Philosophy Epistemic Basing Relation
Daniel M. Mittag
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 September 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0170


One traditional epistemological view holds that epistemic justification is necessary for knowledge. One cannot know that p unless one has sufficiently good epistemic reasons to believe that p. Yet even though one might have sufficiently good epistemic reasons to believe that p, one might not believe p for those good reasons. One might instead believe for other, bad epistemic reasons. In such a case it seems one would not know. If this is correct, then if one is to know that p, in addition to believing p and having these sufficiently good epistemic reasons to believe p, it seems one has to believe for, or believe on the basis of, those good reasons. The epistemic basing relation is this relation of believing for, or believing on the basis of, a reason. Put differently, sometimes only the content of the believing is justified (and not the believing itself). This is to say that sometimes a belief is propositionally justified but not doxastically justified, to invoke the technical terminology that is sometimes employed to mark this distinction. In order for the believing itself to be (doxastically) justified, the basing relation must obtain between one’s belief and one’s epistemically justifying reasons—i.e., one must believe for one’s epistemically justifying reasons. It is important to emphasize, however, that the epistemic basing relation does not solely pertain to cases in which one has good epistemic reasons to believe. Whether or not one does, when one believes for a reason, the epistemic basing relation obtains.

General Overviews

Few general overviews of the epistemic basing relation exist. The best is Korcz 2010. Neta 2011 is also very good. Both cover all of the main lines of thought concerning the epistemic basing relation and serve as excellent introductions to the literature. Those interested in the epistemic basing relation will want to read them both. Korcz 1997 is a critical discussion of the literature published between 1980 and 1995. While not a general survey, much of Winters 1980 would be helpful for the beginner.

  • Korcz, Keith Allen. “Recent Work on the Basing Relation.” American Philosophical Quarterly 34 (1997): 171–191.

    This is a very helpful discussion of the literature on the epistemic basing relation published between 1980 and 1995.

  • Korcz, Keith Allen. “The Epistemic Basing Relation.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2010.

    This entry in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy serves as an excellent introduction to work on the epistemic basing relation. It clearly lays out many of the central issues one faces in trying to analyze the relation, and it nicely illustrates the main kinds of approaches philosophers have proposed.

  • Neta, Ram. “The Basing Relation.” In The Routledge Companion to Epistemology. Edited by Sven Bernecker and Duncan Pritchard, 109–118. New York: Routledge, 2011.

    This chapter provides a good overview of the main lines of thought concerning the epistemic basing relation. Organized by the central questions philosophers face when trying to provide an analysis.

  • Winters, Barbara. “Reasonable Believing.” Dialectica 34 (1980): 3–15.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1746-8361.1980.tb00763.x

    This article can serve as a good basic introduction to the epistemic basing relation. Winters clearly lays out some of the fundamental issues while defending her view that belief basing is a psychological relation.

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