Friday, October 23, 2020

Infinitism in Epistemology

Infinitism is a family of views in epistemology about the structure of knowledge and epistemic justification. It contrasts naturally with coherentism and foundationalism. All three views agree that knowledge or justification requires an appropriately structured chain of reasons. What form may such a chain take? Foundationalists opt for non-repeating finite chains. Coherentists (at least linear coherentists) opt for repeating finite chains. Infinitists opt for non-repeating infinite chains. Appreciable interest in infinitism as a genuine competitor to coherentism and foundationalism developed only in the early twenty-first century.


Infinitism maybe explained by its intuitive motivations and the context in which they arise. For the most part, philosophers have assumed that knowledge requires justified belief. That is, for some proposition (statement, claim or sentence) P, if you know that P, then you have a justified belief that P. Knowledge that P thus inherits its structure from the structure of the constituent justified belief that P. If the justified belief is inferential, then so is the knowledge. If the justified belief is “basic,” then so is the knowledge.


. Historical Discussion of Infinitism

The term ‘epistemic infinitism’ was used by Paul Moser in 1984, and the phrase “infinitist’s claim” was used by John Post in 1987. Both philosophers rejected infinitism.


Infinitism was well known by the time of Aristotle – and he rejected the view. The empiricist and rationalist philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries rejected the view. Contemporary foundationalists and coherentists reject the view.


Indeed, it is fair to say that the history of infinitism is primarily a tale of neglect or rejection, with the possible exception of Charles Pierce (Aikin 2011, pp. 80–90; see also “Some Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man” in Peirce 1965, v. 5, bk. 2, pp. 135–155, esp. pp. 152–3). Some have questioned whether Peirce was defending infinitism (BonJour 1985, p. 232, n. 10; Klein 1999, pp. 320–1, n. 32). There has been some recent interest in infinitism, beginning when Peter Klein published the first in a series of articles defending infinitism (Klein 1998). But it clearly remains in the early 21st century a distinctly minority view about the structure of reasons.


Ever since Aristotle proposed objections to infinitism and defended foundationalism, various forms of foundationalism have dominated Western epistemology. For example, consider the epistemologies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; this is the formative period in which modern philosophy shaped the issues addressed by contemporary epistemologists. Both the empiricists and rationalists were foundationalists, although they clearly disagreed about the nature of foundational reasons.


Consider this passage from Descartes’s Meditation One, where he explains his method of radical doubt:


But in as much as reason already persuades me that I ought no less carefully to withhold my assent from matters which are not entirely certain and indubitable than from those which appear to me manifestly to be false, if I am able to find in each one some reason to doubt, this will suffice to justify rejecting the whole. And for that end it will not be requisite that I should examine each in particular, which would be an endless undertaking; for owing to the fact that the destruction of the foundations of necessity brings with it the downfall of the rest of the edifice, I shall only in the first place attach those principles upon which all my former opinions rest. (Descartes 1955 [1641], p. 145)


After producing a “powerful” reason for doubting all of his former beliefs based on his senses, Descartes begins his search anew for a foundational belief that is beyond all doubt and writes in Meditation Two:


Archimedes, in order that he might draw the terrestrial globe out of its place, and transport it elsewhere demanded only that one point should be fixed and unmovable; in the same way I shall have the right to conceive high hopes if I am happy enough to discover one thing only which is certain. (Descartes 1955 [1641], p. 149)


He then happily produces what he takes—at least at that point in the Meditations – to be that one, foundational proposition:


So that after having reflected well and carefully examined all things we must come to the definite conclusion that this proposition: I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time I pronounce it, or that I mentally conceive it. (Descartes 1955 [1641], p. 150)


Regardless of the success or failure of his arguments, the point here is that Descartes clearly takes it as given that both he and the empiricist, his intended foil, will accept that knowledge is foundational and that the first tasks are to identify the foundational proposition(s) and to uncover the correct account of the nature of the foundational proposition(s). Once that is accomplished, the second task is to move beyond it (or them) to other beliefs by means of truth-preserving inferences. The Meditations presupposes a foundationalist model of reasons without any hint of argument for foundationalism.


Now consider this passage from Hume:


In a word, if we proceed not upon some fact present to the memory or senses, our reasonings would be merely hypothetical; and however the particular links might be connected with each other the whole chain of inferences would have nothing to support it, nor could we ever, by its means arrive at the knowledge of any real existence. If I ask you why you believe a particular matter of fact which you relate, you must tell me some reason; and this reason will be some other fact connected with it. But as you cannot proceed after this manner in infinitum, you must at last terminate with some fact which is present to your memory or senses or must allow that your belief is entirely without foundation. (Hume 1955 [1748], pp. 59–60)


Setting aside an evaluation of the steps in Hume‘s argument for foundationalism, notice that he too simply discards infinitism with the stroke of a pen: “But as you cannot proceed in this manner in infinitum …”. To Hume, infinitism seemed so obviously mistaken that no argument against it was needed.


So why did infinitism come to be so easily and so often rejected?


