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Philosophy Virtue Epistemology
by
John Turri, Ernest Sosa

Introduction

Virtue epistemologists deploy the resources of virtue theory to explain epistemological properties and concepts, just as virtue ethicists do for ethical properties and concepts. Virtue epistemologists claim a great many virtues for their approach, including the ability to bypass longstanding debates, answer perennial epistemological questions, solve epistemological puzzles, provide an elegant and principled account of epistemic value, and broaden epistemology’s scope.

General Overviews

There are several excellent surveys of the burgeoning field of virtue epistemology. Baehr 2004 and Greco 2004 are both excellent and freely available online. Axtell 1997 is a bit dated but still useful. Battaly 2008 not only surveys the field but also advances the debate in several areas. Zagzebski 1998 highlights potential cross-fertilization with virtue ethics and social epistemology. There are also three reputable blogs that are either devoted to virtue epistemology or frequently cover it and related topics. JanusBlog covers virtue theory in epistemology and ethics. Epistemic Value covers many topics relevant to virtue epistemology. Certain Doubts is a general epistemology blog.

  • Axtell, Guy. “Recent Work on Virtue Epistemology.” American Philosophical Quarterly 34.1 (1997): 1–26.

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    Well done, though dated. Introduces the distinction between virtue reliabilism and virtue responsibilism.

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  • Baehr, Jason. “Virtue Epistemology.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden. 2004.

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    An excellent survey of the field, freely available online. Baehr nicely distinguishes virtue reliabilism from virtue responsibilism, offers a balanced assessment of their respective merits and demerits, and suggests some ways of overcoming or transcending the divide.

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  • Battaly, Heather. “Virtue Epistemology.” Philosophy Compass 3.4 (2008): 639–663.

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    Very well written and extremely informative, this survey also advances the debate. Battaly helpfully distinguishes virtue theory from virtue “anti-theory.”

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  • Certain Doubts.

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    A general epistemology weblog administered by Jonathan Kvanvig, this site often contains discussion of virtue epistemology and closely related issues.

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  • Epistemic Value.

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    Administered by Duncan Pritchard and nominally devoted to epistemic value, this blog covers topics relevant to virtue epistemology.

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  • Greco, John. “Virtue Epistemology.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2004.

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    Another excellent overview of the field, freely available online. It organizes the literature around Sosa’s initial proposal, the development of Sosa’s views, and reactions thereto. Greco identifies the distinguishing characteristic of virtue epistemology as a commitment to a direction of analysis, namely by explaining beliefs’ epistemic properties in terms of agents’ properties.

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  • Janus Blog.

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    Administered by Guy Axtell and devoted to virtue theory, including ethics and epistemology. Announcements of conferences, calls for papers, funding opportunities, and drafts of work in progress are often posted, making this online source a good way to keep up with trends in the field.

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  • Zagzebski, Linda. “Virtue Epistemology.” In The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 9. Edited by Edward Craig. London: Routledge, 1998.

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    A perspicuous survey by a leader in the field. Emphasizes parallels with ethics, the motivation for a shift to virtue epistemology, important differences among different approaches within the virtue camp, and the potentially fruitful integration of virtue epistemology with projects in social epistemology. Available online by subscription.

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Textbooks

Given that the revival of virtue epistemology is so recent, it is unsurprising that relatively few textbooks cover virtue epistemology or treat epistemology from a virtue-theoretical perspective. BonJour and Sosa 2003 debates externalist virtue epistemology, among other things. Pritchard 2009 devotes two chapters to virtue epistemology. Wood 1998 introduces students to central epistemological questions through a study of virtues. Zagzebski 2009 also provides an introduction to epistemology and presents the main elements of the author’s influential virtue epistemology.

  • BonJour, Laurence, and Ernest Sosa. Epistemic Justification: Internalism vs. Externalism, Foundations vs. Virtues. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

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    BonJour and Sosa debate foundational issues surrounding epistemic justification, which inevitably leads to a discussion of many perennial epistemological problems, including knowledge, skepticism, the structure of justification, the sources of justification, and the nature of experience. Sosa’s contribution and BonJour’s critical response deal with an explicitly virtue-theoretical approach to these issues.

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  • Pritchard, Duncan. Knowledge. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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    This highly accessible text devotes two chapters to virtue epistemology, covering the move from process reliabilism to virtue epistemology, the reliabilist/responsibilist divide, criticisms of extant virtue theories, and Pritchard’s own “anti-luck virtue epistemology.”

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  • Wood, W. Jay. Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998.

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    Pitched at a level appropriate for undergraduates, this text introduces readers to some central epistemological themes through a study of intellectual virtues.

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  • Zagzebski, Linda. On Epistemology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2009.

