American Philosophical Quarterly 32 (4):395 - 406 (1995)

Garrett Cullity
Australian National University
This paper defends the claim that there is deontic knowledge - knowledge of rightness and wrongness - which can be inferred from aretaic knowledge - knowledge of the possession of virtue-attributes. In doing so, it seeks to address two forceful objections, identified at the outset. The first is that the only way of making the claim appear plausible is by assuming a practice of virtue-ascription which actually makes the reverse inference. The second objection is that there is that "aretaic cognitivism" will face a familiar non-cognitivist challenge - that the cognitivist must choose between an "intuitionism" and a "naturalism", against both of which there are well-known attacks - and that there is no reason to believe that this challenge can be met any more readily than by a direct deontic cognitivism. After a first section in which I outline a certain weak sense of the term "norm" in which our actions are often normatively guided, the defence of aretaic cognitivism begins with a schematic expression of the practical norms which are central to a number of important moral virtues. Guidance by any one of the schematized norms is not sufficient to guarantee the virtuousness of an action, because there may be countervailing applications of competing practical norms. However, aretaic knowledge does not require knowledge that there are no such countervailing considerations - and what it does require can apparently be satisfied. Therefore, I argue, both objections can be met: there are at least some circumstances in which our possession of aretaic knowledge does not depend on the possession of deontic knowledge, and since it does not, there is a way between the horns of the non-cognitivist's dilemma.
Keywords moral epistemology  virtue
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