Full Text

Firth, Roderick

john troyer

Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


(1917–87) American philosopher. Firth wrote his dissertation under C.I. L ewis , and taught at Harvard from 1953 until his death. He published an influential article on Ideal Observer theories in ethics, but the bulk of his work was in epistemology. Firth, like L ewis , was a staunch defender of foundationalism . He believed that empirical knowledge ultimately rests on self-warranted beliefs about sensory experience, and that beliefs about physical objects can be justified without appeal to any principles beyond ordinary inductive inference. His defence of phenomenalism (1950) against attacks like C hisholm 'S is subtle and cogent; it has been neglected rather than refuted. Firth contends that critics have ignored the fact that the phenomenalists’ theory of meaning entails that the sentences available to express statements about the external world will inevitably be much less numerous than the statements themselves. When a phenomenalist who initially says ‘Physical-object statement p entails sensedatum statement s ’ is led (by some version of the ‘argument from perceptual relativity’) to say ‘ s could be false and p true’, Firth contends that the second assertion should not be interpreted as strictly inconsistent with the first. What is actually going on, Firth claims, is that the sentence ‘ p ’ is being used to express different (though closely related) statements ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top