Noetic Structure

View and take notes on the presentation, “An Overview of Issues in Contemporary Justification, Part 1.”

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What are 3 characteristics of a person’s noetic structure? The sum total of everything that person believes
It recognizes the differing degress of certainty, firmness, and conviction with which people hold their beliefs. Characterized by how beliefs are related together.

Explain coherentism and the 3 problems with it.
Coherentism: All beliefs fall into one category. No beliefs are more foundational than the others. Problems:
Circularity: How do I justify my belief in P? It coheres with Q. Isolation Problem: Coherentism isolates my beliefs from the external world. Plurality: It is possible to have 2 coherent systems that are logically incompatible.

Read chapter 4 of Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous, “Foundationalism.” As you do, consider the following questions and points:

What is the root idea of foundationalism?
Each of us holds a set of beliefs basically or immediately while we hold other beliefs non basically or mediately. Why would one adopt a foundationalist approach to justification? Because they are epistemic engies of our noetic structures, imparting to all of our non-basic beliefs, while not themselves requiring justification from any other beliefs – this support goes just one way. What is the regress argument?

Taking for granted the general reliability of your conscious faculties, and indeed must take them for granted. What are the 3 basic components of foundationalism?
Basic or immediate beliefs- Form the bedrock of what all we believe undergirding everything else we are justified in believing. Mediate or non-basic beliefs- Everything else we believe
Basing Relation- Specifies how the epistemic merit of our basic beliefs is to be transferred to out non-basic beliefs. What are the characteristics of strong foundationalism? Specifically explain: The 3 conditions for a basic belief.

Must be self-evidently true: those we see to be true immediately, without the benefit of deliberation or argument, merely when we understand the term of the claim in question. Must be Incorrigible: The belief in question is one that is impossible to believe and be mistaken about. Evident to the Senses

The means by which basic beliefs support non-basic beliefs.
Entailment is the only logical relation that preserves certainty. If one starts with self-evidently true starting points and accepts only what can be validly derived from the same, one thereby insures that one’s entire set of beliefs is untainted and error free. Four “additional” features of foundationalism.

One cannot claim to have knowledge simply by asserting that one knows One must be inwardly cognizant that one’s claims to knowledge is genuine. One must be prepared to show that this is the case.
What are the main problems with foundationalism? Note: This section can be challenging; try to understand the main points raised; don’t be concerned about all the details except as a way to understand the following main points: Problems:

One’s beliefs in the reliability of one’s senses or memory or consciousness; none of these beliefs is either self evident or incorrigible or evident to the senses, yet they are held as properly basic by virtually everyone. Any acceptance of supposedly pure and certain basic beliefs makes use of various background assumptions or information that compromises their certainty and undermines their basicality. Why only these conditions for a basic belief?

Claims that foundationalism solves the regress argument fail (the
arbitrariness of stopping points). Other means of supporting beliefs than just deduction/induction (best explanation, retroduction, concurrence, etc.). The security vs. content problem.

The strict demands for four unimpeachable certainty leave one with so small a set of basic beliefs that they can’t possibly bear the heavy weight of all we believe. Other problems (excessive individualism, access requirements, noetic effects of sin). Pg 95

What are the similarities and differences between strong and modest foundationalism? Specifically: What is primae facie certainty?
One’s foundational beliefs are not necessarily immune to any conceivable doubt – they can be overridden – but they are perfectly acceptable unless one has a good reason for thinking they have been undermined. Four of Reid’s contingent truths.

The thoughts of which I am conscience are thoughts of a being I call myself. Those things really happened which I distinctly remember.
Those things really do exist which we distinctly perceive by our senses, and are what we perceive them to be. What is to be will probably be like what has been in similar circumstances. Reid’s reliabilism of first principles.

For our evidence concerning reliability would have to include deliverances of the faculties whose reliability we are accumulating evidence for. On behalf of his foundational principles, they can be correctly identified by their accompanying marks or signs. If someone persists in requesting additional assurances over and above the usual marks accompanying properly based beliefs, then the person holding such beliefs can only respond with genuine bewilderment. Two weaknesses with modest foundationalism.

Reid may have underestimated the capacity for thinkers of sound mind and sincere will to disagree about alleged, philosophical first principles. The belief in God can be held in a basic belief.
Alvin Plantinga’s belief in God as properly basic.
The belief can be justifiably held in the manner of a first principle, that is w/out the benefit of argumentative support.


Make sure you can explain the following terms and concepts:

Indefeasible- Not able to be lost, annulled, or overturned.

Retroduction- A king of reasoning from the best explanation. It is reducible neither to induction or deduction. Concurrence- Observations that cumulate in his belief. Necessary First Principles- They are self-evidently justified, being believed merely upon being understood. Must have these. Contingent First Principles- Not self-evidently justified. Dependent upon something. Doxastic Assumption- A theory that a belief is justified if it coheres with other beliefs

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