Talons Philosophy

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Foundation of experience construct knowledge

Knowledge is constructed on a foundation of previous experience.

As the diagram I presented on the board the other day (Pic), clearly demonstrated how knowledge (the house) derived from a solid fact or previous experience (the base, groundwork). Different from the house that was simply a “house” which indicated knowledge is simply knowledge without external support, or in another word, justification. 

In this case, experiences are considered to be the external support of the structure. Of all the decision we made, we intended to refer the same scenarios we’ve experienced, or those similar ones for the sake of better judgement. Therefore, a solid base is formed for future process. When in terms of knowledge, it is the same theory. For example, a government has the intention to conduct a population census, they will definitely go over the previous history of record despite the differences that occured. Since the mode is the same regarding the differences in the new era, we can recognize this as previous history (experience) provides the foundation.


According to foundationalism, our justified beliefs are constructed like a building: they are separated two parts which contain a foundation and a superstructure. Superstructure relies more on the foundation. Beliefs belonging to the foundation are basic. Beliefs that affiliated to the superstructure are non-basic and receive justification from the justified beliefs in the foundation, which again proved the structure of knowledge derives from the structure of justification. In order to make this statement sound, two obstacles must be resolved

  • firstly, by conscious of exactly what are basic beliefs justified?
  • Secondly, how can basic beliefs justify non-basic beliefs?

In order to clear this confusion, two concepts should be introduced: Doxastic Basicality (DB) and Epistemic Basicality. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_belief

Doxastic Basicality (DB)

Sam’s justified belief that p is basic if and only if Sam’s belief that p is justified without owing its justification to any of S’s other beliefs.


Let’s think of an example. Suppose we notice Mr. Jackson’s stylish shirt, and we also notice that that shirt looks light blue to us. So we believe:

(J) It appears to us that Mr. Jackson’s shirt is light blue.

Normally, (J) is an example of a justified belief. DB tells us that (B) is basic if and only if it does not owe its justification to any other beliefs of us. So if (J) is indeed basic, there might be some item or other to which (J) owes its justification, but that item would not be another belief of yours. We call this kind of basicality ‘doxastic’ because it makes basicality a function of how our doxastic system (our belief system) is structured.                                                                                                                                                   Let us consider the question of where the justification that attaches to (J) might come from, if we think of basicality as defined by DB. Be aware that DB merely tells us how (J) is not justified. It says nothing about how (J) is justified. DB, therefore, does not answer that question. What we need, other than DB, is an account of what it is that justifies a belief such as (J). According to one strand of foundationalist thought, (J) is justified because it can’t be false, doubted, or corrected by others. So (J) is justified because (J) carries with it an epistemic privilege such as infallibility, indubitability, or incorrigibility. The idea is that (J) is justified by virtue of its constitutional nature that makes it possess some kind of an epistemic privilege.

Be aware that (J) is a belief about how the shirt appears to us but not a belief about the hat. So (J) is an belief about a perceptual experience of ours. Think of the thoughts we’re considering, a subject’s basic beliefs are made up of introspective beliefs about the subject’s own mental states, of which perceptual experiences make up one small set. Other mental states about which a subject can have basic beliefs include such things as having a headache. Beliefs about external objects do not and indeed cannot qualify as basic, for it is impossible for such beliefs to own the kind of epistemic privilege needed for the status of being basic.
Some other opinions said (J) is justified by some further mental state of ours instead of the privileged things. And that is a perceptual experience that (J) is about: to us the shirt is light blue. If ‘(E)’ is that experience, based on this, then (B) and (E) are distinct mental states. The idea is what justifies (B) is (E). Since (E) is an experience, not a belief of ours, (J) is, according to DB, basic.

Epistemic Basicality (EB)

Sam’s justified belief that, p is basic if and only if Sam’s justification for believing that, p does not depend on any justification Sam possesses for believing a further proposition.


EB makes it more difficult for a belief to be basic than DB. In order to understand, we turn to the chief question (‘C-question’) that advocates of experiential foundationalism face:

Why are perceptual experiences a source of justification?

Compromise position, which meant to be compromise between foundationalism and coherentism, can be applied to answer. This will show the differences. If we accept this, beliefs such as (H) will qualify as basic according to DB, but according to EB as nonbasic.
Coherentist will say we might think the C-question as: Perceptual experiences are a source of justification because we are justified in believing them to be reliable.
Basically, making perceptual justification dependent on the existence of reliability-attributing beliefs is quite a problem. There is a replacing answer to the C-question that appeals to reliability without making perceptual justification dependent on beliefs that result from reliability to perceptual experiences. According to this second answer to the C-question, perceptual experiences are a source of justification because we have justification for taking them to be reliable. That’s the view we shall call the compromise position.
We have justification to believe that p does not necessitate that we believe p. If we believe that the person next to us wears a blue hat, we have justification for believing that the person next to us wears a blue hat or a red hat. We’re having justification for attributing reliability to our perceptual experiences doesn’t necessitate that we have given thought to the matter and actually formed the belief that they are reliable. Simply speaking, if our perceptual experiences are a source of justification for us, then we must have considered the matter and believe them to be reliable. The compromise position says no such thing. It says merely of that.

Generally, we can briefly consider how justification is supposed to be transferred from basic to non-basic beliefs. There are two ways:
The justificatory relation between basic and non-basic beliefs could be deductive or non-deductive.

  • If we take the relation to be deductive, each of one’s non-basic beliefs would have to be such that it can be deduced from one’s basic beliefs.
  • If we consider a random selection of typical beliefs we hold, it is not easy to see from which basic beliefs they could be deduced.

Foundationalists, typically conceive of the link between the foundation and the superstructure in non-deductive terms.

‘for a basic belief, J, to justify a non-basic belief, J*, it isn’t necessary that J entails J*. Rather, it is sufficient that, given J, it is likely that J* is true.’




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