concepts section: copyright Robert Ellis 2011


Justification is an important concept in Middle Way philosophy, not because it has a substantially different meaning here than elsewhere, but because it plays a different role. Whereas in most representationalist philosophy, justification consists in reason to believe that a claim is true, in Middle Way philosophy it is recognised at the outset that no claim can more than approximately represent truth, and truth can be no more than a regulative idea ('truth on the edge'). Justification needs to be separated from any reliance on truth claims, and based instead on integration and objectivity. Justification is always incremental and never absolute.

In philosophical terms, justification can be based on the combination of two necessary elements: negative foundationalism (or falsifiability) and coherence. Our claims are justified because we have been as objective as we can if we have both considered the coherence of our beliefs with other beliefs we hold (including beliefs about specific observations or experiences) and we have taken into account the possibility of our belief being false and ensured it is subject to falsification. Without the other, each of these elements does not provide justification. A falsifiable belief is of no relevance to us if it does not accord with our experience, and a merely coherent belief that seems to accord with our experience is merely dogmatic if it is not provisional, recognising its own fallibility.

However, reaching this position of philosophical balance, meeting both of these requirements, also requires a certain psychological state. In psychological terms, our beliefs become better justified when they are better integrated. If we have overcome psychological conflicts with desires, meanings and beliefs that we currently reject but that would help us address conditions better, then an element of delusion has been removed from our engagement with experience. If we can engage with experience with more of the whole of ourselves, without internally holding dogmatic positions that prevent recognition of conditions, then we can make the fullest use of that experience.

Links to related discussion

Truth on the edge

Metaphysical agnosticism (concept page)

The heuristic process (from thesis)


Return to concepts page