The Routledge Handbook Of Virtue Epistemology 1138890200, 9781138890206

What is an epistemic virtue? Are epistemic virtues reliable? Are they motivated by a love of truth? Do epistemic virtues

722 84 3MB

English Pages 541 [555] Year 2019

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

The Routledge Handbook Of Virtue Epistemology
 1138890200,  9781138890206

Table of contents :
Notes on Contributors Acknowledgements Introduction to the Routledge Handbook of Virtue Epistemology Heather Battaly Part I: Epistemic Virtues: General Structure and Features 1. Telic Virtue Epistemology Ernest Sosa 2. Intellectual Virtues: Admirable Character Traits Linda Zagzebski 3. Do Epistemic Virtues Require a Motivation for Truth? James Montmarquet 4. The Role of Emotion in Intellectual Virtue Michael S. Brady 5. Are Epistemic Virtues a Kind of Skill? Sarah Wright 6. What Makes the Epistemic Virtutes Valuable? Anne Baril 7. Virtue Epistemology and the Sources of Epistemic Value Robert Lockie 8. Virtue Epistemology, Virtue Ethics, and the Structure of Virtue James Baehr 9. Sentimentalist Virtue Epistemology: Beyond Responsibilism and Reliabilism Michael Slote 10. A Third of Kind Intellectual Virtue: Personalism Heather Battaly 11. There are no Epistemic Virtues Trent Dougherty Part II: Analyses of Individual Epistemic Virtues 12. Open-mindedness Wayne Riggs 13. Curiosity and Inquisitiveness Lani Watson 14. Creativity as an Epistemic Virtue Michael Kieran 15. Intellectual Humility Nancy E. Snow 16. Epistemic Autonomy in a Social World of Knowing Heidi Grasswick 17. The Epistemic Virtue of Deference Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij 18. Skepticism Allan Hazlett 19. Epistemic Justice: Three Models of Virtue Laura Beeby 20. Epistemic Courage and the Harms of Epistemic Life Ian James Kidd 21. Intellectual Perseverence Nathan King Part III: Epistemic Virtues, Knowledge, and Understanding 22. Virtue, Knowledge, and Achievement John Greco 23. Virtue Epistemology and Epistemic Luck Duncan Pritchard 24. Virtue Epistemology and Explanatory Salience Georgi Gardiner 25. Virtue Epistemology and Abilism on Knowledge John Turri 26. Virtue Reliabilism and the Value of Knowledge: Classical and New Problems Anne Meylan 27. Epistemic Virtues in Understanding Catherine Z. Elgin 28. Understanding as an Intellectual Virtue Stephen R. Grimm 29. Intellectual Virtue, Knowledge, and Justification Robert Audi 30. Understanding, Humility, and the Vices of Pride Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood Part IV. Virtue Epistemology: Application and Impact 31. Feminist Virtue Epistemology Nancy Daukas 32. Virtue Epistemology and the Environment Jason Kawall 33. Virtue Epistemology and Collective Epistemology Reza Lahroodi 34. Virtue Epistemology and Extended Cognition J. Adam Carter 35. Psychological Science and Virtue Epistemology: Intelligence as an Interactionist Virtue Joshua August Skorburg and Mark Alfano 36. Dual-process Theory and Intellectual Virtue: A Role for Self-Confidence Berit Brogaard 37. Virtue Epistemology and Confucian Philosophy Chienkuo Mi and Shane Ryan 38. Virtue Epistemology and Education Randall Curren 39. Virtue Epistemology and Developing Intellectual Virtue Alan T. Wilson and Christian B. Miller 40. Virtue Epistemology and Clinical Medical Judgment Ben Kotzee 41. The Relation between Virtue Ethics and Virtue Epistemology Christine Swanton Index

Citation preview


What is an epistemic virtue? Are epistemic virtues reliable? Are they motivated by a love of truth? Do epistemic virtues produce knowledge and understanding? How can we develop epistemic virtues? The Routledge Handbook of Virtue Epistemology answers all of these questions. This landmark volume provides a pluralistic and comprehensive picture of the field of virtue epistemology. It is the first large-scale volume of its kind on the topic. Composed of 41 chapters, all published here for the first time, it breaks new ground in four areas. 1. It articulates the structure and features of epistemic virtues. 2. It provides in-depth analyses of 10 individual epistemic virtues. 3. It examines the connections between epistemic virtue, knowledge, and understanding. 4. It applies virtue epistemology, and explores its impact on related fields. The contributing authors are pioneers in the study of epistemic virtue. This volume is an outstanding resource for students and scholars in philosophy, as well as researchers in intersecting fields, including education, psychology, political science, and women’s studies. Heather Battaly is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut, having previously taught at California State University, Fullerton. She is author of Virtue (2015), editor of the Journal of Philosophical Research, and associate editor of the Journal of the American Philosophical Association. She is currently working on a book on intellectual vice.

R O UTLEDGE HANDB O OKS IN P H ILOS OP H Y Routledge Handbooks in Philosophy are state-of-the-art surveys of emerging, newly refreshed, and important fields in philosophy, providing accessible yet thorough assessments of key problems, themes, thinkers, and recent developments in research. All chapters for each volume are specially commissioned, and written by leading scholars in the field. Carefully edited and organized, Routledge Handbooks in Philosophy provide indispensable reference tools for students and researchers seeking a comprehensive overview of new and exciting topics in philosophy. They are also valuable teaching resources as accompaniments to textbooks, anthologies, and research-orientated publications. Also available: The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Temporal Experience Edited by Ian Philips The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Memory Edited by Sven Bernecker and Kourken Michaelian The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Pain Edited by Jennifer Corns The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Mechanisms Edited by Stuart Glennan and Phyllis Ilari The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds Edited by Kristin Andrews and Jacob Beck The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism Edited by Jason Brennan, Bas van der Vossen, and David Schmidtz The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics Edited by Tristram McPherson and David Plunkett The Routledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy Edited by Richard Joyce The Routledge Handbook of Collective Intentionality Edited by Marija Jankovic and Kirk Ludwig The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism Edited by Juha Saatsi The Routledge Handbook of Pacifism and Non-Violence Edited by Andrew Fiala The Routledge Handbook of Consciousness Edited by Rocco J. Gennaro The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy and Science of Addiction Edited by Hanna Pickard and Serge Ahmed The Routledge Handbook of Moral Epistemology Edited by Karen Jones, Mark Timmons, and Aaron Zimmerman For more information about this series, please visit: book-series/RHP.


First published 2019 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business  2019 Taylor & Francis The right of Heather Battaly to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this title has been requested ISBN: 978-1-138-89020-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-71255-0 (ebk) Typeset in Minion by Swales & Willis Ltd, Exeter, Devon, UK

For Trudy Battaly whose love of learning is contagious

CZ\ Taylor & Francis �

Taylor & Francis Group




Introduction Heather Battaly




  2. Intellectual Virtues: Admirable Traits of Character Linda Zagzebski


  3. Do Epistemic Virtues Require a Motivation for Truth? James Montmarquet


  4. The Role of Emotion in Intellectual Virtue Michael S. Brady


  5. Are Epistemic Virtues a Kind of Skill? Sarah Wright


  6. What Makes the Epistemic Virtues Valuable? Anne Baril


  7. Virtue Epistemology and the Sources of Epistemic Value Robert Lockie





  8. Virtue Epistemology, Virtue Ethics, and the Structure of Virtue Jason Baehr   9. Sentimentalist Virtue Epistemology: Beyond Responsibilism and Reliabilism Michael Slote



10. A Third Kind of Intellectual Virtue: Personalism Heather Battaly


11. There Are No Epistemic Virtues Trent Dougherty




13. Curiosity and Inquisitiveness Lani Watson


14. Creativity as an Epistemic Virtue Matthew Kieran


15. Intellectual Humility Nancy E. Snow


16. Epistemic Autonomy in a Social World of Knowing Heidi Grasswick


17. The Epistemic Virtue of Deference Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij


18. Skepticism Allan Hazlett


19. Epistemic Justice: Three Models of Virtue Laura Beeby


20. Epistemic Courage and the Harms of Epistemic Life Ian James Kidd


21. Intellectual Perseverance Nathan King




PART III: EPISTEMIC VIRTUES, KNOWLEDGE, AND UNDERSTANDING 22. Virtue, Knowledge, and Achievement John Greco


23. Virtue Epistemology and Epistemic Luck Duncan Pritchard


24. Virtue Epistemology and Explanatory Salience Georgi Gardiner


25. Virtue Epistemology and Abilism on Knowledge John Turri


26. Virtue Reliabilism and the Value of Knowledge: Classical and New Problems Anne Meylan


27. Epistemic Virtues in Understanding Catherine Z. Elgin


28. Understanding as an Intellectual Virtue Stephen R. Grimm


29. Intellectual Virtue, Knowledge, and Justification Robert Audi


30. Understanding, Humility, and the Vices of Pride Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood


PART IV: VIRTUE EPISTEMOLOGY: APPLICATION AND IMPACT 31. Feminist Virtue Epistemology Nancy Daukas


32. Virtue Epistemology and the Environment Jason Kawall


33. Virtue Epistemology and Collective Epistemology Reza Lahroodi


34. Virtue Epistemology and Extended Cognition J. Adam Carter




35. Psychological Science and Virtue Epistemology: Intelligence as an Interactionist Virtue Joshua August Skorburg and Mark Alfano


36. Dual-Process Theory and Intellectual Virtue: A Role for Self-Confidence 446 Berit Brogaard 37. Virtue Epistemology and Confucian Philosophy Chienkuo Mi and Shane Ryan


38. Virtue Epistemology and Education Randall Curren


39. Virtue Epistemology and Developing Intellectual Virtue Alan T. Wilson and Christian B. Miller


40. Virtue Epistemology and Clinical Medical Judgment Ben Kotzee


41. The Relation Between Virtue Ethics and Virtue Epistemology Christine Swanton


Contributors Index

522 526


I am deeply grateful to Ernest Sosa and Linda Zagzebski, whose pioneering work made the field of virtue epistemology possible. Their vision continues to inspire me, and so many of us, who are delighted to be working in this field. James Montmarquet (1947–2018) was a leader in defending responsibilist virtue epistemology. His analysis of intellectual virtue, and its focus on the motivation for truth, was groundbreaking. Jim and his continuing contributions to the field will be missed. I am lucky and grateful to have worked with an amazing group of contributors. I thank them for their conscientiousness, patience, and humor. Thanks to Jason Baehr for suggesting that I pursue this volume, and to the editorial team at Routledge, especially Andy Beck. Special thanks to Clifford Roth, who kept me sane during the editorial process. I am grateful to Milla Hills and Sally Evans-Darby for their excellent work on the index and copy-editing, respectively.


CZ\ Taylor & Francis �

Taylor & Francis Group

Introduction Heather Battaly

The notion of intellectual virtue made its contemporary debut in Ernest Sosa’s 1980 paper “The Raft and the Pyramid.” At the time, analytic epistemology was teeming with proposed solutions to the Gettier problem (Gettier 1963), newly minted objections to both internalism and externalism, and seemingly intractable disagreements between foundationalists and coherentists. Sosa (1980) drew the then iconoclastic conclusion that the notion of intellectual virtue might help us resolve the foundationalism–coherentism debate. Linda Zagzebski subsequently argued (1996) that the notion of intellectual virtue could help circumvent the debate between internalists and externalists. Zagzebski (1996, 2009) and Sosa (1991, 2007, 2015) likewise championed virtue-based solutions to the Gettier problem. In short, virtue epistemology was originally proposed as a way to solve the problems that were plaguing belief-based theories of justification (Battaly 2008). Fast forward to the present. Virtue epistemology is now a diverse and burgeoning field that is well established as a sub-discipline. The defining feature of virtue epistemology is its focus on the epistemic evaluation of people and their intellectual abilities and character traits. It contends that agents (people) are the primary objects of epistemic evaluation; and that epistemic (intellectual) virtues, which are evaluations of agents, are the fundamental concepts and properties in epistemology. In other words, virtue epistemology takes epistemic virtues, which are types of agent-evaluation, to be more theoretically fundamental than justification and knowledge, which are types of belief-evaluation. In this manner, the theoretical structure of virtue epistemology is analogous to that of virtue ethics, and distinct from that of belief-based epistemology, which takes knowledge and justification—types of belief-evaluation—to be theoretically fundamental. Today, virtue epistemology is engaged on multiple fronts. While it continues to engage some of the problems that were part of its original impetus (e.g., the Gettier problem), it has also grown rich enough to generate new research topics of its own—e.g., the credit or achievement theory of knowledge, theories of active knowledge and understanding, and analyses of epistemic virtue. For instance, virtue epistemologists have developed two key analyses of epistemic virtue: virtue reliabilism and virtue responsibilism. (In the literature, and in this volume, “epistemic virtue” and “intellectual virtue” are used interchangeably.) The categories of “reliabilism” and 1


Heather Battaly

“responsibilism” were originally used by Lorraine Code (1987), and later employed by Guy Axtell (1997) to highlight the differences between the hard-wired reliable faculties addressed by Sosa (1991) and John Greco (1994) and the praiseworthy character traits explored by Zagzebski (1996), James Montmarquet (1993), and Code herself. In the intervening years, the distinction between the two analyses has been employed repeatedly in the literature, and has been featured in several surveys of the field, including Jason Baehr’s (2004), my own (2008), and the overview by John Turri, Mark Alfano, and John Greco (2017). Reliabilists and responsibilists agree that epistemic virtues are qualities that make us excellent thinkers. But, they disagree about the exact structure and features of epistemic virtues. Led by Sosa and Greco, virtue reliabilists argue that epistemic virtues are (roughly) any stable qualities that reliably attain true beliefs. Accordingly, epistemic virtues can be hard-wired faculties (e.g., 20/30 vision), or acquired skills (e.g., the ability to identify birds by their songs), or even acquired character traits (e.g., open-mindedness). In contrast, virtue responsibilists, led by Zagzebski, Montmarquet, and Baehr, argue that epistemic virtues require an acquired motivation for truth or other epistemic goods, for which the agent is partly responsible. Some responsibilists think that epistemic virtues also require reliability (e.g., Zagzebski); others do not (e.g., Montmarquet and Baehr). Either way, responsibilist virtues include character traits like open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and intellectual perseverance, and exclude hardwired faculties on the grounds that such qualities are neither personal nor praiseworthy. Arguably, the epistemic virtues identified by reliabilists and responsibilists complement, rather than compete with, one another. Both sorts of qualities make us excellent thinkers, even if they do so in different ways. One way to be an excellent thinker is to reliably get true beliefs via whatever stable qualities one has—it is valuable to have 20/30 vision, even if one isn’t praiseworthy for it. Another way to be an excellent thinker is to have praiseworthy character traits—it is valuable to care about truth and to be open-minded, even if these traits don’t require reliability. These different sorts of epistemic virtues may also be tied to different sorts of knowledge. Virtue epistemology invites us to define knowledge, and other belief-evaluations, in terms of the epistemic virtues and agent-evaluation. Reliabilist virtues may do a better job of explaining involuntary knowledge (e.g., perceptual knowledge) than responsibilist virtues do. And, responsibilist virtues may do a better job of explaining active knowledge (e.g., scientific knowledge) than reliabilist virtues do. (See the chapters by Sosa, Montmarquet, Baehr, and Grimm; also see Battaly forthcoming.) So, arguably, reliabilism and responsibilism are better off together than they are apart. Taken together, virtue reliabilism and virtue responsibilism have made progress on four key topics, which correspond to the four parts of this volume: (I) the general structure and features of epistemic virtues; (II) analyses of individual epistemic virtues; (III) connections between knowledge, understanding, and epistemic virtues; and (IV) the application and impact of virtue epistemology. The remainder of this Introduction will provide an overview of the volume, and close with some directions for future research. P AR T I : EPI STEM I C VI R TUE S : G E N E RA L S T RU CT U RE AND FEA T U RE S

The opening part of the volume addresses two main questions: What are the primary features of epistemic virtues? Is there more than one kind of epistemic virtue? Virtue reliabilists conceive of epistemic virtues as stable dispositions to produce good epistemic ends or effects. So, given that true beliefs are good epistemic effects, stable dispositions to produce true beliefs—i.e., reliable dispositions—will be epistemic virtues. For reliabilists, nearly



any reliable disposition will count as an epistemic virtue, whether it is hard-wired or acquired (see Chapter 1). Virtue responsibilists are more restrictive in their conception of epistemic virtue. Responsibilists often model their analyses of epistemic virtue on Aristotle’s analysis of moral virtue in the Nicomachean Ethics (see Chapter 8). Accordingly, responsibilists conceive of the epistemic virtues as acquired character traits, for which we are to some degree responsible (see Chapter 2). Reliabilists and responsibilists disagree about several proposed features of the epistemic virtues. In general, reliabilists argue that the epistemic virtues can be hard-wired, whereas responsibilists think they must be acquired and praiseworthy. Reliabilists think that epistemic virtues do not require any learned motive for truth or love of knowledge, whereas responsibilists think they do require such a motive (see Chapter 3). Reliabilists think that epistemic virtues do not require epistemic emotions, like curiosity, whereas some responsibilists think epistemic emotions have a key role to play in epistemic virtues (see Chapter 4). Reliabilists think that epistemic virtues can be skills, but responsibilists tend to reject this (see Chapter 5). Reliabilists argue that epistemic virtues require reliability, while responsibilists disagree amongst themselves about this point. Finally, reliabilists and responsibilists offer different views about what makes the epistemic virtues valuable, and about whether their value is instrumental, constitutive, or intrinsic (see Chapters 6 and 7). Who is right—reliabilists or responsibilists? Should we adopt only one of these views? Should we adopt neither (see Chapter 11)? Should we adopt a different analysis of epistemic virtue that is neither reliabilist nor responsibilist (see Chapter 9)? Should we opt for pluralism about epistemic virtue (see Chapter 10)? Chapters 1 and 2 lay the groundwork for the rest of the volume. In “Telic Virtue Epistemology,” Ernest Sosa argues that epistemic virtues are reliable belief-forming dispositions. He describes two different sorts of epistemic virtues. First, those that are merely functional and do not involve rational agency—e.g., reliable vision. Second, reliable dispositions that do involve rational agency—e.g., epistemic conscientiousness. He further argues that epistemic conscientiousness has a crucial and constitutive role to play in the agent’s attainment of apt judgment. In “Intellectual Virtues: Admirable Traits of Character,” Linda Zagzebski argues that intellectual virtues are deep and enduring acquired intellectual excellences. On her view, the intellectual virtues require both admirable intellectual motivations and reliable success in reaching the truth. She further argues that knowledge consists in getting the truth through conscientious believing. She contends that conscientious believing does not always involve active intervention. Chapters 3 and 4 explore the role of motivations and emotions in the intellectual virtues. In Chapter 3, James Montmarquet argues that epistemic virtues do require a motivation for truth. On his view, virtues like open-mindedness and attentiveness are truth-directed expressions of the will, for which we are responsible. He uses truth-motivated virtues to explain epistemic, and moral, responsibility. Moreover, he contends that reliable capacities are only knowledge-conducive when they work against a background of responsibilist virtues. In “The Role of Emotion in Intellectual Virtue,” Michael S. Brady argues that epistemic emotions, like curiosity, play two different roles in intellectual virtues. First, epistemic emotions can motivate intellectual inquiry—they can serve as the motivational components in virtues like open-mindedness. Second, they can also regulate intellectual inquiry, enabling the open-minded person to be reliable. In Chapter 5, “Are Epistemic Virtues a Kind of Skill?”, Sarah Wright contends that virtue reliabilism and virtue responsibilism employ different conceptions of skill—skill as ability, and skill as technê. Reliabilism allows intellectual virtues to be abilities or technê, whereas responsibilism usually allows for neither. Inspired by the Stoics, Wright argues that both moral and intellectual virtues can be understood as kinds of technê.


Heather Battaly

Chapters 6 and 7 address the value of the intellectual virtues. In Chapter 6, Anne Baril asks: “What Makes the Epistemic Virtues Valuable?”. She provides a map of the area, identifying several different ways in which the epistemic virtues might be valuable. For instance, Baril considers whether the epistemic virtues might be instrumentally valuable, as a means to getting epistemic goods like truth, knowledge, and understanding. She also explores whether the epistemic virtues might be constitutively valuable, as parts of living a good life. Robert Lockie’s “Virtue Epistemology and the Sources of Epistemic Value” contends that virtue epistemology does not offer us a distinct—sui generis—source of epistemic value. Instead, it relies on internalist and externalist sources of value, and thus is not an improvement on belief-based epistemology. Lockie further argues that virtue theories offer us nothing that can unify the internalist and externalist sub-components in their analyses of virtue. In the next chapter, “Virtue Epistemology, Virtue Ethics, and the Structure of Virtue,” Jason Baehr argues that although virtue epistemology and virtue ethics are structurally analogous in many ways, there is no ethical counterpart of reliabilist faculty virtues. Baehr looks for an ethical counterpart: he considers and rejects Julia Driver’s consequentialist analysis of moral virtue, Aristotle’s “natural virtues” (NE.1144b), and natural moral sentiments— empathy, benevolence, and sympathy. Chapters 9 and 10 offer alternative accounts of the intellectual virtues. Michael Slote’s “Sentimentalist Virtue Epistemology: Beyond Responsibilism and Reliabilism” argues that receptivity and curiosity are sentimentalist epistemic virtues. On his view, they are natural epistemic virtues in a sense entirely analogous with what Hume meant in speaking of benevolence and gratitude as natural moral virtues. They are also personal character traits. Slote argues that sentimentalist virtue epistemology has advantages over reliabilism and responsibilism. In “A Third Kind of Intellectual Virtue: Personalism,” I argue that we need a third analysis of intellectual virtue. Personalism contends that intellectual virtues are personal dispositions or character traits. It has this in common with responsibilism. But, like reliabilism, personalism argues that an individual need not be responsible (accountable) for possessing intellectual virtues, since she might have had little or no control over which traits she came to possess. This part of the volume closes with Trent Dougherty’s contention that “There Are No Epistemic Virtues.” For Dougherty, the proper study of intellectual virtues as conceived of by reliabilists is cognitive psychology, and as conceived of by responsibilists is ethics. Accordingly, the proper study of intellectual virtues is either cognitive psychology or ethics. But, since neither of these is epistemology, the proper study of intellectual virtues is not epistemology. P A R T I I : ANALYSES O F I NDI VID U A L E P IS T E MIC VIRT U E S

In the mid-2000s, virtue epistemologists began analyzing individual epistemic virtues in earnest. Lorraine Code (2006) explored epistemic autonomy. Miranda Fricker (2007) analyzed the virtues of epistemic justice, in addition to the vices of epistemic injustice. Roberts and Wood (2007) provided accounts of epistemic humility, autonomy, and courage. And, Wayne Riggs (2010) and Jason Baehr (2011) endorsed analyses of open-mindedness. The literature has since seen an explosion of work on individual epistemic virtues. Though I won’t provide an exhaustive bibliography here, I will mention some important contributions that should be helpful in orienting new readers. Two of the virtues above—epistemic justice and intellectual humility—have generated their own cottage industries. Analyses of epistemic justice and injustice appear in Fricker (2010), Elizabeth Anderson (2012), and Routledge’s



handbook (2017) devoted to the topic. The 2010s also benefitted from four large-scale interdisciplinary projects on intellectual humility. Work by Dennis Whitcomb et  al. (2017), Ian Church and Peter Samuelson (2017), and Alessandra Tanesini (2018) will help readers navigate competing accounts of intellectual humility. There have also been important developments in analyzing open-mindedness (Kwong 2017), curiosity (Whitcomb 2010), and creativity (Kieran 2014). Virtues connected to trust—epistemic autonomy, deference, and skepticism—have been explored in Zagzebski (2012), Encabo (2008), and Le Morvan (2011). Likewise, the virtues of epistemic courage and perseverance have been addressed in King (2014) and Battaly (2017). Analyzing individual epistemic virtues is clearly a growth industry in virtue epistemology. This part of the volume opens with chapters on open-mindedness, curiosity, and creativity. Wayne Riggs argues that open-mindedness is an intellectual character virtue that involves the motivation to improve one’s cognitive contact with reality. On his view, openmindedness also requires the cognitive ability to render new perspectives intelligible to oneself. Riggs explores whether the virtue of open-mindedness must also be truth-conducive (reliable) or conducive to other epistemic goods, like understanding. In her chapter, Lani Watson provides analyses of curiosity and inquisitiveness. She contends that the virtuously curious person is motivated to acquire worthwhile epistemic goods and skilled at determining which epistemic goods are worthwhile, but need not succeed in acquiring worthwhile goods. On Watson’s view, inquisitiveness is a kind of curiosity. The virtuously inquisitive person is motivated to engage sincerely in good questioning. In Chapter 14, Matthew Kieran analyzes epistemic creativity. He argues that it is a disposition to generate new, worthwhile ways of thinking about an object of inquiry. On his view, the virtue of epistemic creativity requires the motivational component of curiosity. It does not require the reliable production of true beliefs, but it does require reliable success in generating new and worthwhile ways of thinking about objects of inquiry. In Chapter 15, Nancy E. Snow provides an overview and evaluation of eight current accounts of intellectual humility. She explains the Underestimation of Strengths and Semantic Clusters accounts, different versions of the Proper Beliefs account, the Limitations-Owning and Low Concern analyses, and the definitions of intellectual humility in terms of Clusters of Attitudes and Confidence Management. Snow raises worries about each of these analyses. The next set of chapters explores intellectual virtues that are connected to trust. In Chapter 16, Heidi Grasswick critiques the idea that epistemic autonomy consists in self-reliance. Drawing on work in virtue, feminist, and social epistemology, she re-conceptualizes epistemic autonomy so that it is compatible with the social nature of knowledge. Grasswick argues that understanding epistemic autonomy in terms of independent thinking can help us explain how non-dominant agents can gain knowledge in contexts of oppression. Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij defends a consequentialist account of the virtue of epistemic deference. On his view, epistemic deference is a disposition to defer to, and only to, people who speak the truth. Ahlstrom-Vij distinguishes between the virtue of epistemic deference, and the related virtues of lending an ear and open-mindedness. In his chapter, Allan Hazlett contends that there is an epistemic virtue of skepticism, which he defines as an excellence in attributing ignorance. He conceives of the virtue of skepticism as an admirable epistemic character trait that is manifested in one’s higher-order epistemic attitudes and assertions. Hazlett also addresses the phenomenon of “skepticism about expertise,” which has led to political polarization and the disruption of public discourse. In Chapter 19, Laura Beeby explores three models of the virtue of epistemic justice. Epistemic justice is usually understood either as a trait of individuals or as a trait of social structures and institutions. Beeby opts for a third alternative, which she calls “the social


