FOUNDATIONALISM AND COHERENTISM IN ETHICS
10. 1. WHEN Kant called his most-read ethical book Groundwork (or Foundations) of the Metaphysic of Morals, was he enrolling himself as an ethical foundationalist? Simply to ask this question is to raise another, of what it is to be a foundationalist. It is clear that in the view of many moral philosophers and others it is a bad thing to be; but, apart from this pejorative content, does it have any other? I shall try to illuminate this question by first giving a caricature of the kind of foundationalism that its enemies are attacking. This picture I shall call 'Cartesian foundationalism', without implying any disrespect for Descartes, and without even claiming that he held such a view (though he has often been accused of holding it). It is not my intention to offer any scholarly exegesis either of Descartes, or of Kant, or of any other historical figure, though I shall draw on some of their ideas.
After pointing out some obvious and well-canvassed faults in Cartesian foundationalism (already noticed in LM 3. 3), I shall go on to explain again where it goes wrong. My only reason for reviving these old arguments is that since then they have been forgotten. I shall then outline a procedure for moral reasoning which escapes these faults, on the lines already suggested in FR 6. 2 ff. and more fully worked out in MT. This method has some claim to be called foundationalist in a different sense, which is perhaps in accordance with Kant's aims. It can also claim to be in a sense coherentist, thus breaking down the supposed opposition between foundationalism and coherentism, about which much has been written. For sources, I can refer readers to Mark Timmons's helpful paper ( 1987).
After that, I shall introduce perhaps my only new point. This is that in the attempt to reconcile foundationalism and coherentism, the dispute between which has dogged epistemology, moral epistemology has a big advantage over most other kinds of epistemology. This advantage____________________