Epistemology 102: Infinitism

A brief descriptions of the principles of infinistism. The epistemology which necessitates an infinite regress of justifications.

Infinitism is a third, less developed, often ignored area of epistemology.  Infinitism is a theory developing the idea of knowledge as justified true belief.  Such that where as foundationalism and coherentism (competing theories) have some end to their justification infinitism justifies ad infinitum. Infinitism is a theory of truth in which two principles are developed.  The principle of avoiding circularity (contra coherentism).  The second being the principle of avoiding arbitrariness (contra foundationalism) The principle of avoiding circularity or PAC essentially states that: The subject S justifies the belief x with y.  The belief y of subject S is then justified by z.  Such that any belief used as justification does not justify a belief in its ancestry.  This is best represented by the statement that PAC denies the validity of such justifications: x is justified by y, y is justified by z, z is justified by n, n is justified by x.  PAC explicitly denies that a justification can be within its own ancestry of justification. The principle of avoiding arbitrariness or PAA essentially states that: The subject S justifies the belief x with the justification x1, such that x1 is in need of justification.  In this way the subject S must justify ad infinitum.  This is contrary to foundationalism, which admits sub justifications until a arbitrary point in which justifications are taken to cease.  Often justifications cease on a justification that violates the PAC. When both PAC and PAA are combined we find the concept of infinitism.  Such that a reason will always be justified by a further suborder justification of which is not in the ancestral line of justifications since the claim.  In this way.  No claim is represented twice, and no claim is left unjustified. The problem created with infinitism, of which is likely why it is less studied, is that infinitism does not admit the possibility of knowledge under the definition of justified true belief. The question for each of us to think about is this:  We have three options in order to justify ourselves.  Circularly justify ourself in such a way that we essentially claim x is due to x.  Or we can arbitrarily claim x, as we simply run out of further sub order justifications.  Or the final, less taken path, of which we admit our finite nature and do not deny that we cannot justify, a claim, only that we can try to justify it as far as possible.

Further readings in Epistemology:

Introduction to Episteme

Justified true belief

Three kinds of knowledge


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