SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Rafts, Pyramids and Mirrors in the Theory of Knowledge
(Epistemology, )

This paper aims to further the conversation in Ernest Sosa's "The Raft and the Pyramid: Coherence versus Foundations in the Theory of Knowledge" by introducing a third metaphor. It is argued that Richard Rorty?s metaphorical mirror in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature integrates coherentism (the raft) and foundationalism (the pyramid) into a single, metaphorical idea of mind. By Rorty's description, the mind grounds knowledge in sense data and derives rational coherence from a ground in sense perception. Applying Rorty's ideas to Sosa's characterizations of sense foundationalism, I argue that the debate between coherentism and foundationalism may be helpfully described as a debate about different functions of the mind, construed as a mirror. Both thinkers conclude that sense foundationalism - a theory that knowledge is justified through coherence within a system of ideas and data from the senses - holds more promise than coherentism and foundationalism taken independently, yet still fails. Sosa and Rorty each replace sense foundationalism with their own theories of knowledge, virtue reliabilism and humanistic pragmatism. Here, I attempt to bolster Sosa's objection to sense foundationalism using Rorty's metaphorical mirror. However, I do not ultimately endorse reliabilism, pragmatism or another theory; rather, I suggest a useful description to show why sense foundationalism fails. My position merely favors the usefulness of the mirror metaphor over that of the raft or pyramid. The paper is structured as follows. First, coherentism and foundationalism are evaluated with reference to Sosa?s paper. Next, Rorty's mirror metaphor is shown to elaborate what Sosa calls 'foundationalism of sense experience.' I posit that understanding the theory of sense foundationalism to represent functions of the mind, and in turn taking mind as an untenable construct, provides strong support for Sosa's argument against sense foundationalism. The paper ends with two objections, one against Sosa's reliabilism and the other against Rorty's pragmatism.

Chair: Santiago Vrech
Time: 14:00-14:30, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: HS E.002
Remark: CHANGE. The talk is cancelled!

Mary Peterson 
(University of Edinburgh, )



Testability and Meaning deco