Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Terminology Tuesday: Coherentism

Coherentism: An epistemological theory holding that the justification for beliefs consists in the relations among the beliefs. A coherentist thus typically denies that there are any special propositions that are basic or foundational. Rather, the structure of beliefs is like a web in which some beliefs are more central than others but in which some beliefs give mutual support to others as part of a network. More radical forms of coherentism not only adopt a coherentist account of justification but also a coherentist account of truth, in which true propositions are those that would be part of an ideally coherent system of beliefs.1
1. C.Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 24.


  1. irrelevantaxiom May 31, 2011

    How could coherentists verify the validity of either the propositional truth or the belief system? If they affirm the belief system and then evaluate a proposition as true, they would have to admit the belief system they held wasn't whole until they realized the proposition was true. Thus, discovering new truth only exposes holes in their belief system.

  2. John Lepp August 26, 2014

    I'm not sure a coherentist would accept your criticism, irrelevant axiom.

    You asked "How could coherentists verify the validity of either the propositional truth or the belief system?" Let's start with a belief system. They could answer that a belief system is true if it covers the set of all verified observation statements. They could further define a verified observation statement is true if it coheres with the other verified observation statements. If there is discord amongst the set, an adjustment would need to made – a la Pierre Duhem – to either the statement, or to the set of statements, or to any of assumptions held concerning the everified observation statements contained within the set.