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Justification - Wittgenstein

You’ve endorsed the view that all beliefs are ultimately justified by assumptions that we can take for granted without evidence.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein

A version of this view was held by the early 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who held that all inquiring and indeed all doubting must rest on assumptions that are taken for granted and not supported by any further evidence.

Wittgenstein famously wrote:

“[T]he questions that we raise and our doubts depend upon the fact that some propositions are exempt from doubt, are as it were like hinges on which those turn. […] We just can’t investigate everything, and for that reason we are forced to rest content with assumption. If I want the door to run, the hinges must stay put.”

This view has been resurrected by the contemporary philosopher Crispin Wright, who suggests that there are certain things that we are simply entitled to believe.

But we might worry that this view simply makes things too easy. Where could an entitlement to make assumptions without evidence come from? And how could all of our justified beliefs rest on such an entitlement?


For a more complete guide to this topic, you might consult the following entries from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
“Foundationalist Theories of Epistemic Justification”, by Richard Fumerton (
“Coherentist Theories of Epistemic Justification”, by Erik Olsson (
Also recommended are the following entries from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
“Foundationalism”, by Ted Poston (
“Coherentism in Epistemology”, by Peter Murphy (
“Infinitism in Epistemology”, by Peter Klein and John Turri (
At Southampton, we run various modules that address these and similar issues, including Knowledge and Mind, Epistemology, Scepticism, and The Ethics of Belief. Many of our staff undertake research in this and related areas of epistemology, such as Dr. Kurt Sylvan, Dr. Genia Schönbaumsfeld, and Dr. Conor McHugh.
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