Heather Battaly

process account.” She locates the virtue of epistemic justice in dynamic and interactive systems—in collectives—rather than in the components (individuals and institutions) of those systems. This part of the volume closes with chapters on epistemic courage and perseverance. In “Epistemic Courage and the Harms of Epistemic Life,” Ian James Kidd argues that the virtue of epistemic courage is a disposition to respond appropriately to the harms that arise in the course of an agent’s activities in the epistemic domain. These harms can be practical, social, or epistemic. The virtue is epistemic because it requires a motivation for epistemic goods. Kidd, like Beeby, encourages the exploration of collective epistemic virtues. Nathan King argues that the virtue of intellectual perseverance is a disposition to continue in one’s intellectual projects in the face of obstacles. On King’s view, this virtue requires a motivation for epistemic goods. It lies in an Aristotelian mean between the vices of intellectual irresolution (a deficiency) and intellectual intransigence (an excess). P A RT III: EPI STEM I C VI R TUES, KNOWLE D G E , A N D U N D E RS T A N D IN G

Virtue epistemologists have also made considerable progress in analyzing knowledge in terms of the epistemic virtues. Unlike belief-based epistemology, which takes belief-evaluation to be theoretically fundamental, virtue epistemology invites us to begin elsewhere—with epistemic virtue—and to define knowledge, and other belief-evaluations, in terms of epistemic virtue (Battaly 2008). Sosa (2007) and Greco (2010) did just that: they endorsed versions of the credit, or achievement, theory of knowledge. Roughly, they argued that one knows if and only if one arrives at a true belief because of one’s epistemic virtues, and not because of luck. In short, arriving at a true belief must be a credit to or achievement of the agent, and not due to serendipity. The credit theory came under fire on the grounds that it was neither necessary nor sufficient for knowledge. Jennifer Lackey (2007) argued that it was not necessary, since one could gain testimonial knowledge without credit. Likewise, Duncan Pritchard (2009) argued that it was not sufficient because it was still subject to environmental (fake-barn) variants of the Gettier problem. By inviting us to start elsewhere, and to define knowledge and other belief-evaluations in terms of epistemic virtue, virtue epistemology has also succeeded in shining spotlights on active knowledge and understanding. These epistemic goods were neglected by twentiethcentury belief-based epistemology, which emphasized passive perceptual knowledge. Active knowledge is thought to express our agency—roughly, to manifest our ability to actively reflect on our epistemic lives and to use these reflections to guide the epistemic actions we perform in inquiries (Battaly forthcoming). Zagzebski is largely responsible for putting active knowledge (she calls it “high-grade”) back on the epistemological map. She provides an analysis of active knowledge in Chapter 2 (see also Zagzebski 2014), as does Sosa in his account of judgmental knowledge in Chapter 1 (and Sosa 2015). The connection between understanding and epistemic virtue is another growth industry in the field. As early as 1992, Jonathan Kvanvig suggested that it might be easier to define understanding in terms of epistemic virtue than to define knowledge in such terms. Code (1987), Zagzebski (2001), and Riggs (2003) made early contributions to this literature. Important recent work on the connection between epistemic virtue and understanding includes Catherine Elgin’s True Enough and Stephen Grimm’s collection Making Sense of the World. This part of the volume opens with a virtue reliabilist defense of the credit, or achievement, theory of knowledge. In “Virtue, Knowledge, and Achievement,” John Greco argues that an agent knows if and only if her getting the truth is attributable to her own cognitive ability or



intellectual virtue. On his view, knowledge is an achievement—a success due to virtue. Greco replies to several objections to the achievement theory. Drawing on work in social epistemology, he also argues that knowledge is sometimes a joint achievement of groups of people. The next four chapters raise worries about efforts by virtue reliabilists to define knowledge in terms of intellectual virtue. In Chapter 23, Duncan Pritchard argues that the credit, or achievement, theory—what he calls “robust virtue epistemology”—is neither necessary nor sufficient for knowledge. It is not necessary because an agent can gain testimonial knowledge without exhibiting a significant level of intellectual ability or virtue. It is not sufficient because in environmental Gettier cases involving fake barns, the agent still arrives at a true belief because of her intellectual ability or virtue. In the next chapter, Georgi Gardiner likewise argues that robust virtue epistemology—the credit, or achievement, theory—is neither necessary nor sufficient for knowledge. Advocates of robust virtue epistemology often argue that an agent’s success in arriving at a true belief is due to her virtues if and only if those virtues play a sufficiently salient role in a causal explanation of why she possesses a true belief. Gardiner argues that Greco’s (2010) account of the “due to” relation is inadequate. In Chapter 25, John Turri argues that the possession of reliabilist virtue is not necessary for knowledge. One can gain knowledge even though one is unreliable. Turri offers an alternative analysis of knowledge, which he calls “abilism.” According to abilism, knowledge is an accurate representation produced by cognitive ability, where the relevant ability could be reliable or unreliable. In her chapter, Anne Meylan addresses the value problem for virtue reliabilist accounts of knowledge. According to the value problem, virtue reliabilists cannot explain the additional value that knowledge has over that of true belief. Meylan explains three extant versions of the value problem, and the credit theory’s response to them. She also generates a new version of the value problem for Sosa’s (2015) analysis of knowledge. Chapters 27 and 28 explore connections between understanding and epistemic virtue. Catherine Z. Elgin argues that the epistemic good of understanding should be distanced from the epistemic good of truth. Science, for instance, embodies understandings of various subject matters, but uses idealizations that are known not to be true. Since epistemic virtues help us attain scientific understanding, we need an analysis of epistemic virtue that allows for this. Elgin offers us a Kantian analysis: epistemic virtues are traits that equip people to function as responsible legislating members of a realm of epistemic ends. In his chapter, Stephen R. Grimm conceives of understanding both as an epistemic end-state (e.g., scientific understanding) reached through epistemic virtue, and as an epistemic virtue itself. With respect to the latter, he explores what it means to be an understanding person—one who takes up different perspectives without being overly judgmental. Grimm suggests that this virtue of understanding may be especially important in our age of deep political division. The final chapters in this part argue that knowledge and understanding are required for the possession of various epistemic virtues. Robert Audi argues that some intellectual virtues are (partly) constituted by knowledge, or in his words, “knowledge-based.” These include insightfulness, understanding, and clear-headedness. Other intellectual virtues are (partly) constituted by justification, or “justification-based,” including intellectual courage and openmindedness. Audi also distinguishes between virtues of pursuit, responsiveness, and production. In their chapter, Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood argue that intellectual virtues can lead to understanding in (e.g.) science as an epistemic end-state. Intellectual virtues can also incorporate understanding, since they are intelligent dispositions. On their view, intellectual humility bears a third relation to understanding. As an absence of such vices as vanity and arrogance, intellectual humility is an absence of a certain kind of misunderstanding.


Heather Battaly


Unlike belief-based epistemology, virtue epistemology focuses on the epistemic evaluation of people and their intellectual abilities and character traits. At its inception, it was thought that this shift in focus might make virtue epistemology more easily and broadly applicable to our epistemic lives as we actually live them. A wave of current work on applied virtue epistemology lends some support to these predictions. Several large-scale projects on the application of virtue epistemology to education are underway, some of which are already having a direct impact on students. For instance, the Intellectual Virtues Academy, which opened in Long Beach, CA in 2013, has the goal of fostering the development of intellectual virtues like open-mindedness and intellectual humility. Virtue epistemologists are also applying their views to issues in finance (de Bruin 2015), environmental decision-making (Kawall 2010), and health care and medicine (Marcum 2009). Virtue epistemology has likewise had an impact on scholarship. Within the discipline of philosophy, virtue epistemologists have drawn constructive connections with a wide range of philosophical fields. In this vein, feminist virtue epistemologists have decried virtue epistemology’s focus on abstract or ideal individuals and have begun to construct analyses of intellectual virtue that are social and situated (Daukas 2011). They have also begun to explore “non-ideal” theories of intellectual virtue; i.e., to theorize about intellectual virtue from the point of view of members of non-dominant groups (Fricker 2007; Medina 2013). Relatedly, virtue epistemologists have offered theories of extended intellectual virtues, collective virtues, and group virtues (Carter et  al. 2018; Lackey 2014). On the interdisciplinary front, virtue epistemologists have also begun to collaborate with psychologists to construct psychological measures for individual intellectual virtues (Haggard et al. 2018), and to explore the development of intellectual virtues. The chapters in this part of the volume contribute to advancing virtue epistemology’s application and impact. Chapters 31 and 32 explore the influence of structural and environmental factors on intellectual virtue. In her chapter, Nancy Daukas contrasts “conventional” virtue epistemology (CVE) with “liberatory” virtue epistemology (LVE). She argues that CVE does not capture our epistemic lives as we actually live them, but LVE does. LVE recognizes that social power and structural norms influence our epistemic agency. Daukas further contends that LVE promotes the cultivation of traits like intellectual autonomy, which empower agents to produce knowledge that is useful for dismantling conditions of oppression. In “Virtue Epistemology and the Environment,” Jason Kawall considers the influence of physical environments on the cultivation of epistemic virtues. He also argues that the virtue of curiosity is important in gaining knowledge of the natural world, and that the virtues of intellectual humility and critical reflexivity are important in gaining testimonial knowledge about climate change. Chapters 33 and 34 address extended and collective epistemic virtues. In “Virtue Epistemology and Collective Epistemology,” Reza Lahroodi explores whether collectives (groups) can possess epistemic virtues and vices. He explains non-summativism—the view that a group can have a virtue or vice that none of its individual members has. He argues that both reliabilist and responsibilist virtues can (but need not) be understood non-summatively. In the following chapter, J. Adam Carter contends that intellectual virtues can extend beyond an individual to include objects or other agents. He suggests that both reliabilist and responsibilist virtues can (but need not) be extended. He outlines three problems for virtue epistemologists who embrace extended intellectual virtues: the parity problem, the achievement problem, and the cognitive integration problem.



Chapters 35 and 36 explore connections between psychology and virtue epistemology. In their chapter, Joshua August Skorburg and Mark Alfano suggest that intelligence may be the best-substantiated disposition in personality psychology. They think that intelligence is an intellectual virtue. But, they argue that it does not fit easily into the rubrics of reliabilism or responsibilism. Accordingly, they develop an interactionist analysis of the virtue of intelligence. In Chapter 36, Berit Brogaard explores connections between dual-process theory and virtue epistemology. She argues that intellectual humility, intellectual self-vigilance, and intellectual gregariousness can help minimize errors produced by the mistaken application of type-1 processing, whereas other virtues—intellectual pride and optimism—are required to avoid the errors introduced when type-2 processing interferes with the exercise of reliable type-1 heuristics. Brogaard also addresses the development of intellectual virtues through the correction of attentional bias. Following suit, the next set of chapters squarely addresses the development of intellectual virtue. In “Virtue Epistemology and Confucian Philosophy,” Chienkuo Mi and Shane Ryan examine the role of reflection in the development of Confucian virtue. They distinguish between two types of reflection found in the Analects—one looks inward to evaluate past actions; the other looks outward toward future actions. Mi and Ryan argue that the epistemic virtue of skillful reflection, which involves both of these sorts, adheres to a mean—the virtuous person reflects neither too much nor too little. Randall Curren’s “Virtue Epistemology and Education” defends the goal of educating for intellectual virtues. One sticking point in facilitating intellectual virtues is facilitating the motivation to pursue epistemic goods for their own sakes. Curren uses Self-Determination Theory (in educational psychology) to address ways in which educators can foster integrated motivations for epistemic goods. He also considers which curricula and assessments might fit the goal of educating for intellectual virtues. In Chapter 39, Alan T. Wilson and Christian B. Miller evaluate three empirically informed accounts of how moral virtues can be developed, and apply these accounts to the development of intellectual virtues. They find the first account, whereby the agent extends her local traits into global virtues, to be cognitively and motivationally demanding. The second account, which is modeled on skill development, has the same fate. They think the third account, the development of folk virtues, is demanding in different ways. In “Virtue Epistemology and Clinical Medical Judgment,” Ben Kotzee identifies clinical judgment as an intellectual virtue that is particularly important in the practice of medicine. He evaluates three different analyses of the virtue of clinical judgment: as medical phronesis, as extended medical technê, or as a combination of the two. The volume closes with Christine Swanton’s “The Relation between Virtue Ethics and Virtue Epistemology.” Swanton contends that virtue epistemology is a branch of virtue ethics. Virtue ethics is thought to be concerned with moral virtues. But, on Swanton’s view, the notion of the moral is problematic and should be foreign to virtue ethics. She argues that virtue ethics is the sphere of “virtue proper.” Since this includes practical wisdom, which integrates all spheres of the practical, virtue ethics includes the epistemic sphere. Virtue epistemology has come a long way since Sosa’s “The Raft and the Pyramid.” I close with five areas that warrant further exploration. (1) Analyses of wisdom. Wisdom is a notoriously difficult virtue to tackle. Thus far, most analyses offered by virtue epistemologists have engaged Aristotle’s notions of sophia and phronesis. (In this volume, Chapters 2, 7, 38, 40, and 41 make use of phronesis.) But, arguably, neither of these Aristotelian virtues fits easily into contemporary virtue epistemology, since sophia excludes contingent claims, and phronesis entails moral virtues. As Chapter 37 points out, Confucian notions of wisdom warrant exploration.


Heather Battaly

(2) The intellectual virtues of groups. Many virtue epistemologists are sympathetic with the idea that groups can have intellectual virtues. See, for instance, Chapters 12, 16, 19, 20, 22, 32, 33, and 34. Some key questions for further study include: What are the features of an intellectual virtue that is possessed by a group? Are they the same features intellectual virtues have when possessed by individual agents? Why or why not? Must groups be responsible for the possession of their intellectual virtues? Must those virtues be reliable? (3) Vice epistemology. Like virtue epistemology, vice epistemology focuses on the intellectual dispositions of agents, but it targets the dispositions that make us bad thinkers—our vices. It examines the structure and features of intellectual vices, the ways in which intellectual vices impede knowledge, and the rehabilitation of intellectual vices. Chapters 10, 19, 21, 28, 30, 31, and 32 address intellectual vices. (4) Liberatory virtue epistemology. Liberatory virtue epistemology recognizes that different epistemic agents are situated differently. It theorizes about intellectual virtues and vices from the point of view of non-dominant, or oppressed, agents. Its goals are simultaneously epistemic and liberatory—to foster intellectual traits that produce socially beneficial truths. Chapters 16, 19, and 31 are informed by liberatory virtue epistemology. (5) The development of intellectual virtues. Many virtue epistemologists are interested in the development and cultivation of intellectual virtues. See, for instance, Chapters 13, 21, 37, 38, and 39. Some key questions for further study include: What structural features facilitate the development of intellectual virtues? How can educators foster intellectual virtues in their classrooms? How can educators foster the motivation for truth and love of knowledge? What interdisciplinary projects on the development of intellectual virtue lend themselves to collaboration between virtue epistemologists and psychologists? REFERE N C E S Anderson, E. (2012) “Epistemic Justice as a Virtue of Social Institutions,” Social Epistemology 26(2): 163–173. Aristotle. (1998) The Nicomachean Ethics, D. Ross (trans.), New York: Oxford University Press. Axtell, G. (ed.) (1997) Knowledge, Belief, and Character, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Baehr, J. (2004) “Virtue Epistemology,” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Accessed March 13, 2018. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Battaly, H. (2008) “Virtue Epistemology,” Philosophy Compass 3: 639–663. Battaly, H. (2017) “Intellectual Perseverance,” Journal of Moral Philosophy 14(6): 669–697. Battaly, H. (forthcoming) “Intellectual Virtue and Knowledge,” in S. Hetherington (ed.) Knowledge in Contemporary Philosophy, London: Bloomsbury. Carter, J.A., A. Clark, J. Kallestrup, S.O. Palermos, and D. Pritchard. (eds.) (2018) Extended Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Church, I. and P. Samuelson. (2017) Intellectual Humility, London: Bloomsbury. Code, L. (1987) Epistemic Responsibility, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. Code, L. (2006) Ecological Thinking, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Daukas, N. (2011) “Altogether Now: A Virtue-Theoretic Approach to Pluralism in Feminist Epistemology,” in H. Grasswick (ed.) Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science: Power in Knowledge, New York: Springer. de Bruin, B. (2015) Ethics and the Global Financial Crisis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Elgin, C. (2017) True Enough, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Encabo, J.V. (2008) “Epistemic Merit, Autonomy, and Testimony,” Theoria: An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science 23(61): 45–56. Fricker, M. (2007) Epistemic Injustice, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fricker, M. (2010) “Can There Be Institutional Virtues?” in T.S. Gendler and J. Hawthorne (eds.) Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 33–50. Gettier, E. (1963) “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” Analysis 23(6): 121–123.



Greco, J. (1994) “Virtue Epistemology and the Relevant Sense of ‘Relevant Possibility’,” Southern Journal of Philosophy 32: 61–77. Greco, J. (2010) Achieving Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Grimm, S. (ed.) (2017) Making Sense of the World: New Essays on Understanding, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Haggard, M., W. Rowatt, J. Leman, B. Meagher, C. Moore, T. Fergus, D. Whitcomb, H. Battaly, J. Baehr, and D. Howard-Snyder. (2018) “Finding Middle Ground between Intellectual Arrogance and Intellectual Servility: Development and Assessment of the Limitations-Owning Intellectual Humility Scale,” Personality and Individual Differences 124: 184–193. Intellectual Virtues Academy. Accessed March 14, 2018. Kawall, J. (2010) “The Epistemic Demands of Environmental Virtue,” Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23(1–2): 109–128. Kidd, I.J., J. Medina and G. Pohlhaus. (eds.) (2017) The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice, New York: Routledge. Kieran, M. (2014) “Creativity as a Virtue of Character,” in E.S. Paul and S.B. Kaufman (eds.) The Philosophy of Creativity, Oxford: Oxford University Press. King, N. (2014) “Erratum to Perseverance as an Intellectual Virtue,” Synthese 191(15): 3779–3801. Kvanvig, J. (1992) The Intellectual Virtues and the Life of the Mind, Savage, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Kwong, J. (2017) “Is Open-Mindedness Conducive to Truth?” Synthese 194(5): 1613–1626. Lackey, J. (2007) “Why We Don’t Deserve Credit for Everything We Know,” Synthese 158(3): 345–361. Lackey, J. (ed.) (2014) Essays in Collective Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Le Morvan, P. (2011) “Healthy Skepticism and Practical Wisdom,” Logos and Episteme 2(1): 87–102. Marcum, J. (2009) “The Epistemically Virtuous Clinician,” Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 30: 249–265. Medina, J. (2013) The Epistemology of Resistance, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Montmarquet, J. (1993) Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Pritchard, D. (2009) “Apt Performance and Epistemic Value,” Philosophical Studies 143: 407–416. Roberts, R. and W.J. Wood. (2007) Intellectual Virtues, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Riggs, W. (2003) “Understanding ‘Virtue’ and the Virtue of Understanding,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 203–227. Riggs. W. (2010) “Open-Mindedness,” in H. Battaly (ed.) Virtue and Vice, Moral and Epistemic, New York: WileyBlackwell, 173–188. Sosa, E. (1980) “The Raft and the Pyramid,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5: 3–25. Sosa, E. (1991) Knowledge in Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sosa, E. (2007) A Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2015) Judgment and Agency, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Tanesini, A. (2018) “Intellectual Humility as Attitude,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 96(2): 339–420. Turri, J., M. Alfano, and J. Greco. (2017) “Virtue Epistemology,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https:// Accessed March 13, 2018. Whitcomb, D. (2010) “Curiosity Was Framed,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81(3): 664–687. Whitcomb, D., H. Battaly, J. Baehr, and D. Howard-Snyder. (2017) “Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94(3): 509–539. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zagzebski, L. (2001) “Recovering Understanding,” in M. Steup (ed.) Knowledge, Truth, and Duty, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 235–251. Zagzebski, L. (2009) On Epistemology, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Zagzebski, L. (2012) Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief, New York: Oxford University Press. Zagzebski, L. (2014) “Knowledge and the Motive for Truth,” in M. Steup, J. Turri, and E. Sosa (eds.) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 140–145.

CZ\ Taylor & Francis �

Taylor & Francis Group

I Epistemic Virtues: General Structure and Features

CZ\ Taylor & Francis �

Taylor & Francis Group

1 Telic Virtue Epistemology Ernest Sosa

According to the telic virtue epistemology to be laid out here, the epistemic domain is one where we perform alethically, aiming at getting it right, whether through judgment (intentional and even conscious) or through functional perception or belief, where the aim would be teleological rather than intentional. 1 .1 A VI R TUE THEO R ETI C AC C O U N T OF H U MA N KN OWLE D G E

1. Knowledge in this view is a form of action. It involves endeavors to get it right. More broadly it concerns aimings, which can be functional rather than intentional. Through our perceptual systems, we represent our surroundings, aiming to do so accurately, where the aiming is functional or teleological, rather than intentional. And the same goes for our functional beliefs. Through our judgments, however, we do intentionally, even consciously, attempt to get it right. What follows will focus on these epistemic intentional attempts, but the account to be sketched generalizes to the broader category of aimings, which need not be intentional. And to every “aiming” there corresponds an “action,” whether successful or not. Attempts bring with them a distinctive normativity. For example, success is better than failure; an attempt is a better attempt, it is better as an attempt, if competent than if incompetent; and it is better to succeed through competence—aptly—than through sheer luck. (Here I stipulate, for the sake of a handy label, that an attempt is “apt” if, and only if, its success sufficiently manifests the agent’s pertinent competence.) Here we have a telic normativity in contrast with the deontic normativity of norms, obligations, permissions, and so on. Attempts are found in domains of human performance, such as sports, games, artistic domains, professional domains like medicine and the law, and so on. These feature distinctive aims, and corresponding competences. Archery, with its distinctive arrows and targets, divides into subdomains. Thus, competitive archery differs importantly from archery hunting. In competitive archery, assessing risk (of failure) has minimal bearing on quality of performance, since the archer has so little choice over shot selection. By contrast, in a hunt, 15


Ernest Sosa

shots vary in quality according to how well selected they may be. The lower quality of an illjudged shot is allied with the fact that “it should not have been taken.” Domains come thus in three sorts as follows, distinguished by how their distinctive attempts are regulated by standards of appropriate risk. A domain can be entirely unregulated with respect to appropriate risk, so that participant agents need pay no heed to any such standards. Take doodling, or “aimless” ambling in a safe riverside meadow, or drifting in a canoe on a placid lake. Here standards of risk are minimal or nonexistent. Normal adults can doodle, amble, and drift with no need to assess risk, since there is normally no risk at all. Jazz improvisation seems less subject to standards of risk than surgery, and less than much formal athletic performance, as in a tennis match. A domain can be risk-unregulated in a different way, when participants are not allowed attempt selection, or are tightly restricted, as in competition archery. When it is an archer’s turn he must put himself in position and shoot, with minimal, highly restricted attempt selection. At that point, he must take aim and shoot. He has minimal or zero discretion with regard to the normal factors of Situation (distance, light), or Shape (no option to wait until less tired, more alert, etc.), or Skill (can’t postpone so as to hone skill). And these are the SSS factors that determine degree of complete competence.1 The third category is of domains risk-regulated to a significant extent, some highly so. Professional domains are examples here, reaching a peak in invasive surgery. Other examples are sports such as tennis and basketball. The archery hunt is a borderline case. How is Diana’s shot selection regulated? This depends on whether the hunt is nearing its end, how many arrows are left in her quiver, and the like. A shot that she takes with the one arrow left to her may allow less risk than one taken when the quiver is full, especially if the success of the afternoon’s hunt depends on her success with that one remaining arrow. Hunt-internal factors determine appropriate risk in a way that would tend to elicit broad agreement among knowledgeable observers. Risk may be obviously too high when she is too far from her target, with just one arrow left, and when it is likely enough that better targets will soon be available within better range in the woods teeming with game. A shot by Diana might be deft while poorly selected, an inferior shot in that respect—if the prey is far, visibility poor, and the wind blowing hard, so that likelihood of success is extremely low. Still her dexterity as an archer might deliver the success of her shot, a highly skilled shot (in respect of manual skill) despite being so poorly selected, so ill-judged (in respect of risk assessment). Diana’s shot may thus attain first-order aptness through dexterity, without attaining “reflective” aptness full well. The latter requires aptness not only in hitting the target, through manual competence, but also in attaining the aptness of one’s shot, not only through dexterity but also through risk assessment. Archery-external pragmatic values are here irrelevant, even when they do bear on the overall assessment of a hunter’s archery shot. Thus, the success of an archery shot may bring food to the hunter’s starving family, or may constitute a horrible murder. But these outcomes are irrelevant to the assessment of that shot as a hunter-archery shot, as an attempt to hit prey without running excessive risk of failure. Accordingly, I leave open what value external to hunting-archery may reside in the fully apt success of such an archery shot. I put aside even whatever value—whether final or

Telic Virtue Epistemology


inherent or intrinsic—axiology might attribute to such archery shots and to fully apt ones in particular. That is independent of the telic normativity of hunting-archery attempts as attempts. If an attempt succeeds through a competence to succeed in such attempts, then it is apt. If an attempt aims at the apt success of a contained attempt, then, if that second-order attempt succeeds through a competence to succeed in such second-order attempts, then the first-order attempt is not only apt, but fully apt, by being thus aptly apt. But the full aptness of such a first-order attempt is entirely compatible with its being a horrible murder, if the “hunter” is an assassin and the prey his victim. That hunter’s shot may still be outstandingly, fully apt, if it manifests the agent’s competence in both archery dexterity and shot selection. By properly managing risk, and thus competently attaining the aptness of her first-order shots, an archer assassin would make her shots not just apt but fully apt. That these fully apt shots were moral abominations would not matter to their quality as archer shots aimed at hitting certain targets and doing so aptly. It remains only to make explicit the analogy of archery to human cognition, which seems obvious once pointed out. We need only think of a judgment that p as intentionally aimed at truth, as an intentional attempt to get it right aptly on the question whether p, by affirming that p (and by doing so aptly). Dispositional judgmental belief is then a state disposing you to judge affirmatively upon considering the question whether p. But this too is agential, and even an action, one extended temporally like the action of those motionless human statues at tourist sites. It is a sustained policy that resides in the will.2 (That is how Descartes could propose that we give up all our judgmental beliefs in one fell swoop, by an act of will. This is like giving up in one go all of the policies that make one a safe driver, such as stopping at yellow lights and signaling one’s turns.) 2. So, my footnote to Plato concerns two questions: that of the nature of knowledge in the Theaetetus (1989b), and that of the value of knowledge taken up in the Meno (1989a). In my view, there is a level of human knowledge that involves just getting it right aptly. This “animal” epistemic level is an inferior level in just the way of Diana’s long shot in the dark while drunk. That shot is inferior in one respect if too poorly selected as a hunter’s archery shot, even if not quite as poorly selected as would be a shot aimed at the moon. Even if Diana’s too risky shot turns out to be apt by attaining success through sublime archery dexterity, it is still inferior in the particular respect of being so risky and hence so poorly selected. So now, what exactly is required for the superior “reflective” knowledge, and for “knowledge full well”? First, we must distinguish judging from guessing. Judgment is affirmation with the intention to thereby affirm competently enough, and indeed aptly. That distinguishes judgments from mere guesses. The quiz show contestant does endeavor to affirm correctly (and thus win the prize), while taking his affirmation to be a sheer guess, far from apt epistemic performance. A lucky contestant’s affirmation is thus “alethic.” It is aimed at truth all right, at getting it right. But it is still just a guess, not a judgment. In order to qualify as a judgment, an affirmation must aim at getting it right aptly, through competence, and not just through a lucky guess. Given its more substantial aim, a judgment is apt only if its constitutive alethic affirmation is not only apt but aptly apt. The subject must attain aptly not only the truth of his affirmation but also its aptness. And that in turn requires not only the proper operation of one’s perception, memory, inference, etc., but also that one deploy such competences through competent epistemic risk assessment. Diana’s performance is also assessable on two levels. Diana might misjudge her chances badly, and shoot through overconfidence, so that her risk of failure is extremely high, while yet the success of her performance does still manifest her sublime archery skill, which is still (though


