Volume 90, Issue 2, April 2013
BonJour and the Myth of the Given
The Sellarsian dilemma is a powerful argument against internalistic foundationalist views that aim to end the regress of reasons in experiential states. Laurence
BonJour once defended the soundness of this dilemma as part of a larger argument for epistemic coherentism. BonJour has now renounced his earlier conclusions about the dilemma and has offered an account of internalistic foundationalism aimed, in part, at showing the errors of his former ways. I contend that BonJour’s early concerns about the Sellarsian dilemma are correct, and that his latest position does not adequately handle the dilemma. I focus my attention on BonJour’s claim that a nonconceptual experiential state can provide a subject with a reason to believe some proposition. It is crucial for the viability of internalistic foundationalism to evaluate whether this claim is true. I argue it is false. The requirement that the states that provide justification give reasons to a subject conflicts with the idea that these states are nonconceptual. In the final section I consider David Chalmers’s attempt to defend a view closely similar to BonJour’s. Chalmers’s useful theory of phenomenal concepts provides a helpful framework for identifying a crucial problem with attempts to end the regress of reasons in pure experiential states.