Philosophy Infinitism
by
Peter Klein, John Turri
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0283

Introduction

Infinitism, along with foundationalism and coherentism, is a logically possible solution to the epistemic regress problem. But unlike the other two views, infinitism has only been developed and defended as a plausible solution since the late 1990’s. Infinitists grant that although there is an ending point of any actual chain of cited reasons for a belief, no belief (including the last one cited) is fully justified until a reason for it is provided. In addition to differing with foundationalism about the existence of so-called basic beliefs, infinitism depicts reasoning as a process through which full doxastic justification is generated, rather than as a device for merely transferring doxastic justification from one belief to another. Thus, like coherentism, infinitism attempts to account for the origin of epistemic doxastic justification without invoking self-justified beliefs whose justification is transmitted through reasoning. But infinitism parts company with coherentism by maintaining (1) that circular reasoning is unable to provide a doxastic justification for any belief and (2) that there is a linear epistemic structure of our beliefs that reflects the fact that some beliefs are epistemically prior to others.

General Overviews

Klein and Turri 2013 is currently the only article-length overview of infinitism. There are three state-of-the-art collections of essays on infinitism and the epistemic regress problem: Aikin and Peijnenburg 2014, Peijnenburg and Wenmackers 2014, and Turri and Klein 2014. To date, there is only one monograph dedicated to epistemological infinitism, namely, Aikin 2011 (cited under Contemporary Arguments for Infinitism). There is one routinely updated bibliography in PhilPapers for infinitism.

  • Aikin, Scott, and Jeanne Peijnenburg. “The Regress Problem: Metatheory, Development, and Criticism” Special Issue: Metaphilosophy 45 (2014): 2.

    E-mail Citation »

    Contains eleven papers on the regress problem, several of which focus directly on infinitism.

  • Klein, Peter, and John Turri. “Infinitism in Epistemology.” In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Feiser and Bradley Dowden. 2013.

    E-mail Citation »

    A general overview of historical and contemporary discussions of infinitism. Freely available online.

  • Peijnenburg, Jeanne, and Sylvia Wenmackers. “Infinite Regress in Decision Theory, Philosophy of Science, and Formal Epistemology.” Special Issue: Synthese 191.4 (2014).

    E-mail Citation »

    Contains five state-of-the-art papers directly or indirectly related to infinitism.

  • PhilPapers.

    E-mail Citation »

    A routinely updated online bibliography of papers and monographs on epistemological infinitism.

  • Turri, John, and Peter Klein. Ad Infinitum: New Essays on Epistemological Infinitism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609598.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    Contains fourteen essays that shed new light on infinitism’s distinctive strengths and weaknesses. The work addresses both new and old questions about its account of justification, reasoning, epistemic responsibility, disagreement, and trust, among other important issues.

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