This article traces a growing interest among epistemologists in the intellectuals of epistemic virtues. These are cognitive dispositions exercised in the formation of beliefs. Attempts to give intellectual virtues a central normative and/or explanatory role in epistemology occur together with renewed interest in the ethics/epistemology analogy, and in the role of intellectual virtue in Aristotle's epistemology. The central distinction drawn here is between two opposed forms of virtue epistemology, virtue reliabilism and virtue responsibilism. The article develops the shared and distinctive (...) claims made by contemporary proponents of each form, in their respective treatments of knowledge and justification. (shrink)
This is a unique collection of new and recently-published articles which debate the merits of virtue-theoretic approaches to the core epistemological issues of knowledge and justified belief. The readings all contribute to our understanding of the relative importance, for a theory of justified belief, of the reliability of our cognitive faculties and of the individuals responsibility in gathering and weighing evidence. Highlights of the readings include direct exchanges between leading exponents of this approach and their critics.
Abstract Do the central aims of epistemology, like those of moral philosophy, require that we designate some important place for those concepts located between the thin-normative and the non-normative? Put another way, does epistemology need ?thick? evaluative concepts? There are inveterate traditions in analytic epistemology which, having legitimized a certain way of viewing the nature and scope of epistemology's subject matter, give this question a negative verdict; further, they have carried with them a tacit commitment to what we argue to (...) be an epistemic analogue of the reductionistic centralist thesis that Bernard Williams in our view successfully challenged in ethics. In this essay, we challenge these traditional dogmas and in doing so align ourselves with what has been recently called the ?Value Turn? in epistemology. From this perspective, we defend that, contrary to tradition, epistemology does need thick evaluative concepts. Further, the sort of theories that will be able to give thick evaluative concepts a deservedly central role in both belief and agent evaluation are those non-centralist projects that fall within what we call the second-wave of virtue epistemology. We recognize that, in breaking from centralism, there is a worry that a resulting anti-centralist theory will be reductionistic in the other direction- making the thick primary. We contend however that second-wave virtue epistemologies should be thought to provide the wave of the right thickness, and as such, constitute the most promising approaches within a field that has become increasingly more normative, diverse and expansive than was the traditional set of problems from which it emerged. (shrink)
This paper develops under-recognized connections between moderate historicist methodology and character (or virtue) epistemology, and goes on to argue that their combination supports a “dialectical” conception of objectivity. Considerations stemming from underdetermination problems motivate our claim that historicism requires agent-focused rather than merely belief-focused epistemology; embracing this point helps historicists avoid the charge of relativism. Considerations stemming from the genealogy of epistemic virtue concepts motivate our claim that character epistemologies are strengthened by moderate historicism about the epistemic virtues and values (...) at work in communities of inquiry; embracing this point helps character epistemologists avoid the charge of objectivism. (shrink)
This chapter examines the modifications William James made to his account of the ethics of belief from his early ‘subjective method’ to his later heightened concerns with personal doxastic responsibility and with an empirically-driven comparative research program he termed a ‘science of religions’. There are clearly tensions in James’ writings on the ethics of belief both across his career and even within Varieties itself, tensions which some critics think spoil his defense of what he calls religious ‘faith ventures’ or ‘overbeliefs’. (...) But our study of James in the first half of the chapter reveals a significant degree of unnoticed unity: The two distinct defenses of faith ventures he develops post-1900 are actually both versions of the Dialogue Model of the relationship between individual religiosity and scientific reasoning. One shared theme in the diverging approaches to doxastic responsibility suggested by the two versions is what some interpreters have called ‘the character issue’ in James’ writings. The second half of the chapter develops these connections and argues that a neo-Jamesian approach tying the ethics of belief with Rawlsian reasonable pluralism and with contemporary character epistemology results in a stronger yet more clearly delimited defense of responsible faith ventures. (shrink)
