Forgetting foundationalism

Wellon, Christopher (1997) Forgetting foundationalism. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

Foundationalism is a traditional metaphilosophical position which holds that reality can be explained and described absolutely. Foundationalists maintain that our questions about reality inquire beyond the capabilities of our ordinary language and that, therefore, these questions require absolute answers that are phrased in a metaphysical vocabulary which reaches beyond ordinary language to an absolute reality or metaphysical foundation. I maintain that we should forget foundationalism because the notion of a metaphysical foundation is a needless presupposition that results from incoherent assumptions about the nature of language and reference. -- In order to make a case against foundationalist philosophy I investigate its application to traditional questions addressed by Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam in the current realism/antirealism debate. I examine both Rorty’s and Putnam's critiques of metaphysical realism, which is a clear example of a foundationalist approach to questions about reality, and I compare the kinds of nonfoundational pragmatism with which they attempt to replace it. -- Although Rorty and Putnam agree that metaphysical realism is incoherent, Putnam professes that he does not agree with Rorty*s replacement - ethnocentric pragmatism. However, my comparison of Rorty*s ethnocentric pragmatism with Putnam's natural realism reveals that, despite Putnam's criticism of Rorty's position, both positions are remarkably similar. In his arguments against metaphysical realism Putnam clearly recognizes the incoherence of foundationalism, but Putnam's charge of relativism against Rorty contradicts the very arguments that Putnam himself employs against metaphysical realism. I contend that Putnam's discomfort with Rorty’s ethnocentrism suggests that Putnam has not quite succeeded in forgetting foundationalism. -- The postmodern recommendation to forget foundationalism is not a new one; Wittgenstein proposed it in his Philosophical Investigations fifty years ago and Rorty and Putnam are proposing it now. I am reiterating this recommendation in order to show that the criticism Rorty (especially) and Putnam have received is an unwarranted and often dogmatic refusal to accept the limits of philosophical inquiry.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/952
Item ID: 952
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 130-131
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 1997
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Rorty, Richard; Putnam, Hilary; Metaphysics; Reality

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