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Explain Ð''the Regress Argument' for Foundationalism. Why Does Dancy Hold That This Argument Is Fallacious?

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Explain Ð''The Regress Argument' for Foundationalism. Why does Dancy hold that this argument is fallacious? Is he right?

One of the primary questions concerning epistemology is that of how we justify true beliefs? The regress argument is a problem imbedded in epistemology and, in general, a problem in any given situation where a statement or belief has to be justified.

The Regress argument starts with the idea that some beliefs are justified by reference to others. "All agree that some of our beliefs are justified by their relation to other beliefs" For example, if I already believe that Socrates is a person, and that all people are mortal, I might infer from these beliefs the new belief that Socrates is mortal. If my two existing beliefs were themselves justified, then via this inference I've acquired a new, different, justified belief, or an inferentially justified belief. Dancy uses an example of when someone strikes a match. "My belief that striking the match will light it is justified inferentially". The regress argument simply claims that not all of my beliefs can be inferentially justified beliefs. As well as beliefs which are justified in this way there must be others, which are justified non-inferentially.

"Inference is basically a matter of moving from premise to conclusion along an acceptable path". Conclusions can only be justified if they follow from justified premises, for "If the premises are unjustified, there will be no justification for the conclusion". For instance, if a conclusion say C is justified, that must be because it follows from some premise or set of premises. Say premise B, but if C is to be justified by premise B, then premise B must itself be justified by something else. For it's obviously not enough to believe that C is justified by premise B if there is no justification for the belief in premise B. Therefore, there must be another premise say premise A which justifies our belief in premise B, But if my belief in premise B is because of premise A, what is the justification for premise A. The same issue arises again over the justification of premise A, and the justification of any further premise that is presented as justification of that and so on and so forth. "For each belief whose justification we attempt there will always be a further belief upon whose justification that of the first depends". There appear to be two possibilities for inferential justification here are just two: either there's no end to the chain of justification, or the chain loops back on itself i.e. premise A justifying B, B justifying C, and C justifying A.

Neither of these possibilities looks attractive. In the first instance, we have an infinite regress of justification. Each belief is justified by virtue of its connection to some other belief, and so on Ð''ad infinitum'. "Since this regress is infinite no belief will ever be more than conditionally justified". This is supposed to be unsatisfying because it offers no prospect of anything being unconditionally justified. Inferential justification also requires us to actually have an infinite amount of beliefs, which might be thought problematic.

In the second instance, we have circularity. We are, in effect, claiming that our justification for believing that C stems, ultimately, from C itself. "Instead of the chain of justification stretching away to infinity, it turns round on its tail and joins up with itself at some point" This seems an unsatisfying conclusion, as a good reason for believing C cannot be C itself as this is circular reasoning and circular arguments are just too easy to construct. As long as a particular belief is in need of justification, it seems out of place that the belief in question to provide justification for other beliefs, especially those beliefs needed to support the original belief itself. "For it will still be the case that the justification of all the members of the loop is conditional". "The loop" according to Dancy "will never succeed in removing the conditionality". It doesn't seem to matter how wide the circle is. One can't reasonably justify any belief if one's allowed to justify it by reference to itself.

Therefore, in the absence of another theory, the regress argument condemns us to one of the above states in reference to the justification of our beliefs. Either one of circularity: whereby the justification for any one belief resides in itself, or Secondly, one of infinite regress. As "For each belief whose justification we attempt there will always be a further belief upon whose justification that of the first depends". If all justification is inferential, no belief can actually be justified to any extent at all. Its sceptical conclusion that no belief can ever have any positive justification is absurd. "The regress argument therefore drives us to suppose that there must be some justification which is non-inferential if we are to avoid the sceptical consequence of admitting that no beliefs are ever justified. Ð''Reductio

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