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.
Gilbert Harman and John Doris (among others) have maintained that experimental studies of human behaviour give good grounds for denying the very existence of moral character. This research, according to Harman and Doris, shows human behaviour to be dependent not on character but mainly on one's ‘situation.’ My paper develops a number of criticisms of this view, among them that social science experiments are ill-suited to study character, insofar as they do not estimate the role of character in continuously shaping (...) the direction of one's life—including what situations one is apt to get into in the first place. (shrink)
Jonathan Bennett, Nomy Arpaly, and others see in Huckleberry Finn's apparent praiseworthiness for not turning Jim in (even though this goes against his own moral judgments in the matter) a model for an improved, non-intellectualist approach to moral appraisal. I try to show – both on Aristotelian and on independent grounds – that these positions are fundamentally flawed. In the process, I try to show how Huck may be blameless for lacking what would have been a praiseworthy belief (that I (...) should help Jim), hence, blameless for not acting on this belief; but being ‘blamelessly unpraiseworthy’ is not the same thing as being praiseworthy. (shrink)
This paper examines the relative voluntariness of three types of virtue: 'epistemic' virtues like open-mindedness; 'motivational' virtues like courage, and more robustly 'moral' virtues like justice. A somewhat novel conception of the voluntariness of belief is offered in terms of the limited, but quite real, voluntariness of certain epistemic virtues.
In this article I distinguish a type of justification that is "epistemic" in pertaining to the grounds of one's belief, and "practical" in its connection to what act(s) one may undertake, based on that belief. Such justification, on the proposed account, depends mainly on the proportioning of "inner epistemic virtue" to the "outer risks" implied by one's act. The resulting conception strikes a balance between the unduly moralistic conception of William Clifford and contemporary naturalist virtue theories.
My aim here is to characterize a certain type of ‘virtue approach’ to questions of responsibility for belief; then to explore the extent to which this is helpful with respect to one fundamental puzzle raised by the claims that we have, and that we do not have, voluntary control over our beliefs; and then ultimately to attempt a more exact statement of doxastic responsibility and, with it a plausible statement of ‘weak doxastic voluntarism.’.
Is it possible to avoid “the agrarian myth” while recognizing the genuine value—which is not necessarily the economic or monetary value—of agrarian pursuits? My answer is that such a recognition of genuine agrarian values is possible, but only if we recapture a lost sense of the value of productive activities generally.An impediment to this recognition, I maintain, is modern economics—both socialist and free market; one important means to it, the natural law philosophy of the eighteenth century French Physiocrats.
Karl Jaspers celebrates the “Axial Age” as marking a fundamental advance in humanity’s self-understanding, but rejects Christianity as “fettering” this new enlightenment to a notion of Jesus as the sole incarnation of the divine. Here I try to show that, relative to Jaspers’ own account of Existenz and especially of existential “foundering,” Jesus becomes distinctive in a way that Socrates, Buddha, and Confucius are not (even on Jaspers’ own accounts of these four “paradigmatic individuals”). I go on to show how, (...) on Karl Rahner’s inclusivist account of theincarnation, Jaspers’ objections to Christianity mostly dissolve. Finally, I suggest the need to recognize two Axial Age traditions: one rejecting sacrificial forms in favor of ethical prescriptions, the other finding new ethical meaning in these older forms. (shrink)
William James indicated a “middle path” according to which religious experience yields something like knowledge for the mystic, but not a kind that others, who do not share his experience, are compelled to accept. Such a middle way is initially appealing, but how is it to be developed? Here I suggest three leading ideas—the epistemic analogue of “agent-relative permissions,” the complementary relationship between the Jamesian virtues of bold exploration and sober caution, and the kind of special access the lover may (...) claim with respect to knowledge of his beloved—with an eye to such development. Each is found helpful, but in ascending order of importance. (shrink)
Like Prometheus, Ayn Rand's heroes would seem valuable much less for what they do for themselves, than for others. I argue, first, however, that the ethical scheme implied by her treatment of these figures is properly classed as neither "egoist" nor "altruist,"for the value invested by the creator in his creation eludes both views. A more satisfactory Randian ethic of creation, it becomes clear, must involve a distinction between Nietzschean "self-reverence" versus mere "self-interest" and, much more substantially, Aristotle's distinction between (...) those in whom "self-love" is good and those in whom it is not. (shrink)
My argument is that, strictly, forgiveness cannot be planned in advance in part because ’to plan to forgive when X happens’ is already to forgive (as long as one foresees X happening). I go on to argue that if one foresees that X would involve great moral harm to an innocent, it is clearly better to prevent X (if possible) and forgive without it. The main interest of these arguments is their bearing on certain Christian accounts of the atonement for (...) sins through the (planned) suffering and death of Jesus. (shrink)