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    A wonderfully written, historically informed, and engaging introduction to epistemology. In many ways, Zagzebski seeks to redefine the way the subject is approached, making clear how epistemological questions are motivated by what people care about, including morality and the good life, and the essential role of self-trust in all inquiry. Questions about the value of knowledge and the role of intellectual virtues loom large throughout.

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Anthologies

Several anthologies are either wholly or substantially devoted to intellectual virtues or virtue epistemology. Some reprint papers previously published (for example, Brady and Pritchard 2003), others contain new papers commissioned for the volume (for example, Depaul and Zagzebski 2003, Fairweather and Zagzebski 2001), and others contain a mix of the two (for example, Axtell 2000). Greco 2004 is not specifically dedicated to intellectual virtues or virtue epistemology, but many of the essays deal directly with Sosa’s influential “virtue perspectivism” (see Knowledge).

Journal Issues

Several journal issues are either dedicated to virtue epistemology or contain substantial symposia on major works in virtue epistemology. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60.1 contains a symposium on Zagzebski’s Virtues of the Mind (see Zagzebski 1996, cited under Monographs). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66.2 contains a symposium on Greco’s Putting Skeptics in Their Place. The theme of Philosophical Papers 37.3 is thick epistemic concepts, but most of the papers are highly relevant to virtue epistemology. Teorema 27.1 and Philosophical Studies 143.3 contain symposia on Ernest Sosa’s A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Vol. 1 (see Sosa 2007, cited under Monographs).

Precursors

Many influential historical figures anticipate, implicitly or explicitly, central themes in contemporary virtue epistemology. Descartes 1993 presents a bi-level virtue epistemology, and Russell 1948 expresses support for a similar position. Hume 1999 and Reid 2002 attribute human knowledge to the operation of natural powers. Peirce 1955 follows Hume and Reid in many respects.

  • Descartes, René. Meditations on First Philosophy. 3d ed. Translated by John Cottingham. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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    Arguably contains the full structure of a bi-level epistemology of apt belief and reflective knowledge.

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  • Hume, David. An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. Edited by Tom L. Beauchamp. Oxford Philosophical Texts. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    Hume’s enormously influential discussion of the problem of induction leads him to articulate a version of virtue epistemology, according to which “natural instincts” or innate mental “mechanical tendencies” enable us to gain knowledge beyond the “narrow sphere of our memory and senses.” See sections 4 and 5.

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  • Peirce, Charles. Philosophical Writings of Peirce. Edited by Justus Buchler. New York: Dover, 1955.

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    Several essays in this helpful and inexpensive edition reveal Peirce’s commitment to a form of virtue epistemology. See especially “The Fixation of Belief,” “The Criterion of Validity in Reasoning,” “What Is a Leading Principle?” “Critical Common-Sensism,” and “Perceptual Judgments.” The influence of Hume and Reid is apparent at many points throughout.

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  • Reid, Thomas. Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man. Edited by Derek R. Brookes. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.

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    Reid’s view is that our knowledge derives from the exercise of our reliable intellectual powers and other dispositions that form part of our natural constitution.

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  • Russell, Bertrand. Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1948.

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    This tour de force prefigures many significant developments in epistemology during the second half of the 20th century, including the Gettier problem and externalism. Evidently inspired by Hume, Russell frequently expresses sympathy for a form of virtue epistemology. See especially “Knowledge of Facts and Knowledge of Laws” (pp. 180–191), “Probable Inference in Common-sense Practice” (pp. 198–210) and “Kinds of Knowledge” (pp. 439–450).

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Monographs

Since the late 20th century several influential monographs were written either on virtue epistemology or from an explicitly virtue-epistemological perspective. These are the major works that have stimulated growth in the field. Sosa 1991 argues for “virtue perspectivism,” a form of virtue epistemology that integrates features of internalism, externalism, foundationalism, and coherentism, a position that the author updated and expanded in Sosa 2007 and Sosa 2009. Greco 2010 argues that knowledge is a type of success through ability. McDowell 1994 argues that empirical knowledge and justification result from the exercise of capacities that form our “second nature.” Montmarquet 1993 defends a responsibilist conception of intellectual virtue, which is broadly aligned with internalist sympathies in epistemology. Zagzebski 1996 argues that virtue epistemology, properly informed by virtue ethics, can illuminate epistemic normativity, epistemic value, justification, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Finally, a distinctive alternative vision of the place of virtues in epistemology is given in Kvanvig 1992.

  • Greco, John. Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    Both integrates and supersedes Greco’s important and influential work on the nature of knowledge over the previous decade, and is sure to be a touchstone for researchers for years to come. The basic idea is that knowledge is a type of “success from ability” or “achievement.” The resulting view is a non-deontological, non-evidentialist, externalist, and contextulist virtue epistemology that is sensitive to knowledge’s social and practical dimensions and promises to answer a host of philosophical questions.

