Volume 11, Issue 2, 2014
A Journal of Analytic Scholasticism
Givens and Foundations in Aristotle’s Epistemology
Aristotle’s epistemology has sometimes been associated with foundationalism, the theory according to which a small set of premise-beliefs that are deductively valid or inductively strong provide justification for many other truths. In contemporary terms, Aristotle’s foundationalism could be compared with what is sometimes called “classical foundationalism”. However, as I will show, the equivalent to basic beliefs in Aristotle’s epistemology are the so-called first principles or “axiómata”. These principles are self-evident, but not self-justificatory. They are not justified by their act of understanding, but by the arguments that satisfactorily prove them. In addition, these principles are intellectual, rather than perceptual, so that no basic belief that is about our immediate experience or sensory
data is apt to provide the required foundation of knowledge. In spite of this, I argue that Aristotle’s foundationalism has no givens, and that his epistemology resists the objections usually leveled against givens.