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On Basic Knowledge Without Justification

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Paul K. Moser*
Loyola University of Chicago, 6525 North Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL60626


Recently Robert Almeder has invoked Aristotle's celebrated regress argument to argue for the existence of basic knowledge that does not require the satisfaction of any justification condition. After outlining Almeder's argument, I shall show why it ultimately fails.

Aristotle's regress argument in Book I of the Posterior Analytics is basically that because we have inferential knowledge, we must also have non-inferential knowledge. Aristotle plausibly assumes that to know the conclusion of an argument on the basis of its premises, one must know its premises. But he notes that if knowledge of any premise requires knowledge of some other proposition, then knowing any proposition would require knowledge of each member of an infinite regress of propositions. According to Aristotle, we cannot know each member of such a regress, but we do have some inferential knowledge; consequently there must be some basic, non-inferential knowledge, i.e., knowledge that does not depend for its justification on inferential relations to other known propositions.

Research Article
Copyright © The Authors 1985

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1 Almeder, Robert F.Basic Knowledge and Justification,’ Canadian Journal of Philosophy 13, (1983), 115–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar All parenthetical page numbers in the text refer to this article.

2 See, for instance, Rescher, Nicholas Cognitive Systematization (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1979),Google Scholar and Bonjour, LaurenceThe Coherence Theory of Empirical Knowledge,’ Philosophical Studies 30 (1976), 281312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

3 See, for instance, my papers ‘A Defense of Epistemic Intuitionism,’ forthcoming in Metaphilosophy 15 (1984), and ‘Knowledge Without Evidence,’ forthcoming in Philosophia 15 (1985). See also Swain, Marshall Reasons and Knowledge (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1981),Google Scholar chapter 4.