Ernest Sosa

barely) competent enough despite her horrible shape and situation. So, her attempt to hit that prey is apt even if it is not fully apt. Conversely, Diana might judge properly that her risk is quite acceptable as she aims at a deer standing still in a sunny field, well within her range. And yet that might turn out to be one of those occasions when her archery competence happens to fail her. By contrast, spheres like the game show are devoid of risk standards. An agent who endeavors in such a sphere can still aim to minimize risk, and also to keep risk below a certain level. But that would be a subjective choice, one made relative to whatever that agent happens to care about at that point, which will determine the relevant risks and rewards. Missing from such a case are any domain-inherent standards that determine whether risk is or is not above a threshold of acceptability. Take, however, a tennis player barely ahead in a match, who starts hitting strokes at the top of his power and as flat as possible, so that the risk of balls going out is unacceptably high. Not unacceptably high relative to his objective of scandalizing the fans. Rather, unacceptably high relative to the objective of winning the match. A hunter archer can also be out to shock by taking crazy shots. What makes his shots “crazy” is set by excessive risk, judged by hunting-archery standards, which would tend to draw agreement from knowledgeable observers. I am thinking that hunting-archery is similar to tennis in this way, if much less formally. For one thing, there isn’t a formal definition of success (as there is in tennis with winning the match). Archery hunts vary depending on the prey hunted, the size and organization of the hunting party, and the purpose of their hunt. Most similar to formalized athletics is hunting for sport. The fully apt hunting-archery shot is then determined by how well the archer assesses risk relative to hunting-archery, or to their specific sort of archery hunt (whether for ducks, on foot, or for foxes, astride a galloping horse, etc.), and to the ends proper to such sport. 3. The epistemic normativity of interest in my account is thus one of judgments as attempts. Consider the part of epistemology containing Plato’s questions as to the nature and value of knowledge: the theory of knowledge. This is associated with the problems of skepticism, of whether and how we can ever attain knowledge. This part of epistemology is then concerned with the normativity of judgments as attempts. Of course, the domain of these attempts is not the domain of archery shots on physical targets. It is a domain of intellectual shots, of judgmental attempts to get it right on a given question, and to do so aptly. What place does this account give to suspension of judgment? This very pertinent question does raise a problem. But the problem has a solution, one that requires clarity on the fuller aim involved in many domains of human performance. Go back to the important difference between Diana and the Olympic archer. For the huntress, selecting an appropriate target is of crucial importance, and the quality of a shot can vary in that specific respect: in how well selected it is. But her forbearing from shooting in a given instance, especially when tempted, may itself be evaluated in line with our normativity of attempts. The relevant normativity is hence not just one of attempts. It is rather one of attempts or forbearings. Sometimes the right choice, in an archery hunt, is to forbear. But consider again factors external to the hunt: impressing someone, say, or getting some exercise, or relieving someone’s depression. None of these has any bearing on the assessment of that forbearance as a hunting-archery performance. Forbearances too are hunting-archery performances, and clearly assessable as such. When the risk of failure is too high, the right choice is to forbear. And here again it is important to distinguish the respect in which the choice is right. Again, the relevant normativity is here distinctive not just of attempts but of attempts and forbearings. One’s fuller objective is:

Telic Virtue Epistemology


to make the attempt if and only if it would be apt. One must hence avoid inaptness and hence incompetence. But one does not avoid incompetence if one makes an attempt whose likelihood of success is too low. This seems little more than analytic: when the performance is in a domain that imposes standards of risk, attempts may or may not meet such standards. And the relevant competence of agents then includes reliably enough meeting the appropriate standards.3 Suspending judgment is thus a special case of forbearing from attempting. Accordingly, the normativity of such attempt-forbearing has a special case in the normativity of judgmentforbearing, that of suspension of judgment. More broadly, at agential junctures in a domain with distinctive aims and standards of risk, one performs. Given an end considered in that domain, two options open up: aiming for that end, or forbearing. The proper broader aim of the performance is then to make an attempt if and only if it would be apt (and otherwise forbear). Here again the will has a role in epistemology. We saw earlier how judgmental beliefs are sustained policies to answer a whether question affirmatively, in pursuit of truth and aptness of affirmation. Now we find a different epistemic policy, that of aiming to make alethic attempts if and only if they would be apt. There are then two ways of violating this policy. One might make an attempt when it is false that one would succeed reliably enough with such an attempt, so that the attempt is incompetent and hence not one that would be apt. Alternatively: One might fail to make an attempt when one’s attempt would succeed reliably enough. Either way, one lowers the relevant quality of one’s first-order competence in that domain. Either the breadth or the reliability of the competence is then reduced. Lowered reliability obviously yields a lesser competence. But lowered breadth does so as well. No doubt, one’s competence would be superbly reliable if one tried only on the rare occasions when the conditions easily assured success. One’s policy might be to shoot only when the target was a foot away. But this would be an unimpressive competence. 4. What sort of risk assessment is relevant to aptness, and to epistemic aptness in particular? What determines whether risk of failure in a given attempt is or is not too high? As suggested earlier, not every possible consequence that matters to those affected will bear on the relevant “risk.” The risk pertinent to a particular attempt (and to its evaluation as an attempt of its sort) is the risk that the agent will fail to attain the end constitutive of that attempt. This risk of failure is coordinate with how likely or unlikely it may be that the agent will then succeed. The epistemic domain is a special case in which the relevant aim is getting it right on a given question, but only competently and indeed aptly. If the agent aims to make the attempt if and only if it would be apt, then a distinctive element of risk assessment becomes relevant: How probably would the agent succeed in the attempt to attain that fuller end? Let us focus on unqualified knowledge, by contrast with the varieties of expert knowledge (whether scientific, legal, medical, etc.). When we speak of ordinary unqualified knowledge, my thought is that we implicitly relativize to the standards imposed by our evolution-derived humanity. These are standards concerning the appropriateness of storing a given belief, just


Ernest Sosa

as a human being, rather than in one’s capacity as an expert of one or another sort. Such stored beliefs are to be available for later use in one’s own thought or in testimony to others. We need standards that determine when a belief is likely enough to be true, so that it can be stored appropriately, so that, given just that it is stored in one of us, we can rely well enough on its being true. For example, we can then rely thus on strangers whom we can ask for directions, and with whom one might collaborate. Important here is the ability to count on some at least minimal default level of reliability even once the evidential basis for the stored belief is long gone from memory. This assurance is important for our own later proper reliance on our stored beliefs, and for the reliance of others on our testimony. The species-derived standard gives us a shared minimum.4


There is a history to this approach. At an epistemic juncture, the Cartesian objective, one highlighted by my virtue epistemology, is that of making an alethic attempt if and only if it would be apt. This is to be distinguished from the Jamesian objective of attaining truth and avoiding falsehood, and is crucial to understanding Descartes’s epistemology as laid out in his Meditations (1991a) and Principles (1991b). Thus, consider his account of the “error” to be avoided. The distinction made in the following passages (translations by John Cottingham) is just that between apt and inapt judgment, but of course Descartes’s project in the Meditations is to attain such aptness of judgment, and to avoid error: that is, to avoid inaptness. So, his objective was not just the Jamesian objective. It was his own distinctively Cartesian objective (like one found also in Aristotle, as we shall soon see below). [If] . . . I simply refrain from making a judgment in cases where I do not perceive the truth with sufficient clarity and distinctness, then it is clear that I am behaving correctly and avoiding error [Latin error, French erreur]. But if in such cases I either affirm or deny, then I am not using my free will correctly. If I go for the alternative which is false, then obviously I shall be in error; if I take the other side, then it is by . . . chance [French hasard] that I arrive at the truth, and I shall still be at fault . . . In this incorrect use of free will may be found the privation which constitutes the essence of error. (Meditations (1991a): IV.12) It is also certain that when we assent to some piece of reasoning when our perception of it is lacking, then either we go wrong, or, if we do stumble on the truth, it is by accident, so that we cannot be sure that we are not in error. (Principle 44 of the Principles of Philosophy (1991b)) In this respect, Descartes’s epistemology is a special case of Aristotle’s virtue ethics (translations and glosses by Robert Bolton). It is possible to produce something that is grammatical either by chance or under the supervision of another. To be proficient in grammar, then, one must both produce what is grammatical and produce it grammatically, that is, in accord with [kata = as an expression of] knowledge of grammar in oneself [not in some supervisor]. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics.II.4.1105a22–6)

Telic Virtue Epistemology


This is in effect our concept of aptness. How crucial such a concept is to Aristotle’s ethics may be seen in the following passage: human good proves to be an activity of soul [a successful one, presumably, given the importance of lucky externalities for Aristotelian flourishing] in accord with [kata = as an expression of] virtue and, if there are more virtues than one, in accord with [kata = as an expression of] the best and most complete. (Nicomachean Ethics.I.7.1098a16–17) Since human good is what humans ought to pursue, the pursuit of interest to Aristotle is then such activity of soul, that which constitutes human good, namely activity that attains desiderata, where the attainment is in accord with virtue. Aristotle is not in these passages so clearly and explicitly focused on the attainment of human good. Famously, however, he does postulate that flourishing is properly the main human end, and flourishing is activity of soul that succeeds in accord with virtue (spread over one’s lifetime). 1. 3 JUDGM ENT A N D A G E N CY

1. Such virtue epistemology has always featured the view that intellectual virtues are reliable beliefforming dispositions. These dispositions are not restricted to the merely functional, however—to those that involve no rational agency. Reliable dispositions that constitute epistemic virtues are dispositions to form beliefs of whatever sort, whether passive or active, functional or judgmental. The more recent emphasis on agential dispositions in my Judgment and Agency (2015a) is hence not a departure, nor is it a tweak of any responsibilist virtue theory proposed by others in more recent literature. What is new in that book is the explicit account of agential belief, and the focus on belief as agential, which is not to contradict the earlier account but to develop something already contained in it as a special case. Compatibly, we can recognize “character” intellectual virtues to be obviously featured in human life, and we can try to analyze them one by one. Some believe the possession of a “character virtue” to require motivation by intrinsic love of truth. But the virtues whose exercise is constitutive of knowledge—the gnoseological—require not love but competence. Loving motivation is irrelevant to theory of knowledge, or gnoseology; nor is it relevant to theory of inquiry, or pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge can be pursued not at all for its own sake but only for its technological payoff. 2. Of course, a competence that is accompanied by a loving curiosity on the questions at hand can be sufficient to constitute knowledge and to guide inquiry properly. But the competence without the loving motivation would serve equally well from a gnoseological point of view. The guiding aim will be the aim to get it right on the relevant question or to get it reliably right. Some think that the intellectually virtuous believer must be motivated by intrinsic love of truth. They think that only thus do we properly explain the special value of knowledge over mere true belief. But this seems incorrect on all counts. The nature of so-called character virtues, such as open-mindedness or intellectual courage, remains an open question nonetheless. What would make a disposition an intellectual character virtue? Would it need to have a truth-related objective free of pragmatic taint, or can it also have a practical objective? Let’s focus on that very sort of epistemic virtue, one that might constitute knowledge by being sufficiently manifest in one’s getting it right.


Ernest Sosa

Might that very same virtue also aid well-balanced decisions, when intellectual and practical values conflict? No, a pure epistemology is restricted to purely epistemic virtues or competences. That’s how epistemology is properly restricted both in theory of knowledge and in theory of inquiry. And so, virtues or competences that include both epistemic and practical objectives would be better classified under the heading of “ethical” virtues. Such mixed virtues or competences are not directly relevant for a theory of what knowledge is, however, nor even for a theory of intellectual inquiry, of how knowledge is best pursued when extraneous values are excluded. Still, might there be purely epistemic forms of open-mindedness and intellectual courage, and might these belong in the inner circle of competences whose exercise is constitutive of knowledge, and not just auxiliary to its acquisition? Or, alternatively, might such virtues (whatever their virtues) never manage to constitute knowledge, even partially? 3. Let’s explore the contrast between constitutive and auxiliary competences. Suppose a mysterious box lies closed before us, and we wonder what it contains. How can we find out? We might of course just open the lid. In pursuit of this objective we will then exercise certain competences, perhaps even character traits (if the box is locked, or the lid stuck), such as persistence and resourcefulness. And perhaps these qualities (in certain contexts, and in certain combinations) do lead us reliably to the truth. Nevertheless, the exercise of such intellectual virtues need not and normally would not constitute knowledge, not even when that exercise does indirectly lead us to the truth. Contrast what happens when we manage to open the lid and look inside. Now we may immediately know the answer to our question, with a perceptual belief—say, that there is a necklace in the box—a perceptual belief that manifests certain cognitive competences for gaining visual experience and belief. Perhaps this complex, knowledge-constitutive competence first leads to things seeming perceptually a certain way, and eventually to the belief that things are indeed that way, absent contrary indications. A belief manifesting such a competence, and, crucially, one whose correctness manifests such a competence, does constitute knowledge, at a minimum animal knowledge, perhaps even full-fledged knowledge (including a reflective component). It is such knowledge-constitutive competences that are of main interest to a Competence Virtue Epistemology aiming to explain human knowledge. Other important traits—such as humility, justice, persistence, even single-minded obsessiveness—are of interest to a broader epistemology, including epistemic psychology. They are of course worthy of serious study. But are they in the charmed inner circle of traditional epistemology? No, they may be only “auxiliary” intellectual virtues, by contrast with the “constitutive” intellectual virtues of central interest to virtue reliabilism. My distinction has on one side intellectual virtues whose manifestation can bring important intellectual or moral benefits, and may even help to put you in a position to know. On the other side are intellectual virtues whose manifestation in the correctness of a belief constitutes a bit of knowledge. In my view, competences that constitute (credal) knowledge are generally dispositions to believe correctly, which can then be manifest in the correctness of a belief; or else are constitutive of such competences, at least partially. Competences in general are dispositions to succeed when one aims to attain certain given objectives. A competence to believe correctly is a special case of that. A competence whose exercise can aid one’s attaining a correct and even an apt belief is not necessarily one that is manifest in any such attainments. For it need not be a competence to attain any such things as correctness or aptness, despite being a competence whose exercise furthers such attainments. Your competence to obtain fuel in a shortage is not a competence to drive safely well, even if it is a competence whose exercise furthers your good

Telic Virtue Epistemology


driving. The competence of focal interest to Competence Virtue Epistemology is that whose manifestation constitutes the apt belief that is animal knowledge. Where then do responsibilist character traits belong? I mean traits such as open-mindedness and intellectual courage. Are these merely auxiliary to the more epistemically central competences whose exercise constitutes knowledge? 4. Let’s now explore the place of conscientiousness. Conscientiousness is the contrary of the carelessness of negligence-or-recklessness. Might it be epistemically constitutive and not just auxiliary? Let us consider how. Take our physical ability to pry open our box so as to determine what it contains. The exercise of that ability seems inessential to our coming to know the contents of the box (by seeing what it contains). The lid might have even sprung open on its own, compatibly with our enjoying the same perceptual knowledge of the necklace. Our physical prying skill is thus merely auxiliary to the competence that constitutes our knowledge in that case. The knowledge would still have been constituted by our perceptual competence as we perceptually spotted and identified the necklace, and aptly believed it to be there. So, are character traits, such as open-mindedness and intellectual courage, relevantly similar to our prying skill? Is the exercise of such conscientiousness just as external and auxiliary to knowledge as is our physical prying skill in opening the box?5 5. An analogy illuminates our issue: a. A pilot is supposed to check the gas tank of his small plane before take-off, but forgets to do so, and proceeds to pilot the plane skillfully through a storm to a safe landing at the intended destination. That performance is of course negligent.6 b. Compare the case where the pilot was not supposed to check the tank, since this was someone else’s assigned function of long standing. Here the pilot proceeds with an appropriate default assumption that the tank is full. But note the contrast with case (a). c. The success is about equally due to luck in case (b) as in case (a). But in case (a) the luck blocks aptness, whereas in case (b) it does not.7 Case (b) involves no negligence or recklessness on the part of the agent, unlike case (a). Luck blocks aptness when the agent fails to take risk properly into account, thereby falling into negligence or even recklessness. But luck does not block aptness when there is no such failure of conscientiousness. Luck no more blocks aptness in case (b) than it does when a potentially disastrous strike of lightning narrowly misses the plane on the way to its destination. d. The pilot succeeds in case (a) by automatically assuming that he is fully SSS-competent (Skillful, in good enough Shape, and well enough Situated) to pilot safely to the intended destination. But this second-order assumption, about the relevant first-order competence, is ill-founded, given the pilot’s negligence to check the tank, and his failure to ensure properly that this crucial component of Situational first-order competence is in place. e. So, we might say that our pilot’s successfully piloting the plane to its destination is a manifestation of SSS-competence in case (a), since that pilot is Skillful, is in good Shape, and is in a good (enough) Situation (wherein we take into account the wind, the distance, the light, the condition of the plane, including its having enough gas, etc.). Where the pilot falls short is in assessing whether his piloting would be SSS-competent at the time. The pilot’s affirmative assumption on that question relies essentially on his implicit assumption that the plane contained enough gas in its tank. Because it is epistemically incompetent, that assumption is then correct too much by luck.

Ernest Sosa


Negligence and recklessness in that way preclude full aptness, whatever may be the domain of performance. Distinctive varieties of that phenomenon are found across domains, whether the domain be one of sport, such as chess or archery; or of artistic accomplishment, such as the piano; or of professional performance, such as medicine or the law. The epistemic domain is no exception. 6. Consider open-mindedness and intellectual courage. Each of these forms of conscientiousness seems an ability and a competence to avoid pertinent negligence and recklessness. One’s mind should be open to an appropriate extent; not too little, not too much. One should be willing to take appropriate risk of failure by judging in a certain way on a given question: not too little risk, not too much. Risk-determining factors are set by the specific domain of performance. The relevant failure to be avoided is the failure of one’s pertinent attempt in the given domain. Thus, one is negligent or reckless epistemically in making a certain judgment if and only if one fails to take properly into account the risk of failure in one’s attempt to affirm aptly, the attempt that constitutes one’s judgment. There is a character trait of epistemic conscientiousness, which is a competence to avoid epistemic negligence and recklessness. And the exercise of this character trait is crucial to the attainment of a competent enough assessment of one’s SSS conditions relevant to a given question that one ponders. And this secondorder assessment will be crucial to one’s determining aptly (through sufficient competence) whether one’s conditions are suitable for making a judgment on that pondered question. Thus, that assessment will be crucial to one’s determining aptly whether by affirming (positively or negatively) one would attain one’s prime epistemic objective, namely: To affirm alethically (affirmatively or negatively) on the pondered question if and only if one would do so aptly. So, one’s conscientiousness has a crucial role to play in the competence one must exercise in determining aptly whether to affirm. It therefore has a crucial and constitutive role to play in the epistemic agent’s attainment of apt judgment (or fully apt alethic affirmation). (Related Chapters: 2, 3, 22, 23, 26.) NOT E S 1 Such factors are discussed in Sosa (2017). 2 Intentionally sustained policies are not just “agential.” They are outright extended actions, as when one of those motionless metallic “statues” deliberately, intentionally sustains a pose at a tourist site. The sustaining of their changeless pose for ten minutes in order to entertain passersby seems as plausibly an action as the quick raising of one’s hand to draw a moderator’s attention. So, I see no good reason to deny the status of intentional action to the intentional sustaining of a policy to stop at yellow lights with the aim of driving safely. Some actions are episodic, some are sustained over long periods of time, and the former can sometimes be explained by the latter, since the latter can be sustained policies that are occasionally implemented by the former. 3 None of this applies, of course, to instances of free-spirited, blasé choice, in an “unregulated” sphere, devoid of any such standards. Recall our examples of doodling, ambling, and drifting. Another example is the quiz show, where there is no threshold of risk. Of course, one would try to minimize the risk of failure, but there is no threshold where the contestant would incur disapproval for running risk below that threshold. 4 This is akin to the proper ranges for volume of voice and distance between humans in face-to-face communication. Like such “etiquette” standards, epistemic standards seem mostly implicit and inarticulable. 5 See Baehr (2015) and Sosa (2015b). 6 It would have been reckless if the pilot had checked and had determined how slim was the chance that the plane had enough fuel, and had proceeded anyhow. 7 True, the aptness blocked in case (a) is second-order aptness, but it is aptness that is blocked nonetheless.

Telic Virtue Epistemology


REFERE N C E S Alfano, M. (ed.) (2015) Current Controversies in Virtue Theory, New York: Routledge. Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Robert Bolton (unpublished manuscript). Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, New York: Oxford University Press. Baehr, J. (2015) “Character Virtues, Epistemic Agency, and Reflective Knowledge,” in M. Alfano (ed.) Current Controversies in Virtue Theory, New York: Routledge, 74–90. Descartes, R. (1991a) Meditations on First Philosophy, in J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, and D. Murdoch (eds.) The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Descartes, R. (1991b) Principles of Philosophy, in J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, and D. Murdoch (eds.) The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Greco, J. (2010) Achieving Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Plato. (1989a) Meno, in E. Hamilton and H. Cairns (eds.) The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Plato. (1989b) Theaetetus, in E. Hamilton and H. Cairns (eds.) The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Sosa, E. (2015a) Judgment and Agency, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2015b) “Virtue Epistemology: Character vs. Competence,” in M. Alfano (ed.) Current Controversies in Virtue Theory, New York: Routledge, 62–74. Sosa, E. (2017) “Replies to Comments on Judgment and Agency,” Philosophical Studies 174(10): 2599–2611. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2 Intellectual Virtues: Admirable Traits of Character Linda Zagzebski


Human beings are admired for many different qualities. Often we do not clearly grasp the nature of a quality we admire, but we recognize it when we see it expressed in a particularly vivid way in a person who is an exemplar of the quality. When we admire something (or someone) and continue to admire it on reflection, we say it is admirable—deserving of admiration. Of course, we can be mistaken in what we call admirable. We can admire someone who is not admirable or fail to admire someone who is admirable. Nonetheless, our identification of admirable qualities is based on our experience of admiration when it survives reflection on the object of admiration. What we call “virtues” are the qualities we admire on reflection. Discussions of virtue develop out of a long history of the use of the word “virtue.” The word carries with it assumptions about what the virtues are and how they are organized. I believe, however, that we are more certain of the identities of highly admirable persons than we are of any account of what a virtue is and the way virtues ought to be classified. For that reason, I think that a good place to begin an investigation of intellectual virtue is to think of the wide range of persons we admire. We can then use reflective admiration as a way to generate a classification of virtues, and to identify the components of a virtue.1 Suppose we each made a list of persons we admire. My list would include Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities where people live with the mentally disabled and give them a loving home-life; and the Trappist monks of Tibhurine, who refused to abandon their ministry in war-torn Algeria, and were subsequently kidnaped and murdered by rebels.2 It would include St. Catherine of Siena, a mystic and central figure in the political affairs of 14th-century Europe, who was not afraid to stand up to more than one Pope, and managed to convince Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome from Avignon. It would include Holocaust rescuers like Leopold Socha, a Polish sewer inspector and former criminal, who protected Jews hiding in the sewers of Lvov for 14 months, first for money, then gradually out of compassion and at great personal risk.3 I also admire Arthur Miles, the protagonist of C.P. Snow’s novel, The Search, who is an ambitious scientist doing groundbreaking research 26



in crystallography. At the point of making a major discovery, he finds counter-evidence that he is at first tempted to destroy, but then accepts it and reports that the hypothesis that would have made him famous is false.4 My list would include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci, and Marie Curie, and it would include Brian Shaw, said to be the strongest man in the world (Bilger 2012). Finally, it would include many ordinary people such as a woman I know who is impeccably groomed and keeps her home always ready for company, while caring for her husband with Alzheimer’s. The individuals on this list are obviously very different from each other, but I think they have something in common that elicits my admiration, and I also suspect that the individuals on other people’s lists would have the same common feature. Each admired person has a human power in a high degree of excellence—intellectual or artistic genius, moral leadership, stalwart courage, compassion, open-mindedness and intellectual honesty, the virtues of a host and loving spouse, physical strength. Obviously, some of these qualities are more important than others. Some of them do not have much to do with what makes a person the person that she is, whereas others are much deeper, integrated into the whole of the person’s life, such as helping the “little people” is for Jean Vanier.5 My hypothesis is that the main division among the human excellences I have named is natural vs. acquired excellences. Physical strength, musical and artistic talent, and native intelligence are natural gifts. Courage, compassion, hope, intellectual honesty, and hospitality are acquired excellences. I think that we admire these excellences in different ways even when the same person has a mixture of the two kinds. People with natural gifts usually attract our admiration because they have developed their talent through the exercise of acquired traits. Brian Shaw was not born the strongest man in the world. It took a tremendous amount of hard work to achieve that goal. Marie Curie’s indomitable spirit and acquired skills explain her Nobel prizes at least as much as her natural intellectual brilliance. I think, then, that persons with extraordinary natural gifts are admirable in one way because of the natural gift, and in another way because the level of excellence they achieve is partly due to acquired traits that they develop through their agency. The admiration we feel for acquired excellences feels different from the admiration we feel for natural excellences. Another way to see the difference between natural and acquired excellences is to compare the emotions we have for natural and acquired defects. If we feel admiration for an acquired excellence like kindness, we feel contempt for an acquired defect like meanness. Meanness is not simply the absence of kindness. It is an acquired trait that is opposed to kindness—a vice. Likewise, dishonesty is not simply the lack of honesty. It is an acquired trait that arouses our contempt. The same point applies to cowardice, stinginess, and unfairness. In each case we feel an emotion contrary to admiration when we see these traits expressed because they indicate not just the lack of a virtue, but the presence of a vice—an anti-virtue. In contrast, I doubt that there is any such thing as an anti-talent. There is, of course, such a thing as the lack of talent, but normally we do not feel contempt for it. In general, I doubt that we have any emotion at all toward a person who lacks a particular talent, although if someone is extraordinarily lacking in a normal human gift—is tone deaf, for instance—we might feel pity, but I think not contempt. In this way, admiration for inborn talent, and admiration for acquired traits have different opposite emotions. This is another indication that there are two kinds of admiration directed at two kinds of excellence. A third important difference between natural and acquired excellences is that we can imitate the latter, but not the former. The two kinds of excellences have a different connection to our motivations. This difference has been confirmed in a series of studies by Jonathan Haidt


Linda Zagzebski

and Sara Algoe (Haidt 2003; Algoe and Haidt 2009). Haidt distinguishes between “admiration,” which is what he calls the emotion directed toward natural talents, and what he calls “elevation,” a term he invented for the emotion directed toward acquired virtues. In a series of empirical studies, he has identified differences between the two emotions. The main components of “elevation” are these: a. It is elicited by acts of charity, gratitude, fidelity, generosity, or any other strong display of virtue. b. It leads to distinctive physical feelings, including the feeling of dilation or opening in the chest, combined with the feeling that one has been uplifted or “elevated.” c. It gives rise to a specific motivation or action tendency: emulation, or the desire to perform the same kind of acts oneself. In my opinion, “admiration” is a perfectly good term for our emotional responses to both natural and acquired excellences. Although I have emphasized the differences, the similarities are important as well, and I would not go along with Haidt’s suggestion to use two different names for the emotion of admiration. But leaving aside the difference in terminology, Algoe and Haidt’s studies support my contention that we can imitate acquired excellence but not natural excellence. Their studies indicate that both the emotion they call “elevation,” directed at exemplars of moral excellence, and the emotion they call “admiration,” directed at exemplars of natural talents, are uplifting and lead to emulation in some way, but the difference is that admiration for natural talent energizes people to work harder to succeed at their own goals, whereas elevation leads them to emulate the moral goals of the other.6 I take that to mean that the acquired excellences are imitable, whereas the inborn excellences are not, although they are inspiring. I think, then, that Haidt’s research confirms the division I am proposing in the class of human excellences and in our emotional responses to them. Notice next that there are intellectual excellences in both categories. Some intellectual excellences are like natural talents, and some are acquired like moral virtues. Natural intellectual gifts include native intelligence, good memory, and good reasoning ability. Acquired intellectual excellences include intellectual honesty, intellectual fairness, intellectual courage, intellectual generosity, open-mindedness, and intellectual carefulness and thoroughness. I propose that we admire intellectual honesty the same way we admire honesty in the practical domain; we admire intellectual courage the same way we admire courage in the practical domain, and so on for the other intellectual virtues that have the same name as moral virtues. I think we also admire open-mindedness the same way we admire moral virtues. We feel contempt for close-mindedness, as we feel contempt for intellectual dishonesty and intellectual cowardice. We also feel the urge to emulate the open-minded and intellectually courageous person the same way we feel the urge to emulate the compassionate, or generous or courageous person. In contrast, we do not feel contempt for a person who has low intelligence or a poor memory or poor eyesight. And the natural intellectual excellences are not imitable for the same reason that other natural talents and physical strength are not imitable. I conclude that the natural intellectual excellences and the acquired intellectual excellences have different relations to admiration and to human motivation. Although it is traditional to classify virtues by the domain in which they are exercised—moral, intellectual, and physical—I think it is more useful to classify them by our responses to them. Acquired excellences, whether moral or intellectual, are admirable in the same way, and they have the same function in the development of human excellence through emulation of persons who are already excellent. If we want to become better at forming and regulating our beliefs, we would do well to focus on the acquired intellectual virtues.




