Inspired by the work of Wilfrid Sellars, Michael Williams launches an all-out attack on what he calls "phenomenalism," the idea that our knowledge of the world rests on a perceptual or experiential foundation. The point of this wider-than-normal usage of the term "phenomenalism," according to which even some forms of direct realism deserve to be called phenomenalistic, is to call attention to important continuities of thought between theories often thought to be competitors. Williams's target is not phenomenalism in its classical sense-datum and reductionist form but empiricism generally. Williams examines and rejects the idea that, unless our beliefs are answerable to a "given" element in experience, objective knowledge will be impossible.
Groundless Belief was first published in 1977. This second edition contains a new afterword in which Williams places his arguments in the context of some current discussions of coherentism versus the Myth of the Given and explains their relation to subsequent developments in his own epistemological views.
"[An] intriguing work.... Williams has an array of deft, decisive arguments directed at the views of Lewis, Ayer, Chisholm, Sellars, Bennett, et al.... Tightly argued."--Alan Hart, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
"Groundless Belief is by far the clearest, most vigorous, and most convincing presentation of the case for antifoundationalism that has so far appeared."--Richard Rorty, Stanford University
Table of Contents:
Preface to the Second Edition ix
I Introduction: Epistemology and Scepticism 1
2 The Appeal to the Given 25
3 The Regress of Justification 60
4 Meaning or Theory? 116
5 Basic Propositions 145
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Michael Williams:
Hardcover published by Yale University Press in 1977