The Unattainability of Coherence

  • Hilary Kornblith
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 44)


Coherence theorists of justification hold that an agent should accept beliefs which cohere with those he already holds and reject beliefs which fail to cohere with those he already holds. The processes of belief acquisition and rejection must therefore be sensitive to coherence and incoherence. Some theorists believe that this sensitivity should operate at a conscious level: if an agent is to be justified in his belief, he must hold it in virtue of recognizing that it coheres with his other beliefs. Other theorists hold that it is sufficient for justification that an agent’s beliefs be acquired in virtue of the fact of their coherence with the agent’s other beliefs; the agent need not be aware of this fact for his beliefs to be justified. In either case, an ideal of belief acquisition is proposed which crucially depends on determinations of coherence: in one case these determinations are made by the agent, whilee in the other these determinations are made by subconsciously operating processes of belief acquisition. I do not believe that such determinations can be made. The ideal of processes of belief acquisition which are sensitive to coherence is unattainable, whether this sensitivity is supposed to reside in the agent himself or in his processes of belief acquisition.


Inductive Inference Justify Belief Coherence Theory Coherentist Account Empirical Belief 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilary Kornblith
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VermontUSA

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