and logic.


===Sources===


[1] http://www.groupsrv.com...
[2] http://www.iep.utm.edu...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://plato.stanford.edu...
carpediem

Con

carpediem forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
socialpinko

Pro

Extend arguments and refutations.
carpediem

Con

In this last round of the debate I will deconstruct my opponent's rebuttals while upholding my own case, however I will refrain from imposing any new arguments upon the debate. Again, I deeply apologize for my round three forfeiture and encourage any judges to dock conduct points.



"My opponent's point however fails to realize that even if empirical observations are not sufficient to yield justified belief, this does not prove that either (A) no justified belief is possible or (B) that foundationalism fails to justify the type of knowledge possible."


(A)
Justified belief is possible, I never contended this, however the use of foundationalism to achieve it is impossible as there is no way to achieve an absolute truth except through inference. Pascal, in his Pensees, speaks of imagination as the tool man uses to create what he believes to be true, yet challenges its absolute truth. He says:


“Imagination: It is the dominant faculty in man… Imagination depends on images. Images come from sense experience. Thus we find ourselves upside down: the highest thing in us—reason, the prophet of truth—is at the mercy of sensory imagination.”


My opponent may question this logic by arguing that some principles such as “the whole is greater than the part” or “effects have causes” are universally known. They are like software in our human computers (brains). Pascal asks how we can be sure we can trust this software to be true.


The obvious answer is that we just see it, we “intuit” it.
Pascal goes on to question even this intuition by asking “where did it come from?” But this alley is unimportant in our debate today, for regardless, it has been shown that even what we believe to be absolute truths, (e.g. “effects have causes” and “the whole is greater than the part”) are a product of our own human intuition, in other words, our ability to infer.


(B)
I would like to remind my opponent that as Neg, I am simply obligated to “show why these arguments or reasons are either flawed or insufficient to justify foundationalism” which is the criteria that he imposed on round one. I have merely to show that the theory is flawed or adequately insufficient.


"Foundationalism is based off of the idea that all justified belief necessarily comes back to a single (or set of) non-inferentially justified beliefs."


My question to pro is this: where do these non-inferentially justified beliefs come from? Throughout this debate he has given us no reason to suppose that these non-inferred beliefs exist, what they are, or where they are from, or who gave them to us.


"Consider Descartes famous dictum, 'Cogito ergo sum' (I think therefore I am). Surely one is justified in believing that one's self exists out of necessity (meaning we know this non-inferentially) since the very action of calling one's existence into questions implies existence."


My opponent attempts to give an example of where foundationalism is proven to be true, however, Descartes’ “Cogito ergo sum” is an inference. Because he could think, he could logically infer that he existed. For Descartes to gain this knowledge non-inferentially, a higher being, or deity, perhaps would have to have told him so. For this occurrence to have happened, however, was not necessary. As human beings, we can create absolute truths through our inferences, but these truths are not simply givens conferred upon us from above; they must be deduced and construed.


"Kant begins with the observation that we are in a state of 'temporal irreversibility', meaning that time goes 'forward' and not backward. The sequence of events has a certain temporal order."


Of this argument I fail to comprehend the relevancy.


"I would ask my opponent why non-inferential knowledge must necessarily be an extension of perception."


My opponent in reference to his query brings up mathematics as his example. We know two plus two equals four to be an absolute truth, right? This would be correct, however this absolute truth was not achieved through non-inferential means. I was man’s imagination that created the “definition that entailed the sum.” This truth is an extension of perception because it is the direct product of imagination, which, as Pascal observed, is the software of the human brain. Pascal asks how we can be sure we can trust this software to be true. The answer is: we “intuit” it. Thus, even the mathematical theorems we create are the products of our intuition.

Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by carpediem 4 years ago
carpediem
I understand. Granted, even though Hume's skepticism is one way to argue against foundationalism, as I stated in my round four rebuttal, one can have the absolute truth of cause and effect while maintaining that it is through intuitive observances that we have come to that conclusion.
Posted by socialpinko 4 years ago
socialpinko
It's a proof of causality.
Posted by carpediem 4 years ago
carpediem
I didn't understand how it was relevant.

"we are in a state of 'temporal irreversibility', meaning that time goes "forward" and not backward. The sequence of events has a certain temporal order."

Explain it to me.
Posted by socialpinko 4 years ago
socialpinko
Why did you totally ignore my rebuttal to Hume's skepticism and causation? How was it irrelevant? I was responding to a point which you yourself originated in the debate.
Posted by carpediem 4 years ago
carpediem
Post what you want in round four (uphold your own case or further deconstruct mine) and in then I will post the rebuttal I meant to post in round three. Is that okay?
Posted by socialpinko 4 years ago
socialpinko
So we'll play it like R3 was the last round?
Posted by carpediem 4 years ago
carpediem
True, but I won't bring in any new arguments and only uphold the ones you already rebutted. Also you still wouldn't have been able to respond to the last-round rebuttal regardless.
Posted by socialpinko 4 years ago
socialpinko
I won't be able to respond to your rebuttal though.
Posted by carpediem 4 years ago
carpediem
I apologize for my forfeiture. Please accept my rebuttal in round four.
Posted by FourTrouble 4 years ago
FourTrouble
oh man, I'm glad to see you make a return to debate this, this is probably one of my favorite topics to debate.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by TUF 4 years ago
TUF
socialpinkocarpediemTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct and arguments due to my policy on forfeits.
Vote Placed by CiRrK 4 years ago
CiRrK
socialpinkocarpediemTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:--Vote Checkmark3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro gets the conduct vote for the forfeit...however im keeping arguments tied cause I think it comes down to the issue of an actual justified belief existing, even if we cannot know through our perceptions. But the problem is with the forfeit Con brought up responses which couldn't be answered.