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Foundationalism is a type of epistemic justification that holds to not only non-basic beliefs, or derivative beliefs, but there are also basic beliefs. Basic beliefs are what allow epistemic justification for non-basic beliefs, but are not justifiable or dependent on other beliefs. Basic beliefs then are not in of themselves reliant on any antecedent justified non-basic belief. Sense experience of the color, shape and weight of some object are all justified non-basic beliefs. The sensory system itself then is what is considered a basic belief. Doubting basic beliefs parallels ancient skepticism in one way but does not constitute the totality of skeptical thought. The reliability of the sensory system, belief in our own mental states and attitudes about a proposition seem to be immediately and personally justifiable to the individual. Some other examples of basic beliefs are logical and mathematical truths, and the reality and reliability of the external natural world. This is why sometimes basic beliefs are referred to as justified basic beliefs or immediately justified basic beliefs.[1]

Foundationalism eliminates the need to go on into an infinite regress of evidential chains. There is no need to continue an evidential chain consisting of antecedent beliefs ad infinitum starting from sense experience of some external object. The evidential chain of justified non-basic beliefs stops at a basic belief. In other words there does not need to be an explanation of the explanation. At some point there is a final explanation (basic belief) that does not require any other explanation for its ability and reliability allowing epistemic justification. Foundationalism then is essentially underpinned by inference principles. A rational human person (agent) can infer from basic beliefs, that contain basic propositions, to the "non-basic (inferred) propositions."

Foundationalists hold that epistemic principles of inference are available that allow an epistemic agent to reason from the basic propositions to the non-basic (inferred) propositions.[2]


  1. Noah Lemos, An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press 2007), pg. 47
  2. Epistemology By Routledge Encylopedia of Philosophy

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