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Holtrop, G.H.

Department of Theoretical Philosophy

We can always add another reason. Propositional and doxastic justification in Klein’s infinitism.

When we talk about knowledge we usually mean that the belief we hold is justified because we have provided a reason for this belief. However, such a reason is itself a belief that we want to be justified. Therefore, we need to give a reason for this belief, which itself will need another reason and that reason also needs a reason, etc. We thus have an infinite regress of reasons which seems to imply that none of our beliefs is justified.

Traditionally, there are two theories that aim to solve this problem, foundationalism and coherentism, but each of them has well-documented drawbacks. Recently Peter Klein has put forward a new solution to the regress problem in epistemology, known as infinitism. In Klein’s infinitism, the fact that we need an infinite number of reasons to justify a belief is not problematic as long as we view infinity as a process. In other words,‘having an infinite number of reasons’ need not mean that at a certain point in time one possesses an actual infinity of reasons, it may instead mean that for any belief B n , one can always find a belief B n+1 that is a reason for B n . Klein argues that the context determines if or when we stop this reason-giving process. Since contextual requirements are open to change, this stop is always provisional.

In this thesis I describe and analyze the criticisms of Klein’s theory by Michael Bergmann and John Turri. Both Bergmann and Turri have challenged the way in which Klein conceives of the relation between justification of propositions and justification of beliefs. Bergmann argues that, although Klein’s approach may work for propositional justification, it fails for doxastic justification. John Turri has claimed that the relation between propositional and doxastic justification in Klein’s account should be amended to avoid certain objections. I argue, firstly, that Klein’s reply to Bergmann is largely satisfying, and secondly, that Turri’s argument and proposed amendments are incorrect.
Last modified:01 November 2013 2.11 p.m.