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  • Kvanvig, Jonathan. The Intellectual Virtues and the Life of the Mind: On the Place of the Virtues in Epistemology. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1992.

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    Dissatisfied with extant virtue epistemologies, Kvanvig argues for an alternative vision of the place of virtues in epistemology, locating them within a theory that eschews the traditional narrow Cartesian focus on individuals (or time-slices thereof) and instead emphasizes social and historical factors. The virtues are important because of their indispensable role in training people to seek, acquire, and transmit truths.

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  • McDowell, John. Mind and World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.

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    While McDowell is widely associated with virtue ethics, he is not widely associated with virtue epistemology. This is an oversight, since he explains central epistemological concepts—explicitly empirical knowledge and justification—in terms of the “exercise” of “capacities,” which are shaped and trained through acculturation, providing individuals with a “second nature” that allows them to appreciate the “space of reasons.” See especially Lecture IV, “Reason and Nature.”

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  • Montmarquet, James. Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993.

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    Montmarquet articulates an alternative conception of intellectual virtues as personality traits such as conscientiousness, rather than reliable powers or abilities such as perception and memory. He emphasizes doxastic agency and responsibility rather than reliability, with a focus on the subjective or internal dimensions of intellectual conduct, and with an eye toward the consequences for moral responsibility.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. Knowledge in Perspective: Selected Essays in Epistemology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    This volume integrates and supersedes Sosa’s work over the previous decade articulating his “virtue perspectivism,” a unique blend of foundationalism, coherentism, internalism, and externalism, all unified under the rubric of a bi-level virtue epistemology that distinguishes animal from reflective knowledge and explains epistemic normativity via the subject’s intellectual powers and dispositions. While much of value remains here, Sosa’s later work—especially the two-volume Virtue Epistemology—largely supersedes this effort.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Vol. 1. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Sosa explains and defends his powerful and unique version of virtue epistemology. After laying out a general theory of performance assessment, he explains how to understand knowledge as a particular kind of intellectual performance—what he calls “apt belief.” He deploys this theory to explain the nature of epistemic normativity and illuminate a host of other epistemological issues, including the nature of intuitions and skepticism.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. Reflective Knowledge: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Vol. 2. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    Integrates and supersedes Sosa’s work on foundationalism, naturalism, circularity, reflection, and skepticism over the previous decades, all with an eye toward integrating it more tightly with the core virtue epistemology defended in Volume 1.

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  • Zagzebski, Linda. Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    In this prodigious and highly influential work, Zagzebski posits that virtue epistemology, properly informed by virtue ethics, can illuminate epistemic normativity, epistemic value, justification, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

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Taxonomies

There is disagreement over the defining traits of virtue epistemology, and consequently the field is standardly divided into virtue responsibilists and virtue reliabilists. Virtue reliabilism understands intellectual virtues to include faculties such as perception and memory, and it is best understood as a development in response to outstanding problems for earlier externalist, reliabilist epistemologies such as simple process reliabilism and Nozick’s tracking theory. Virtue responsibilism understands intellectual virtues to include refined character traits such as conscientiousness and open-mindedness. It resists including mere faculties or skills as virtues and is broadly aligned with internalist sympathies in epistemology. Axtell 1997 and Battaly 2008 question the usefulness of the reliabilist/responsibilist taxonomy and suggest ways of transcending the division. Some propose additional, different, and subtler taxonomies. Axtell and Carter 2008 distinguish first-wave from second-wave virtue epistemologies. Battaly 2008 distinguishes virtue theories from virtue anti-theories. Baehr 2008 describes a fourfold taxonomy within the responsibilist camp.

  • Axtell, Guy. “Recent Work on Virtue Epistemology.” American Philosophical Quarterly 34.1 (1997): 1–26.

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    Introduces the distinction between virtue reliabilism and virtue responsibilism. Axtell suggests a “three-tiered” account of justification (reliability, coherence, and responsibility) aimed at reconciling the reliabilist and responsibilist camps.

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  • Axtell, Guy, and J. Adam Carter. “Just the Right Thickness: A Defense of Second-Wave Virtue Epistemology.” Philosophical Papers 37.3 (2008): 413–434.

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    First-wave virtue epistemology of the 1980s and 1990s aimed to resolve traditional epistemological debates concerning justification, knowledge, and skepticism. Second-wave virtue epistemology, which surfaced in the mid-1990s, focuses on nontraditional debates and problems, such as epistemic normativity, diachronic projects involving agency and inquiry, the nature of individual virtues and vices, and social epistemology. Second-wave virtue epistemology also tends to be more methodologically innovative and unorthodox.

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  • Baehr, Jason. “Four Varieties of Character-based Virtue Epistemology.” Southern Journal of Philosophy 46 (2008): 469–502.