The short answer is: Aristotle. His arguments against infinitism and for foundationalism were so seemingly powerful that nothing else needed to be said. We can divide Aristotle’s objections to infinitism into three types. Each pertains to the infinitist solution to the regress problem.


Misdescription Objection: Infinitism does not correctly describe our epistemic practices; but foundationalism does.

Finite Mind Objection: Our finite minds are not capable of producing or grasping an infinite set of


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Democracy, liberalism and populism

Democracy and liberalism are to different words; they have different meanings and pragmatic uses through history. One, democracy is ancient  and its birthplace is  classical Athens. Government of the poeple meant goverment by the male citizens only. And the citizen had no rights vis a vis the State. The State was sort of a despot. Aristotle was agaisnt that kind of democracy, because it could degenarate in the rule of a demagogue. Sort of what we call today a populist. No human or citizen's rights whatsoever. Nothing more different to our liberal democracies. The word liberalism is, in comparison, relatevily new. Starting with the French Revolutions that swiped away absolutism or enlightened rulers. And proclaimed the Rights of Man and the Citizen, to protect individuals from the abuses of an almighty State or monarch. It also swiped away all the privileges of the aristocracy  and enshrined the equality of every citizen in front of the law.


John Locke. It could be argued that concept of modern  liberal democracy rised with  his “The Second Essays on Civil Government” And in a certain way it did. During the French Revolution, moderates wanted to establish a Constitutional Monarchy in the style of the British one. Certainly that the contractual theory about the origins of societies was created by Locke and developed by Rousseau afterwards; yes...but the principles and the seed of modern liberal democracy was planted on European soil by the Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic ones. The French soldier carried not only the baton of Marshal in his backpack, but also the Rights of Man and the Citizen.



 Republic is also another ancient word. Republic is a  form of government in which a state is ruled by representatives of the citizen body. Modern republics are founded on the idea that sovereignty rests with the people, though who is included and excluded from the category of the people has varied across history. Because citizens do not govern the state themselves but through representatives, republics may be distinguished from direct democracy, though modern representative democracies are by and large republics. The term republic may also be applied to any form of government in which the head of state is not a hereditary monarch. The Athenians had a direct democracy, the Agora could house almost all the citizens, but the first Republic was the Roman Republic, Despite its democratic implications, the term was claimed in the 20th century by states whose leadership enjoyed more power than most traditional monarchs, including military dictatorships such as the Republic of Chile under Augusto Pinochet and totalitarian regimes such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


  The Wars of Religion of Europe certainly had an economic, social and political background and causes; but religion was a main driver in those wars. The War of the Thirty Years began as a war of religion in 1618 with the Prague Defenestration, but during such war it became just a war of politics, with France making alliances with Ottoman Turkey. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 created the principle of the balance of power, principle that justified many wars to come. The war between France and Spain lingered for a couple of years more. .” American purpose says  declares.


“Today, there is a broad consensus that democracy is under attack or in retreat in many parts of the world. It is being contested not just by authoritarian states like China and Russia, but by populists who have been elected in many democracies that seemed secure.

The “democracy” under attack today is a shorthand for liberal democracy, and what is really under greatest threat is the liberal component of this pair. The democracy part refers to the accountability of those who hold political power through mechanisms like free and fair multiparty elections under universal adult franchise. The liberal part, by contrast, refers primarily to a rule of law that constrains the power of government and requires that even the most powerful actors in the system operate under the same general rules as ordinary citizens. Liberal democracies, in other words, have a constitutional system of checks and balances that limits the power of elected leaders.

Democracy itself is being challenged by authoritarian states like Russia and China that manipulate or dispense with free and fair elections. But the more insidious threat arises from populists within existing liberal democracies who are using the legitimacy they gain through their electoral mandates to challenge or undermine liberal institutions. Leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, India’s Narendra Modi, and Donald Trump in the United States have tried to undermine judicial independence by packing courts with political supporters, have openly broken laws, or have sought to delegitimize the press by labeling mainstream media as “enemies of the people.” They have tried to dismantle professional bureaucracies and to turn them into partisan instruments. It is no accident that Orbán puts himself forward as a proponent of “illiberal democracy”




Liberalism, the belief in freedom, equality, democracy and human rights, is historically associated with thinkers such as John Locke and Montesquieu. Constitutionally limiting the power of the monarch, affirming parliamentary supremacy, passing the Bill of Rights and establishing the principle of "consent of the governed". The 1776 Declaration of Independence of the United States founded the nascent republic on liberal principles without the encumbrance of hereditary aristocracy—the declaration stated that "all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" echoing John Locke's phrase "life, liberty, and property". A few years later, the French Revolution overthrew the hereditary aristocracy, with the slogan "liberty, equality, fraternity" and was the first state in history to grant universal male suffrage. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, first codified in 1789 in France, is a foundational document of both liberalism and human rights. The intellectual progress of the Enlightenment, which questioned old traditions about societies and governments, eventually coalesced into powerful revolutionary movements that toppled what the French called the Ancien Régime, the belief in absolute monarchy and established religion, especially in Europe, Latin America and North America.


