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SAAP Annual Meeting 2018

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C. I. Lewis, the Given, and Foundationalism: A Defense of the Traditional Interpretation

Traditionally, C. I. Lewis has been interpreted as an epistemological foundationalist. But some recent interpreters read Lewis as opposing foundationalism, denying that experience can justify our beliefs absent conceptual interpretation. I defend the traditional foundationalist interpretation of Lewis. My argument comprises four steps. First, I argue, with Christopher Gowans and against Eric Dayton, that Lewis clearly endorses foundationalism in his late book "An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation." Second, I show that Lewis endorsed foundationalism as early as 1930, viewing it as required not only to answer the regress problem but also by his pragmatism about meaning. This makes clear that, third, foundationalism figures more centrally in Lewis’ early book "Mind and the World-Order" than even Gowans’ modest antifoundationalist reading allows. Finally, I contend that apparent contrary evidence⎯including Lewis’ claims that the given is chaotic, ineffable, and not an object of conceptualization or knowledge⎯can be accommodated by the traditional interpretation.

Griffin Klemick
University of Toronto


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