In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Intellectual Virtues

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Monographs
  • Anthologies
  • Intellectual Virtues in the History of Philosophy
  • The General Structure and Features of the Intellectual Virtues
  • Intellectual Vices

Philosophy Intellectual Virtues
Charlie Crerar, Teresa Allen, Heather Battaly
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 October 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0413


Intellectual virtues are qualities that make us excellent thinkers. There are different analyses of exactly which qualities count as intellectual virtues: virtue responsibilists have emphasized praiseworthy character traits, such as open-mindedness and intellectual humility, while virtue reliabilists have emphasized reliable skills and faculties, such as vision, memory, and skills of logic. Importantly, all agree that intellectual virtues are (i) excellences, as opposed to defects; and (ii) distinctively intellectual and not, or not simply, moral. In other words, intellectual virtues are qualities that make us excellent (and not defective) as thinkers, not (or not simply) as people in general. This bibliography provides an overview of philosophical work on the intellectual virtues. It includes articles and books addressing responsibilist and reliabilist analyses of the structure of intellectual virtue; analyses of individual intellectual virtues; the application of intellectual virtue to education and other professional fields; the role of intellectual virtues in epistemology; and, finally, the structure of intellectual vice. It also includes some historical sources on intellectual virtue, though its focus is contemporary. Analyses of intellectual virtue (and of individual intellectual virtues) have developed in tandem with the epistemological subfield of virtue epistemology, which employs the notion of intellectual virtue in an account of knowledge. These analyses also frequently draw on virtue ethics, especially in the Aristotelian tradition. Some of the sources cited touch upon connections between intellectual virtue and these fields, though a fuller treatment of these topics can be found in the corresponding bibliographies on Virtue Epistemology and Virtue Ethics.

General Overviews

Three masterful overviews will help readers get situated. All are well written, and accessible to nonspecialists. Baehr 2004 and Battaly 2008 pay special attention to explaining the differences between virtue responsibilism and virtue reliabilism, which are the two primary analyses of the structure of intellectual virtues in the literature. Both also evaluate responsibilism and reliabilism, identifying advantages and weaknesses of each view. Turri, et al. 2017 provides a broader overview that also includes a survey of work on the virtue of intellectual humility.

  • Baehr, Jason. “Virtue Epistemology.” In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2004.

    Baehr focuses on defining responsibilism and reliabilism, identifying key figures, and exploring the prospects and problems for each camp. He argues for bridging the divide between responsibilism and reliabilism on the grounds that each camp needs the other.

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

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00146.x

    Battaly identifies key features of responsibilism and reliabilism, and argues that we need not choose between them, since each succeeds in identifying a kind of intellectual virtue. This overview is a bit broader than Baehr’s. It defines virtue theories in epistemology, and links reliabilism and responsibilism to low- and high-grade knowledge, respectively.

  • Turri, John, Mark Alfano, and John Greco. “Virtue Epistemology.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2017.

    This overview is broader still. It situates the debate between reliabilism and responsibilism within the concerns of virtue epistemology as a whole, which include defining knowledge in terms of intellectual virtues, and grappling with the value problem (what makes knowledge more valuable than true belief) and with situationism (skepticism about global character traits). Especially noteworthy are its sections on individual intellectual virtues, and on understanding.

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