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PhD Defense “Circularity and arbitrariness; Responses to the epistemic regress problem”

29 June @ 12:45

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By Coos Engelsma
According to Peter Klein, infinitism is the only viable response to the epistemic regress problem. Klein's reason is that infinitism is the only theory which can meet two central desiderata for epistemic theories: avoiding circularity and avoiding arbitrariness. This dissertation evaluates Klein's argument.
  • Chapter 2 contains a presentation of the epistemic regress problem. If beliefs can only be justified by other justified beliefs, this implies that one can have a justified belief only by having infinitely many justified beliefs.
  • Chapters 3 and 4 develop concepts of (avoiding) circularity and arbitrariness.
  • Chapters 5, 6, and 7 assess the various responses to the regress problem on the basis of these concepts. Chapter 5 discusses foundatinalism. In line with Klein, and opposed to several foundationalists, it argues that foundationalism cannot avoid arbitrariness.
  • Chapter 6 evaluates coherentism. It argues that while at first sight coherentism seems able to avoid circularity, it can only avoid arbitrariness when it nonetheless sanctions circularity.
  • Chapter 7 discusses infinitism. Its argument is that none of the existing versions of infinitism, not even Klein's version, avoids circularity and arbitrariness. However, it also argues that the only theory which does avoid circularity and arbitrariness is a version of infinitism. As it turns out, though, this version of infinitism poses demands that no finite human seems actually able to satisfy.
  • Chapter 8 contemplates various remaining theoretical options. It argues that those options involve either serious costs or significant challenges.

Venue

Academiegebouw RUG, Groningen, The Netherlands
Groningen, The Netherlands
Groningen, Groningen The Netherlands

According to Peter Klein, infinitism is the only viable response to the epistemic regress problem. Klein’s reason is that infinitism is the only theory which can meet two central desiderata for epistemic theories: avoiding circularity and avoiding arbitrariness. This dissertation evaluates Klein’s argument.

  • Chapter 2 contains a presentation of the epistemic regress problem. If beliefs can only be justified by other justified beliefs, this implies that one can have a justified belief only by having infinitely many justified beliefs.
  • Chapters 3 and 4 develop concepts of (avoiding) circularity and arbitrariness.
  • Chapters 5, 6, and 7 assess the various responses to the regress problem on the basis of these concepts. Chapter 5 discusses foundatinalism. In line with Klein, and opposed to several foundationalists, it argues that foundationalism cannot avoid arbitrariness.
  • Chapter 6 evaluates coherentism. It argues that while at first sight coherentism seems able to avoid circularity, it can only avoid arbitrariness when it nonetheless sanctions circularity.
  • Chapter 7 discusses infinitism. Its argument is that none of the existing versions of infinitism, not even Klein’s version, avoids circularity and arbitrariness. However, it also argues that the only theory which does avoid circularity and arbitrariness is a version of infinitism. As it turns out, though, this version of infinitism poses demands that no finite human seems actually able to satisfy.
  • Chapter 8 contemplates various remaining theoretical options. It argues that those options involve either serious costs or significant challenges.

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