So far, I have hypothesized that there is more than one kind of admiration, and that admiration for natural talents differs in the way it feels and in its typical behavioral response from admiration for acquired traits. We generally do not call natural talents “virtues,” so not all excellences are virtues. The virtues and vices are acquired traits. Intellectual virtues and vices are acquired intellectual traits. Next, I want to look at how we can use admiration to identify the components of character traits as well as in identifying individual virtues. Admiration is typically precipitated by something easily observable—usually verbal or bodily behavior. But we think that there is something in the person’s psychology that is expressed in the observed behavior, and it is the internal psychology that is the object of our admiration. In fact, most observed behavior has an internal psychological component, so even the admiration of observed behavior implies that there is something in the psychology of the person that is admired. What we mean by an act is not simply bodily movements, but conscious bodily movements. What we mean by an assertion is not just the uttering of words, but the uttering of words that have a certain sense and which the speaker uses to convey information or to express attitudes to other people. There is something we take ourselves to be doing when we speak or act, and when it is intentional, it has other psychological properties. These properties are caused by further psychological features of the person—perceptions, emotions, the adoption of ends. We admire a person for what she does or says to the extent that the cause of the behavior is in her psychological features rather than in something external to her agency, and our admiration can change when we discover what those psychological features are. The idea that admirable behavior requires certain psychological causes has deep historical roots, both in the East and in the West.7 I have said that we assume that what makes a person admirable is something in her psychology that leads to behavior we admire. That follows from our response to cases in which we find out that an admirable act does not have an internal psychological source, but is largely caused by external circumstances. To the extent that we believe or come to find out that the source of an admirable act is something independent of the agency of the person, we admire the person less or not at all. For instance, if we found out that an act of apparent generosity was actually coerced, we would not admire the person who did it. We do not admire something that bypasses a person’s agency the same way we admire her acquired internal features, and that is no doubt the reason why we do not admire natural talents the same way we admire acquired traits.8 When something is either a gift of nature or imposed by an external source, we do not admire it in the same way we admire a trait acquired through a person’s agency, and we cannot imitate it. We cannot imitate external circumstances any more than we can imitate natural talents. Imitability is connected with the kind of admiration that underlies the set of character traits I am identifying for this chapter. They all have acquired internal features, particularly motivations that are emotional responses to the agent’s circumstances, and which direct the agent to act for certain ends. We can use our responses of admiration or dis-admiration to make further distinctions in the components of a virtue. We clearly admire certain motives more than others. For instance, our admiration is strongly affected by the discovery of a motive of self-interest rather than a motive of concern for others. I mentioned that one of the people I admire is Leopold Socha, who rescued Jews from the Nazis and hid them in the sewers of Lvov for 14 months. Initially he had a financial motive, but when their money ran out and they could no longer pay him, he continued to shelter them and to care for them at great personal risk. I admire him even when his motive was one of self-interest, but I admire him much more when he was motivated by his love and concern for the welfare of the people he was


Linda Zagzebski

protecting. I have found that my reaction is almost always shared by people to whom I have told Socha’s story. Next, I propose that we admire a person more when the behavior expresses a psychological disposition that endures over time, and when the disposition is a deep part of her psychology.9 By that, I mean that she characteristically expresses the admirable disposition even when tempted not to do so. I suggest, then, that a deep and enduring psychological disposition is more admirable than one that is not, and for that reason I postulate that a virtue is deep and enduring. The fact that we admire psychological causes of admirable acts that are deep and enduring in these ways is a testable hypothesis.10 So far, we can say that a virtue is a deep and enduring acquired trait that we admire on reflection and which includes a motivational component. In early work, I proposed that each virtue has two major components: a distinctive motivational component, and a success component (Zagzebski 1996: 134–137). In my recent work, I propose that both of these components can be subjected to the admiration test (Zagzebski 2017: chap. 4). Let us consider the motivational component first. There are certain general motives we admire. Some of the most basic and important ones are a concern for the welfare of others, and a desire to get the truth and to aid others in getting the truth. Concern for others underlies a variety of other more specific motives, including a desire to give goods to others—the motive of generosity; a desire to alleviate the suffering of others—the motive of compassion; and a desire to make others feel liked and appreciated—the motive of kindness. Concern for the truth underlies a variety of other motives, such as the desire to be open to the views of others even when they conflict with one’s own views—the motive of open-mindedness; the desire to be careful, attentive, and thorough in getting evidence, evaluating it, and reaching a conclusion—motives of intellectual carefulness, attentiveness, and thoroughness. A concern for truth when combined with concern for others leads to desires to aid others in getting the truth—motives of intellectual generosity and fairness. I think of the motivational component of a virtue as an emotion disposition that leads to either cognitive or overt behavior. The emotion disposition is generally a disposition to govern our emotions in a rational way. That might involve restraining an emotion such as fear, in the virtue of courage; or enhancing an emotion like human sympathy, in the case of compassion. I have argued in another place that intellectual virtues enhance or restrain intellectual self-trust or trust in others (Zagzebski 2009: chap. 4). When we train ourselves to be alert to new evidence, to be willing to criticize our own beliefs, and to be sensitive to the arguments of others, we learn to limit self-trust. We learn to avoid inappropriate forms of self-trust such as wishful thinking. There are also virtues that enhance intellectual self-trust, such as intellectual courage and perseverance. An intellectually firm person has the appropriate degree of assent to her beliefs.11 She is neither stubborn and unyielding and, hence, excessively self-trusting, nor is she excessively pliable and wishy-washy and, hence, excessively mistrusting of herself. Virtues that restrain intellectual self-trust often also enhance trust in others, such as open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and intellectual tolerance. I think it is important that we would not consider these traits that limit or enhance selftrust or trust in others virtues unless people were generally trustworthy in getting the truth. Intellectual attentiveness, carefulness, thoroughness, perseverance, and openness to new evidence would not be virtues unless people were generally epistemically reliable. That is because there is no point in being intellectually attentive, thorough, courageous, persevering, and open to evidence unless we can trust ourselves to be on the right track. The same point applies to intellectual trust in others. Open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and intellectual tolerance would not be virtues unless basic intellectual trust in others was reliable. The intellectual virtues presuppose that humans by nature are generally reliable. The



virtues enhance our natural dispositions when they need to be enhanced and restrain them when they need to be restrained, but it would not be admirable to enhance or restrain natural dispositions unless the dispositions were generally truth conducive. If I am right that we think that intellectual virtues are virtues not only because they are motives to get the truth, but because they actually aid us in getting the truth, then there must be a success component in virtue, the second main component of virtue I have identified. There are debates about how strong the success component must be and whether success is a component of every virtue. There is evidence that many people think that a person does not act virtuously unless she is successful in reaching the end of the virtue on a particular occasion. For example, in a study by Pury, Kowalski, and Spearman (2007), participants overwhelmingly described an act with a successful outcome when asked to describe a courageous act they did personally, and a study by Pury and Hensel (2010) replicated these findings in descriptions of courageous acts of other persons. In another study by Pury and Starkey (2010), participants rated the degree of courage in a number of scenarios. Successful actions were rated as more courageous than actions that were identical except that they did not have a successful outcome. For instance, if two people rush into a burning building and one succeeds in saving a person’s life whereas the other does not, people rated the first individual as more courageous than the second. I do not believe that the participants were asked whether they admire the successful person more than the unsuccessful one, but it would not be surprising if calling the successful one more courageous also made the successful one more admirable in their eyes. I am not proposing that the agent must be successful on every occasion in which she attempts to reach her virtuous end; my proposal is only that the possession of a virtue requires reliable success in reaching the end of the motivational component of the virtue. So my success condition is weaker than what is assumed by the people participating in the studies I have mentioned. Still, my success component is contentious. It is natural to think that since we do not admire aspects of a person and her behavior that bypass her agency, why should we admire someone more for reliable success in reaching her end when her reliability is partly, perhaps largely, outside her control? In response, I want to point out first that to some extent the success component is not outside her control and is already included in the motivational component. Normally a virtuously motivated agent learns from her failures. If she is properly motivated to help suffering persons, and has a reasonable degree of knowledge and understanding of the world, she will find out if her action does not succeed in reaching its end in particular cases, and she will amend her behavior in the future. The same point applies to failures of generosity, temperance, and fairness. But there may still be instances in which the agent is virtuously motivated—characteristically has the appropriate emotion for the circumstances and aims at the end of that motive, but regularly fails to reach that end through no fault of her own. Is she virtuous? My view is that she is partly virtuous. The full virtue requires regular success. Of course, we would not blame the agent for failure beyond her control, but she fails to have the full virtue, and so she fails to have whatever degree of admirability having a full virtue entails. I think that this is one of the ways in which we can be victims of moral luck. However, even though I am still inclined to think that virtue has a component of reliable success in reaching the end of the virtuous motive, I think this matter could be settled by the test of what we admire on reflection.12 The component of reliable success in virtue means that a person who characteristically feels compassion when confronted with a suffering person but does not reliably act in a way that helps to alleviate the suffering does not have the virtue of compassion, although she is admirable for her motive. A person who is motivated to restrain her desire for pleasure


Linda Zagzebski

but does not reliably succeed in doing so does not have the virtue of temperance. A person who desires to be open to the views of others but does not do so reliably, perhaps because she often finds people who disagree with her annoying, does not have the virtue of openmindedness. A person who is motivated to be attentive, thorough, and careful in evaluating evidence but often fails to act in a way that is attentive, thorough, and careful lacks the virtues of intellectual attentiveness, thoroughness, and carefulness. As I have mentioned, the motives underlying virtues have immediate ends and more general ends. We aim to alleviate suffering because we care about the welfare of others and suffering diminishes their welfare. We aim to give goods to others for the same reason. Compassion, generosity, and kindness are virtues that are based in a concern for the welfare of others, and each of those virtues requires reliable success in aiding their welfare. Fairness and justice are based in respect for the value of each human being, and those virtues require reliable success in acting in a way that expresses that respect and leads to social conditions that express that respect. The intellectual virtues are based in caring for the value of truth, both for oneself and for others. We think that open-mindedness, intellectual courage, intellectual attentiveness and carefulness, intellectual honesty, and others are virtues because we think that these traits are dispositions to act in our belief-formation in a way that makes it likely we will get the truth. At least, we think that we are more likely to get the truth if we have these virtues than if we do not. My position, then, is that open-mindedness reliably leads to success in reaching the truth, other things equal, through the cognitive behavior motivated by the emotion of openness to the views of others, and similarly for the other intellectual virtues. We admire people who are open-minded, intellectually careful, thorough, humble, courageous, and fair, and we usually don’t ask if they succeed in getting the truth before admiring them, but we think that the point of having these intellectual virtues is to help us and our community find out the truth. That is why I said earlier that the intellectual virtues presuppose our general trustworthiness for the purpose of getting the truth. The conclusion from this section is that a virtue is an admirable trait, identified through the emotion of reflective admiration. The components of a virtue are identified by comparing our reactions of admiration or dis-admiration to various features of human behavior. We admire internal motives rather than external causes of behavior. We admire some motives more than others. We admire reliable success in reaching the end of the motive more than failure. The virtues enhance or restrain natural human dispositions that lead us toward goods such as truth and human well-being. My proposal, then, is that a virtue is a deep and enduring acquired excellence consisting of an admirable motive disposition and reliable success in reaching the end of the motive because of the behavior to which the motive leads. An intellectual virtue is a deep and enduring acquired intellectual excellence consisting of an admirable intellectual motive disposition and reliable success in reaching the truth because of the behavior to which that motive leads. I have also argued that the virtues are admirable in a different way from natural talents and inborn dispositions. Unlike natural excellences, the virtues can be acquired through imitation. That makes them important for education and self-improvement. It means we need virtuous exemplars of the intellectual as well as the moral virtues, and empirical research can reveal whether there are connections among the intellectual virtues and between intellectual and moral virtues. Is a person who is morally exemplary in certain ways likely to be intellectually exemplary in other identifiable ways? Is there a connection between the desire to give others the truth and a desire for the well-being of others? Is there a connection between the motives that underlie such moral virtues as honesty and fairness and the desire to believe the truth? The assumption that moral and intellectual virtues are independent can be tested. I suspect it is false.




So far, I have argued that acquired intellectual excellences are importantly similar in their structure to acquired moral excellences and importantly different from natural intellectual excellences. Since the acquired excellences can be cultivated through emulation of people who possess them in a high degree, they are crucial for education. But which kind of intellectual excellence—natural or acquired—is more important for epistemology? Natural excellences like being smart and having a good memory and sharp senses clearly contribute to getting knowledge. That is the main reason we consider these qualities excellences. A person with any of these qualities will have more knowledge than one who does not, other things equal. Furthermore, we all trust our senses, our memory, our reasoning ability, and our background knowledge in forming our beliefs, and we have no choice but to do so. We assume that our senses, memory, and reasoning are generally reliable and that our background beliefs are generally true. Self-trust in this sense is natural and unavoidable.13 But we also know from experience that we are not perfect. We have some false or misleading beliefs, inaccurate perceptions, and mistaken memories, and do not always gather and evaluate evidence in the most intelligent way. We may make fallacious inferences in reasoning, and may let our thinking be directed more by what we want to believe than by a desire for the truth. Acquiring the intellectual virtues is our best chance for correcting the mistakes to which we are prone and enhancing our natural desire for truth. If we want to get the truth and to avoid falsehood, our best bet is to acquire intellectual virtue and to avoid intellectual vice. Even if we were not self-reflective in our desire for truth, we would get many true beliefs anyway, but knowledge is better than true belief because it is the outcome of a conscientiously managed desire to get the truth and to avoid falsehood. This is the reason acquired intellectual excellences are more important for epistemology than natural ones. I have not argued that knowledge on any given occasion requires the possession of intellectual virtue. In Virtues of the Mind, I argued that knowledge is an act of intellectual virtue. By that, I meant an act that is virtuously motivated, and succeeds in reaching the truth through the virtuously motivated behavior. But I also said that we can perform acts of virtue without having the deep and enduring trait that we call a virtue (Zagzebski 2006: 248). A person can perform an act of kindness when she does not have the virtue of kindness. She can perform a just act when she does not have the virtue of justice, and she can perform acts of intellectual carefulness, attentiveness, and open-mindedness when she does not have those traits. We all get credit for acts of virtue when we do not (yet) have the virtue, and we are admirable for those acts. My position is that knowledge is a state in which we get credit for getting the truth, and we get credit when our belief has arisen from a conscientiously governed desire for truth. Conscientious governance means that the belief must be acquired in a way that is proper for the circumstances. Thankfully, knowledge does not always require intellectual discipline. But to get knowledge, the believer must be as thorough and careful and attentive as is proper for the circumstances. We will be as attentive as we need to be in a situation in which a belief is based on a perception. We will be as thorough as necessary in acquiring relevant evidence and evaluating it with care. We will confirm our memory through another source if there is any doubt about its veracity. When the issue is contentious, we will be open to the views of others who disagree with us, and will not be quick to attribute ignorance or intellectual vice to them. We will have the humility to admit we may be wrong and will be ready to change our minds when the weight of our inquiries goes against our beliefs. We will also have the courage to stick with what we know is true even when it goes against the views of the crowd. But the exercise of the intellectual virtues does not require special behavior in


Linda Zagzebski

every circumstance. Sometimes the virtuous thing to do is what comes easily and naturally. We say the same thing about virtues like kindness and justice. Acting kindly and justly in many circumstances is doing what you feel like doing anyway. Similarly, believing virtuously in many circumstances is believing what you are inclined to believe anyway. Believing virtuously is believing conscientiously, but believing conscientiously has a feature that we find in conscientious acting. Our natural dispositions need to be directed by reflection, but reflection tells us that they often can be trusted without any special attention or intervention. Virtuous believing is conscientious believing; knowledge is getting the truth through conscientious believing. Knowledge is a state that is valuable enough to make it the object of sustained investigation by philosophers since at least the time of Plato. Since there are different ways in which something can be valuable, philosophers at different times in history have thought of knowledge in different ways. Is knowledge a gift or an achievement? The naturalistic approach to knowledge treats it as a gift of nature. We can know that the snow is falling, that we had a cup of coffee at the office, that a Facebook friend is celebrating a birthday, because our natural faculties are attuned to an environment that gives us readily available knowledge. Some people’s faculties are better than others, and they have knowledge that is difficult to acquire, requiring special skill and training, but what makes a state knowledge does not require the agency of the knower. On this approach, knowledge is good because nature is good. In contrast, I have argued that virtues are traits of character with certain internal features that make them admirable. The virtues improve and correct nature. The intellectual virtues improve and correct the belief-forming part of our nature. Knowledge is a state in which the agent gets credit for getting the truth because of her motives and the cognitive behavior that results. Knowledge on a particular occasion does not require the possession of an enduring intellectual virtue, but it requires believing in a way that results from the governance of our beliefs motivated by the desire for truth. The motives that lead to virtues also lead to knowledge. That makes knowledge more like an achievement than a natural gift. This approach has the advantage of explaining why knowledge has always been treated as a human good better than mere true belief, and it has the advantage of connecting knowledge with the selfreflective aspect of believing traditionally associated with justification. If we think of intellectual virtues as acquired character traits, there is another advantage. These virtues include traits we want in members of epistemic communities. Sharing knowledge is an extremely important aspect of any community, and we want people who are intellectually generous, intellectually fair, intellectually tolerant, intellectually honest, and who are careful with the truth in their communications with others. Some epistemic goods are not divisible—not exhaustively divided among individuals, but are goods that are possessed by the community itself. Epistemic justice and epistemic welfare are closely parallel to justice and welfare in the moral sense, and it is important that epistemologists investigate the social and structural conditions that produce these goods. A vocabulary of virtue with its long history of a connection to values like justice and welfare can help epistemologists investigate the conditions that produce and maintain epistemic communities that are just and thriving. I want to mention one final advantage of thinking of intellectual virtues as character traits similar in structure and in their mode of acquisition to moral virtues. Some virtues are both moral and intellectual. Wisdom is perhaps the most important one because it has a direct connection with knowledge as well as acquired moral traits. The wise person knows the value of things, not only as they appear in particular episodes of life taken independently, but in life as a whole. That makes it unsurprising that Aristotle thought that wisdom (phronesis) is both necessary and sufficient for the possession of the moral virtues, so an intellectual virtue



has a preeminent role in the morally virtuous person. Even if we disagree with Aristotle’s strong claim, it is hard to deny that wisdom reveals the artificiality of dividing moral from intellectual virtues. In contrast, I think that it is not artificial to separate virtues from natural abilities and talents. Natural intellectual abilities are importantly different from acquired intellectual virtues. We can call natural belief-forming abilities virtues if we want, but they are virtues in the same way physical strength and stamina are virtues. The acquired traits are the ones that improve our natural dispositions; they are the qualities that can be taught; they are the qualities that result in epistemic states that are important parts of a good human life. (Related Chapters: 1, 3, 4, 5, 12.) NOTE S 1 My position is that reflective admiration ought to include reflection on the emotional reactions of persons we trust, as well as continuing reflection on the admired person as new evidence arises. See Zagzebski (2012: chap. 4). 2 See Kiser (2003), and Xavier Beauvois’s film, Of Gods and Men (2010). 3 See Chiger (2008), Marshall (1990), and Agnieszka Holland’s film, In Darkness (2011). 4 Discussed by Baehr (2011: 142). 5 See Vanier (1998) and Spink (2006) for moving accounts of his revolutionary vision of a new kind of community that has already grown to reach every continent of the world. 6 Algoe and Haidt (2009: 123–124). See esp. table 5 and discussion of study 3. 7 There is evidence from classical Chinese sources for the idea that behavior is not truly admirable unless it arises from deep features of the person’s psychology. Stephen Angle (2009: 53) says that de, translated roughly as “virtue,” refers to a gift from tian (Heaven) in the pre-classical era, and then gradually begins to refer to something that a person attains from within; it comes from inner psychological sources. If the behavior is produced by something external or by an ulterior motive, then even if it looks admirable, it is actually common. Only behavior that springs from one’s inner heart counts as de. 8 There are degrees of coercion. I am told that Israeli law requires bystanders to give assistance to persons in obvious distress. I postulate that the coercive force of the law takes away, or at least reduces, admiration for the Good Samaritan, and so it reduces admirability. 9 The idea that a virtue is a disposition that the agent expresses even when tempted to act against it is connected to Aristotle’s distinction between virtue and moral strength. But Aristotle goes farther and says that the virtuous person’s behavior is so entrenched in his character, that he does not have to struggle with temptation and finds it pleasant to act virtuously. (See Nicomachean Ethics VII for Aristotle’s discussion of moral strength and weakness, and NE II for his view of the process of acquiring virtue culminating in a state in which acting virtuously is pleasant.) 10 The Fundamental Attribution Error, which indicates that people tend to attribute a specific instance of behavior to a disposition, might be evidence that we will have trouble telling the difference between a trait that is deep and enduring and one that is not. 11 See Roberts and Wood (2007: chap. 7) for an interesting discussion of the virtue they call intellectual firmness. 12 The Effective Altruism movement is a social movement that purports to use evidence to determine ways of effectively changing the world for the better. I think that it is obviously better to be effective than ineffective, and I am suggesting that a full virtue requires effectiveness. However, I also think that a virtue requires an admirable motive disposition. I have heard of criticisms of the movement on the grounds of excessive concentration on consequences over internal factors of an agent. I am not in a position to know how to evaluate these criticisms, but I think that it is interesting that the movement exists. 13 I discuss the need for epistemic self-trust in more detail in Zagzebski (2012: ch. 2).

REFEREN CE S Algoe, S.B. and J. Haidt. (2009) “Witnessing Excellence in Action: The ‘Other Praising’ Emotions of Elevation, Gratitude, and Admiration,” Journal of Positive Psychology 4: 105–127. Angle, S.C. (2009) Sagehood, New York: Oxford University Press.