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    Articulates a fourfold taxonomy of responsibilist (“character-based”) virtue epistemologies, and assesses each variety.

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  • Battaly, Heather. “Virtue Epistemology.” Philosophy Compass 3.4 (2008): 639–663.

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    Battaly distinguishes virtue theory from virtue “anti-theory,” the latter eschewing positive theories and definitions and insisting that virtues and vices intrinsically merit scholarly attention.

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Virtue Reliabilism and Responsibilism

The field of virtue epistemology is usually divided into virtue responsibilists and virtue reliabilists. They differ primarily in their characterizations of intellectual virtue. Virtue reliabilists (for example, Greco 1999) understand intellectual virtues to include faculties such as perception and memory, and it is best understood as a development in response to outstanding problems for earlier externalist, reliabilist epistemologies such as simple process reliabilism and Nozick’s tracking theory. Virtue responsibilists (for example, Montmarquet 1993, Zagzebski 1996, Hookway 2003) understand intellectual virtues to include refined character traits such as conscientiousness and open-mindedness. It resists including mere faculties or skills as virtues and is broadly aligned with internalist sympathies in epistemology. Each camp has attracted critics. Baehr 2006a argues that responsibilist virtues don’t help answer traditional questions but might play other important roles in epistemology. Baehr 2006b suggests that virtue reliabilism faces a challenging dilemma. Kawall 2002 urges both camps to find room for other-regarding epistemic virtues. The entries cited under Taxonomies are all relevant here as well, with many philosophers critical of and aiming to transcend the division from the beginning.

  • Baehr, Jason. “Character in Epistemology.” Philosophical Studies 128.3 (2006a): 479–514.

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    Argues that virtue responsibilists’ favored examples of intellectual virtues—character virtues such as open-mindedness and courage—don’t contribute fundamentally to traditional epistemological projects, such as analyzing knowledge or justification. Baehr also criticizes Zagzebski’s theory of knowledge.

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  • Baehr, Jason. “Character, Reliability, and Virtue Epistemology.” Philosophical Quarterly 56 (2006b): 193–212.

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    Virtue reliabilists may not neglect the character traits featured by virtue responsibilists, according to Baehr, because many such traits feature centrally in the causal explanation of why people form true beliefs (and avoid false ones) about many of life’s most important questions.

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  • Code, Lorraine. Epistemic Responsibility. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1987.

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    An early and influential statement of responsibilism.

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  • Greco, John. “Agent Reliabilism.” In Philosophical Perspectives. Vol. 13, Epistemology. Edited by James Tomberlin, 273–296. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1999.

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    A statement of Greco’s “mixed approach” incorporating a responsibilist element into the reliabilist approach. The basic idea is that knowledge is subjectively and objectively justified true belief, where objective justification requires reliability and subjective justification requires proper motivation and responsible intellectual conduct.

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  • Hookway, Christopher. “How to Be a Virtue Epistemologist.” In Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology. Edited by Michael DePaul and Linda Zagzebski, 183–202. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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    Hookway contends that virtue epistemology should set aside traditional concerns about knowledge and justification, and instead focus on responsible deliberation and inquiry, wherein virtues are indispensable.

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  • Kawall, Jason. “Other-regarding Epistemic Virtues.” Ratio 15.3 (2002): 257–275.

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    Urges virtue epistemologists to broaden their vision of epistemic virtue and intellectual flourishing by accommodating other-regarding epistemic virtues in their theories. Other-regarding epistemic virtues are those virtues (or dimensions of virtues), such as honesty and integrity, that promote other people’s acquisition of knowledge

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  • Montmarquet, James. Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993.

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    An influential defense of responsibilism, unique in its emphasis on the connection between moral responsibility and appropriate epistemological method.

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  • Zagzebski, Linda. Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    The most influential defense of responsibilism, incorporating some reliabilist elements.

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Justification

Many virtue epistemologists argue that their view provides the best way of understanding (the varieties of) epistemic justification. Sosa 1980 argues that virtue epistemology provides a way to reconcile foundationalist and coherentist intuitions about justification’s structure. Goldman 1992 presents an influential early statement of a virtue reliabilist theory of justification. Sosa 2003 argues for an externalist virtue theory of justification, with elements aimed at capturing the kernel of truth in internalism, but Bernecker 2006 argues that Sosa doesn’t succeed. Zagzebski 1996 argues that justified belief is belief a virtuous person might adopt, while Kawall 2002 argues for an improvement on Zagzebski’s theory. Bloomfield 2000 argues that justification derives from intellectual virtues. Baehr 2009, meanwhile, argues that evidentialist accounts of justification are well served by incorporating resources from virtue epistemology.

  • Baehr, Jason. “Evidentialism, Vice, and Virtue.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78.3 (2009): 545–567.

