Every variant of virtue epistemology holds to two basic resolutions: (1) that epistemology is a normative discipline and (2) that “intellectual agents and communities are the primary source of epistemic value and the primary focus of epistemic evaluation” (Greco and Turri, 2011). The former amounts to a rejection of Quine's proposal in “Epistemology Naturalized” (1969) that epistemologists should give up on attempts to discern what is reasonable to believe in favor of projects within cognitive psychology and a call for epistemologists to “focus their efforts on understanding epistemic norms, value and evaluation”. To better understand the second resolution think of virtue ethics. For the two titans of moral philosophy, Kantian deontology and utilitarianism, the starting place for moral evaluation is action. For Kantians and for utilitarians, the question to ask when doing ethics is “What should I do?” For virtue ethicists, the starting place for moral evaluation is the agent—his or her character—and subsequently the virtue ethicist asks a different question, “How should I live?”. Instead of focusing on the beliefs of agents (whether or not they are justified, safe, etc.), virtue epistemologists predominantly focus on the agent f—on whether he or she has the right sort of epistemic character, the right sort of cognitive faculties, whether he or she is epistemically virtuous or not. Other theories of knowledge will give some account of epistemic virtues—good memory, intellectual courage, etc.—but usually in terms of knowledge; the radical claim that virtue epistemology makes is that knowledge is defined in terms of virtue.
A virtue-theoretic approach to epistemology was first suggested in Sosa 1980. Since then, virtue epistemology has developed by and large into two schools: agent-reliabilism and responsibilism or neo-Aristotelianism.The primary difference between the schools is their application of “virtue” terminology. Agent-reliabilism, being modeled along reliabilist lines, focuses on the reliable functioning (virtuous functioning) of a given agent’s cognitive faculties. A few seminal agent-reliabilist works include Plantinga 1993, Sosa 2007, and Greco 2010. Neo-Aristotelianism, on the other hand, applies virtue terminology in a way we are perhaps more familiar with—in terms of specific character traits such as open-mindedness, intellectual courage, intellectual perseverance, etc. A few seminal Neo-Aristotelian works include Code 1987, Montmarquet 1993, and Zagzebski 1996.
|Introductions||Encyclopedia articles include Turri et al 2011 and Baehr 2004.|
- Coherentism (242 | 161)
- Dogmatism (407 | 150)
- Epistemic Constructivism (51)
- Epistemic Contextualism (833 | 120)
- Epistemic Fallibilism (84)
- Epistemic Internalism and Externalism (433)
- Epistemic Relativism (431 | 1)
- Empiricism (255 | 202)
- Evidentialism (241)
- Evolutionary Epistemology (286)
- Foundationalism (445 | 178)
- Infinitism (94)
- Pragmatic Encroachment (212)
- Rationalism (150 | 113)
- Reliabilism (443 | 170)
- Epistemological Theories, Misc (194)
- Epistemic Virtues (318)
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