Linda Zagzebski

Aristotle. (1999) Nicomachean Ethics, second edition, trans. T. Irwin, Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Beauvois, X. (2010). Of Gods and Men (film), Culver City, CA: Sony Pictures Classics. Bilger, B. (2012) “The Strongest Man in the World,” The New Yorker, July 23. Chiger, K. and D. Paisner. (2008) The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust’s Shadow, New York: St. Martin’s Press. Haidt, J. (2003) “Elevation and the Positive Psychology of Morality,” in C.L.M. Keyes and J. Haidt (eds.) Flourishing, Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived, Washington, D.C.: The American Psychological Association, 275–289. Holland, A. (2011) In Darkness (film), Culver City, CA: Sony Pictures Classics. Kiser, J. (2003) The Monks of Tibhurine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. Marshall, R. (1990) In the Sewers of Lvov, New York: HarperCollins. Pury, C.L.S., R. Kowalski, and M.J. Spearman. (2007) “Distinctions Between General and Personal Courage,” Journal of Positive Psychology 2: 99–114. Pury, C.L.S. and A. Hensel. (2010) “Are Courageous Actions Successful Actions?” Journal of Positive Psychology 5: 62–73. Pury, C. L.S. and C.B. Starkey. (2010) “Is Courage an Accolade or a Process? A Fundamental Question for Courage,” in S.J. Lopez and C.L.S. Pury (eds.) The Psychology of Courage: Modern Research on an Ancient Virtue, Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association, 67–87. Roberts, R. and W.J. Wood. (2007) Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Spink, K. (2006) The Miracle, the Message, the Story: Jean Vanier and L’Arche, Mahwah, NJ: Hidden Spring Press. Vanier, J. (1998) Becoming Human, New York: Paulist Press. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge, New York: Cambridge University Press. Zagzebski, L. (2006) “The Admirable Life and the Desirable Life,” in T. Chappell (ed.) Values and Virtues, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 53–66. Zagzebski, L. (2009) On Epistemology, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Press. Zagzebski, L. (2012) Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief, New York: Oxford University Press. Zagzebski, L. (2017) Exemplarist Moral Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

3 Do Epistemic Virtues Require a Motivation for Truth? James Montmarquet

Until very recently (Sosa 2015), virtue epistemology has tended to divide itself along fairly definite party lines (Axtell 1997).1 So-called ‘reliabilists’—see, e.g., Goldman (1992); Sosa (1980, 1991)—base this subject on such cognitive capacities as visual acuity and excellence of memory; so-called ‘responsibilists’—see, e.g., Montmarquet (1993); Zagzebski (1996); Baehr (2011)—base it on such ethical qualities as open-mindedness or intellectual courage. Reliabilists, let us allow, have the advantage of appealing to characteristics of undeniable centrality to cognition but whose status as ‘virtues’—in comparison to the kind of qualities studied since Aristotle—is uncertain. By contrast, responsibilists appeal to undeniable virtues, but qualities whose importance might easily appear secondary in cognition. Now, as a responsibilist (Montmarquet 1993, 2000), I will be favoring a truth-motivated view of the epistemic virtues and thus a ‘yes’ answer to the title question. Indeed, part of what distinguishes the ‘responsibilist’ virtues, on the view I present here, is their truth-motivation. These virtues, as I shall explain, are required both to account for moral responsibility and for knowledge. Although one must admit that epistemic capacities are not defined by their motivation and allow that these can certainly be truth-conducive, I will ultimately maintain that such capacities are only knowledge-conducive when they work against the background of suitable responsibilist virtues. We begin, though, with a short statement of the case to be made on the other side: on behalf of an unqualified ‘no’ to our question. 3. 1 WHY DO EPI STEM IC VIRT U E S RE QU IRE A M O TI VATI O N FOR T RU T H ? 3.1.1 Against a Motivational Requirement

What distinguishes the reliabilist virtues, one must allow, is their conduciveness to truth, their causal tendencies in this regard; and not, as we have already pointed out, that they must involve any particular motivation for truth. Thus, a well-functioning visual system tends toward the formation of accurate representations of one’s environment (thus, to true beliefs), without one’s having to be motivated in any particular way. To be sure, good 37


James Montmarquet

motivation could often help increase one’s accuracy, but that is not to say that it is necessary to yield truth in many, let alone in all, cases. Next, we observe that in the case of such responsibilist favorites as open-mindedness or intellectual courage, the reliabilist need not deny that these are virtues or that they can be characterized in truth-motivational terms, but will hold that what makes them epistemic virtues has to do with their objective truth-conduciveness and not their subjective motivation. If, for instance, it were demonstrated that open-mindedness did not conduce to truth, the appeal to this quality as a virtue, or just as something that is good to have, would apparently lose its point. Open-mindedness would not be producing anything of epistemic value. Nor, from the reliabilist’s point of view, is truth the sole end toward which the epistemic virtues might be thought distinctively to lead. Riggs (2003) and Kvanvig (2003) propose such potentially richer ends as wisdom or understanding. Of course, these ends are hardly unrelated to truth. The present point, however, would be that neither wisdom nor understanding require the subject to be motivated to seek these ends. It could be, for instance, that wisdom comes to those who do not seek it, as the greatest wisdom is said to have come to the Buddha, by receptivity, by passive acceptance rather than active motivation. 3.1.2 For a Motivational Requirement

On the account I have defended (Montmarquet 1993, 2000) epistemic virtues are various forms of truth-directed effort, distinguished from each other mainly by the different types of adverse motivations they help to overcome. So, for example, open-mindedness differs from intellectual courage in being struggles against quite different biases: one pridefully favoring our own beliefs; the other, fearfully bowing to the beliefs of others. Likewise, attentiveness struggles against such distractions as commonly block even the most necessary attention to our immediate situation and its possible perils and uncertainties. What unites these, however, as epistemic virtues is, first, that they consist in making suitable efforts. In that sense, they are directly responsive to the will. Thus, one can be asked, and even required, to ‘keep an open mind’ but also to ‘pay close attention’. By contrast, at any given time, I cannot be required to display excellence of memory or perception, but only to ‘try my best’ (which is a good responsibilist quality: again, making a suitable effort). What unites these virtues is, second, that they are efforts at something of epistemic value: namely, truth. Such epistemic vices as closedmindedness or inattention are also, as I conceive them, subject to our control—but of course these are not efforts at truth, but failures in that regard. Otherwise put, they are marked by a culpable absence of truth-motivation—but not, I would suppose, a presence of falsity-directed motivation. As will emerge in the course of our discussion, on this view the truth-motivational character of the epistemic virtues is a consequence of what is more basic: that they are truthdirected expressions of the will and thus something for which one is responsible.


My strategy, next, is to argue that responsibilist, truth-motivated virtues get us something that reliabilist virtues do not: responsibilist, truth-motivated virtues help us explain epistemic responsibility, which in turn helps us explain moral responsibility. First, we point out that responsibility for one’s beliefs—praiseworthiness or blameworthiness in this regard—centrally involves exemplifying, or failing to exemplify, relevant qualities of responsibilist epistemic character. Thus, a culpable failure to listen to instructions, resulting in a mistaken belief (say) ‘that nothing was said about what we had to do if that red light started blinking’ would involve a blameworthy failure on the side of attentiveness. Insofar as the latter quality is subject to the



will, one can be blamed for failures regarding it. By contrast, failures in regard to epistemic capacities, like vision or memory, which are not immediately subject to the will, exhibit ‘deficiencies’, but nothing for which one can be directly blamed—intellectually or morally. If I am unresponsive to a command that I cannot comprehend, at most I am to blame for some earlier failure to prepare myself. However, unless we are to have some type of regress, at some previous point my intellectual failure must have been direct. Now, one does not want to claim that all cases of morally wrongful conduct involve epistemic irresponsibility. For we need to allow, surely, that there are cases of morally culpable weakness of will: of failures to act in keeping with one’s relevant beliefs, failures whose culpability is not to be diagnosed in terms of other beliefs culpably held by the subject. The idea, rather, would be that when we are not weak, our moral culpability is rooted in some more fundamental epistemic blameworthiness. Thus consider what would not seem on its face a very likely candidate for epistemic irresponsibility: Iago’s destruction of Othello. For all Iago’s moral faults, it must still be acknowledged that Iago believes that his insidious acts are justified because he believes such things as that Othello has not given him the position he deserved. These beliefs, to be sure, are shaped by Iago’s bad moral character; yet ultimately, I think we must say, he is to blame not for that bad moral character itself, but for allowing it to shape his relevant, poorly grounded beliefs—which fault is in the first instance epistemic. It is a matter, at bottom, of Iago’s having a sufficiently weak regard for truth that he allows his vicious desires to shape and even determine his beliefs. Many of us harbor morally unpleasant desires, but have the epistemic responsibility (integrity) required to resist a least some of their worst influences. Nor, finally, can the claim be that even with his beliefs, Iago should have refrained from his hateful acts: without some change of belief, he has no apparent reason to so refrain. 3. 3 FO R THE SA KE OF T RU T H

Before proceeding to the crucial case of knowledge, I want to clarify certain features of how the epistemic virtues are, and are not, ‘truth-motivated’ by considering stances taken by two leading epistemic virtue motivationalists: one emanating from Linda Zagzebski and one from Jason Baehr. In her highly influential study, Virtues of the Mind (1996), Zagzebski characterizes the moral virtues as “acquired excellences” involving both a “characteristic motivation” to produce a given end, and “reliable success” in bringing about that end (1996: 137). The intellectual virtues will be, in her view, a subcategory of the moral virtues (1996: 203), distinguished in that way by their characteristic motivation for knowledge or for “cognitive contact with reality” (1996: 167). Finally and most importantly, we note that, for Zagzebski, this intrinsically good motivation for knowledge—and thus for truth—adds to the value of the true beliefs it helps one to attain. We have, then, another feather for the truth-motivationalist’s cap: at least the beginnings of an answer to the ancient question of how knowledge is superior to mere true belief (1996: 300). Next, we take note of Jason Baehr’s distinctive approach to the responsibilist epistemic virtues, in which their primary role lies in a characterization of “personal intellectual worth”—itself an aspect of something more general, “personal worth simpliciter” (Baehr 2011: 96). According to the latter, a person is judged ‘good’ depending on whether she is “positively oriented” toward what is good. This positive orientation, he adds (2011: 99), requires that one must be concerned with what is good “for its own sake.” One possessed, then, of “personal intellectual worth” will be oriented toward what is “intellectually good” for its own sake. Thus, it turns out that an intellectual virtue—as distinctively contributing


James Montmarquet

to its possessor’s intellectual worth (2011: 102)—will have to involve not just some form of orientation toward truth, but a valuing of this end (again) for its own sake. However, if this means that one is less epistemically virtuous for not pursuing truth ultimately for its own sake, I find it questionable. If a Copernicus seeks to know scientific truths concerning the structure of the cosmos, ultimately to ‘glorify God’, does that make him epistemically less virtuous? I think not. Even if the Assistant Royal Astronomer is motivated to do excellent work, hoping for a promotion, it is not clear that his good work—which does exemplify the various epistemic virtues—is any the less virtuous for that. What would detract, of course, is when his aims lead him to ‘cut corners’, to exhibit some other notable shortfall in epistemic virtue—whatever his ultimate purposes may be. If the Assistant spends his time not doing astronomy at all, but simply ingratiating himself at the royal court, hoping for promotion by those means, that is different. Let us try to extend the present argument a bit. Suppose that the Assistant Astronomer’s ultimate motivations are not just careerist, but epistemically vicious: he does good work, hoping to get a position from which he can impede the future progress of the field (perhaps he believes astronomical progress a threat to his religion). Now, the main difference this makes is that the subject, in his final motivations, goes from being epistemically indifferent to downright vicious—but the immediate structure of what he is doing remains virtuous and well motivated; for he acts, whether for careerist or vicious motives, in the immediate interests of truth. If great care is needed, great care he supplies; if he must be tireless in searching the skies, tireless he is. These qualities he exhibits in the immediate interests of truth—as much as does the careerist. Both, I want to say, are epistemically virtuous in their acts and their immediate motivations—but not of course in their longer-termed goals.2 3 .4 K N O WLEDGE, VI R TUE, AND E P IS T E MIC RE S P ON S IBILIT Y

We turn to this important question yet facing us. If we grant that suitable epistemic motivation (as effort) is required for epistemic responsibility—will it also be the case that such responsibility, and thus such motivation, is required for knowledge? Here a convenient starting point is afforded by the mostly reliabilist account of knowledge given by John Greco in Achieving Knowledge (2010). Now, for us, Greco’s most relevant concern is with cases such as that of Laurence BonJour’s (1980) “Samantha” whose exceedingly reliable powers of clairvoyance reveal to her that the President of the U.S. is in New York City, despite abundant news reports to the contrary. These reports, unbeknownst to Samantha, are actually very unreliable. She (reliably) believes that the President is in New York, but may be judged epistemically irresponsible in doing so. By Greco’s lights, then, her belief’s irresponsibility disqualifies it as knowledge: epistemic irresponsibility is able to defeat otherwise acceptable claims to knowledge (2010: 167). In short, for Greco, knowledge requires that one’s belief both be reliably and responsibly formed (2010: 42)—which means, in the case of the latter, formed in a “properly motivated” way—i.e., one resulting from “intellectual dispositions” one manifests when one is “motivated to believe the truth” (2010: 167). Any such claim, however, is likely to excite either of two quite different responses. Hardcore reliabilists may protest that it is ad hoc, that it introduces an alien element, and thus theoretical incoherence, into an otherwise non-responsibilist account. At the same time, non-reliabilists may wonder how one restricts such a fundamental notion as epistemic responsibility to this apparently limited role; for even though epistemic responsibility has been nominally made a requirement for all cases of knowledge, it only seems to make a telling difference, for Greco, in this one type of case. Thus Greco (2000), we know, argued



strenuously against Zagzebski’s (1996, 2000) account of ordinary perceptual knowledge, which had required that the knowing subject display suitable truth-motivation. Moreover, in his (2002: 300) he treats the kind of epistemic motivation required for knowledge as something quite minimal, common to cases not just of perception but to the knowledge-claims made on behalf of children and non-human creatures, both of which he supports. 3. 5 ANI M AL K N OWLE D G E

Let us pursue the line of thought suggested by Greco’s overall position—an attempt to allow for both ‘animal knowledge’ and ‘epistemic irresponsibility defeaters’. Suppose that I am a night watchman on break, preoccupied with my smart phone and oblivious to the red, blinking warning light that has just gone off. Fritz, my canine assistant, who has been trained to respond to that same light, is paying no more attention than I, being preoccupied with the dinner he is greedily devouring. I am, let us stipulate, epistemically irresponsible in my failure to recognize the alert signal; Fritz, let us say, is guilty of a ‘lapse’—but cannot be found ‘blameworthy’ or ‘epistemically irresponsible’. For his part, Greco will allow that since Fritz can be ascribed minimal motivation for truth, Fritz’s knowledge-claims are not in general impaired by his incapacity for ‘irresponsibility’. The first problem with this stance, however, is that it proves too much, for it would imply that human agents (such as BonJour’s “Samantha”) are not irresponsible after all; for they do exhibit minimal truth-oriented motivation—even when seemingly they are being irresponsible. If this motivation, in Fritz’s case, is implied by the very formation of belief, so it should be for Samantha. Of course, Greco could still claim that whereas minimal motivation for truth is normally enough to support knowledge-claims, the latter can be defeated in the case of beings sophisticated enough to be judged epistemically irresponsible. My reply is this. Consider two Samanthas, one whose knowledge-claims are defeated by epistemic irresponsibility, the other whose powers of critical reflection and the like have been taken away by a sudden, unperceived brain event. Again, both arrive at the same belief based on the same clairvoyance; but it is surely counterintuitive to suppose that the second Samantha ‘knows’ what the first only correctly believes. Can an unused capacity put one at an epistemic disadvantage relative to one who simply lacks that capacity altogether? If Samantha-I fails to know because she has ignored available contrary evidence, why should we not suppose that Samantha-II likewise fails to know because she is (excusably) ignorant of this same contrary evidence? Are they not, so to speak, in the same ‘epistemic position’, both with respect to the President’s location and the evidence apparently contradicting this fact? The view I take here—that epistemic responsibility, grounded in suitable responsibilist virtues, is a necessary (even if it not a sufficient) condition of knowledge—differs from my 1993, which mainly argued that such responsibility is not enough to support the kind of objective justification knowledge requires. What that work did not adequately consider was the role of epistemic irresponsibility as a knowledge defeater. 3. 6 PER C E P T ION

The case of perception, however, has long been a stumbling block for defenders of anything like our responsibilist/truth-motivationalist view of knowledge. What, specifically, does our view have to say about this perilous subject? I begin with what is often a safe strategy, trying to put the other side on the strategic defense. Why is it, I will ask, that not every ‘representational state’ (however accurate; however truth-indicative, however reliably formed) can be termed


James Montmarquet

‘virtuous’, let alone a case of knowledge, without seriously over-extending the reach of these terms? Rain in a rain gauge (or just the state of the overhanging clouds) may accurately reflect the recent rainfall—without speaking of the gauge, its state, or the clouds, as ‘epistemically virtuous’. Information, as one might put this, is everywhere and in all sorts of places ready to be extracted by human cognizers. But the mere existence of such sources—whether in rain gauges or within human perceptual systems—only becomes knowledge, or a candidate for knowledge, I want to say, when they are in some sense ‘taken up’ by an epistemic subject. What, then, do I suppose is this ‘taking up’? Knowledge, it is natural to reply, minimally requires belief, something rain gauges apparently quite lack. But, then again, what is belief? For David Armstrong—a founding father of reliabilism (1968, 1973)—belief is modeled precisely by devices like thermometers—not a far cry, certainly, from rain gauges. So there is a problem yet to be worked out, here for reliabilism, but also potentially for responsibilism as well. As we have already seen regarding Greco’s view, it is not clear that giving a mechanism some kind of minimal subjective orientation toward truth or accuracy makes a significant difference—if that is all one is adding. Most importantly for me: if a rain gauge were capable of such motivation, even if this meant it now had ‘beliefs’, this would not mean that it could be judged irresponsible when it ‘ignored’ relevant evidence. We are back, then, to familiar ground. Minimally, ‘taking up’ must involve the use of such capacities as would characterize being responsible for her beliefs. More accurately, insofar as it is contributory to knowledge, ‘taking up’ must involve the responsible employment of these capacities. But now let us consider in this light a counterexample proposed by Christopher Gowans (2010), in criticism of Napier’s 2008, which had stressed the importance of virtuous motivation even in perception. Gowans imagines a group of people who are stunned to observe a bolt of lightning striking and destroying a tree. He remarks that surely these observers have “just acquired some perceptual knowledge to the effect that something very bright and loud just struck that tree, and this will be the case whether or not they have epistemic motivations to be aware of their environment” (2010: 590). For my part, I will certainly allow that the lightning-witnessing subject, first, has certain information, that he is in a certain representational state concerning relevant features of his environment. I will also allow that he can access this information much in the way that one might access any other such state, including the level of a rain gauge. But I will then submit that it is only when he ‘takes up’ this information that he enters into a genuine state of knowing. In the present case, it seems that he has been asked what he ‘knows’ has just happened, and answers—with suitable caution, a virtue—that “something very loud and bright” has occurred. This, then, can be judged a case of knowledge precisely because and insofar as it involves suitable responsibility. Nor are such cases unusual. Experience leads one to store quite specific informational contents. Queried, and anxious not to be in error, we report something fairly cautious like ‘I feel in some pain’. To estimate the extent or exact quality of the painfulness would be difficult, and apt to produce considerable chance of error. So, seeking not to have one’s claim to knowledge defeated by such inaccuracy, one ‘takes up’ the stored information rather carefully. 3. 7 R ESPO NSI B I LI TY AND T RU T H -MOT IVA T ION : R EFI NI NG THE P OS IT ION

I have defended the general ideal of truth-motivational epistemic virtues, but in the context of a broader commitment to epistemic responsibility. Here, I try to pin down my theoretical commitments a little more definitely, first, by way of sharpening the difference between



my ‘responsibilism’ and Greco’s ‘motivationalism’. On this score, I emphasize that, for me, what stands in the way of Fritz’s knowledge-claims is the insufficiency not of his motivation, but of his underlying lack of capacity to control the extent and direction of that motivation. Certainly, it is owing to that presumed insufficiency that even the most alert of canines cannot be viewed as an epistemically responsible being. My epistemic responsibility differs from Fritz’s, however, also in this marked way. Mine is fundamentally global—or, as I prefer to say, ‘executive’—I am responsible, first and foremost, for taking overall stock of my situation, assessing what (if any) special efforts need to be put forth, and also for assessing possible changes to that situation. Fritz responds to his environment, but he has no such executive capacities—or none, at least, that are sufficiently developed or subject to his ‘control’—that we can hold him responsible for their use or misuse. I turn, next, to a theorist whose position is significantly closer to the one taken here. Recall that one of Linda Zagzebski’s continuing concerns (1996, 2000, 2013) has been to justify what is in effect a ‘truth-motivational’ requirement on knowledge. In her 2014, she expands on this idea: What I mean by epistemic conscientiousness is the reflective awareness of the desire for truth, and the reflective attempt to satisfy that desire as well as one can. I suggest that knowledge, in at least one of its senses, is the conscientious satisfaction of the desire for truth. I have argued that this definition does not rule out easy knowledge obtained from perception, memory, or testimony, but it does rule out true belief that is unconscientiously acquired through the exercise of intellectual vice or disregard of the rules of conscientious reasoning. (Zagzebski 2014: 9) For my part, I would not disagree with any of these contentions—so much as want a change, at the very least, of emphasis to include not just virtuous motivation but epistemic responsibility. Now, if there is a second difference to be noted here, it would be this. Epistemic responsibility, for me, is less a ‘search for truth’—I accept this, but as an ideal—than something quite restricted and closely tied to our moral and other practical responsibilities: it is in the first instance a matter of being sufficiently alert, sufficiently attentive to one’s ‘situation’ to avoid the kind of ignorance and deficient regard for truth (recall Iago) as are apt to produce some very nasty results. The achievements of an Einstein answer to our ideals; the failures of an Iago, to our responsibilities—both moral and epistemic. 3. 8 AC TI O N, KNO WLEDGE, A N D RE S P ON S IBILIT Y

We even have a fallback position, which is this. Even if knowledge were somehow compatible with epistemic irresponsibility, such knowledge would not be ‘actionable’. One would not be entitled, morally or epistemically, to act upon it. Thus, it would be greatly deprived of value—whether or not we choose to elevate its status to ‘knowledge’. Suppose that, other things being in place, knowledge ought to be a sufficient basis for (human) action. That is to say, if I know that a certain gun is not loaded, that is a sufficient basis of my performing some given act—say, letting a child hold it—supposing that there is no other objection to it (e.g., an objection even to letting a child handle an unloaded gun). We consider once again, in the light of the above, BonJour’s Samantha case, but now view this as a case of knowledge that is compatible with epistemic irresponsibility. Thus, we suppose that Samantha attains a kind of automatic perceptual knowledge, based on the


James Montmarquet

normally reliable operation of her clairvoyance. But the question is whether she is entitled thereby to act on this knowledge, as long as she is continuing to ignore seemingly relevant counter-evidence. Suppose that the President’s being in New York would have signaled that he is going to prevent a merger of companies Acme and Bell, making immediate sale of their stock very advisable. If Samantha is a fund manager, responsible for many people’s life-savings, should she sell her holdings? Does her ‘knowledge’ entitle her to take that kind of action? I would simply contend that if she cannot responsibly believe in the veracity of this finding, she cannot responsibly act on it. So even if what she has is ‘knowledge’, it is not actionable knowledge. It may be replied that sometimes one must act without the luxury of further thought and perhaps the present situation qualifies as such an ‘emergency’. But what that means is that sometimes knowledge is not necessary to entitle one to suitable action—not that knowledge would fail to be sufficient. Of course, the reliabilist’s last line of defense might be to maintain that knowledge is not a sufficient basis of action, to allow that, depending on the circumstances and context, more than knowledge may be required. This, however, is surely a major concession. For if knowledge without epistemic responsibility is not, by concession, actionable—this seriously undercuts its value. Without the responsibilist, motivationally driven epistemic virtues, we remain, it could be said, normatively paralyzed. 3 . 9 SO SA O N KNO WLEDGE , T RU T H -MOT IVA T ION , AND EPI STEM I C RE S P ON S IBILIT Y

Ernest Sosa has been one of the founders of virtue epistemology (Sosa 1980), but not usually a friend (1991) of the kind of motivationalist, responsibilist approach taken here.3 In his more recent work (2007, 2009, 2011, 2015), Sosa has continued to explore the issues running through the present study, challenging the responsibilist with ever more sophisticated forms of reliabilism; perhaps one could even say: tantalizing responsibilists with views ever closer to their own. Here, we begin with his classic distinction between ‘animal’ and ‘reflective’ knowledge. The former, let us recall, is comprehended by this triad: it requires (2007: 24) the truth or “accuracy” of one’s belief; its “adroitness” (whether it manifests suitable epistemic abilities— i.e., virtues); and its being “apt” (whether it has the first of these because it has the second). Such knowledge, however, Sosa admits to be fundamentally limited in its value, comparing it to getting something right in the dark, but hardly knowing that one has (2009: 142). We overcome, or begin to overcome, this limitation in moving from animal to “reflective” knowledge—which engages one’s higher faculties. In reflective knowledge, one’s belief is both apt and aptly believed to be so (2009: 75). Thus, Samantha may have animal knowledge that the President is in N.Y.C., but lack reflective knowledge that this is so, supposing that she does not aptly believe in the reliability of her clairvoyance. However, Sosa there (2009: 138) maintains that such “reflective knowledge” would not have to involve anything more than reliabilist virtues. We may wonder whether mere reliabilist virtues can ever yield epistemic responsibility (whether, for instance, Samantha might not have a reliable mechanism for determining the reliability of her clairvoyance but not know that she did)—but let us defer judgment, awaiting treatment of Sosa’s most recent (2015) attempt to fashion a “new” virtue epistemology in which notions of “judgment” and thereby “agency” are central. Now, judgment, for Sosa, differs importantly from merely opting for the truth of a given thing—as when one guesses, hoping to express what is true, but is not at all sure. Judgment, in a strict sense, involves affirmation in the endeavor to respond “aptly” (2015: 66). Thus,



judgment will be an intentional act whereby one sets out to have, or express, one’s knowledge. Otherwise put, it is an act of conscious knowing (when successful) and at least consciously attempted knowledge (when not). Judgment, then, will be truth-motivated—but not, I think, necessarily epistemically responsible (consider, for instance, many a learned but highly prejudicial judgment rendered at the witch trials of the seventeenth century). A more challenging case, however, is provided by what Sosa calls the “lodestar” (2015: 65) of his account: that of a fully apt judgment (performance). This draws on his (2011) notion of “knowing full well” which means undertaking to arrive at an apt belief, through the ‘guidance’ of an apt belief in the reliability of one’s relevant powers. Such knowledge Sosa instructively compares (2015: 69) to a basketball player not just making a shot based on his ability (the analogue of animal knowledge); not just based on the latter plus a reliable confidence in that ability (reflective knowledge); but choosing that place to shoot based on the latter knowledge (knowing full well). Using this concept, Sosa goes on to claim that such knowledge as Samantha and BonJour’s other clairvoyants would lack is not animal knowledge, but knowledge full well (2015: 74). We now ask a fundamental question of our own, however. Will fully apt performances (ones of “knowing full well”) necessarily exhibit epistemic responsibility? If so, we welcome Sosa to our club. Knowledge in its fullest sense will require, as I have been contending, epistemic responsibility. If not, if even knowing full well does not rule out epistemic irresponsibility, then it cannot do the job Sosa wants it to do in BonJour-type cases of epistemic irresponsibility: namely, explain our intuition that the subject lacks knowledge. 3. 10 SUMMA RY

Sosa’s more recent work, then, may argue in favor of something closer to a truth-motivational approach to virtue epistemology—at least insofar as it highlights notions of “judgment,” “agency,” and “full aptness.” But, of course, insofar as Sosa remains committed to strictly reliabilist accounts of animal and reflective knowledge, this would not be true. I have, at any rate, argued my own case that both knowledge and moral responsibility require the truthmotivational account of such epistemic virtues. To be sure, there remain truth-conducive epistemic capacities that are not motivational. Such capacities, however, if I have been at all right in my discussion of knowledge and epistemic responsibility, are only exercised in a knowledge-conducive way when they are exercised in what would be judged as a responsible way. These capacities, in other words, are only knowledge-conducive when exercised through the responsibilist, truth-motivational virtues. (Related Chapters: 1, 2, 4, 8, 22.) NOTE S 1 Aspects of Sosa’s ‘new virtue epistemology’ are discussed near the end of this chapter. 2 In his (2014), Baehr argues that knowledge is consistent with epistemic viciousness. He imagines, for instance, a scientist who sees (knows) evidence as disconfirming his theory, but still (unvirtuously) would like this evidence to be false. In part, I can agree: knowledge does not require one’s ultimate ends to be virtuous; but in part I do not agree, for these ends do not detract from the virtuousness of the scientist’s perceptual beliefs. Perception itself I treat in section 3.6. 3 Here I pass over Sosa’s earlier (2001) objections specifically to a truth-motivated virtue epistemology, noting only that his later work, to some extent, moves closer to a truth-motivationalist position. For critical discussion of Sosa’s earlier view, see Fairweather (2001).


