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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Foundationalism is theories of knowledge resting justified belief upon some secure foundation of certainty.


Anti-foundationalists use logical or historical or genealogical attacks on foundational concepts (see especially Nietzsche and Foucault), often coupled with alternative methods for justifying and forwarding intellectual inquiry, such as the pragmatic subordination of knowledge to practical action. Foucault dismissed the search for a return to origins as Platonic essentialism, preferring to stress the contingent nature of human practices.

Anti-foundationalists oppose metaphysical methods. Moral and ethical anti-foundationalists are often criticized for moral relativism, but anti-foundationalists often dispute this charge, offering alternative methods of moral thought that they claim do not require foundations. Thus while Charles Taylor accused Foucault of having "no order of human life, or way we are, or human nature, that one can appeal to in order to judge or evaluate between ways of life", Foucault nevertheless insists on the need for continuing ethical enquiry without any universal system to appeal to.

Niklas Luhmann used cybernetics to challenge the role of foundational unities and canonical certainties.

See also

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