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    Baehr argues that evidentialist accounts of (propositional) justification must be suitably supplemented by resources from virtue epistemology, in particular the notion of an intellectual virtue and virtuous intellectual agency, while resisting the suggestion that any such thing is strictly necessary for justification or knowledge.

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  • Bernecker, Sven. “Prospects for Epistemic Compatibilism.” Philosophical Studies 130.1 (2006): 81–104.

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    Argues that Sosa’s 2003 virtue perspectivism fails to reconcile internalist and externalist intuitions. The basic charge is that the Gettier problem dooms what Sosa calls “reflective knowledge.”

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  • Bloomfield, Paul. “Virtue Epistemology and the Epistemology of Virtue.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (2000): 23–43.

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    Argues, pace Aristotle and others, that virtues are species of skill, a thesis that brings two primary benefits: It happily assimilates moral knowledge, and it transcends the internalist/externalist debate over justification. Intellectual virtues are the “locus of justification.” Bloomfield locates ancient analogs of the relevant modern debates throughout. Very rewarding.

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  • Goldman, Alvin. “Epistemic Folkways and Scientific Epistemology.” In Liaisons: Philosophy Meets the Cognitive and Social Sciences. By Alvin Goldman, 152–176. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992.

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    Here Goldman departs from his earlier view of epistemic justification by adopting a form of virtue reliabilism. The basic idea is that justified belief is belief acquired or obtained “through the exercise of intellectual virtues,” where virtues are reliable dispositions to reach truth and avoid error. Goldman touts this theory’s ability to solve outstanding problems in earlier forms of reliabilism.

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  • Kawall, Jason. “Virtue Theory and Ideal Observers.” Philosophical Studies 109.3 (2002): 197–222.

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    Argues for an improvement on Zagzebski’s 1996 theory, opting for a “virtuous ideal observer” account of justification, motivated by problem cases wherein a virtuous person inhabits hostile conditions or has impaired faculties. See especially section 4.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. “The Raft and the Pyramid: Coherence versus Foundations in the Theory of Knowledge.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5.1 (1980): 3–25.

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    This paper explicitly ushered virtue epistemology onto the contemporary scene. Sosa argues that virtue epistemology enables us to transcend the long-standing debate between coherentists and foundationalists about the structure of justification.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. “Beyond Internal Foundations to External Virtues.” In Epistemic Justification: Internalism vs. Externalism, Foundations vs. Virtues. Edited by Laurence BonJour and Ernest Sosa, 97–170. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

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    Sosa argues for a virtue-theoretic account of justified belief, distinguishing two brands of justification: aptness and adroitness. (Note that Sosa’s usage of “apt” and “adroit” here may not exactly match his subsequent usage in A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge [Sosa 2007, cited under Monographs].) These improve on externalist accounts of justification by addressing outstanding problems, such as the new evil demon problem. The proposal also incorporates an indexical contextualist element.

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  • Zagzebski, Linda. Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    Zagzebski’s basic idea is that a justified belief is one that a suitably informed, virtuously motivated person “might” believe in the given context. See Section II.6.

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Knowledge

Many virtue epistemologists argue that their view provides the correct analysis of knowledge. A large part of their case consists of attempts to resolve outstanding puzzles and problem cases. Greco 2003 argues that knowledge is credit for true belief, which enables solutions to the Gettier, lottery, and value problems. Greco 2010 argues that knowledge is a type of success from ability. Riggs 2007 argues that knowledge is credit-worthy true belief, on the grounds that it best explains why knowledge precludes luck and can solve the value problem. Sosa 1991 presents a bi-level virtue epistemology, which Sosa 2007 and Sosa 2009 update and expand. Zagzebski 1996 argues that knowledge is true belief arising out of intellectual virtues, a view that Zagzebski 2009 updates and defends.

  • Greco, John. “Knowledge as Credit for True Belief.” In Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology. Edited by Michael DePaul and Linda Zagzebski, 111–134. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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    Greco argues that knowledge is true belief for which you deserve credit. He supplements this with a theory of intellectual credit. You deserve intellectual credit for believing the truth only if your “reliable cognitive character is an important and necessary part” of the causal explanation of your true belief. This view enables solutions to the Gettier, lottery, and value problems.

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  • Greco, John. Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    Greco argues that knowledge is a type of “success from ability” or “achievement.” The resulting view is a non-deontological, non-evidentialist, externalist, and contextulist virtue epistemology that is sensitive to knowledge’s social and practical dimensions, and that promises to answer a host of philosophical questions.

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  • Riggs, Wayne. “Why Epistemologists Are So Down on Their Luck.” Synthese 158.3 (2007): 329–344.