James Montmarquet

REFERE N C E S Armstrong, D. (1968) A Materialist Theory of the Mind, London: Routledge. Armstrong, D. (1973) Belief, Truth and Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Axtell, G. (1997) “Recent Work on Virtue Ethics,” American Philosophical Quarterly 34: 1–26. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Baehr, J. (2014) “Knowledge Need Not Be Virtuously Motivated,” in M. Steup et al. (eds.) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, London: Wiley Blackwell. BonJour, L. (1980) “Externalist Theories of Empirical Knowledge,” in P. French et al. (eds.) Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5: 53–73. Fairweather, A. (2001) “Epistemic Motivation,” in A. Fairweather and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Virtue Epistemology: Essays on Epistemic Virtue and Responsibility, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Goldman, A. (1992) “Epistemic Folkways and Scientific Epistemology,” in Liaisons: Philosophy Meets the Social Sciences, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Gowans, C. (2010) “Review of Napier (2008),” Analysis 70: 589–591. Greco, J. (2000) “Two Kinds of Intellectual Virtue,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60: 179–184. Greco, J. (2002) “Virtues in Epistemology,” in P. Moser (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Greco, J. (2010) Achieving Knowledge, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hookway, C. (2003) “How to Be a Virtue Epistemologist,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kvanvig, J. (2003) The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Montmarquet, J. (1993) Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Montmarquet, J. (2000) “An Internalist Conception of Epistemic Virtue,” in G. Axtell (ed.) Knowledge, Belief, and Character, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Napier, S. (2008) Virtue Epistemology: Motivation and Knowledge, London: Continuum. Riggs, W. (2003) “Understanding ‘Virtue’ and the Virtue of Understanding,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (1980) “The Raft and the Pyramid,” in P. French et al. (eds.) Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5: 3–25. Sosa, E. (1991) Knowledge in Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sosa, E. (2001) “For the Love of Truth?” in A. Fairweather and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2007) A Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2009) Reflective Knowledge, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2011) Knowing Full Well, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Sosa, E. (2015) Judgment and Agency, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zagzebski, L. (2000) “Response to Greco,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60: 207–210. Zagzebski, L. (2003) “Intellectual Motivation and the Good of Truth,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zagzebski, L. (2014) “Knowledge and the Motive for Truth,” in M. Steup et al. (eds.) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, London: Wiley Blackwell.

4 The Role of Emotion in Intellectual Virtue Michael S. Brady

Emotions are important for virtue, both moral and intellectual. Now the fact that emotions are important for virtue is widely accepted; the question of why this is the case is much less discussed. This chapter will aim to explain the significance of emotion for intellectual virtue along two dimensions. The first claim I want to defend is that epistemic emotions can motivate intellectual inquiry, and thereby constitute ways of ‘being for’ intellectual goods. As a result, such emotions can constitute the motivational components of intellectual virtue. The second claim I want to make is that other emotions, rather than motivating intellectual inquiry and questioning, instead play a vital role in the regulation and control of intellectual activities. As a result, such emotions enable the virtuous person to be reliably successful in attaining intellectual goods. 4. 1 GR O UN D WORK

First, some groundwork: I need to say something about emotions and virtues at the general level, and then more particularly about the kinds of emotions that are important for intellectual virtue. What is an emotion? Emotions are usually characterized, in philosophy and psychology, as having a number of components or elements. Thus emotions are held to involve elements of perception, appraisal, feeling, attention, valence, facial expression, and motivation.1 Some theorists identify one or a combination of these as the emotion itself. Thus, feeling theorists hold that emotions just are feelings or affects: typically feelings of bodily changes generated by some relevant object or event. On the other hand, cognitivists of various stripes hold that emotions are to be partly identified with evaluative judgments or beliefs or perceptions. Others reject the whole idea that we can supply necessary and sufficient conditions for emotion, and maintain instead that the listed components are all present in paradigm cases of emotion, but that none are strictly necessary, and different subsets can suffice for emotions in different circumstances. For instance, one might be inclined to argue that surprise or startle is an emotion, given its affective, facial, and motivational components, despite its failing 47


Michael S. Brady

to embody much in the way of evaluative thought or perception (Robinson 1995). Others argue that evaluative ‘construals’ are at the heart of emotional experience, and that these need not be accompanied by feelings of bodily changes (Roberts 2003). This componential account of emotion might be clearer if we have an illustration; given the theme of this chapter, let’s invoke a standard intellectual or epistemic emotion, namely curiosity. Suppose a colleague tells me that at one time in its history, the University of Glasgow employed its own brewers, and that there was a distinctive University of Glasgow ale made and sold on the premises. A perception of this piece of information—in this case an auditory one—might be thought as part of (or at least a precursor to) curiosity on my part. Also, I might appraise or evaluate the possibility as interesting or fascinating or intriguing, with this appraisal being constituted by an evaluative appearance or belief. This would be accompanied by the typically enlivened or uplifting bodily feeling characteristic of the emotion, a feeling with positive valence, albeit with the slight negative valence of a ‘need to know’. In addition, there would be cognitive changes: my attention would be focused on the tale, upon its likelihood of being true, upon why there would be such a thing happening at the University. Perhaps my eyes widen as I hear the story. I’ll also be motivated to seek more information so as to confirm (or disconfirm) the possibility. And so on. Together this suite of responses constitutes the epistemic emotion of curiosity. That, very roughly, is what emotions are. What of virtue? A good starting point, following Heather Battaly, is this: “Virtues are qualities that make one an excellent person” (2015: 5). What kind of qualities or features are these? Julia Annas writes: “A virtue is a lasting feature of a person, a tendency for the person to be a certain way . . . It is active: to have it is to be disposed to act in certain ways” (2011: 8). So virtues are, or involve, dispositions to act in certain ways. Having such a disposition isn’t enough, however. As Rosalind Hursthouse points out, “there is more to the possession of a virtue than being disposed to act in certain ways, at the very least one has to act in those ways for certain sorts of reasons” (Hursthouse 1999: 11), and so the disposition must be expressed in a certain motive in acting on those reasons. Now what makes this motive an excellent one would seem to be that it is positively related to the achievement of some valuable goal or end. One way of viewing this relation is as intentional: the relevant motive will involve an appraisal or evaluation of the goal or end. In this way, virtue can be regarded as a way of being intentionally for the good in question, as Robert Adams would put it (2006: 11). Thus being compassionate will involve being motivated to help others, under something like that description. However, another way of viewing the relation is causal. As John Greco and John Turri (2015) put it, “A virtue is a stable and successful disposition: an innate ability or an acquired habit, that allows one to reliably achieve some good.” Virtues are thus dispositions that are reliably successful in bringing about some valuable end (Driver 2001). Should we understand the excellence of the quality either intentionally or causally? We might not have to choose one or the other. Instead, we might think that virtues involve both kinds of relations: (i) virtue is being for the good, in the sense of embodying a motive that involves a positive appraisal of that good, where (ii) to be virtuous this motive must also allow the agent to reliably succeed in bringing about the value in question. Or as Linda Zagzebski puts it, “[v]irtue possession requires reliable success in attaining the ends of the motivational component of the virtue” (1996: 134). This, then, is what virtue comes down to. We’ll turn our attention to intellectual virtues in a short while. But first it will prove helpful to make a distinction between epistemic or intellectual emotions, and non-epistemic emotions. For there are, as a number of theorists have pointed out, a class of emotions which seem to have a particularly epistemic dimension. Thus, Adam Morton argues that there is a category of emotions “that are specifically directed at epistemic ends” and “that are

The Role of Emotion in Intellectual Virtue


conceptually vital” for the correct acquisition of beliefs (2010: 386). These include “curiosity, intellectual courage, love of truth, wonder, meticulousness, excitement, humility” (2010: 386). Elsewhere, Morton adds: worry, concern, obsession, and wariness. Others expand the range of epistemic emotions further. Mark Alfano includes among this category “fascination, intrigue, hope, trust, distrust, mistrust, surprise, doubt, skepticism, boredom, puzzlement, confusion . . . awe, faith, and epistemic angst.”2 Nancy Sherman and Heath White note, further, that there are emotional dispositions we think of as typically associated with intellectual virtue, such as a passion for the truth, a delight in learning, excitement in discovery, pride in one’s accomplishments, respect for good argument, repugnance at intellectual dishonesty, and in the case of empirical science, surprise at the disconfirmation of one’s theory and joy at its verification. (2003: 38) How might we make sense of this range of emotions that seem important to epistemic goals, ends, and goods? One suggestion—which I’ll follow up in the next section—is that some of these epistemic emotions constitute the motivational components or elements of distinctive intellectual virtues, at least given other psychological factors and the right environmental conditions.3 This is because the goal or target of such emotions seems to be necessarily appraised or evaluated in epistemic or intellectual terms. Thus curiosity and fascination and intrigue and doubt all seem to be directed toward, and involve assessments of, a broad range of specifically epistemic or intellectual objects and events. We are curious about the answer to some question or curious about getting the truth on some subject; here the question or subject is appraised as worth knowing. Similar things can be said about intrigue and fascination, which are directed toward enticing and intrinsically valuable truths.4 By the same token, doubt involves a negative assessment of the truth of some proposition, or of what was said. So some epistemic emotions are characterized by—or make explicit reference in their ‘core relational themes’ to—epistemic or intellectual goods or goals, or on the other hand to epistemic bads. Other epistemic emotions from the list above don’t seem to involve any essential reference to epistemic goods or goals, however. And this suggests that these emotions play a different kind of role in ensuring intellectual virtue—as I’ll also explain shortly. Hope, surprise, boredom, excitement, pride, respect, repugnance, and the like aren’t identifiable in virtue of specifically epistemic evaluations or appraisals. Instead, these emotions are characterized by more general evaluations and core relational themes. Thus surprise responds to unexpected events and objects; pride to achievement that is suitably related to the self, or to accomplishment that in some sense belongs to one; and so on. Particular instances of these emotions can be rightly regarded as intellectually virtuous, of course; but when they are, the role that they play is rather different from the role of curiosity, fascination, and doubt. Instead of motivating intellectual inquiry and questioning, these other emotions play a vital role in the virtuous regulation and control of intellectual activities. Let us finally say a little about the nature of intellectual virtue. It is traditional to divide virtue into (roughly) two different kinds or categories: moral virtue and intellectual virtue. And we might, again following tradition, identify these, respectively, as qualities that make a person a good agent and a good thinker. Of course, the line or distinction between moral and intellectual virtues might on many occasions be somewhat blurred: good thinking seems vitally important for effective action, and good agency might be centrally involved in what


Michael S. Brady

it is to believe well. Still, the traditional distinction between these kinds of virtues is clear enough, and we can in what follows focus on the virtues that characterize someone as meriting praise along the epistemic or intellectual dimension. What of particular instances of intellectual virtue? Here too we find a wide range of cases. Battaly cites the following as intellectual virtues: “open-mindedness, intellectual autonomy, thoroughness, and intellectual courage” (2014: 180). Sherman and White add: “fair-mindedness, perseverance, curiosity, impartiality before the evidence, conscientiousness, and autonomous judgement” (2003: 38). We can, in addition, include “intellectual forms of moral virtues, such as the courage of one’s convictions or humility before the truth” (2003: 38). Given this list, we can also make a rough distinction between intellectual virtues that seem to form a distinctive and autonomous intellectual class: here I am thinking of open-mindedness, thoroughness, and fair-mindedness; and, on the other hand, intellectualized ‘versions’ of moral virtues: intellectual autonomy, intellectual courage, perseverance, and conscientiousness. (I admit that here, too, the lines tend to blur: fair-mindedness might be regarded as a moral virtue, as well as an intellectual virtue. So the distinction is, it seems, slightly artificial. Nevertheless, this artificiality has its reward in helping to clarify the precise role that emotion can play for intellectual virtue, along a number of dimensions.) With these distinctions in mind, I now want to explain, in the following sections, two important ways in which epistemic emotions contribute to intellectual virtue. 4. 2 EM O TI O NS A S MOT IVA T ORS

We saw earlier that virtues can be identified with features or qualities that are excellent, and this might be understood in terms of some positive relation to valuable goals or ends. We noted two such positive relations: one is intentional, in the sense that virtue is a form of being for the good (and against the bad), embodying a positive (negative) attitude, and importantly one that motivates the subject. Another is causal, in that virtue is a feature that enables one to reliably achieve some good or value (or reliably avoid some bad or disvalue). I want to make a case for the importance of emotion in intellectual virtue by showing (i) why emotion is best fitted to play the attitudinal-motivating role, and (ii) why emotion is essential in ensuring reliable success in attaining the end of the virtuous motive. Without emotions, I maintain, there couldn’t be an important range of intellectual virtues. Now the idea that emotions are essential to virtue is not new, of course. This is, after all, a core claim of Aristotle’s account of virtue. On Aristotle’s view, the virtuous person is the person with the correct emotional dispositions: the virtuous person experiences both fear and confidence and appetite and anger and pity and in general pleasure and pain . . . at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right aim, and in the right way. (Nicomachean Ethics 1106b15–22) The idea that emotions are constituents of virtue is also prominent in Linda Zagzebski’s neoAristotelian account of moral and intellectual virtue. On Zagzebski’s account, virtues are partly constituted by feelings. This falls short of the claim that virtues are identical with feelings; here, Zagzebski agrees with Aristotle (though not with his reasons) about the need to keep the two distinct. Zagzebski notes that although virtues are not identical with feelings, “almost every writer on the moral virtues has connected them with feelings” (1996: 128). She writes:

The Role of Emotion in Intellectual Virtue


A “motive” in the sense relevant to an inquiry into virtue is an emotion or feeling that initiates and directs action towards an end. Motives are connected with virtues in that virtuous persons tend to have certain emotions that then lead them to want to change the world or themselves in certain ways. (1996: 131, her emphasis) So the compassionate person is someone who is motivated by feelings of compassion to help others, the just person is motivated by a sense of justice to treat others as morality requires, and so on. Each virtue, for Zagzebski, “involves a disposition to have the characteristic emotions that direct action in a particular direction” (1996: 132). But why is emotion essential to virtue in general—and epistemic emotion essential to intellectual virtue in particular? Specifically, why is emotion essential to motivation? As Sherman and White point out, this is something that Aristotle says little about (2003: 39). So we might ask: what motivational role does emotion play in intellectual virtue, a role that couldn’t be played by some other psychological trait or element? The answer, it seems to me, lies in the effects that emotion has on attention, and in how this makes acting in an appropriate way a priority. As a result, I want to argue that emotion will be a more effective motivational force than non-affective or non-emotional ways of being for the good, viz. evaluative beliefs, or evaluative judgments, or non-affective desire. The effectiveness of affective motivation can be seen most clearly if we focus on a feeling that Zagzebski thinks is in the broad class of feelings from which virtuous motives are made up, but which isn’t (on her view) a virtuous motive: the feeling of bodily pain. A standard line on pain is that it motivates us to avoid or minimize damage, and facilitates repair when our bodies have been damaged (Grahek 2007). Pain thus serves important or valuable goals. But why must pain be an affective experience? Why, in other words, must pain hurt? A plausible answer to this is that the hurtfulness or unpleasantness of pain ensures that it is a much more effective motivational force than other psychological states or traits—for instance, evaluative belief or judgment about the proximity of a noxious stimulus, or about the reality of bodily damage—that might, arguably, be rivals for doing the same job. And this is true, to a large extent, because the unpleasantness of pain captures our attention and focuses this on the prospect or reality of bodily damage, in such a way that dealing with the bodily damage is prioritized. Without negative affect, mere information that we are damaging our bodies is often ineffective—which is something that any smoker or drinker or glutton knows. Evaluative knowledge that we are causing significant harm to our bodies is, notoriously, often completely ineffective in motivating the right kind of protective and avoidance behavior, especially given the strong competing motives that nicotine, alcohol, and food supply. Part of the reason for this is that such information is pretty easy to ignore or rationalize. It is easy to decide that giving up smoking, say, is a low-priority long-term goal, when compared with the short-term pleasure that smoking promises, and then forget all the dangers. It is easy to re-evaluate one’s situation as one that isn’t really dangerous, when there are strong enough motives to do so. One need not, and very often does not, pay much attention to danger, in other words, if danger is not affectively presented. This is not simply autobiographical data. It is also borne out by the sad fact that those who suffer from pain insensitivity don’t live very long. In addition, there is significant empirical evidence for the importance of affect in motivating appropriate pain behavior. Consider, for instance, the neurosurgeon Paul Brand’s unsuccessful attempts at making a prosthetic pain system (Grahek 2007: 83-88). Brand was concerned to treat patients suffering from leprosy and related conditions that rendered them insensitive to pain, and endeavored, with


Michael S. Brady

colleagues, to construct an artificial pain system. This system was constructed so as to give warning signals, in the form of flashing lights and loud noises, to pain-insensitive patients who were acting in such a way as to cause harm to themselves. Depressingly, for Brand and his colleagues, all such systems failed to be motivationally effective, with Brand concluding that pain signals had to hurt if they were to promote damage avoidance. By comparison with evaluative knowledge of harm, pain and other negative affective experiences are significantly more difficult to ignore or rationalize. Pain keeps attention focused on the potential or actual damage, and by being unpleasant makes dealing with this damage a priority. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that one will act in the appropriate way: people sometimes override their pain signals as well, or continue to smoke even when suffering a great deal from the harm that smoking causes. Nevertheless, it is clear that negative affect is a more effective motivator than mere evaluative belief or knowledge, and in part because it keeps the relevant object or event in one’s attentional focus and prioritizes dealing with this. It seems to me that what is true of pain is true of affect in general, both negative and positive. Emotion is an effective motivator, in other words, in part because it keeps some important object or event in mind—it focuses and captures attention on said object or event—such that dealing with it remains a priority. But emotion also provides a further motivational push, insofar as it promises rewards for behaving in the appropriate manner. This is why we feel better when we act so as to lessen negative affect: when we take painkillers, or apologize to assuage our guilt, or scratch an itch, or make reparations for our shameful behavior. And, importantly for our purposes, this seems clearly true of epistemic emotions as well, and explains why epistemic emotions are an essential part of intellectual virtue. It is, I want to argue, the effect that such emotions have on our attention, and the promise of positive affective rewards for the appropriate behavior that emotions provide, that makes them suitable to be the motivational elements of intellectual virtue—to be the ways in which the intellectually virtuous person is for intellectual goods. To explain, let us focus once more upon the epistemic emotion of curiosity, and upon the intellectual virtue of open-mindedness that curiosity seems important for. As we saw earlier, curiosity seems a good candidate for an epistemic emotion, rather than a non-affective desire for the truth, since it consists of many of the components or elements that are standardly used to characterize emotions, and that are standardly present in paradigmatic emotional experience. Now curiosity isn’t itself a virtue: there are, after all, vicious forms of curiosity, such as salacious interest in the private affairs of others. Moreover, there is empirical evidence that what we are curious or interested about diverges, in principled ways, from what we regard as (intellectually) important or valuable. Paul Silvia has argued that the evaluative structure for curiosity—its ‘appraisal variables’—involves dimensions of novelty, broadly understood, and coping potential: we are curious, very roughly, about the “new, ambiguous, complex, obscure, uncertain, mysterious, contradictory, unexpected, or otherwise not understood” (2006: 24) provided that we also think it likely “that the poorly understood event will become coherent and clear” (2006: 57). But we are often not curious about what is intellectually important or valuable, indicating that curiosity is often not targeted at what we would regard as epistemic goods. We are, for instance, more interested in or curious about complex polygons when compared with simple polygons; but it is not at all clear that knowing about complex polygons is more of an intellectual value or achievement than knowing about simple ones. Nevertheless, it might be argued that a disposition to be curious about the right kinds of questions or subjects is a constitutive part of open-mindedness, and possibly other intellectual virtues. For one thing, the appraisal variables of curiosity are not characterized by any

The Role of Emotion in Intellectual Virtue


particular kinds of truth, or truths which promise to serve some practical goal or desire: so there is reason to think that something like curiosity is the motivational component of intellectual virtues that are characterized by a disinterested or unbiased search for truth. By the same token, one of the appraisal variables for curiosity is novelty, and open-mindedness, according to Greco and Turri (2015), “is the virtue according to which a person is motivated to be receptive to new ideas, and is reliably successful at achieving the end of this motivation.” It is not implausible, then, to think that curiosity, which is stimulated by appraisals of novelty, is the motivational component in open-mindedness, understood in terms of a motivation for truth and knowledge of novel issues, and a willingness to seek out truth in a disinterested manner. But why think that the emotion of curiosity is an essential part of ‘being for’ these particular epistemic goods? Might not open-mindedness simply involve or require a positive but non-emotional evaluation or appraisal of new ideas and a willingness to consider them? Given the above account of the importance of affect for effective motivation, however, we can also make the case that the epistemic emotion of curiosity is a vital part of open-mindedness, since it motivates us to be receptive to novelty in general, and to new approaches, novel topics, strategies, questions, and issues, in particular. As with other affective states, curiosity motivates in two ways: it keeps the novel question or issue in mind, and makes dealing with it a deliberative priority. If we are curious about some truth or issue, then we become focused on or locked into an investigation or inquiry; it occupies our attention and other cognitive resources. This is why curiosity is a significantly more effective motivator than mere evaluative judgment or belief of the intellectual importance of some topic or subject. There are very many topics or subjects or questions that I will readily admit are intellectually important or significant—a quick trawl through the syllabi of subjects at my university tells me this. But I am not motivated to find out about them or to seek to understand them, given other operant motives: the truth for its own sake comes pretty low down my list of priorities in the absence of emotional engagement. Faced with competing motives, mere evaluative judgment often falters, or often doesn’t give rise to motivation in the first place. When I’m curious about some subject, however, getting the truth on that subject for its own sake becomes a priority, occupies my attention, becomes something that I have to factor into my decision-making: by focusing attention and keeping the topic or subject in mind, curiosity is thus more effective as a motivational force than mere judgment that some topic or question is of intellectual worth. The second element is that curiosity, examined closely, isn’t a straightforwardly positive emotion, but has a significant element of negative affective valence: if we are curious we seek out the truth on some novel issue, remain in a state of frustration if we do not attain it, and enjoy the positive affective state of relief and intellectual satisfaction when we do. This is why intellectual inquiry often involves an affective life that is ambivalent: there is the positive valence of intellectual excitement, and the negative valence of the intellectual need and compulsion to know. As a result, curiosity provides an additional motivational force: it does not merely keep the topic or subject at the forefront of our attention; it also promises an affective reward, when the relevant question is answered or the relevant intellectual issue is understood. And what is true of curiosity is equally true of similar epistemic emotions: fascination, intrigue, and more broadly love of truth. These, too, will play a significant role in capturing attention, focusing it on some (fascinating, intriguing) issue or subject, in such a way that getting the truth about that issue or subject becomes a deliberative priority. Without the epistemic emotion, therefore, attention would either not be elicited in the first place, or would quickly wane. And without attention, it is highly likely that attaining intellectual goods and values would quickly disappear from our list of live behavioral options, especially in the face of competing motivations.


