This blog has been a fantastic place to study “with” others. I am thankful for those readers who have taken the time to dialogue with me as I prepare for my oral exam next Wednesday the 21st. I ask that you continue to show grace toward me for a few more days as I expose my ignorance in hopes of becoming more educated. Today, I’d like to discuss the models of epistemology known as foundationalism and coherentism.

In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (from “Epistemology”foundationalism is defined as follows:

“…our justified beliefs are structured like a building: they are divided into a foundation and a superstructure, the latter resting upon the former. Beliefs belonging to the foundation are basic. Beliefs belonging to the superstructure are nonbasic and receive justification from the justified beliefs in the foundation.”

Let’s use the example question, “How do I know that I exist?”

Some might argue that existence is a foundational belief. You don’t have to “prove” you exist. If you are asking “Do I exist?” then you must exist. I assume this doesn’t determine the nature of your existence. You could exist as a character in the dream of a deity, though your sense of self-awareness is a bit odd.

So existence is a “given” upon which you can build.

Coherentism is defined in the same article as follows:

“Knowledge and justification are structured like a web where the strength of any given area depends on the strength of the surrounding areas. Coherentists, then, deny that there are any basic beliefs. As we saw in the previous section, there are two different ways of conceiving of basicality.”

There is no “given” foundational belief. Again, let us ask, “How do I know that I exist?” Rather than assuming existence you have a series of ways of know that inform you that you exist and that affirmation that you exist informs other things you know. You know one thing because of your knowledge and beliefs about several other things.

If you were to “picture” these models foundationalism would be a house and coherentism a web. Foundationalism teaches that there are certain givens upon which you can build. Coherentism teaches that all beliefs are in a network dependent upon one another so that you always have multiple other reasons for affirming a given idea.

What would you say is the system that makes the most sense to you? Would you propose another?