The use of the term "applied ethics" to denote a particular field of moral inquiry (distinct from but related to both normative ethics and meta-ethics) is a relatively new phenomenon. The individuation of applied ethics as a special division of moral investigation gathered momentum in the 1970s and 1980s, largely as a response to early twentieth- century moral philosophy's overwhelming concentration on moral semantics and its apparent inattention to practical moral problems that arose in the wake of significant social and (...) technological transformations. The field of applied ethics is now a well established, professional domain sustained by institutional research centers, professional academic appointments, and devoted journals. As the field of applied ethics grew and developed, its contributors predominantly advocated consequentialist and deontological approaches to the problems they address; but lately a significant number of moral philosophers have begun to bring the resources of virtue ethics to bear upon the ever-evolving subject matters of applied ethics. (shrink)
[FREE PUBLISHED VERSION AT LINK BELOW]. This chapter provides an empirical defense of credit theories of knowing against Alfano’s the-ses of inferential cognitive situationism and of epistemic situationism. It also develops a Nar-row-Broad Spectrum of agency-ascriptions in reply to Olin and Doris’ ‘trade-off problem.’ In order to support the claim that credit theories can treat many cases of success through heuristic cognitive strategies as credit-conferring, the paper develops the compatibility between VE and dual-process theories (DPT) in cognitive psychology. A genuine (...) convergence between VE and DPT is called for, while acknowledging that this effort may demand new and more empirically well-informed projects on both sides of the division between Conservative VE (including the credit theory of knowing) and Autonomous VE (including accounts of epistemic responsibility and of guidance for improving practices of inquiry). (shrink)
The first part of this paper asks why we need, or what would motivate, ameaningful expansion of epistemology. It answers with three critical arguments found in the recent literature, which each purport to move us some distance beyond the preoccupations of ‘post-Gettier era’ analytic epistemology. These three—the ‘epistemic luck,’ ‘epistemic value’ and ‘epistemic reconciliation’ arguments associated with D. Pritchard, J. Kvanvig, and M. Williams, respectively—each carry this implication of needed expansion by functioning as forceful ‘internal critiques’ of the tradition. The (...) second part of the paper asks what specific directions an expanded field of epistemology should take. While this is taken as an open question for debate, the expansion suggested here remains continuous with the analytic tradition, while also underlining the centrality of the acquired or ‘reflective’ intellectual virtues in meeting the burdens of the three arguments. Responsibilism, as here understood, is not a philosophical thesis so much as an orientation of commitment to clearing away philosophical assumptions that systematically obstruct recognition of the importance of empirically-informed research programs into the reflective virtues. (shrink)
The critical focus of this paper is on a claim made explicitly by Gilbert Harman and accepted implicitly by numerous others, the claim that naturalism supports concurrent defense of scientific objectivism and moral relativism. I challenge the assumptions of Harman's ‘argument from naturalism' used to support this combination of positions, utilizing. Hilary Putnam’s ‘companions in guilt’ argument in order to counter it. The paper concludes that while domain-specific anti-realism is often warranted, Harman’s own views about the objectivity of facts and (...) the subjectivity of values are better seen as stemming from scientistic ideals of knowledge than from dictates of naturalism. Scientists qua scientists make value judgments, and setting aside scientistic assumptions and unrealizable conceptions of scientific objectivity should lead us to more symmetrical metaphilosophical conception of epistemic and ethical normativity than that which underlies Harman's account. (shrink)
We articulate John Dewey’s “independent factors” approach to moral philosophy and then adapt and extend this approach to address contemporary debate concerning the nature and sources of epistemic normativity. We identify three factors (agent reliability, synchronic rationality, and diachronic rationality) as each making a permanent contribution to epistemic value. Critical of debates that stem from the reductionistic ambitions of epistemological systems that privilege of one or another of these three factors, we advocate an axiological pluralism that acknowledges each factor as (...) an independent “spring” of epistemic value within responsible inquiry. (shrink)
