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Prodigal Epistemology: Coherence, Holism, and the Sellarsian Tradition

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Many philosophers have equated the denial of foundationalism with a call for coherentist approaches to epistemology. I think such equations are spurious, and to show why this is so I contrast the views of a paradigmatic coherentist with an antifoundationalist alternative. This article examines the coherentism of Laurence BonJour with an eye toward the way in which BonJour's views fail to fully adopt the insights of their Sellarsian roots. In particular, I argue that BonJour's view endorses the philosophy of mind that Wilfrid Sellars criticized in "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" (EPM) – which itself may be no sin (though I believe it is), but is a problem given BonJour's express sympathies with Sellars and EPM. I begin by contrasting the approaches taken by BonJour in The Structure of Empirical Knowledge and by Sellars in EPM, arguing that one could deny foundationalism without, thereby, becoming a coherentist.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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