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    Why does knowledge preclude luck? Riggs argues that the hypothesis that knowledge is “credit-worthy true belief” (that is, “an accomplishment”) best explains why knowledge precludes luck. The hypothesis also solves the value problem.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. Knowledge in Perspective: Selected Essays in Epistemology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    One main idea is that animal knowledge is true belief resulting from the operation of virtuous intellectual faculties, with reflective knowledge being a higher-order knowledge of animal knowledge, derived from virtuous intellectual faculties that yield a coherent perspective on how the animal knowledge was produced.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Animal knowledge is apt belief, that is belief that is true attributably to the knower’s cognitive competence; reflective knowledge is apt belief aptly noted. This account of knowledge provides a solution to the Gettier problem and packages an elegant account of epistemic normativity.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. “Knowing Full Well: The Normativity of Beliefs as Performances.” Philosophical Studies 142.1 (2009): 5–15.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11098-008-9308-zSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Building on the AAA-model of performance assessment introduced in Sosa 2007, Sosa distinguishes first- and second-order performances, and then uses this distinction to explain the normativity involved in the assessment of suspending judgment.

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  • Zagzebski, Linda. Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    Zagzebski argues that knowledge is true belief “arising out of” intellectual virtue. This theory of knowledge enables a solution to the Gettier problem, a solution to the value problem, and a unified account of epistemic and moral normativity. See especially III.2–3.

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  • Zagzebski, Linda. On Epistemology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2009.

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    Updates Zagzebski’s earlier work on the nature and definition of knowledge, especially by relating it to the subsequent boom in “credit” theories of knowledge, and by extending and clarifying her views on epistemic value. Zagzebski claims that to know is to believe the truth because you act conscientiously.

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Epistemic Value

What is the nature of epistemic value and how is knowledge distinctively epistemically valuable? Such questions have occupied center stage in recent epistemology, and nowhere more so than in the writings of virtue epistemologists, for virtue epistemologists think their approach is uniquely suited to providing satisfying answers. Greco 2010, Sosa 2003, and Sosa 2007 argue that epistemic value is just a species of the familiar sort of value attaching to achievement or skillful success. Skillful success is better than mere success, which explains why knowledge is more epistemically valuable than mere true belief. Kvanvig 2003 and Grimm 2009 deny the adequacy of this basic account, while Brogaard 2006 questions whether, pace Zagzebski 2003, virtue epistemology is uniquely suited to answer these questions about value. Virtue epistemologists’ views on epistemic value are inextricably linked to what they have to say about luck, credit, and the nature of knowledge.

  • Brogaard, Berit. “Can Virtue Reliabilism Explain the Value of Knowledge?” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (2006): 335–354.

    DOI: 10.1353/cjp.2006.0015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brogaard contends that virtue epistemologists overlook an important category of non-instrumental extrinsic value, which might allow us to account for the value of knowledge without invoking virtues or the credit thesis. Simple reliabilist theories can just as well explain knowledge’s distinct value.

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  • Greco, John. Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    Greco argues that knowledge is a type of “success from ability” or “achievement,” which makes epistemic value a species of a more general and familiar sort value, namely, the sort attaching to achievements.

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  • Grimm, Stephen. “Epistemic Normativity.” In Epistemic Value. Edited by Adrian Haddock, Alan Millar, and Duncan Pritchard. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199231188.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Grimm takes the position that Sosa’s account of epistemic normativity (Sosa 2007) fails to account for the “non-optional” “binding or reason-giving force” of epistemic evaluation, precisely because it allows epistemic value to be only relatively, noncategorically valuable.

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  • Kvanvig, Jonathan. The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    Kvanvig argues that virtue epistemology fails to solve the value problem because it fails to handle some Gettier cases, especially fake-barn cases. See chapters 4 and 7.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. “The Place of Truth in Epistemology.” In Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology. Edited by Michael DePaul and Linda Zagzebski, 155–180. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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    Knowledge is more valuable than true belief because, among other things, it has added “eudaimonist, intrinsic value”—namely, the value added when an outcome is attributable to your virtue or skill. This basic idea is also explained in Sosa 2007, especially chapters 2, 4, and 5.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Sosa argues that epistemic normativity is a species of domain-specific normativity, wherein we evaluate performances by how well they promote domain-specific fundamental values, and by how the successful promotion of those values relates to the agent’s relevant competence. The fundamental epistemic value is truth. Domain-specific values needn’t be categorically valuable.

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  • Zagzebski, Linda. “The Search for the Source of Epistemic Good.” Metaphilosophy 34.1–2 (2003): 12–28.

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    An excellent statement of “the value problem” and virtue epistemology’s promise to solve it. Zagzebski argues that knowledge must possess value independently of how it was produced, and indeed independently of anything “external” to it. She proposes thinking of knowledge as a properly motivated “act” or “state of the agent.” The credit thesis about knowledge, which she endorsed in earlier work, points in the same direction.

