Please note that this is part two of a three part discussion
Empirical foundationalist Roderick Chisholm posits in The Myth of the Given that memory and perception are fallible and are some what a matter of coherence. Yet, he also thinks they belong to the class of justified basic beliefs. Why? Because we are human, our perception, our memory, and our reason are all imperfect. However, when we fall into error regarding the objects of sense, we can generally correct our error by acquiring more accurate information, or by making an appeal to our prior experience. So, subsequently, Chisholm believes that memory and perception seek to provide bridge principles from our first-person epistemic or internalistic beliefs, to our justified external beliefs of the world. As such, if an external world proposition is accepted by one, and the rest of one’s beliefs do not go against it, then the proposition in question is made probable. And, consequently, accepting any external world proposition under these circumstances gives it pirima facie probability. So, what seems like an initially plausible case could eventually prove to be implausable given more evidence. For this reason, prima facie justification is always defeasible. However, it is also for this reason that Chisholm states, “We cannot say precisely what is meant by ‘fitting in’, ‘coherence’, ot ‘congruence’ until certain controversial questions of confirmation theory and the logic of probability have been answered.” (Pg. 24) And that, moreover, a foundationalist theory that includes memory and perception as regress stoppers can never merely be “a system of blind posits.” (Pg. 11) Our probable perceptions must, at some point, be grounded in some type of certainty and not guesswork. So, although Chisholm’s theory may be a step in the right direction, his version of fallibilist foundationalism does not entirely commit to the viability of induction, or probabilities based on probabilities.
So, the notion of fallibilist foundationalism that I wish to defend is based on the understanding that our basic beliefs can be fallible, and that, furthermore, the links in our epistemic chain can be connect to a final link that is false. Since humans are prone to error, it is always possible to discover a lack of justification somewhere in our hierarchical framework, and the foundation is no privelaged exception. Importantly, this requires an undeniable commitment to induction. So, accordingly, if we can allow our basic beliefs to have both immediate and inferential justification, based on the idea that our meta structure is foundational, then it follows that its content will be inferentail. It simply makes sense for people to believe what the perceive and experience. Realistically, should we not trust our eyes and sense of sight; or ears and sense of hearing? Indeed, our senses can sometimes be deceiving. However, does it necessarily follow from this that appearances and reality mostly diverge? This skeptical argument seems like a theoretical artifact, since we can generally make the distinction between what ‘appears to oneself’ and what actually ‘is’. So, in this regard, it is possible for our true premises to lead to a false conclusion, and for our knowledge to be defeated by the discovery of some new counter evidence. Yet, this does not entail that we lack either justification for our beliefs or, more importantly, a theory of knowledge.
Still, problems can arise when we rely on this type of psychological sense datum. Can a proposition in the form “I am being appeared to” be considered foundational if understanding the proposition requires antecedent knowledge? And, if there is a lack of antecedent knowledge, can we really trust what we know from our senses? Although it may be the case that no belief is ever more than conditionally justified, this does not mean we must forgo antecedent security. On the contrary, the sensible content of our past experiences will provide what is necessary and sufficient. And, in cases where a perceptual error does occur, we can generally correct that error by making an appeal to our existing stock of knowledge. For, all truths of the natural world are discovered through ampliative induction- it is simply unavoidable. So, as an example, we may not be able to see that the inside of a banana is soft and mushy when we examine it from the outside, but we know that from peeling back the skin on previous bananas, that the fact that this banana will be soft and mushy on the inside, is more than likely true. It would be ridiculous to anticipate otherwise.