Monday, August 27, 2007

Justified! Part Deux.

A few days back, or maybe a few weeks. I lose track these days... weeks. I wrote about justification for a belief. In recap, there are two positions, the coherentist and the foundationalist.

A coherentist thinks that beliefs are true/justified if they fit coherently with a larger network of beliefs. I think that 'coherently' exclusively means without contradiction. I believe A because it does not contradict beliefs B, C, D, ad infinitum. Foundationalists think that a belief is true/justified if it based on other true/justified beliefs. I believe A because of B. Foundationalism has the problem of the infinite regress, where you just go on into eternity basing beliefs on others. So they think there must be a foundation that is a belief which is self-evidently true. The only one of these which has ever been found is "I think, therefore I am."

For many, myself included, coherentism seemed to be winning since modern coherentism dropped truth altogether and focused on justification. It doesn't matter what is actually true, only what we are justified in believing. Foundationalists are less happy with separating justification and truth, since they think that real justification can only ever come from truth.

But then came along meta-beliefs. Namely, a belief about a belief. This type of conjecture spans a number of areas, but for today's subject, we'll focus on beliefs about beliefs and not beliefs inferentially inherent to other beliefs.

The argument basically goes, if I believe that a system of my beliefs is coherent, and I am justified in believing them, is my belief in the very coherence of my belief system included in that system? And if it is, and it seems it must be, since a coherentist assumes the totality of all beliefs, isn't supreme confidence in my beliefs about my beliefs a foundationalist stance? MANY have been swayed.

I have not. I think that this argument is correct if some underlying assumptions are accepted, but I do not think one of those assumptions is anywhere near correct. I think that to assume a belief about my other beliefs as separate is foolish. My beliefs are not coherent because I believe them to be, they are coherent because they are. This argument recreates, to a degree, the homunculous, which is a fallacy. We cannot separate ourselves from our beliefs. We ARE our beliefs. I do not hold beliefs about my beliefs, I hold beliefs about my memories of beliefs, which are fallable since they are memory. I only ever hold beliefs at a given moment, which are part of me. I cannot separate myself from them.

Funny enough, many foundationalists have also not been swayed, since they are in search of truth, and even if we assume my metabeliefs to be evidently true, that says nothing of my beliefs actually being true, or my perceptions. We are just as fallable as we were in the beginning. We just know that we know, which is strangely similar to thinking, therefore I aming.

Even if you don't accept that, there are two other major problems which are incontrovertible. One of them involves those ever-pesky infinite regresses..

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