This paper provides an empirical defense of credit theories of knowing against Mark Alfano’s challenges to them based on his theses of inferential cognitive situationism and of epistemic situationism. In order to support the claim that credit theories can treat many cases of cognitive success through heuristic cognitive strategies as credit-conferring, the paper develops the compatibility between virtue epistemologies qua credit theories, and dual-process theories in cognitive psychology. It also a response to Lauren Olin and John Doris’ “vicious minds” thesis, (...) and their “tradeoff problem” for virtue theories. A genuine convergence between virtue epistemology and dual-process theory is called for, while acknowledging that this effort may demand new and more empirically well-informed projects on both sides of the division between Conservative virtue epistemology (including the credit theory of knowing) and Autonomous virtue epistemology (including projects for providing guidance to epistemic agents). (shrink)
Luck threatens in similar ways our conceptions of both moral and epistemic evaluation. This essay examines the problem of luck as a metaphilosophical problem spanning the division between subfields in philosophy. I first explore the analogies between ethical and epistemic luck by comparing influential attempts to expunge luck from our conceptions of agency in these two subfields. I then focus upon Duncan Pritchard's challenge to the motivations underlying virtue epistemology, based specifically on its handling of the problem of epistemic luck. (...) I argue that (1) consideration of the multifold nature of the problem of epistemic luck to an adequate account of human knowledge drives us to a mixed externalist epistemology; and (2) the virtue-theoretical approach presents a particularly advantageous way of framing and developing a mixed externalist epistemology. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR] Copyright of Metaphilosophy is the property of Blackwell Publishing Limited and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts). (shrink)
Abstract: In this article, the logic and functions of character-trait ascriptions in ethics and epistemology is compared, and two major problems, the "generality problem" for virtue epistemologies and the "global trait problem" for virtue ethics, are shown to be far more similar in structure than is commonly acknowledged. I suggest a way to put the generality problem to work by making full and explicit use of a sliding scale--a "narrow-broad spectrum of trait ascription"-- and by accounting for the various uses (...) of it in an inquiry-pragmatist account. In virtue theories informed by inquiry pragmatism, the agential habits and abilities deemed salient in explanations/evaluations of agents in particular cases, and the determination of what relevant domains and conditions an agent's habit or ability is reliably efficacious in, is determined by pragmatic concerns related to our evaluative epistemic practices. (shrink)
This essay extends my side of a discussion begun earlier with Duncan Pritchard, the recent author of Epistemic Luck.Pritchard’s work contributes significantly to improving the “diagnostic appeal” of a neo-Moorean philosophical response to radical scepticism. While agreeing with Pritchard in many respects, the paper questions the need for his concession to the sceptic that the neo-Moorean is capable at best of recovering “‘brute’ externalist knowledge”. The paper discusses and directly responds to a dilemma that Pritchard poses for virtue epistemologies (VE). (...) It also takes issue with Pritchard’s “merely safety-based” alternative. Ultimately, however, the criticisms made here of Pritchard’s dilemma and its underlying contrast of “anti-luck” and “virtue” epistemologies are intended to help realize his own aspirations for a better diagnosis of radical scepticism to inform a still better neo-Moorean response. (shrink)
This chapter focuses on the responses that proponents of virtue epistemology (VE) make to radical skepticism and particularly to two related forms of it, Pyrrhonian skepticism and the “underdetermination-based” argument, both of which have been receiving widening attention in recent debate. Section 1 of the chapter briefly articulates these two skeptical arguments and their interrelationship, while section 2 explains the close connection between a virtue-theoretic and a neo-Moorean response to them. In sections 3 and 4 I advance arguments for improving (...) the prospects of virtue-theoretic responses, sketching a particular version of VE that by recasting somewhat how we understand the “externalist turn in epistemology” also suggests ways of improving the adequacy of philosophical diagnoses and responses to skepticism. (shrink)
