Against Coherence: Truth, Probability, and Justification

Paperback | November 9, 2008

byErik J. Olsson

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It is tempting to think that, if a person's beliefs are coherent, they are also likely to be true. Indeed, this truth-conduciveness claim is the cornerstone of the popular coherence theory of knowledge and justification. Hitherto much confusion has been caused by the inability of coherencetheorists to define their central concept. Nor have they succeeded in specifying in unambiguous terms what the notion of truth-conduciveness involves. This book is the most extensive and detailed study of coherence and probable truth to date. Erik Olsson argues that the value of coherence has been generally overestimated; it is severely problematic to maintain that coherence has a role to play in the process whereby beliefs are acquired or justified. He proposes that the opposite of coherence, i.e. incoherence, can still be the drivingforce in the process whereby beliefs are retracted, so that the role of coherence in our enquiries is negative rather than positive. Another innovative feature of Olsson's book is its unified, interdisciplinary approach to the issues at hand. The arguments are equally valid for coherence among anyitems of information, regardless of their sources (beliefs, memories, testimonies, and so on). Writing in accessible, non-technical language, Olsson takes the reader through much of the history of the subject, from early theorists like A. C. Ewing and C. I. Lewis to contemporary figures likeLaurence BonJour and C. A. J. Coady. Against Coherence will make stimulating reading for epistemologists and anyone with a serious interest in truth.

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It is tempting to think that, if a person's beliefs are coherent, they are also likely to be true. Indeed, this truth-conduciveness claim is the cornerstone of the popular coherence theory of knowledge and justification. Hitherto much confusion has been caused by the inability of coherencetheorists to define their central concept. Nor ...

Erik J. Olsson is Professor and Chair in Theoretical Philosophy at Lund University, Sweden

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:248 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.59 inPublished:November 9, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199550514

ISBN - 13:9780199550517

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Table of Contents

1. IntroductionPart I: Does coherence imply truth?2. Coherence, truth, and testimony3. C. I. Lewis's radical justification of memory4. Laurence BonJour's radical justification of belief5. C. A. J. Coady's radical justification of natural testimonyPart II: Does more coherence imply higher likelihood of truth?6. Making the question precise7. A negative answerPart III: Other views8. How not to regain the truth connection: a reply to Bovens and Hartmann9. Other coherence theoriesPart IV: Scepticism and incoherence10. Pragmatism, doubt, and the role of incoherenceAppendix A: Counterexample to the Doxastic Extension PrincipleAppendix B: Proof of the Impossibility TheoremAppendix C: Proofs of Observations

Editorial Reviews

`Olsson uses modern techniques from probability theory and modeling to examine whether the coherence theory of justification is tenable. Olsson takes us through much of the history and major figures in the coherence theory of justification. This work is well-written, well-informed by theexisting literature and there is an interesting mix of formal argument and philosophical argumentation.'Luc Bovens, Professor, London School of Economics, Editor-in-Chief of Economics and Philosophy