Virtue Epistemology: Essays on Epistemic Virtue and Responsibility

Virtue Epistemology: Essays on Epistemic Virtue and Responsibility

Virtue Epistemology: Essays on Epistemic Virtue and Responsibility

Virtue Epistemology: Essays on Epistemic Virtue and Responsibility

Synopsis

Virtue epistemology is an exciting, new movement receiving an enormous amount of attention from top epistemologists and ethicists; this pioneering volume reflects the best work in that vein. Featuring superb writing from contemporary American philosophers, it includes thirteen never before published essays that focus on the place of the concept of virtue in epistemology. In recent years, philosophers have been debating how this concept functions in definitions of knowledge. They question the extent to which knowledge is both normative (i.e., with a moral component) and non-normative, and many of them dispute the focus on justification, which has proven to be too restrictive. Epistemologists are searching for a way to combine the traditional concepts of ethical theory with epistemic concepts; the result is a new approach called virtue epistemology--one that has established itself as a particularly favorable alternative. Containing the fruits of recent study on virtue epistemology, this volume offers a superb selection of contributors--including Robert Audi, Simon Blackburn, Richard Foley, Alvin Goldman, Hilary Kornblith, Keith Lehrer, Ernest Sosa, and Linda Zagzebski--whose work brings epistemology into dialogue with everyday issues.

Excerpt

My aim in this essay is first to clarify what any position worth calling “virtue epistemology” ought to hold. I then want to explore some of the relations between such an approach to epistemology and two other doctrines. One is a minimalist or deflationist conception of truth. The other is a generally expressivist approach to values and virtues, and hence to rationality.

It is, I believe, a very attractive idea to take what can be said about moral virtue and see how it looks when applied to intellectual or cognitive virtues. If truth or perhaps knowledge or wisdom is the goal of intellectual endeavour, then it might be regarded as playing the parallel role to eudaimonia as the goal of living. And then we should expect any account of the traits necessary to achieve the one as quite strictly parallel to the account of the traits, the virtues, necessary to achieve the other.

Furthermore, there are some fairly immediate points of contact. Fair-mindedness, courage, judgment, and experience can be involved in the cognitive domain just as they are in the practical domain. We might reflect, as well, that faults in the cognitive domain, such as that of being too timid or too stubborn or insensitive or prone to fantasy, would directly reflect, or indeed be part of, wider moral faults. And on some accounts of ethics, all moral faults are at bottom not only analogous to cognitive faults, but are actually identical with them. If to know the good is to love it, then moral defect becomes a species of cognitive defect. And it could in return be suggested that many cognitive defects are at bottom moral and that only cognitive defects that are beyond our control, such as those caused by unavoidable external or internal obstacles to inquiry, fail to qualify as moral defects.

However, if virtue epistemology is modeled upon virtue ethics, then I think we need more than these relatively straightforward points of contact. In particular, I suppose that, like virtue ethics, if it really is a distinct approach to ethics, virtue epistemology will need to defend a certain kind of priority. Consider the following equations:

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