In the centennial year of John Dewey’s classic, Democracy and Education (1916), this paper revisits his thesis of the reciprocity of means and ends, arguing that it remains of central importance for debate over the aims of education. The paper provides a Dewey-inspired rebuttal of arguments for an ‘ultimate aim,’ but balances this with a development of the strong overlaps between proponents of pragmatism, intellectual virtues education (Jason Baehr) and critical thinking education (Harvey Siegel). Siegel’s ‘Kantian’ justification of critical thinking (...) as an ultimate aim is critiqued, and contrary to Siegel’s ‘generalist’ focus on logic, the paper concludes with specific suggestions for how the study of ecological rationality and dual-process theories (Gerd Gigerenzer; Keith Stanovich and others) should impact how we teach for critical thinking dispositions. (shrink)
The presence of luck in our cognitive as in our moral lives shows that the quality of our intellectual character may not be entirely up to us as individuals, and that our motivation and even our ability to desire the truth, like our moral goodness, can be fragile. This paper uses epistemologists'responses to the problem of “epistemic luck” as a sounding board and locates the source of some of their deepest disagreements in divergent, value-charged “interests in explanation,” which epistemologists bring (...) with them to discussions of knowledge and justification. In so doing, I delineate both the commonalities and key differences between those authors I describe as virtue reliabilists and those I describe as virtue responsibilists. (shrink)
Today we find philosophical naturalists and Christian theists both expressing an interest in virtue epistemology, while starting out from vastly different assumptions. What can be done to increase fruitful dialogue among these divergent groups of virtue-theoretic thinkers? The primary aim of this paper is to uncover more substantial common ground for dialogue by wielding a double-edged critique of certain assumptions shared by `scientific' and `theistic' externalisms, assumptions that undermine proper attention to epistemic agency and responsibility. I employ a responsibilist virtue (...) epistemology to this end, utilizing it most extensively in critique of Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief (2000). Epistemological externalism presages, I also argue, a new demarcation problem, but a secondary aim of the paper is to suggest reasons to think that `responsibilist externalism,' especially as glossed in virtue-theoretic terms, provides its proponents with the ability to adequately address this problem as we find it represented in a potent thought-experiment developed by Barry Stroud. (shrink)
Evidentialism as its leading proponents describe it has two distinct senses, these being evidentialism as a conceptual analysis of epistemic justification, and as a prescriptive ethics of belief—an account of what one ‘ought to believe’ under different epistemic circumstances. These two senses of evidentialism are related, but in the work of leading evidentialist philosophers, in ways that I think are deeply problematic. Although focusing on Richard Feldman’s ethics of belief, this chapter is critical of evidentialism in both senses. However, I (...) share with authors like Feldman and Earl Conee, that epistemology has important prescriptive functions, and that a sound, civic ethics of belief is of more than merely philosophic importance. One reason why an ethics of belief might be important to problems of practice is the need we have for tools to more effectively mediate the renewed round of ‘culture wars’ we are experiencing in Anglo-American cultures. I mean especially that grand cultural clash between science and religion, reason and faith, secularist atheism and religious fundamentalism, etc. Let us start with the genealogical question of why there is such a grand cultural debate in the first place, and why the debate especially as played out in public and popular forums and even in the courtrooms seems so volatile and so often to confusedly drag everything—beliefs, values, passions, etc., with it. These are questions that I think Sigmund Freud’s classic Civilization and its Discontents can help us understand. Freud was a major voice in criticism of the stern and often hypocritical Victorian morality, a voice pointing out the price of its sometimes high-handed, guiltinducing curtailments of the satisfactions sought by the individual. But for Freud while there are real differences in the moral demands that different societies or traditions place upon people, there is something inevitable about the conflict itself, for “replacement of the power of the individual by the power of a community constitutes the decisive step of civilization... (shrink)
