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Intro to Philosophy

Prof. Thomas Sass

Analysis Paper

In “The Raft and the Pyramid”, philosopher Ernest Sosa sets out to establish a solid and [1] map of epistemological [2, pl]. He describes coherentism and foundationalism specifically as two ideologically opposed [2, pl]. This paper will analyze and support Sosa’s particular [3] that coherentism is [4].

Coherentism was a form of epistemic justification for those who were skeptical of any indubitable [5, pl], or at least of any accessibility to them. Sosa uses a raft analogy to [6] its justification process. According to it, one’s [7, pl] are [14, past] if and only if they lie within a coherent [7] system. Like a raft in a river, the [7] systems can be totally [8] and they do not rely upon self-evident [5, pl] for justification.

An alternative account of justification (and the knowledge associated with it) is foundationalism, which in the traditional sense is more welcoming to indubitable [5, pl]. According to it, a(n) [14, past] [7] must depend upon a set of [7, pl], all of which in turn must also depend on other sets of [7, pl]. According to traditional foundationalism, at the root of these [7, pl] must lie a set of indubitable [5, pl] which are independently [14, past] and thus [9] the chain of justification. This definition of foundationalism is [10] since it is fundamentally opposed to coherentism.

However, Sosa [11] an argument that aptly points out an [12] in coherentism. He believes that for some [7] X that sits in a(n) [7] system A, there [13] a(n) [7] Y in an equally coherent alternate [7] system B such that only X is [14, past]. In doing so Sosa demonstrates that justification [15] on more than just coherence within a set of [7, pl] and thus that coherentism is not a valid means by which to [14] [7, pl] and accumulate [16].

Sosa’s first example in critiquing coherentism is that of a person with a(n) [17]. Someone with a(n) [17] may believe X that they have a(n) [17]. This is [14, past] because of their [7] system A that they are in [18] and that this [18] corresponds to the [18] they understand to regularly accompany [17, pl]. However, consider an alternative coherent [7] system B that they are not in [18] and that this feeling does not correspond to the [18] that accompanies [17]s. This system can [14] the [7] Y that they do not have a(n) [17]. To imply that justification is solely defined by coherence within a set of [7, pl] is to imply that both X and Y are equally [14, past], even though they are fundamentally opposed. However, much like how [5] is not itself a(n) [7] or relation of [7, pl], so too is the person’s [17]: it is not a constituent of systems A or B but rather something they aim to understand. Since it exists totally independent from either A or B, this means that X is [14, past] and Y is not, meaning existence within a set of [7, pl] is not the only means of justification and thus coherentism is not a valid form of epistemological justification.

One objection might be that the creation of an alternate [7] system B is nonsensical, as one’s [7] concerning their [17] could not deceive them in that way. This objection implies that one’s [19 ] are infallible, in which case Sosa’s argument falls apart. However, in rejecting traditional foundationalism, coherentists reject any form of indubitable [5]. To believe that one’s [19 ] are infallible is to believe that [5, pl] do exist and that coherentism is invalid. When faced with this argument, the coherentist can either concede to the fallacy or use this objection. However, in using this objection, one must posit the infallibility of [19] and thus reject coherentism. Thus, this objection does nothing but bounce right off of Sosa’s argument.

While coherentism is a useful [2] that goes a long way to explain the vast disparity of [7, pl] in what is [20] around the world, Sosa does well to present an argument to show that it, at least in the light that he portrays it, is not a valid form of epistemic justification. His argument against the validity of coherentism withstands the strong [21]; in the absence of further [21], Sosa’s [3, pl] hold [20].


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