Michael S. Brady

If something like this is correct, then a central role of emotion in intellectual virtue is to provide an effective motivational force for the achievement of intellectual goals or ends. A tendency to have some epistemic emotion, in the right circumstances, and directed toward the right ends, thus constitutes the motivational element of intellectual virtue. But this is by no means the only important role that emotion has, when it comes to our epistemic or intellectual ends. As we’ll see in the next section, emotion is vital for the existence what we might call regulatory intellectual virtues. In particular, it is vital for the executive virtue of intellectual wisdom. 4 . 3 EM O TI O NS AS ENAB LIN G RE LIA BLE S U CCE S S

Earlier we saw that virtue involves being for the good—in the sense of having a positive attitude toward value and a negative attitude toward disvalue—and also involves an element of reliable success: the intellectually virtuous person is someone who succeeds in knowing and understanding what it is good to know and understand. The sorts of epistemic emotions that constitute the motivational component of intellectual virtues like curiosity do not guarantee reliability, however. One reason for this is that even motives that are more effective than mere evaluative beliefs can run aground, especially in the face of other strong motives. Intellectual inquiry is often—perhaps usually—difficult and onerous, and there are many temptations along the way that can lead the emotionally motivated seeker of truth to stray from the path of intellectual righteousness: to skimp on the research, to fabricate data, to stop when a comforting solution has been reached despite knowing that one needs to search further, and so on. To counter temptations, the virtuous thinker will need to possess certain regulatory virtues, which enable her epistemic emotions to motivate her to do what she intellectually ought. She will, for instance, need to be intellectually strong, to resist incentives and motives that might derail her pursuit of truth, knowledge, and understanding. Here virtues such as intellectual courage and fortitude, intellectual perseverance, and conscientiousness will prove to be important. These forms of intellectual virtue will themselves involve the right kinds of emotional disposition: intellectual temperance, for instance, will involve a disposition to feel strong in the face of temptations. By the same token, this is where emotional dispositions such as “pride in one’s accomplishments [and] repugnance at intellectual dishonesty” (Sherman and White 2003: 39) have an important role to play. The feelings of pleasure that are partly constitutive of pride can act as a motivational spur to keep going so as to accomplish some important intellectual task; since pride involves the signaling of one’s accomplishment to others, in a way that enhances self-esteem, this can be an especially powerful form of social encouragement in the intellectual realm. By the same token, the negative feelings of repugnance and shame, were one to be dishonest—invent data, intentionally misinterpret arguments, pass off someone else’s discovery as one’s own—have an equally vital regulatory role to play, in providing significant affective disincentives for intellectual vice. It should be pointed out that possession of the regulatory virtues, although necessary for reliable success, doesn’t guarantee it. One needs to be in an hospitable environment in order for the emotional regulation of one’s epistemic emotions to lead to attainment of one’s epistemic goals. If one is in a BIV-world, for instance, then no amount of intellectual perseverance, conscientiousness, and repugnance at intellectual dishonesty will be sufficient for one to attain a high ratio of true over false beliefs—precisely because one’s environment is set up in such a way that one is radically deceived. Nevertheless, this is consistent with the point

The Role of Emotion in Intellectual Virtue


that I want to stress: that one won’t be reliably successful in attaining epistemic goods unless one’s epistemic emotions are appropriately emotionally regulated.5 Perhaps the most important instance of a regulatory virtue is that of intellectual wisdom. For one reason why epistemic emotions such as curiosity might not be reliably successful in bringing about important intellectual goals is that they are misdirected: we might be curious about, and hence motivated to attain knowledge and understanding of, a topic or issue or question that does not, for one reason or another, merit interest or curiosity. Suppose that we are intrigued about the lifestyles of celebrities, or interested in knowing about the suffering of the victims of serial killers. Our epistemic emotions in these cases are targeted at epistemic ends, but not at epistemically valuable ends. It is here that our epistemic emotions must be guided by the executive virtue of intellectual wisdom. For the wise person knows which topics and subjects and questions merit investigation, inquiry, and understanding, and is someone whose epistemic emotions are guided and regulated by this kind of evaluative knowledge. By the same token, the wise person knows when to stop inquiring and investigating: she knows when the level of knowledge and understanding she has attained is enough, relative to the topic or question at hand. The wise person is not, in other words, obsessive about intellectual topics or questions, but balances the need to know and the disinterested search for truth with her other intellectual goals and ends. In this way the virtuous person attends to the right topics, in the right way, and for the right amount of time, and is intellectually satisfied when her inquiries reach their natural limit. It seems to me that emotion is vital to intellectual wisdom—and in particular, to an understanding of value—in a number of important ways. For emotional experience is arguably essential for knowledge and understanding of value generally (Brady 2013), and thus essential for having the kind of grasp of value that will be vital for understanding which intellectual endeavors are worth pursuing, and for balancing our intellectual inquiries with our other important intellectual goals. One way that this happens is that forms of emotional or affective experience are essential to our access to certain kinds of value, and hence essential to our knowledge of parts of the evaluative realm. Following Mark Johnston, we might think that negative feeling or affect is the way in which certain negative values are disclosed to us (Johnston 2001). Without ‘affective engagement’, we would be blind to or ignorant of the relevant values. Johnston makes his case for the necessity of affective engagement by focusing on a particular class of values, which include, on the positive side, “the beautiful, the charming, [and] the erotic,” and on the negative “the banal . . . the horrific and the plain old . . . repellent” (2001: 182). Johnston thinks that “[i]f one has never been moved or affected by the determinate ways in which things are beautiful or charming or erotic or banal or sublime or appealing, then one is ignorant of the relevant determinate values” (2001: 183). If this is right, then emotion is epistemically necessary for knowledge of a particular class of negative values.6 Without emotion, our knowledge of the world of values would be impoverished. But emotion is essential not just for the disclosure of certain values; it is also vital if we are to understand a wide range of values, and to understand how best to deal with them, which is a point I have made elsewhere (Brady 2013). Here too the effect that emotion has on attention is central to the story. For emotions don’t simply direct attention onto objects and events; as noted, emotions keep attention focused on the relevant items, as when curiosity persists until the question at issue has been answered. Now, part of the point of this attentional persistence is practical, as we’ve seen: attention keeps the issue in mind, and moves us to do something to address it. But another effect of attentional persistence is that


Michael S. Brady

it prompts re-evaluation of emotional objects and events, and enhances our representation of them. Attention motivates us to also search for reasons that bear on the accuracy of our initial emotional appraisals: fear, for instance, moves us to reflection on whether some object really is dangerous, shame captures attention and motivates deliberation as to whether what we did really was shameful, and so on. This ongoing activity of evaluation and re-evaluation, facilitated via the emotional capture of attention, is part of the process whereby we really come to understand and grasp the nature of why things are dangerous, shameful, interesting, and the like. It captures the idea that when we are emotional we feel the need to discover reasons and evidence that make sense of our emotional experience. And it comports nicely with a host of philosophical thinking and empirical evidence that emotion, through its effects on attention, enhances our evaluative representational capacities: through emotion, we get a better grasp on the evaluative realm.7 If something like this is also right, then emotion plays another essential role: it facilitates evaluative understanding, which is the key element in wisdom, both practical and intellectual. Since intellectual wisdom is essential if our intellectual inquiries are to be directed aright, then emotion is essential to the correct guidance and control of our intellectual activities across the board. I have argued that epistemic emotions are essential for intellectual virtue. Epistemic emotions play a constitutive role in motivating and initiating virtuous inquiry; such emotions constitute virtuous motives, at least in the right conditions, because they outperform non-affective states, such as evaluative belief or judgment, in bringing out epistemic goods. In addition, emotions in general are vital for the wise control and guidance of intellectual inquiries; for to be reliably successful in amassing knowledge and understanding, we need to have the emotions that are important components of intellectual perseverance, courage, patience, humility, and wisdom. Emotions thus play vital motivational and regulatory roles in our intellectual lives; intellectual virtue, at least for creatures like us, would be impossible without them. (Related Chapters: 2, 3, 8, 9, 13.) NOTE S 1 The idea that emotions have these different components is widely accepted. See Prinz (2004: ch. 1) for a helpful overview of this ‘componential’ picture. 2 Alfano (2017), especially section 10.4 on epistemic emotions. 3 It is important to have this caveat since these emotions could also be the motivational components of epistemic vices: curiosity, hope, mistrust, and doubt can lead us astray epistemically. I’ll say more about the relevant conditions in what follows. Thanks to Heather Battaly for pushing me to be clearer on this point. 4 Again, merely having one of these emotions will not be sufficient for one to have an intellectually virtuous motivation, since we might be curious about trivialities or doubt something for which we have good evidence. The emotions can, in other words, be the motivational components of epistemic vices as well. 5 Thanks again to Heather Battaly for urging me to be clearer on this point. 6 Rational intuitionists might disagree on this point. For an overview, see Stratton-Lake (2012). 7 See Scherer (1994); Reid (1969: especially 184–185); LeDoux (1996: especially 289).

REFERE N C E S Adams, R. (2006) A Theory of Virtue, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Alfano, M. (2017) “Virtue Epistemology,” in E.N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https:// Accessed Feb. 19, 2018. Annas, J. (2011) Intelligent Virtue, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The Role of Emotion in Intellectual Virtue


Aristotle. (350 bc) Nicomachean Ethics, trans. D.W. Ross, Accessed Feb. 19, 2018. Battaly, H. (2014) “Intellectual Virtues,” in S. van Hooft (ed.) Handbook of Virtue Ethics, Durham, NC: Acumen Press, 177–187. Battaly, H. (2015) Virtue, Cambridge: Polity Press. Brady, M. (2013) Emotional Insight: The Epistemic Role of Emotional Experience, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Driver, J. (2001) Uneasy Virtue, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Grahek, N. (2007) Feeling Pain and Being in Pain, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Greco, J. and J. Turri. (2015) “Virtue Epistemology,” in E.N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Accessed June 14, 2018. Hursthouse, R. (1999) On Virtue Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Johnston, M. (2001) “The Authority of Affect,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63(1): 181–214. LeDoux, J. (1996) The Emotional Brain, New York: Simon & Schuster. Morton, A. (2010) “Epistemic Emotions,” in P. Goldie (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotion, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 385–401. Prinz, J. (2004) Gut Reactions, New York: Oxford University Press. Reid, T. (1969) Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind, ed. B. Brody, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Robinson, J. (1995) “Startle,” Journal of Philosophy 92(2): 53–74. Roberts, R. (2003) Emotions: An Essay in Aid of Moral Psychology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Scherer, K. (1994) “Emotion Serves to Decouple Stimulus and Response,” in P. Ekman and R. Davidson (eds.) The Nature of Emotion, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sherman, N. and H. White. (2003) “Intellectual Virtue: Emotions, Luck, and the Ancients,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 34–53. Silvia, P. (2006) Exploring the Psychology of Interest, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Stratton-Lake, P. (2012) “Rational Intuitionism,” in R. Crisp (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 337–357. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

5 Are Epistemic Virtues a Kind of Skill? Sarah Wright


In this chapter, I will focus on two conceptions of skill that are the most relevant to virtue epistemology. First, we have skills as abilities. Abilities are dispositions that allow a person to succeed reliably in achieving a particular aim. The aim of an ability makes it distinct from other abilities, marked linguistically by saying it is an ability to do a particular thing. The ability conception of skill focuses on the output of a person’s dispositions without being committed to those dispositions having a specific underlying structure. Two people who can achieve the same aim in different ways will be counted as having the same ability; the person who types and the person who writes by hand both demonstrate the ability to write a letter. Second, we have skills as technê, which is translated from the Greek as art, craft, or skill. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle distinguishes technê from the mere production of desired ends, by noting that technê requires an understanding of the underlying structure (or logos) of a craft: “A man will be proficient in grammar then, only when he has done something grammatical and done it grammatically: and this means doing it in accordance with the grammatical knowledge in himself” (NE.1105a23-25). Since the technê conception of skill is the one at play in ancient debates about virtue and skill, it will be relevant to any approach in virtue epistemology that takes inspiration from historical virtue ethics.1 While the definition of technê requires the practitioner to understand the logos of the activity, it does not require that the practitioner be able to reliably succeed in producing the ends of the craft. To speak of technê in this way would eliminate the category of stochastic technê, a category used by the Stoics to cover arts that cannot be counted on to successfully achieve their aims.2 Medicine is an example; even the most skilled doctor who understands the workings of the human body in great detail may consistently fail to bring her patients back to health. Some suffer from conditions that are too far progressed, others suffer from incurable disease. Not requiring reliable success from technê allows us to say that this doctor is skilled and that she possesses the technê of medicine. Within the terminology specified here, if we wish to require reliability in a particular skill, we may insist that it be both an ability and a technê. 58

Are Epistemic Virtues a Kind of Skill?



The very idea of taking a virtue-centered approach to epistemology was introduced by Ernest Sosa (1980) to diagnose the dialectic between the two most prominent theories of epistemic justification at the time, coherentism and foundationalism. Sosa argues that both sides share the assumption that only states with propositional content can serve as the justifiers for our beliefs. Sosa introduces intellectual virtues to move beyond this assumption. Rather than looking for further beliefs or evidence to serve as justification, we should allow the virtues of the believer to serve as a source of justification. Sosa’s early characterization of intellectual virtue is as a “disposition to believe correctly” (1991: 140). This can lead us to a general characterization of virtue reliabilism, which focuses on the output of our cognitive dispositions, evaluating each to be a virtue if and only if it reliably produces true beliefs. John Greco’s motivation for developing his own “agent reliabilism” is as a response to skeptical worries. Greco (2000) diagnoses the gap between our evidence and states of the world as a persistent source of skeptical worries. In the face of this Cartesian external world skepticism, Greco points out that any attempt to provide arguments bridging this gap would be stymied by Humean skepticism about induction. However, possession of “stable and reliable dispositions that make up one’s cognitive character” (2000: 177) provides a desired connection between our evidence and the external world. Thus, Greco introduces reliabilist intellectual virtues to avoid skepticism. 5.2.1 Virtue Reliabilism and Ability

Reliabilist intellectual virtues are closely related to abilities. Abilities are reliable processes, but their reliability need not be further justified. Technê, on the other hand, doesn’t stop the regress of reason-giving. The possessor of a technê needs to be in a position to understand the logos of a domain, and this requirement of further understanding or knowledge runs the risk of re-starting the regress of justification or re-igniting skeptical worries. We can also see that Sosa and Greco consider the intellectual virtues to be abilities in the language that they now use. Greco (2009, 2010) focuses on abilities, characterizing knowledge as a special case of success through ability. Sosa (2007) has recently given what he calls the AAA account of knowledge on which knowledge is apt belief—belief that is accurate because it manifests the believer’s competence (is adroit). This shift in terminology shows that neither sees a gap between virtues and abilities; hence there is little need to give an argument that virtue reliabilism views virtues as a kind of skill. What we can argue for are some ways in which the ability model of virtue is beneficial to virtue reliabilism. First, abilities are poised to satisfy Sosa and Greco’s original motivations for developing virtue reliabilism. Abilities are dispositions to reliably succeed in reaching their aim; when that aim is true belief, they reliably produce true belief. As noted above, the ability conception of skills does not require that the possessor knows or even believes that those abilities are reliable. Thus, abilities can stop the regress of reason-giving. They also fit the answer to the skeptical worries that Greco wants to address; they connect the agent to the world in a non-reflective way. Second, a focus on abilities can help to explain the value of knowledge by subsuming knowledge under the more general category of success through ability. Greco notes that such successes are often recognized as being more valuable than accidental satisfaction of the same goal.3 A skilled player’s successful shot is more highly valued than an equally well-placed shot through beginner’s luck; the first is a credit to the skilled player, whereas the second doesn’t reflect any evaluation of the novice. Greco uses this general feature of success through ability to explain the value of knowledge over true belief, justified belief, or even justified true belief.4


Sarah Wright

Third, since virtues are required for knowledge on virtue reliabilist accounts of knowledge, it is important that the requirements for virtues not be too demanding. Abilities are less demanding than technê, in the sense that they do not require a reflective aspect. Still, abilities require reliable success in reaching their ends. If intellectual virtues must reliably lead to true beliefs, one might wonder if there are any such virtues. From his earliest work on virtue epistemology, Sosa has been careful to remind us that we should not expect too much of any virtue. They must be reliable only relative to a particular normal environment. Even the best eyesight cannot produce true beliefs in the dark, and even the best eyesight can be deceived through colored lights or special effects (1991: 140). This restriction on conditions and environments is strengthened and supported by the analogy to abilities, which are also limited to environments and conditions. The example of ability that Sosa often uses is that of archery. We expect a skilled archer to be able to reliably hit the target in a range of normal archery conditions (2007: 84). But we do not expect her to be able to hit the target in a hurricane. Greco also points out that even the most robust abilities are restricted. Derek Jeter has the ability to hit a baseball. He is a skilled hitter, even though he does not have the ability to hit pitches thrown in the dark (2010: 77). These examples of abilities in general make it plausible that virtues, like abilities, must be relativized to a set of normal conditions. Such a restriction makes it far more likely that there are abilities that meet the reliabilists’ requirement for intellectual virtues, and hence that there is knowledge through the exercise of those abilities. 5.2.2 Virtue Reliabilism and Technê

Though both Sosa and Greco focus on abilities, their accounts can allow a place for technê as another kind of skill that may be possessed by the virtuous person. Sosa’s account goes further and recognizes something like technê as providing us higher forms of knowledge. While apt belief is sufficient for animal knowledge, Sosa clearly recognizes the desirability of other higher forms of knowledge that make a place for the kind of reflection supported by technê. In more recent work, Sosa considers what is required for reflective knowledge, requiring that in addition to animal knowledge, “under the light of reflection one must be able to defend the reliability of one’s sources” (2009: 139). This requirement leads us in the direction of technê; if one understands the logos behind one’s skillful action, then one is better poised to defend one’s reliability. Most recently, Sosa has further explored an even higher-level of knowledge—knowing full well. He suggests that knowing full well requires knowing with full aptness, where a fully apt performance requires that “its first-order aptness derives sufficiently from the agent’s assessment, albeit implicitly, of his chance of success” (2011: 11). Technê can serve as a basis for the assessment element of fully apt performances. While virtue reliabilists are clearly most focused on skills as abilities, it is still consistent with this picture to make room for higher levels of intellectual virtue that require a kind of technê. 5. 3 VI R TUE R ES P ON S IBILIS M

In contrast to virtue reliabilism, virtue responsibilism focuses on the analogies and connections between the moral and intellectual virtues. While virtue responsibilism has been articulated in many different ways, each version shares the defining mark of responsibilism—a focus on developed traits of intellectual character that in some way reflect on the evaluation

Are Epistemic Virtues a Kind of Skill?


of the person possessing them. Examples of the virtues recognized by responsibilists include open-mindedness,5 intellectual courage,6 and intellectual humility.7 5.3.1 Virtue Responsibilism and Ability: Are Abilities Sufficient for Intellectual Virtue?

Abilities, conceived of as reliable dispositions, don’t clearly satisfy the model of the intellectual virtues as robust character traits of the believer and as those which reflect on the evaluation of the believer as a person. Some reliable dispositions will simply be faculties, like good eyesight or good memory. While both of these faculties do help their possessor come to have more true beliefs, those who have poor vision or poor memory because of some physical defect are not evaluated as worse people for those disabilities.8 On the other hand, being forgetful through inattention is a pattern of behavior that reveals someone’s character trait of being disinterested in a subject or of being inattentive in general. It is the use of abilities, not the abilities themselves, that reflect on our personal worth. Thus, possession of an ability is not sufficient for intellectual virtue. Some responsibilists go further and argue that abilities cannot explain the value of knowledge. This argument centers on the source of value of abilities; they seem to be valuable when they achieve good ends, but not when they achieve bad ends. Thus abilities have only instrumental value. The so-called “value problem” or “swamping problem” aims to shows us that the value of intellectually virtuous belief cannot be instrumentally derived from the value of truth.9 If intellectual virtues are only valuable as a means to true belief, they cannot add to the value of a true belief. Zagzebski uses espresso as an analogy. If the only thing you value is a good espresso, once you have a good espresso in your hand it does not matter whether the machine that produced it did so reliably or unreliably—means to an end can add no further value once one has achieved the end. Similarly, responsibilists have argued that intellectual virtues, when understood as abilities, cannot add value to the true beliefs they produce. 5.3.2 Virtue Responsibilism and Ability: Are Abilities Necessary for Intellectual Virtue?

Even if responsibilists reject the claim that abilities are sufficient for intellectual virtues, this leaves open the question of whether intellectual virtues might still require abilities as a necessary component. Zagzebski stands out among responsibilists in requiring that virtues (both moral and intellectual) must reliably succeed in reaching their aim. Yet, Zagzebski’s responsibilism does not hold that ability is sufficient for virtue. Zagzebski’s virtues, moral and epistemic, require both what she calls a success component (corresponding to ability) and a motivational component. So, she would reject the idea that virtue is simply an ability, even if ability is required. Why does Zagzebski require a success component in her intellectual virtues? One reason is that, like Sosa and Greco, her goal is to give a definition of knowledge in terms of the intellectual virtues. Zagzebski’s definition of knowledge does not require the knower to actually possess the relevant intellectual ability, but only to believe as the intellectually virtuous person would believe. Still, if the intellectual virtues did not reliably succeed in producing true belief, we might worry that any true belief produced by them, or by those believing similarly, would be too lucky to count as knowledge. Zagzebski’s definition of knowledge requires that one reaches true belief because one believes as the intellectually virtuous person would. If the intellectual virtues did not require ability, success in reaching the truth might not meet this “because of” requirement. So Zagzebski’s intellectual virtues must require ability to play their desired role in her definition of knowledge.


Sarah Wright

But note that other responsibilists are either not interested in or are skeptical of the possibility of giving a definition of knowledge in terms of intellectual virtue. Lorraine Code (1987) has argued against the possibility of giving a definition of knowledge on the grounds that there are too many variations between potential knowers and their circumstances to expect a single unified account of knowledge. Rather than looking for a definition, she turns to the virtue of epistemic responsibility to provide us with advice about how to conduct ourselves in inquiry. In a narrower rejection of Zagzebski’s view, Jason Baehr (2011) argues that her conditions are neither necessary nor sufficient to cover all knowledge. Since Baehr recognizes Zagzebski’s definition as the best developed responsibilist alternative, he concludes that there is little hope for defining knowledge in terms of intellectual virtue. Roberts and Wood (2007) follow both Baehr in criticizing Zagzebski’s definition and Code in questioning whether there is enough unity between instances of knowledge to support a single unifying definition. Any responsibilist who does not take on the definitional project won’t have Zagzebki’s reasons for thinking that intellectual virtues require ability. Furthermore, they face arguments against that requirement. James Montmarquet (1993) argues that ability is not necessary for intellectual virtue, by asking us to consider the history of science and the many scientists who seem to be exemplars of intellectual virtue; they exhibit intellectual courage and open-mindedness. But, as science has progressed, we have learned just how incorrect their groundbreaking beliefs were. Yet this does not lead us to think less of them. Montmarquet thinks these scientists were intellectually virtuous even if they were not reliable in generating true scientific beliefs; as a result, we should not require ability as a necessary condition on the possession of intellectual virtue.10 5.3.3 Virtue Responsibilism and Technê

Turning from the ability conception of skills to the technê conception, we see that there is a prima facie reason to think that intellectual virtues, when understood on a model of ancient Greek moral virtues, either require or are identical to technê. For there was a near consensus among authors from this period that virtues were a kind of technê. Paul Bloomfield (2000) illustrates this with an example from the Gorgias in which Plato argues that virtues, like technê, require understanding of an underlying logos; Plato contrasts this with having a “knack” for bringing about a result. Flattery, he says, is not a technê, because it lacks any underlying structure or principles; it is simply an ability to bring about pleasure in the person being flattered.11 Julia Annas (1995b), in explaining the widespread ancient belief that virtue is a technê, points out that while our modern conception of “craft” might be limited to craft-fairs and the like, we should recognize technê as encompassing a wide range of skilled productive actives. Annas also argues that we should not think of sports as our central case of technê because an ability at sports may not reflect an understanding of any underlying logos for the sport. Rather, we should think of examples like those Plato gives of weavers, farmers, doctors, trainers, or nutritionists. Both Bloomfield (2000) and Annas (1995b, 2003) highlight that Aristotle is unique among ancient Greek philosophers in rejecting the claim that virtues are a kind of technê. Zagzebski (1996) models her intellectual virtues on Aristotelian moral virtues. As a result, they inherit the distinctive feature of distinguishing virtues and technê. Before considering Zagzebski’s argument, let us turn first to its roots in Aristotle.12 5.3.4 Aristotle on Why Virtue Is Not a Technê

We have already seen that for Aristotle, technê requires knowledge of the underlying structure (or logos) of craft in question. Aristotle also holds that virtuous acts require knowledge, but in addition they have two further conditions:

Are Epistemic Virtues a Kind of Skill?


[I]n the first place he must have knowledge, secondly he must choose the acts, and choose them for their own sakes, and thirdly his action must proceed from a firm and unchangeable character. These are not reckoned in as conditions of the possession of the arts, except the bare knowledge. (NE.1105a31–1105b2) We can illustrate this with a simple technê like housebuilding. A house-builder’s use of his knowledge can be motivated by a desire to earn money, not a love of architecture. Further, his choice may not come from a firm character trait. Even a house-builder who will afterwards change professions may be able to successfully build a house. However, in the case of virtue, our motivations and character matter. Aristotle’s model of choice does not include just any voluntary action; it might be better to characterize it as deliberative choice or reasoned choice. So when we chose an action we must have a reason for that choice; this means that we can always then ask, “For the sake of what or whom did you choose this act?” If choice is always for some reason, that reason can be identified as the motivation behind the choice. We see this focus on motivation in the modern arguments against virtue being a technê. 5.3.5 Modern Theorists on Why Virtue Is Not a Skill

Zagzebski argues that virtues cannot be skills based on a number of arguments collected from the literature.13 Zagzebski first looks at Philippa Foot and Gilbert Meilaender’s contention that skills can be unexercised capacities. Zagzebski notes that one can be a skilled hockey player or skilled speaker of Japanese, yet choose not to engage in those activities. But the virtues seem not to be like this. Opting not to exercise a virtue in relevant circumstances is evidence that the person does not really have the virtue in question. This relevant difference between skills and virtues is taken by Zagzebski (1996: 107) as evidence that we should distinguish between them. Second, Zagzebski considers an argument from Sarah Broadie, who follows Aristotle in noting that we evaluate the output of skills differently than we evaluate the output of a virtue. With respect to a skill, so long as a person produces the result that we looking for (e.g., a grammatical sentence), we tend to be satisfied without looking further to see if it was the result of a skill (e.g., following the rules of grammar).14 Broadie notes, “The lack of skill implies no defect in what he has done on this occasion” (1991: 83). This attitude is not reflected in our evaluation of apparently virtuous actions; we evaluate right action from virtue as more valuable than right action in one who lacks the virtue. Zagzebski highlights this as another systematic difference between skills and virtues. Zagzebski (1996: 116) finally notes that there is a difference between the value of the exercise of skill and the value of the exercise of virtues. Virtues are valuable in themselves; whenever they are exercised the resultant action is good. Skills, on the other hand, can be used for good or bad purposes. The skill of speaking Japanese can be used to speak honestly or to mislead others. In order to evaluate the goodness or badness of the particular exercise of a skill, we must look at the results. Thus the value of a skill is instrumental, not intrinsic as the value of the virtues is. Zagzebski concludes from these three arguments that we must distinguish between virtues and skills. Her foundational role in responsibilist virtue epistemology has led to a widespread acceptance of the skill/virtue distinction. 5.3.6 Virtue as a Kind of Technê: The Skill of Living

Annas has argued in response to Zagzebski that virtues are best understood as a particular kind of skill:


Sarah Wright

[T]he thesis that virtue is a skill is a claim that virtue is one kind of skill, and thus that the idea of skill is central in helping us to understand what virtue is. Against this claim, pointing out obvious differences between virtues and skills is ineffective. (2003: 17) This distinction offers the material to provide a response to all of the arguments presented by Zagzebski, but particularly to the second one developed from Broadie. Perhaps the way that we assess and evaluate the outcome of some technê does focus on the outcomes alone; there are times we simply need the product. If I need bread, and I get a well-made loaf, I might not be concerned with the general bread-making skills of the baker; my concern is with the product only. But there are other instances when the outcome of a technê is valued both for its intrinsic properties and for the way it was made. We value a Stradivarius violin because it has a sweet tone and strong resonance; but we also value it because it was made in the Stradivarius workshops. Thus, while some skills may be evaluated in a way different from the evaluation of virtues, others seem to provide a parallel. This is consistent with the idea that virtues are a particular kind of skill. In responding to the other arguments, Annas makes use of the Stoic claim that virtues are the “skills of living.”15 Virtues are a “global expertise in your life” (2003: 19). Since other skills have more specific goals, they may be unexercised capacities. I may have expertise in violin playing, but there are many occasions in life which don’t call for music; in those, my skill will remain a capacity. I may cease to care about playing the violin, but I cannot consistently cease to care about living my life. As a result, the skill of living cannot lie dormant as a capacity only. Likewise, specific skills may have a less robust motivational component than virtues. My motivation to exercise the skill of violin playing may wane over time. There is no reason to criticize me for the loss of this motivation; other projects of mine may reasonably eclipse that goal. But the skill of living is different. It is a matter of how I live my whole life, there are no other projects to compete with it. If I am not motivated by questions of how I ought to live my life, there is something wrong with my motivational profile. Thus, if we follow Annas and the Stoics in thinking that virtue is the skill of living, we can accept the noted differences between specific skills and virtue, while still claiming the virtue is a kind of skill. Another way to stress the parallel between skills and virtue is to consider people’s life projects. If someone sets as her goal becoming an expert violin player, she will be motivated to engage in those practices that develop her expertise (Annas 2003, 2011). If this is really a life goal, she will not leave her violin playing skill as a mere unexercised capacity. Finally, the conception of virtue as the skill of living provides an explanation of the fact that skills may be used for good or bad purposes, while virtues cannot be used for anything but the good. If virtue is the skill of living, then any exercise of the virtues will be a move in the direction of a life well lived. Other skills will not come with this guarantee. One may make use the skill of speaking Japanese for good or bad purposes. But living well, being our final end, is never bad. So the skill of living is intrinsically good. This feature doesn’t follow from the structure of skills in general, only from the skill of living’s pre-determined end of eudaimonia. 5.3.7 Back to Aristotle: The Technê of Living

Recognizing virtues as a kind of skill and in particular as the skill of living provides Annas with the grounds to reject a principled distinction between virtues and skills. It also provides us with a way to address the original Aristotelian distinction between virtues and technê.