Critics and defenders of William James both acknowledge serious tensions in his thought, tensions perhaps nowhere more vexing to readers than in regard to his claim about an individual’s intellectual right to their “faith ventures.” Focusing especially on “Pragmatism and Religion,” the final lecture in Pragmatism, this chapter will explore certain problems James’ pragmatic pluralism. Some of these problems are theoretical, but others concern the real-world upshot of adopting James permissive ethics of belief. Although Jamesian permissivism is qualified in certain (...) ways in this paper, I largely defend James in showing how permissivism has philosophical advantages over the non-permissivist position associated with evidentialism. These advantages include not having to treat disagreement as a sign of error or irrationality, and mutual support relations between permissivism and what John Rawls calls the "reasonable pluralism" at the heart of political liberalism. (shrink)
This paper defends the epistemological importance of ‘diachronic’ or cross-temporal evaluation of epistemic agents against an interesting dilemma posed for this view in Trent Dougherty’s recent paper “Reducing Responsibility.” This is primarily a debate between evidentialists and character epistemologists, and key issues of contention that the paper treats include the divergent functions of synchronic and diachronic (longitudinal) evaluations of agents and their beliefs, the nature and sources of epistemic normativity, and the advantages versus the costs of the evidentialists’ reductionism about (...) sources of epistemic normativity. (shrink)
The Emotions chapter (XXV) in James' Principles of Psychology traverses the entire range of experienced emotions from the “coarser” and more instinctual to the “subtler” emotions intimately involved in cognitive, moral, and aesthetic aspects of life. But Principles limits himself to an account of emotional consciousness and so there are few direct discussions in the text of Principles about what later came to be called moral psychology, and fewer about anything resembling philosophical ethics. Still, James’ short section on the subtler (...) emotions, when read in connection with his later philosophical writings, still provides insight on James’ views about how human emotion colors our moral psychology and agency. The paper tries to articulate how James' somatic account of emotion adds significantly to contemporary discussions at the borders of moral psychology and philosophy: discussions over the foreground/background distinction, emotional temperament, emotional learning, moral imagination, and selfhood and narrativity. The final section focuses on the neo-Jamesian character of "new sentimentalist" moral psychologists. Among the substantial connections I discuss between James and 1) between Jonathan Haidt’s “social intuitionism” and 2) Jesse Prinz’s "emotionism" are the critiques that they each share of the pretensions of hard universalist ethical theories. (shrink)
This was my first paper on virtue epistemology, and already highlights the connections with epistemic value and axiology which I would later develop. Although most accounts were either internalist or externalist in an exclusive sense, I suggest an inquiry-focused version through connections with the American pragmatism.
The centennial of Dewey & Tuft’s Ethics (1908) provides a timely opportunity to reflect both on Dewey’s intellectual debt to utilitarian thought, and on his critique of it. In this paper I examine Dewey’s assessment of utilitarianism, but also his developing view of the good (ends; consequences), the right (rules; obligations) and the virtuous (approbations; standards) as “three independent factors in morals.” This doctrine (found most clearly in the 2nd edition of 1932) as I argue in the last sections, has (...) significant forward-going implications for debates in ethics, insofar as it functions to deflate debates among ethicists that turns on claims about the conceptual primacy of any one of these three ethical concepts over the other two. To find what “permanent value each group contributes to the clarification and direction of reflective morality” was the task Dewey set for himself. But to carry that project through demands showing also why the application of considerations of ends, rules, and virtues to problems of practice is not quite as many self-described utilitarians, deontologists, and virtue ethicists conceive it. (shrink)
This paper pursues Ernan McMullin‘s claim ("Virtues of a Good Theory" and related papers on theory-choice) that talk of theory virtues exposes a fault-line in philosophy of science separating "very different visions" of scientific theorizing. It argues that connections between theory virtues and virtue epistemology are substantive rather than ornamental, since both address underdetermination problems in science, helping us to understand the objectivity of theory choice and more specifically what I term the ampliative adequacy of scientific theories. The paper argues (...) therefore that virtue epistemologies can make substantial contributions to the epistemology and methodology of the sciences, helping to bridge the gulf between realists and anti-realists, and to re-enforce moderation over claims about the implications of underdetermination problems for scientific inquiry. It finally makes and develops the suggestion that virtue epistemologies, at least of the kind developed here, offer support to the position that philosophers of science know as normative naturalism. (shrink)