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Credit

One of virtue epistemology’s hallmarks is the claim that knowledge is true belief for which you deserve credit. Greco 2003, Greco 2007, Riggs 2002, and Riggs 2009 are representative in this respect. Lackey 2007 argues that the credit thesis faces counterexamples. Greco 2007, Riggs 2009, and Sosa 2007 are responses to Lackey 2007, and Lackey issues a rejoinder in Lackey 2009.

  • Greco, John. “Knowledge as Credit for True Belief.” In Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology. Edited by Michael DePaul and Linda Zagzebski, 111–134. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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    Greco argues that knowledge is true belief for which you deserve credit, and he supplements this with a theory of intellectual credit, to wit, you deserve intellectual credit for believing the truth only if your “reliable cognitive character is an important and necessary part” of the causal explanation of your true belief.

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  • Greco, John. “The Nature of Ability and the Purpose of Knowledge.” Philosophical Issues 17.1 (2007): 57–59.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1533-6077.2007.00122.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Responds to Lackey’s objection involving testimonial knowledge (Lackey 2007). The basic idea is that you can still deserve credit for success due to cooperative effort, even when others do most of the work. This is what happens in cases of testimonial knowledge. See section 4.

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  • Lackey, Jennifer. “Why We Don’t Deserve Credit for Everything We Know.” Synthese 158.3 (2007): 345–361.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11229-006-9044-xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lackey argues that, pace a major theme common to many contemporary virtue epistemologists, we do not deserve credit for everything we know, and consequently that virtue epistemologists are not ideally suited to explain knowledge’s distinctive epistemic value. She presents counterexamples involving testimonial and innate knowledge. This article has received considerable attention, and many of Lackey’s targets have published responses.

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  • Lackey, Jennifer. “Knowledge and Credit.” Philosophical Studies 142.1 (2009): 27–42.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11098-008-9304-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lackey defends the argument of “Why We Don’t Deserve Credit for Everything We Know” (Lackey 2007) against several objections.

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  • Riggs, Wayne. “Reliability and the Value of Knowledge.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64.1 (2002): 79–96.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2002.tb00143.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In the course of giving reliabilists advice on how to respond to the value problem, Riggs makes some deep and important observations about the nature of knowledge, including the influential claim that knowledge is an “achievement,” and thus something for which you “deserve credit.”

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  • Riggs, Wayne. “Why Epistemologists Are So Down on Their Luck.” Synthese 158.3 (2007): 329–344.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11229-006-9043-ySave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Why does knowledge preclude luck? Riggs argues that the hypothesis that knowledge is “credit-worthy true belief” (that is, knowledge is “an accomplishment”) best explains why knowledge precludes luck. The hypothesis also solves the value problem. Riggs proposes that you know something just in case your abilities produce your true belief, and that this is not “inadvertent.” Riggs also offers a partial account of luck to complement his theory of knowledge.

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  • Riggs, Wayne. “Two Problems of Easy Credit.” Synthese 169.1 (2009): 201–216.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11229-008-9342-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Riggs defends the credit thesis against Lackey’s objections (Lackey 2007). He distinguishes two senses of credit: praiseworthiness and attributability. Knowledge requires that your true belief be attributable to you as an agent, but not that you be praiseworthy for it. Riggs claims that Lackey’s objections wrongly suppose that defenders of the credit thesis think that knowledge requires praiseworthiness, are too closely tied to Greco’s 2003 particular account of credit (with its emphasis on explanatory salience), and also overlook the possibility of “group effort” in achievements.

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  • Sosa, Ernest. A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Sosa responds to Lackey’s objection involving testimonial knowledge (Lackey 2007). Knowledge is apt belief, and belief can be apt when produced by a socially, in addition to individually, seated competence. This suggests that you need not deserve credit, or that you might deserve it only partially, for a belief that constitutes knowledge. See chapter 5.

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Luck

Many virtue epistemologists tout their view’s ability to properly account for epistemic luck (for example, Axtell 2007, Greco 2007, Riggs 2007). However, Pritchard 2005 and Pritchard 2008 argue that virtue epistemology does not succeed on this score. Sosa 1997, Greco 2006, and Pritchard 2006 debate the merits of a straightforward virtue reliabilist response to Pyrrhonian skepticism, with Greco arguing that it succeeds and Sosa and Pritchard saying it does not.

Contextualism

A popular but hotly contested view in recent epistemology says that the truth conditions for statements of the form “S knows that Q” are context-sensitive. Greco 2004 and Greco 2008 present a version of this contextualist thesis that emerges from a particular way of thinking about virtue epistemology, known as virtue contextualism. Koppelberg 2004 and Pritchard 2008, meanwhile, outline the objections to virtue contextualism.

