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A Contextual Theory of Epistemic Justification

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  • Category: Theories

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The Contextualism theory has many different factors associated with it that are overlooked by both the Foundationalism theory and the Coherentism theory. Contextualism is a good option to Foundationalism and Coherentism, because unlike the latter two, Contextualism focuses on the social natures and contextual parameters of justification.


Foundationalism Ð’- “The theory that every empirical statement which is justified ultimately must derive at least some of its justification from a special class of basic statements which have at least some degree of justification independent of the support such statements may derive from other statements.”

Coherentism Ð’- “A statement is justified if and only if it coheres with a certain kind of system of statements.”

Reasons: (Premises)

1. Issue Context Ð’- In order to properly examine an issue, we must be able to see what the issue being raised is about and how qualified the arguer is to be attempting to answer it. Also, it brings up the importance of the objector group. If the issue is of great importance, the objector group must be fully qualified to present real and obvious objections to the arguer.

2. There are no universal principles for justification, so the decisions must be measured differently in each community based on their beliefs and level of knowledge. This shows us both how much knowledge is possessed by the arguer and by the objection group.

– If we have a belief that S is equal to T, we cannot deny that under the assumption that at a later date we know that S is not equal to T.

3. “The Regress Argument” Ð’- The Regress argument is supported by many Foundationalists because it denies the Coherentism theory and it has a belief that there is a sequence of beliefs to finding justification.

– Contextualism believes that there is no set of reasons a person must have in order to possess

knowledge of something. This makes Contextualism more beneficial than Foundationalism in regards to the Regress Argument because even if someone who has no prior knowledge of a belief is reviewed by strict objectors, they can still be found to have a justified belief.


1. One must be able to prove why they are justified in believing something and not just meet the principles of justification.

2. One must be able to prove that the argument is not false otherwise it could lead to false beliefs.

3. The Contextualism theory demands the arguer to be able to answer all kinds of objectives from every angle so therefore they would have to have complete and total knowledge of what they are arguing for.


1. The Contextualism theory does not overlook the fact that the arguer must not only meet the basic principles of justification but also prove his claims. The arguer must be able to meet real objections put forth by an objector group that is relevant to the argument.

2. This objection must also look at the importance of the argument. If the decision being made is of little importance, and there are no real objections they are able to believe it is a true belief even if it is false. If the situation is more important, the arguer must look at all options before coming to a conclusion and then review all real objections. If the objection disproves the belief it must be altered, but not all objections are used to disprove the argument and can still be used.

3. Only those defeating statements that are brought forth by the objection group need to be reviewed. If the objector group overlooked a defeating statement, then it does not need to be accounted for. Also, if the arguer is unaware of some information that is needed to defeat his own argument he is still justified in believing it is true.

Personal Objection:

My main personal objection lies on the fact that the Contextualism theory does not need any previous set of justified beliefs in order to form another justified belief. A person who is colorblind could be in a store thinking that the chair in front of him is green when it is really blue. His personal beliefs are that he is looking at a green chair, while in reality it is actually blue. This allows people to have false beliefs stored in their mind. Because we cannot prove to the person that the chair is a different color and we cannot explain to him how our eye perceives the color put in front of us, the person will have every right to believe that the chair is green according to the Contextualism theory.

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