Thirty years after the publication of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, sharp disagreement persists concerning the implications of Kuhn’s "historicist" challenge to empiricism. I discuss the historicist movement over the past thirty years, and the extent to which the discourse between two branches of the historical school has been influenced by tacit assumptions shared with Rudolf Carnap’s empiricism. I begin with an examination of Carnap’s logicism --his logic of science-- and his 1960 correspondence with Kuhn. I focus on (...) problems in the analysis applied to the unit of metascientific study or appraisal, arguing for a reassessment of historicist treatment of the internal/external distinction and historiographic meta-methodology. The critique of objectivism and relativism that eventuates from this re-assessment is a double-edged blade, undercutting both objectivist and relativist treatments of cognitive evaluation and scientific change. I use it to cut across an otherwise diverse group of historicist-influenced writers, including Imre Lakatos, Larry Laudan, H. M. Collins, Stephen Stich. I. Introduction.. (shrink)
Many readers have viewed William James's "The Will to Believe" as his most distinctive and resonating lecture. Yet for all the scholarly attention it has received, the complexities of the "pragmatic defence," and the issues it raises concerning evidential and pragmatic reasoning are still often misunderstood. In this paper I explicate a neglected "core" argument tied closely to James's thesis statement, and provide charts and other tools useful in presenting James' lecture in the philosophy classroom. This argument, based on the (...) Ought-Implies-Can principle, is useful for highlighting differences between James's pragmatist and Clifford's evidentialist perspective. I first reconstruct this implicit Ought-Implies-Can argument in modus tollens form, and follow this with a Chart intended to clarify various steps James takes in support of the crucial second premise. My purpose is primarily to explicate this neglected argument in a reconstructed, "bare-bones" fashion for classroom study and evaluation. (shrink)
Originally titled “Institutional, Group, and Individual Virtue,” this was my paper for an Invited Symposium on "Intersections between Social, Feminist, and Virtue Epistemologies," APA Pacific Division Meeting, April 2011, San Diego. -/- Abstract: This paper examines recent research on individual, social, and institutional virtues and vices; the aim is to explore and make proposals concerning their inter-relationships, as well as to highlight central questions for future research with the study of each. More specifically, the paper will focus on how these (...) studies can be approached in a systematic way such that it contributes to greater convergence between virtue theory, feminist epistemology, and social epistemology. To this end the paper develops a model of responsibility qua diachronic (longitudinal) assessment of the inquiry-directed agential habits (motivations, activities, and strategies), while explaining the place of this model within a broader, 15-point proposed “Responsibilist” research program. (shrink)
A further reply to Trent Dougherty, author of Evidentialism and its Discontents, on a range of issues that evidentialists like Dougherty and Feldman, and pragmatists like myself have very different views about. These issues include a regarding a proper understanding of epistemic normativity and its relationship with doxastic responsibility. My reply tries to articulate the relative importance of synchronic and diachronic concerns with epistemic agency, both with respect to well-founded belief, as with respect to the ‘ethics of belief’ and ‘epistemology (...) of disagreement,’ both concerned with giving guidance. (shrink)
In opening the Lowell Lectures of 1906 with "The Present Dilemma in Philosophy," William James confounded his audience with the initial thesis that "The history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a certain clash of temperaments." This article revisits James's thesis, using the latitude afforded by his title to describe a different dilemma than he was concerned with in his lecture. Pragmatism can be applied to diagnose the apparently irreconcilable perspectives that give rise to a dilemma about (...) knowledge and justification, and to suggest a philosophically advantageous "mediating way of thinking.". (shrink)
A review of Ernest Sosa’s book Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge. While I think Sosa is quite right that knowledge lies on a spectrum, and that its higher but not its lower reaches require of knowers, when challenged, a strong degree of explanatory coherence (ability to understand and discursively defend the basis of their beliefs), I also point out problems with certain aspects of his account.