  • Greco, John. “A Different Sort of Contextualism.” Erkenntnis 61.2–3 (2004): 383–400.

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    Greco contends that virtue epistemologists who endorse the credit thesis (that is, knowledge requires credit for true belief) are committed to a form of contextualism about knowledge attributions. Deserving credit for an outcome requires that your abilities causally explain the outcome. Because causal explanation is context-sensitive and knowledge requires causal explanation, knowledge attributions consequently inherit context-sensitivity.

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  • Greco, John. “What’s Wrong with Contextualism?” Philosophical Quarterly 58.232 (2008): 416–436.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9213.2008.535.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An updated defense of Greco’s case for virtue contextualism (Greco 2004), taking into account, among other things, the subsequent development of subject-sensitive invariantism and its challenge to contextualism.

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  • Koppelberg, Dirk. “On the Prospects for Virtue Contextualism: Comments on Greco.” Erkenntnis 61.2–3 (2004): 401–413.

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    Contests Greco’s argument for virtue contextualism (Greco 2004).

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  • Pritchard, Duncan. “Greco on Knowledge: Virtues, Contexts, Achievements.” The Philosophical Quarterly 58.232 (2008): 437–447.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9213.2008.550.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contests Greco’s defense of virtue contextualism (Greco 2008), claiming Greco does not give enough reason to prefer virtue contextualism over epistemic contrastivism.

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Beyond Knowledge

Some argue that virtue epistemology promises to expand the focus of epistemology beyond the standard fare of knowledge, justification, and skepticism. Zagzebski 2001 argues that history teaches us that interest in understanding will make a comeback, and that virtue epistemology is ideally suited to exploit this development. Riggs 2003 encourages virtue epistemologists to expand their conception of epistemic goods and virtues to include understanding. Roberts and Wood 2007 encourages virtue epistemologists to eschew traditional questions and focus intensely on the life of the mind—to provide an instructive and edifying map of the virtues. Battaly and Coplan 2009 presents a wonderful case study of intellectual virtue from popular culture, focusing on Dr. House of the dramatic television series House. Battaly 2010 provides a detailed study of the intellectual vice of self-indulgence. Fricker 2007 provides a detailed case study of the vice of testimonial injustice. Kvanvig 1992 argues for a radical shift toward social epistemology, where study of the virtues could take center stage.

  • Battaly, Heather. “Epistemic Self-Indulgence.” Metaphilosophy 41.1–2 (2010): 214–234.

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    A novel and detailed study of epistemic self-indulgence, temperance, and insensibility, modeled on Aristotle’s discussion of the corresponding moral analogues, with edifying examples from literature and drama.

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  • Battaly, Heather, and Amy Coplan. “Is Dr. House Virtuous?” Film and Philosophy 13 (2009).

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    An in-depth case study of the intellectual character of Dr. House, the protagonist of the dramatic television series House.

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  • Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    A fascinating study of the role played by intellectual traits in assessing testimony.

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  • Kvanvig, Jonathan. The Intellectual Virtues and the Life of the Mind: On the Place of the Virtues in Epistemology. Savage, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1992.

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    Dissatisfied with extant virtue epistemologies, Kvanvig argues for an alternative vision of the place of virtues in epistemology, placing them within a theory that eschews the traditional narrow Cartesian focus on individuals (or time-slices thereof) and instead emphasizes social and historical factors. The virtues are important because of their indispensable role in training people to seek, acquire, and transmit truths.

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  • Riggs, Wayne. “Understanding ‘Virtue’ and the Virtue of Understanding.” In Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology. Edited by Michael DePaul and Linda Zagzebski, 203–226. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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    There is a tendency to characterize intellectual virtues teleologically, or as those cognitive traits that promote the goal of a good truth/falsehood ratio in our beliefs. Riggs rejects this as incomplete, arguing that human intellectual flourishing involves much more than a good truth/falsehood ratio and must include understanding important subjects.

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  • Roberts, Robert C., and W. Jay Wood. Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology. Oxford: Clarendon, 2007.

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    The authors argue that “analytic virtue epistemology” is unfruitful and misguided. They articulate an alternative “regulative” epistemology that focuses intensely on the nature of individual virtues and vices, and that expands epistemology’s traditional scope to include other epistemic goods such as understanding.

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  • Zagzebski, Linda. “Recovering Understanding.” In Knowledge, Truth, and Duty: Essays on Epistemic Justification, Responsibility, and Virtue. Edited by Matthias Steup. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Drawing inspiration from the history of epistemology, Zagzebski conjectures that work on understanding will take center stage as epistemologists renounce their post-Cartesian preoccupation with skepticism and its attendant narrow focus on certainty and justification.

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LAST MODIFIED: 05/10/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396577-0123

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