William Henry of Orange in the Glorious Revolution, Thomas Jefferson in the American Revolution and Lafayette in the French Revolution used liberal philosophy to justify the armed overthrow of what they saw as tyrannical rule. Liberalism started to spread rapidly especially after the French Revolution. The 19th century saw liberal governments established in nations across Europe, South America and North America. In this period, the dominant ideological opponent of classical liberalism was conservatism, but liberalism later survived major ideological challenges from new opponents, such as fascism and communism. Liberal government often adopted the economic beliefs espoused by Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others, which broadly emphasized the importance of free markets and laissez-faire governance, with a minimum of interference in trade.

During 19th and early 20th century in the Ottoman Empire and Middle East, liberalism influenced periods of reform such as the Tanzimat and Nahda and the rise of secularism, constitutionalism and nationalism. These changes, along with other factors, helped to create a sense of crisis within Islam which continues to this day—this led to Islamic revivalism. During the 20th century, liberal ideas spread even further as liberal democracies found themselves on the winning side in both world wars. In Europe and North America, the establishment of social liberalism (often called simply "liberalism" in the United States) became a key component in the expansion of the welfare states ] Today, liberal parties continue to wield power, control and influence throughout the world, but it still has challenges to overcome in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Later waves of modern liberal thought and struggle were strongly influenced by the need to expand civil rights. Liberals have advocated for gender equality, marriage equality and racial equality and a global social movement for civil rights in the 20th century achieved several objectives towards those goals.

John Stuart Mill contributed enormously to liberal thought by combining elements of classical liberalism with what eventually became known as the New Liberalism. Mill's 1859 “On Liberty” addressed the nature and limits of the power that can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. He gives an impassioned defence of free speech, arguing that free discourse is a necessary condition for intellectual and social progress. Mill defined social liberty as protection from "the tyranny of political rulers". He introduced a number of different concepts of the form tyranny can take, referred to as social tyranny and tyranny of the majority, respectively. Social liberty meant limits on the ruler's power through obtaining recognition of political liberties or rights and by the establishment of a system of constitutional checks.

Green's definition of liberty, influenced by Joseph Priestley and Josiah Warren, was that the individual ought to be free to do as he wishes unless he harms others. Mill was also an early proponent of feminism. In his article "The Subjection of Women" (1861, published 1869), Mill attempted to prove that the legal subjugation of women is wrong and that it should give way to perfect equality.


Although Mill's initial economic philosophy supported free markets and argued that progressive taxation penalised those who worked harder, he later altered his views toward a more socialist bent, adding chapters to his Principles of Political Economy in defence of a socialist outlook and defending some socialist causes, including the radical proposal that the whole wage system be abolished in favour of a co-operative wage system.




Populism, political program or movement that champions, or claims to champion, the common person, usually by favourable contrast with a real or perceived elite or establishment. Populism usually combines elements of the left and the right, opposing large business and financial interests but also frequently being hostile to established socialist and labour parties.


The term populism can designate either democratic or authoritarian movements. Populism is typically critical of political representation and anything that mediates the relation between the people and their leader or government. In its most democratic form, populism seeks to defend the interests and maximize the power of ordinary citizens, through reform rather than revolution. In the United States the term was applied to the program of the Populist Movement, which gave rise to the Populist, or People’s, Party in 1892. Many of the party’s demands were later adopted as laws or constitutional amendments (e.g., a progressive tax system). The populist demand for direct democracy through popular initiatives and referenda also become a reality in a number of U.S. states.


In its contemporary understanding, however, populism is most often associated with an authoritarian form of politics. Populist politics, following this definition, revolves around a charismatic leader who appeals to and claims to embody the will of the people in order to consolidate his own power. In this personalized form of politics, political parties lose their importance, and elections serve to confirm the leader’s authority rather than to reflect the different allegiances of the people. Some forms of authoritarian populism have been characterized by extreme nationalism, racism, conspiracy mongering, and scapegoating of marginalized groups, each of which served to consolidate the leader’s power, to distract public attention from the leader’s failures, or to conceal from the people the nature of the leader’s rule or the real causes of economic or social problems. In the second half of the 20th century, populism came to be identified with the political style and program of Latin American leaders such as Juan Perón, Getúlio Vargas, and Hugo Chávez. In the early 21st century, populist authoritarian regimes arose in Turkey, Poland, and Hungary, among other countries.


The term populist is often used pejoratively to criticize a politician for pandering to a people’s fear and enthusiasm. Depending on one’s view of populism, a populist economic program can therefore signify either a platform that promotes the interests of common citizens and the country as a whole or a platform that seeks to redistribute wealth to gain popularity, without regard to the consequences for the country such as inflation or debt.


What do Donald Trump, the late Hugo Chavez and Rodrigo Duterte have in common? Despite their differences, each man has been labelled a populist. Populism is on the rise - especially among Europe's right, and in the US, where it helped crown Mr Trump. Italy's populist Five Star Movement and anti-immigrant League parties have emerged as two major players in the latest elections - the most recent of several such results in Europe.


But there's a difference between being popular and being populist.