The criteria of “forced, live, and momentous options,” as William James utilized them in his pragmatic defense of religious belief, cannot, I argue, both support religious pluralism and acknowledge lessons about failure of epistemic responsibility in Heaven’s Gate-followers. But I attempt to re-vitalize the pragmatic argument, showing it capable of walking this narrow line. I proceed (1) by developing the distinction and relationship between a commitment to a particular religious system or community, and a commitment to the generic “religious hypothesis” (...) itself; and (2) by explicating and expanding upon the “experimental” status—and associated pragmatic criteria for success or failure—that James already recognized for commitments to particular religious communities. I thus show how the “pragmatic argument” takes on heightened significance—and renewed promise—in light of problems associated with New Age and so-called “cult” religiosity. (shrink)
Today we find philosophical naturalists and Christian theists both expressing an interest in virtue epistemology, while starting out from vastly different assumptions. What can be done to increase fruitful dialogue among these divergent groups of virtue-theoretic thinkers? The primary aim of this paper is to uncover more substantial common ground for dialogue by wielding a double-edged critique of certain assumptions shared by 'scientific' and 'theistic' externalisms, assumptions that undermine proper attention to epistemic agency and responsibility. I employ a responsibilist virtue (...) epistemology to this end, utilizing it most extensively in critique of Alvin Plantinga's "Warranted Christian Belief". Epistemological externalism presages, I also argue, a new demarcation problem, but a secondary aim of the paper is to suggest reasons to think that 'responsibilist externalism,' especially as glossed in virtue-theoretic terms, provides its proponents with the ability to adequately address this problem as we find it represented in a potent thought-experiment developed by Barry Stroud. (shrink)
A Review of John Greco's book Acheiving Knowledge. The critical points I make involve three claims Greco makes that represent common ground between the reliabilists (including agent reliabilists like himself) and the character epistemologists (which would include myself): I. Such virtues are often needed to make our cognitive abilities reliable (to turn mere faculties into excellences); II. Such virtues might be essentially involved in goods other than knowledge; III. Such virtues might be valuable in themselves.
This book is a major contribution to a growing literature in character-based or responsibilist epistemology. One point I criticize is the author's claim that intellectual virtues must be “indexed to world views” (318) which is line-drawing maneuver that would remove religious beliefs deemed basic in a given tradition from rational criticism. Still, the overall effect of the authors’ regulative epistemology is nevertheless to put religious believers and secularists, and again Christian and non-Christian faith traditions, on a far better path towards (...) mutual understanding and respect. (shrink)
Evidentialism as Earl Conee and Richard Feldman present it is a philosophy with distinct aspects or sides: Evidentialism as a conceptual analysis of epistemic justification, and as a prescriptive ethics of belief. I argue that Conee and Feldman's ethics of belief has 'weak roots and sour fruits.' It has weak roots because it is premised on their account of justification qua synchronic rationality, and I undercut this account. It has sour fruits because the austere evidentialist ethic of belief is unable (...) to support reasonable disagreement, and eventuates in prescribing agnosticism in most cases of disagreement. I contrast this with John Rawls' understanding of "reasonable pluralism" and of the many sources of faultless disagreement over what Rawls termed comprehensive conceptions of the good. (shrink)
There are many books on the market about religion in American thought and history, but the idea for a collection of essays focused directly upon pragmatist reconstructions of religious belief and sentiment is overdue. Stuart Rosenbaum’s reader admirably fills this need, and is bound to bring fresh insights to students and advanced researchers alike.
A Review of S. Napiers, book Virtue Epistemology. While concerned with the nature of knowledge, Napier also wants to claim that a key implication of responsibilist VE is “a shift away from analyzing epistemic concepts (knowledge, etc.) in terms of other epistemic concepts (e.g. justification) to analyzing epistemic concepts with reference to kinds of human activity…much of analytic epistemology centers on epistemic concepts, whereas the responsibilist focuses on epistemic activity” (144).Of the main points he claims responsibilism provides us with—(i) rentention (...) of the idea that a person who knows is personally justified in the sense of is rational, justified, or intellectually good, (ii) a sound account of the value of knowledge, and (iii) a Gettier-proof theory of knowledge —I pose some questions about the first and third. (shrink)
William James’s lecture “The Will to Believe” presents his pragmatic “defense” of religious beliefs, one aimed at rebutting W. K. Clifford’s famous evidentialist principle that “It is always wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence.” This paper presents a number of classroom tools and techniques for teaching James’s lecture, for contrasting it against arguments for God’s existence, and for positioning his lecture in a broader context of the “ethics of belief.” In addition to a detailed (...) account of James’s “Ought-Implies-Can” argument, the paper provides two tables that detail crucial distinctions in the “Will to Believe” argument. These tables and associated techniques promise to make a more constructive and effective use of class time devoted to James’s lecture. (shrink)