The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 45, 1998

Theory of Knowledge

Daniel Howard-Snyder
Pages 116-126

BonJour’s ‘Basic Antifoundationalist Argument’

BonJour argues that there can be no basic empirical beliefs. But premises three and four jointly entail ‘BonJour’s Rule’ — one’s belief that p is justified only if one justifiably believes the premises of an argument that makes p highly likely — which, given human psychology, entails global skepticism. His responses to the charge of skepticism, restricting premise three to basic beliefs and noting that the Rule does not require ‘explicit’ belief, fail. Moreover, the Rule does not express an epistemic duty. Finally, his argument against this fails since it is false that if an experiential state has representational content, then it is in need of justification. I venture the diagnosis that BonJour mistook the representational content of a cognitive state for the assertive functional role of a belief. Foundationalism may well be false, but not for BonJour’s reasons.