Virtuous distinctions: New distinctions for reliabilism and responsibilism

Synthese 194 (8):2973–3003 (2017)
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Virtue epistemology has been divided into two camps: reliabilists and responsibilists. This division has been attributed in part to a focus on different types of virtues, viz., faculty virtues and character virtues. I will argue that this distinction is unhelpful, and that we should carve up the theoretical terrain differently. Making several better distinctions among virtues will show us two important things. First, that responsibilists and reliabilists are actually engaged in different, complementary projects; and second, that certain responsibilist critiques of reliabilism miss the mark. With these distinctions on the table, we can see that the virtue reliabilist project is in some ways more fundamental than the responsibilist project, since the latter importantly depends on the former. I argue that the distinctively epistemic value of the responsibilist’s character virtues is derived from their connections to the reliabilist’s constitutive virtues. While this will give us a unified account of the epistemic value of intellectual virtues, it is not a reduction of the responsibilist project to the reliabilist one; rather, it as a way of securing the separate importance of each project by clarifying how they relate to one another

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Will Fleisher
Georgetown University