foundationalism

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Fri Jan 20 07:13:20 MST 1995


Marshall,

Your reply to Wolff on foundationalism struck me as dead right, with one
cavil. What you describe as a "consistency theory of truth" is not a
theory of truth. Rather, it's more or less the pragmatic notion of
epistemological warrant which Rawls and Goodman hold, called reflective
equilibrium, on which the _justification_--not the _truth_ of some thesis
we might hold depends on its coherence with others we hold.

As Rawls tells the story, we try to systematize particular judgments
("It's unjust to cut off welfare for poor mothers.") with others by
finding general p[rinciples ("Acceptable inequalities must benefit the
least well off") which explain them, and then go back and forth revising
the judgments or the principles until we reach an equilibrium point.
Goodman, speaking of logical principles, puts the idea with characteristic
concision, saying that we accept such principles if they license
inferences we accept, and vice versa.

This is obviously nonfoundationalist in the sense that neither the
judgments nor the principles are held come what may; all are revisable. At
the same time, it saying nothing about our theory of truth. We _might_
hold that acceptability in reflective equilibrium is what makes a
proposition true, thus collapsing truth into warrant. But the RE approach
doesn't require that. In fact, if that view isn't acceptable in RE, the
approach rules it out. Or we might hold that truth is correspondance with
reality, if that's what RE demands. Or lots of other theories of truth.
BTW, the first mentioned theory of truth is usually called a coherence
rather thanm a consistency theory of truth.

--Justin Schwartz



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