Why Wittgenstein Isn’t a Foundationalist

  • Michael Williams


Epistemological foundationalism is often presented as a way of responding to scepticism. The scepticism in question is that generated by the regress argument. Suppose that knowledge is justified true belief: surely whatever justification we possess for a particular belief must itself involve knowledge (or at least justified belief). This simple observation seems to threaten us with an infinite regress of grounds for grounds for grounds, and so on without end. The sceptical problem arises because, while the regress itself is apparently vicious, it is not clear that it can be blocked in a satisfactory way. If at some point we fail (or refuse) to provide a justification for a claim we have advanced, the sceptic will say we are just making an assumption, which is no basis for knowledge. If we find ourselves returning to some claim already entered, he will say that we are reasoning in a circle, which is also no basis for knowledge. Regress, assumption, circularity: call this unpalatable menu of options ‘Agrippa’s Trilemma’.


Experiential Knowledge Justify Belief Basic Belief Coherence Theory Justify True Belief 
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© Michael Williams 2005

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  • Michael Williams

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