Virtues, social roles, and contextualism

Metaphilosophy 41 (1):95-114 (2010)
Abstract
Abstract: Contextualism in epistemology has been proposed both as a way to avoid skepticism and as an explanation for the variability found in our use of "knows." When we turn to contextualism to perform these two functions, we should ensure that the version we endorse is well suited for these tasks. I compare two versions of epistemic contextualism: attributor contextualism (from Keith DeRose) and methodological contextualism (from Michael Williams). I argue that methodological contextualism is superior both in its response to skepticism and in its mechanism for changing contexts. However, methodological contextualism still faces two challenges: explaining why we are solidly committed to some contexts, and explaining why knowledge within a context is valuable. I propose virtue contextualism as a useful extension of methodological contextualism, focusing on the way that our virtues depend on our social roles. My proposed virtue contextualism retains the benefits of methodological contextualism while explaining both our commitment to particular contexts and the value of knowledge held within those contexts.
Keywords social roles  intellectual virtues  Keith DeRose  contextualism  Michael Williams  virtue epistemology  virtue contextualism
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