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Elgin, Catherine, James Van Cleve. Can Belief be Justified through Coherence Alone?
2013, In: Steup, Matthias, Turri, John and Sosa, Ernest (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 244-273.
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Added by: Jie Gao

Summary: Elgin and Van Cleve both answer the question in the title negatively. But whereas Van Cleve advocates a moderate version of foundationalism, Elgin defends a broadly coherentist view. According to her, justification is primarily a matter of explanatory coherence. The justification an individual belief enjoys is derived from the coherence of the overall system. In his essay, Van Cleve argues that, although coherence is indeed a source of justification, it cannot by itself render a belief completely justified. According to Van Cleve, no belief could be justified unless it were possible for some beliefs to acquire complete justification without receiving support from any other beliefs. In their respective responses, Elgin and Van Cleve continue the dispute, focusing on issues such as conjunction closure, corroboration by independent witnesses, empirical generalization, revisability, and the skeptical threat of being deluded.

Comment: The exchange of debate between Elgin and Van Cleve provides an instructive and accessible reading on coherentism and foundationalism of epistemic justification. It can be used either as a core text or further reading for teachings on epistemic justification in an epistemology course.

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Haack, Susan. Evidence and Inquiry: Towards Reconstruction in Epistemology
1995, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
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Added by: Jie Gao

Publisher’s Note: In this important work, Haack develops an original theory of empirical evidence or justification, and argues its appropriateness to the goals of inquiry. In so doing, Haack provides detailed critical case studies of Lewis’s foundationalism; Davidson’s and Bonjour’s coherentism; Popper’s ‘epistemology without a knowing subject’; Quine’s naturalism; Goldman’s reliabilism; and Rorty’s, Stich’s, and the Churchlands’ recent obituaries of epistemology.

Comment: This book includes excellent critique of pure coherentist and pure foundationalist theories of knowledge, with defense of Hacck's integrated doctrine of "foundherentism". As it is highly recommended by Putnam, this book is a fine introduction and a significant contribution to contemporary epistemology. It includes powerful and highly detailed criticism to a range of contemporary philosophers - Sir Karl Popper, W. V. O. Quine, Richard Rorty, Alvin Goldman, and Paul and Patricia Churchland among others - that can be used when views of those philosophers are examined in teaching.

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