The dictionary translation of "foundationalism", which is a philosophical theory in the area of epistemology, is "Fundamentalismus", and this is also commonly used in the professional literature.

But "Fundamentalism" in the general use of language means "fundamentalism", i.e. strict and literal adherence to peculiar dogmas. So aside from the ambiguity, this word has a strong negative innuendo (evoking images of fringe religious groups) and I wonder if this is acceptable.

"Fundamentismus" is an alternative that seems only marginally better in that regard, and also looks like a spelling error.

There's also the denglish "Foundationalismus", which is indeed used in more modern literature.

So what's the least bad translation? Is there any other option?

  • Wikipedia lists the term as "erkenntnistheoretischer Fundamentalismus" (prpbably to distinguish it from all other forms of "Fundamentalismus"). Anything wrong with that?.
    – tofro
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 9:00
  • 2
    I voted to close because the decision between "(erkenntnistheoretischer) Fundamentalismus", "Fundamentismus" and "Foundationalismus" seems like a matter of taste/opinion to me. The advantages and disdvantages of each term seem pretty obvious. Inventing another new German term for a decades-old established philosophical theory imho would accomplish nothing but cause confusion.
    – HalvarF
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 10:00
  • @HalvarF - The trick I use for this kind of thing is to look it up on English Wikipedia, then click the link to German Wikipedia and check the title. This gives "Erkenntnistheoretischer Fundamentalismus" for "Foundationalism" as expected. Anyway, is this question on-topic for the site? It seems like expertise in philosophy is needed to give an answer.
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 11:31
  • @HalvarF I just wonder how common the other usage for "Fundamentalismus" (epistemic) is. Maybe I'm mistaken, but I fear laymen don't know it at all and it has strong innuendo. The ambiguity can be resolved by using "epistemischer Fundamentalismus", sure. I'm gravitating towards "Foundationalismus", which seems to be indeed used.
    – viuser
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 13:17

1 Answer 1


The only other option, without inventing a new term, would be to describe the content of the theory by its base term: Basisüberzeugung. That seems to be a well-established scholastic German term that, on first glance, is most of the time used consistently with the definition in the theory. Of the first ten entries found on Google Scholar, only one (from pedagogy) could be considered to be a bit off. If you search for usage in philosophy, only one context outside epistemology shows up: hermeneutics, where it might be an analytical term.

de.wikipedia also uses a Redirect/Weiterleitung from Basisüberzeugung to Erkenntnistheoretischer Fundamentalismus.

So instead of

Die Theorie des epistemologischen Fundamentalismus

you might paraphrase

Die (epistemologische) Theorie, die ein Basisüberzeugungen voraussetzt

without loosing much more than a bit of academic Habitus (in the Bourdieu sense of the word).

  • Yes, that's a good idea. I'd say it is "die (epistemologische) Theorie, die Basisüberzeugungen voraussetzt" though, because it's virtually always more than one.
    – viuser
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 17:09
  • True, corrected.
    – ccprog
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 18:57

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