Are Epistemic Virtues a Kind of Skill?


Recall that Aristotle holds that while technê requires knowledge in the agent, virtue further requires that one chooses the acts for their own sakes, and that these acts come from one’s firm character. This is a real difference between virtue and technê, when we are considering specific technê, such as weaving, housebuilding, or medicine. But we can now recognize that the second and third features will be satisfied by the global technê of living. Turning to the third of Aristotle’s desired features for virtue, we can ask if the technê of living requires a “firm and unchangeable character.” We have noted above that this is not required for specific technê. But the technê of living is not like that. It will be supported by a trait of character for two reasons. The first is the practical concern of how one can sustain living well through the course of a life. If living well does not come from a trait of character, it is likely to be difficult to sustain; the continent person (someone who recognizes what she ought to do, but has not yet developed the character to desire only what she recognizes as good) is at greater risk of abandoning the project of living well. But second, even if the continent person can succeed in acting correctly through the course of her life, her life is still not as good as that of the person who lives consistently with her character. A life of struggle against one’s desires is clearly less good than a life full of good actions that flow naturally from one’s character. Thus, the person with the technê of living must have Aristotle’s third feature of virtue. Aristotle’s second feature of virtue is that it leads one to choose virtuous acts for their own sakes. Specific technê could be practiced for their own sake; one could engage in weaving purely out of love of weaving. But often they are practiced for the sake of some other good; the desire to have a warm coverlet or to make money through the sale of woven goods. Turning to the technê of living, we see that it has as its end a good life for the agent. If the good life or eudaimonia is our final end, the end for the sake of which we choose all other things, it is unclear how living well could be performed only for some other good. The person with the technê of living will chooses to live well for its own sake; this is the motivation of the virtuous person. So the technê of living must also satisfy Aristotle’s second feature of virtue, closing the gap between virtue and the technê of living. 5.3.8 Can the Technê Model of Moral Virtue Extend to Intellectual Virtue?

The debates about whether virtue is a technê above have focused on a general characterization of virtues, based on the moral virtues of the ancient Greeks. This is a result of several factors. This first is that the relationship between virtues and skills has been more thoroughly discussed within the field of moral virtue. But the second has to do with Zagzebski’s contention that the intellectual virtues are to be subsumed under the moral virtues. And, so, if the moral virtues are not technê, then neither are the intellectual virtues. So the question arises, do the arguments above that moral virtues are technê extend naturally to a view that intellectual virtues are technê? What if the two kinds of virtues have different structures? Annas (2003) raises a potential disanalogy between the moral and intellectual virtues which might stand in the way of this extension. Annas notes that knowledge is a success term; we do not attribute it to failed attempts to believe the truth, but only to ones that successfully meet all the requirements for knowledge. She also notes that Zagzebski wants her intellectual virtues to play a central role in her definition of knowledge. As a result, it is natural to think of intellectual virtues as requiring success. But success in what? Annas introduces a distinction from Stoic ethics between two types of aims. Our telos is our final end. Ancient virtue theorists agree that the telos of human life is eudaimonia. Now, within a good life, a virtuous person will engage in many particular actions, and each of these has a target or skopos. Through the course of a day, a virtuous person may aim to comfort a


Sarah Wright

grieving friend, aid someone in financial need, and defend someone else from a bully. These skopoi are related to the telos, as they are each appropriate targets of the actions of a virtuous person. Annas argues that virtue ethics ought to focus on the telos of eudaimonia. Because success in a particular act can be blocked by moral luck, neither success nor failure in reaching one’s skopoi reflects on the evaluation of one’s character. Our imagined virtuous person may be unable to comfort an inconsolable friend, she may lack the means to help the needy, and she may herself be beaten up by the bully. Each of these is a failure to achieve a skopos, but Annas would argue that none of these failures interferes with her being virtuous or with her success in living a eudaimonic life. Virtue ethics focuses on success in reaching one’s telos over success in reaching one’s skopoi. This focus of virtue ethics might come into conflict with the focus of Zagzebski’s virtue epistemology. She holds that the intellectual virtues have a single shared underlying motivation—to obtain truth and avoid falsehood (Zagzebski 1996). The particular intellectual virtues are distinguished by their characteristic motivations to achieve this end in a distinctive way. Since obtaining truth is the end of the intellectual virtues, it seems that on Zagzebski’s picture we should treat true belief as our intellectual telos. But this breaks the parallel with moral virtue, since our success in generating true belief can be blocked by epistemic luck. Our most rigorous inquires might be foiled, and we might be misled by well-planned deception. As a result, having true belief as our intellectual telos looks very unlike our moral telos of eudaimonia. In responding to Annas’ argument, Matt Stichter (2013) suggests this disanalogy is a reason to move away from virtue responsibilism, which looks for the parallel with moral virtues, and instead turn to virtue reliabilism and a focus on abilities. But the defender of virtue responsibilism might suggest an alternative resolution (Wright 2014). Recognizing that true belief is susceptible to epistemic luck, we would re-categorize true belief as a skopos. In our individual inquiries, we aim at the target of truth. And this is as the epistemically virtuous person would do. But failure to reach the truth, due to bad luck or adverse circumstances, doesn’t reflect either on one’s epistemic character or on the epistemic evaluation of one’s life. If truth is only a skopos, what then is the telos? This should be the epistemic analog of eudaimonia. Berit Brogaard (2014) recommends moving to a virtue epistemology that takes intellectual flourishing as its focus. Wayne Riggs (2003) reminds us that ancient agreement on eudaimonia as our final end is grounded in part on eudaimonia being open to completing interpretations. He suggests that “wisdom” could serve as the placeholder for intellectual eudaimonia; it can be filled in by competing interpretations of a good epistemic life. These suggestions demonstrate a way that we could restore the parallel between the moral and intellectual virtues. While the skopoi of our intellectual virtues, true beliefs, would be subject to epistemic luck, there might be a telos, parallel to eudaimonia, which we can more securely succeed in reaching. 5. 4 C O NC LUSI O N AND FURT H E R CON N E CT ION S

In this chapter, I have looked at reliabilist virtue epistemology, the benefits it gains from considering virtues as abilities, and the room it has for considering virtues as technê. Virtue responsibilism, on the other hand, looks for a conception of virtues more robust than mere abilities. But contrary to some arguments in the literature, we have seen that its intellectual virtues can be recognized as a kind of technê. My focus here has been on the two conceptions of skills that are most prominent in contemporary virtue epistemology, those of ability and technê. I have not considered connections

Are Epistemic Virtues a Kind of Skill?


to arguments about the general nature of skill. Matt Stichter (2013) has argued in favor of Herbert and Stuart Dreyfus’s (1991, 2004) account of skills as a model for the intellectual virtues. As noted above, this model of skills may be more attractive to the virtue reliabilist, who focuses on abilities. The Dreyfus anti-intellectualist model of skills can be contrasted with the more intellectualist model of skills developed by Jason Stanley (2011); this model bears a resemblance to technê, and so may be attractive to the virtue responsibilist. However, Ellen Fridland (2014) has recently argued that neither of these models adequately accounts for the role of control that we exercise in our skills. This result may pose a problem for both kinds of virtue epistemology, insofar as we think that control is required for responsibility. Thus, the intersection between virtue epistemologies and models of skilled behavior may prove a fruitful ground for further inquiry.16 (Related Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 39, 40.) NOTE S 1 This distinction between two types of skills is inspired by the distinction (and potential overlap) that Heather Battaly makes between two key concepts of virtue in her (2015). 2 Inwood (1986). 3 Sosa’s resent work also emphasizes this same connection between knowledge and other kinds of success. 4 Wayne Riggs (2002) gives a similar argument, noting that when we know we deserve credit for our true belief. Lackey (2007, 2009) has presented a dilemma for this credit account of knowledge. If the standards for credit are high, we can find instances of knowledge where the abilities/virtues of the believer seem to play too insignificant a role in the generation of knowledge for them to be credited with this success; if the standards for credit are lowered, implausible cases meet the threshold for knowledge. 5 Baehr (2011) and Riggs (2010). 6 Zagzebski (1996) and Baehr (2011). 7 Roberts and Wood (2007) and Whitcomb et al. (2015). 8 Zagzebski particularly notes the non-blameworthiness of disabilities in her (1999). 9 Zagzebski (2000), Riggs (2002), DePaul (2001), and Kvanvig (2003). 10 I also argue that intellectual virtues should not require ability (Wright 2009). 11 This is another reason for those focusing on the ancient Greek model of virtues to reject the idea that virtue is simply an ability, since an ability as I have defined it here is quite similar to this kind of “knack.” 12 Code (1987), Montmarquet (1993), and Roberts and Wood (2007) all take inspiration from Aristotle. 13 I believe that each of these arguments is best understood as claiming that virtue is not a technê, but Zagzebski expresses them in terms of virtues being distinct from skills, so I will use that terminology in this section. 14 Aristotle NE.1105a20-8. 15 Annas (2003: 16). This characterization of the Stoic account of virtues is more fully developed in her (1995a). Bloomfield also notes that “Eudaimonia has a logos, and being virtuous is being an expert in a skill: the skill of living well” (2000: 26). 16 My thanks to audiences at the Northwestern Pre-APA Epistemology Conference and the 2017 Bled Philosophy Conference for comments on this chapter. Special thanks for the thoughtful and detailed feedback on earlier drafts given me by Kathryn Pogin and Heather Battaly.

REFEREN CE S Annas, J. (1995a) The Morality of Happiness, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Annas, J. (1995b) “Virtue as a Skill,” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 3(2): 227–243. Annas, J. (2003) “The Structure of Virtue,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Annas, J. (2011) Intelligent Virtue, Oxford: Oxford University Press Aristotle. (1984) The Complete Works of Aristotle, vol. 2, Jonathan Barnes (ed.), Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Baehr, J. (2006) “Character, Reliability, and Virtue Epistemology,” Philosophical Quarterly 56(223): 193–212.


Sarah Wright

Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Battaly, H. (2015) Virtue, Malden, MA: Polity Press. Bloomfield, P. (2000) “Virtue Epistemology and the Epistemology of Virtue,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60(1): 23–43. Broadie, S. (1991) Ethics with Aristotle, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Brogaard, B. (2014) “Towards a Eudaimonistic Virtue Epistemology,” in A. Fairweather (ed.) Virtue Epistemology Naturalized, Dordrecht: Springer. Code, L. (1987) Epistemic Responsibility, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. DePaul, M.R. (2001) “Value Monism in Epistemology,” in M. Steup (ed.) Knowledge, Truth, and Duty, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dreyfus, H. and S. Dreyfus. (1991) “Towards a Phenomenology of Ethical Expertise,” Human Studies 14: 229–250. Dreyfus, H. and S. Dreyfus. (2004) “The Ethical Implications of the Five-Stage Skill Acquisition Model,” Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 24(3): 251–264. Fridland, E. (2014) “They’ve Lost Control: Reflections on Skill,” Synthese 191(12): 2729–2750. Greco, J. (2000) Putting Skeptics in Their Place: The Nature of Skeptical Arguments and Their Role in Philosophical Inquiry, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Greco, J. (2009) “Knowledge and Success from Ability,” Philosophical Studies 142(1): 17–26. Greco, J. (2010) Achieving Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Inwood, B. (1986) “Goal and Target in Stoicism,” Journal of Philosophy 83: 547–556. Kvanvig, J.L. (2003) The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lackey, J. (2007) “Why We Don’t Deserve Credit for Everything We Know,” Synthese 158(3): 345–361. Lackey, J. (2009) “Knowledge and Credit,” Philosophical Studies 142(1): 27–42. Montmarquet, J. (1993) Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Riggs, W. (2002) “Reliability and the Value of Knowledge,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64(1): 79–96. Riggs, W. (2003) “Understanding ‘Virtue’ and the Virtue of Understanding,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Riggs, W. (2010) “Open-Mindedness,” Metaphilosophy 41(1-2): 172–188. Roberts, R.C. and W.J. Wood. (2007) Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (1980) “The Raft and the Pyramid: Coherence Versus Foundations in the Theory of Knowledge,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5(1): 3–26. Sosa, E. (1991) Knowledge in Perspective, New York: Cambridge University Press. Sosa, E. (2007) A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Volume I, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2009) Reflective Knowledge: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Volume II, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2011) Knowing Full Well, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Stanley, J. (2011). Know How, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Stichter, M. (2013) “Virtues as Skills in Virtue Epistemology,” Journal of Philosophical Research 38: 333–348. Whitcomb, D., H. Battaly, J. Baehr, and D. Howard-Snyder. (2015) “Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, doi: 10.1111/phpr.12228. Wright, S. (2009) “The Proper Structure of the Intellectual Virtues,” Southern Journal of Philosophy 47(1): 91–112. Wright, S. (2014) “The Norms of Assertion and the Aims of Belief,” in C. Littlejohn and J. Turri (eds.) Epistemic Norms: New Essays on Action, Belief, and Assertion, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zagzebski, L. (1999) “What Is Knowledge?” in J. Greco and E. Sosa (eds.) The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology, Malden, MA: Blackwell. Zagzebski, L. (2000) “From Reliabilism to Virtue Epistemology,” in G. Axtell (ed.) Knowledge, Belief, and Character, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

6 What Makes the Epistemic Virtues Valuable? Anne Baril

The personal qualities that have been called epistemic virtues are a motley crew, including character traits like open-mindedness and curiosity, cognitive faculties like intelligence and memory, and intellectual abilities, such as the ability to solve complex mathematical problems. We value such qualities, in ourselves and others. But why? Is it because of the role they play in securing some epistemic good for their possessor, such as knowledge, wisdom, or understanding? Or—since we seem to value such qualities even when they do not actually secure some epistemic good for their possessor—is it merely in virtue of the fact that they tend to secure such goods, or even merely that they aim at such goods? Is it because such qualities are instrumental to, or perhaps even partly constitutive of, living a happy or flourishing life? Or are they perhaps valuable for their own sakes, either simply in virtue of what they are, or because they are part of being a good, or excellent, or admirable person? In this chapter, I will lay the groundwork for a philosophically rigorous discussion of this question. I will begin by giving an overview of some of the standard philosophical usages of ‘epistemic virtue’, and drawing some distinctions in value that provide the necessary conceptual vocabulary for adequate reflection on the question. Only after we have a sense of what is variously meant by ‘epistemic virtue’, and the ways in which such personal qualities may potentially be valuable, will we be in a position to directly address the question “what makes the epistemic virtues valuable?”. In the final section of this chapter, I will review a few of the most interesting and plausible answers to this question, but my main aim here is to provide the resources the reader needs in order to effectively consider, for him- or herself, the question “what—if anything—makes the epistemic virtues valuable?” 6. 1 THE EPI STE MIC VIRT U E S

A survey of the philosophical literature discussing epistemic virtues shows that there are a number of ways in which the term ‘epistemic virtue’ is used. This does not necessarily indicate a substantive disagreement among philosophers, only that there are many kinds of personal qualities discussed by philosophers for which ‘epistemic virtue’ is a convenient label. 69


Anne Baril

On the account of epistemic virtue that forms part of Ernest Sosa’s analysis of knowledge, for example, an epistemic virtue is “a competence in virtue of which one would mostly attain the truth and avoid error in a certain field of propositions F, when in certain conditions C” (Sosa 2000: 25). “Competence” is used in the ordinary sense—it is an ability to do something successfully, and the thing it is an ability to successfully do is get truth and avoid error. Thus, competences are powers, abilities, or capacities to reliably get the truth and avoid error. Competences are realized, paradigmatically, by faculties, such as memory and perception. To illustrate: it is in virtue of having the faculty of vision that I have the competence to reliably get the truth and avoid error about the scene before my eyes. When a faculty reliably gets at the truth and avoids error in a certain ‘field’ of propositions (e.g., propositions about the shape and color of objects of a certain size) and under certain conditions (e.g., in Earth’s atmosphere, in normal daylight, in close proximity to the objects), it is an epistemic virtue (relative to that field and those conditions). Others place the motivation toward, or love of, epistemic goods at the heart of epistemic virtue. According to Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood, for example, what characterizes the epistemically virtuous person is that she properly values, cherishes, seeks, and appreciates a “richly intertwined bundle” of high-grade “understanding, acquaintance, and propositional knowledge” (Roberts and Wood 2007: 153). The personal qualities that they call epistemic virtues are not faculties, but excellences of character: complex, acquired traits comprising intellectual, motivational, deliberative, and emotional elements. These are just two examples of ways that virtue epistemologists use the term ‘epistemic virtue’. Reflection on these and other examples suggests that, in philosophical discussions, the term ‘epistemic virtue’ refers to a personal quality that bears some relation or relations to some epistemic good or goods, where philosophers differ according to how they specify, first, the relevant type of personal quality, second, the relevant epistemic good or goods, and, third, the relevant relation between them. I will briefly discuss each of these in turn. Concerning the type of personal quality that is potentially an epistemic virtue: the epistemic virtues are, by any account, properties of persons. This focus on persons, as opposed to, for example, individual beliefs or states of knowledge, is part of what is distinctive of virtue epistemology. One might allow that any intrinsic property of a person (or, more permissively, any property of a person whatsoever—see Howell 2016) can potentially qualify as an epistemic virtue. Alternatively, one might restrict the type of personal quality that is potentially an epistemic virtue to faculties, such as eyesight, or to character traits, such as open-mindedness. Concerning the ‘highest epistemic good’—the epistemic summum bonum—relation to which makes the personal quality an epistemic virtue: one may understand the virtues as the personal qualities that bear some relevant relation to truth and avoidance of falsehood (e.g., Sosa 1991), to knowledge (e.g., Zagzebski 1996), to accuracy where this is a broader notion than maximal truth and minimal falsity, including grasping the relevant dependence relations (Ahlstrom-Vij and Grimm 2013), or to some more complex system of epistemic goods, including understanding (Riggs 2003; Roberts and Wood 2007). One may even lace apparently non-epistemic goods into this complex, as Roberts and Wood seem to do when they say that the epistemically virtuous person will be sensitive, in her discrimination among truths, to considerations of “human well-being and the importance of the objects of knowledge” (Roberts and Wood 2007: 172–173). Alternatively, one may locate the telos of intellectual inquiry in the person herself. Jason Baehr, for example, defines the intellectual virtues as character traits that contribute to their possessor’s personal intellectual worth (Baehr 2011: 91). Usually it is in in virtue of bearing some relevant relation to a person’s own knowledge (or understanding, personal intellectual worth, etc.) that some quality of hers is counted among

What Makes the Epistemic Virtues Valuable?


the epistemic virtues. For example, one might propose that the virtues are the traits that reliably secure knowledge for their possessor. Alternatively, the personal qualities counted among the epistemic virtues may be those that bear some relevant relation to the knowledge (or understanding) of some third party or wider group of people. For example, one might propose that the epistemic virtues are the personal qualities that tend to produce knowledge generally, or in the virtuous person’s community (Kawall 2002). Finally, concerning the relevant relation between the personal quality and the epistemic good: one may understand the virtues as the personal qualities that are reliably connected to the relevant epistemic good—those that tend to produce, generate, secure, cause, or promote the relevant epistemic good (Sosa 1991; Greco 2003; Goldman 2002: 52). One may understand the virtues as the personal qualities in virtue of which one is properly emotionally, motivationally, attitudinally disposed toward the relevant epistemic good, or as the personal qualities that someone who desired the relevant epistemic good would wish to have (Baehr 2011; Montmarquet 1993; Roberts and Wood 2007). Or, more stringently, one might hold that the virtues are the personal qualities that meet both a ‘reliable connection’ and a ‘proper attitudinal’ condition—for example, that they are the personal qualities in virtue of which a person is both properly motivated toward and reliably achieves the relevant epistemic good (Zagzebski 1996). To sum up: while the term ‘epistemic virtue’ is widely used in philosophical discussions to refer to a personal quality that bears some relation or relations to some epistemic good or goods, philosophers fill in the details of this schematic definition in different ways. In discussions of the value of the epistemic virtues, it is important to keep these differences in usage in mind, not in order to identify which usage is correct—philosophers can use the term ‘epistemic virtue’ as a convenient identifying label for whatever personal qualities they wish to talk about—but in order to have sensible, fruitful discussions about them, free from equivocation. 6. 2 SO M E DI STI NCT ION S IN VA LU E

As there are different things one might mean by ‘epistemic virtue’, so too are there different things one might mean by ‘valuable’. 6.2.1 Intrinsic and Final Value

One important distinction to draw, in any discussion of what is valuable, is the distinction between final and non-final value. An item can be valuable for its own sake (‘finally valuable’), or valuable for the sake of something else. Items that are valuable for the sake of something else may be instrumentally valuable: valuable as instrumental means to something else of value. For example, a college degree can be valuable as an instrumental means to getting a good job. Or items may be constitutively valuable: valuable in virtue of being constitutive of something valuable. For example, a pitched sound may not be valuable considered in isolation, but it may be valuable as part of a beautiful song, in virtue of being a constituent of the song. Alternatively, an item can be valuable in virtue of having valuable constituents. For example, a behavioral disposition to help others may be valuable in virtue of including a benevolent motive. These categories—final value, instrumental value, and constitutive value—are not mutually exclusive. The same item can, for example, be both finally valuable and instrumentally valuable. A fine painting, for example, may be valuable both for its own sake, and for the pleasure it gives those who behold it. Another important distinction is that between intrinsic and extrinsic value. Often philosophers use the term ‘intrinsic value’ for what I have called ‘final value’. But, following Christine Korsgaard (1983), we may find it useful to reserve the term ‘intrinsic value’ to help


Anne Baril

us distinguish between the value an item has in virtue of its intrinsic properties—call this ‘intrinsic value’—and the value an item has in virtue of its extrinsic properties, notably its relational properties—call this ‘extrinsic value’. Final value and intrinsic value may seem similar, but they are importantly different. Both may fairly be attributed to items that are ‘valuable in themselves’, in some sense, but drawing a distinction between them makes it possible to recognize further categories of value that we may think are important. One example of such a category is the category of items that are finally, extrinsically valuable: items that are valuable for their own sakes in virtue of their extrinsic properties, such as, ostensibly, the pen Abraham Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation (Kagan 1998).1 These distinctions are important to draw in order to sensibly inquire into the value of the epistemic virtues (as well as the value of knowledge). Are the epistemic virtues—their possession, their exercise, or, perhaps, lives lived in accordance with them—instrumentally valuable, e.g., as a means to getting to the truth (which, in turn, may be finally valuable, or itself merely valuable as a means to some further end, e.g. the successful navigation of one’s environment)? Are they finally valuable? If so, are they finally valuable considered in themselves, or in virtue of being partly constitutive of a finally valuable whole—an admirable life, for example? Or are they perhaps valuable in virtue of their constituents, such as a love of truth? In the absence of such qualifications, the question “are the epistemic virtues valuable?” is vague. 6.2.2 Goodness Simpliciter and Goodness in a Way

I have used paintings, songs, and pens as examples of items that are good—not necessarily good for anyone, or good as the kinds of things they are (e.g., good as a pen, though lousy as a doorstop), but simply good.2 In so doing, I have implicitly assumed that items can be simply good—good simpliciter, as it is sometimes called. Not everyone would grant this assumption. On the one hand, G.E. Moore (1994/1903) and W.D. Ross (1930) hold that some things— beauty or knowledge, for example—are good—not just good for the people experiencing them, or in virtue of making their possessors good persons or good reasoners—but simply good. Peter Geach, on the other hand, denies this, arguing that “there is no such thing as being just good or bad, there is only being a good or bad so-and-so” (Geach 1956: 34). According to Geach, items, whether knives, cars, wolves, or people, may only be sensibly evaluated as ‘things of their kind’: as good or bad knives, good or bad cars, good or bad wolves, and good or bad people. Importantly for Geach, qualities can make one good or bad as a person or as a reasoner, even though qualities are not good simpliciter.3 In Geach’s terminology, “good” is always an attributive adjective, never a predicative adjective (see Ridge 2013 and Hazlett 2014). Alternatively, something can be good for a person: good vis-à-vis well-being, where “the concept of well-being is a normative or evaluative concept that concerns what benefits a person, is in her interest, is good for her, or makes her life go well for her” (Haybron 2008: 29). There are, then, contrasting ‘modes’ of goodness: goodness simpliciter, goodness as a person—aretaic value, as we may call it, after the Greek ‘arete’—and goodness for a person— prudential value, as we may call it. It is an open question whether these modes of goodness are coherent, and, if so, how they relate to one another: whether, for example, prudential goodness is analyzable in terms of goodness simpliciter (Moore 1994: 150), or whether it is conceptually linked to aretaic value (Foot 2001: chapter 6). Here, I will just note that these modes of goodness are different, and appear, at least at first glance, to be conceptually distinct. It seems conceivable, for example, that while it would be good for me if a multi-millionaire gave me all her money, it wouldn’t necessarily be good simpliciter. Moreover, things that are

What Makes the Epistemic Virtues Valuable?


good ‘things of their type’, such as kudzu or some other invasive species (or, for that matter, thieves or weapons), are not necessarily good. We can see how drawing these distinctions can help us fill out claims about the value of the epistemic virtues. One possible proposal is that epistemic virtues are valuable simpliciter. Another is that the epistemic virtues participate in goodness in (what Geach calls) the attributive sense: that they are part of being a good person, or a good reasoner; that they help make us good as people or as reasoners—that they are (we may say) aretaically valuable. And yet another possible proposal is that the epistemic virtues are prudentially valuable: that they are good for someone, whether the possessor of the virtues herself, or some other person or persons. These distinctions cut across the previous distinctions drawn, between final, instrumental, and constitutive value, and between intrinsic and extrinsic value. In conjunction, they facilitate a more fine-grained picture of the conceptual landscape. For example: items may be finally or instrumentally (etc.) valuable simpliciter, or they may be finally or instrumentally (etc.) valuable vis-à-vis aretaic or prudential value. If this isn’t complicated enough, claims about goodness are often relativized, either implicitly or explicitly, to some particular point of view. If I say that a painting is good, and you object that it is composed of materials that are harmful to the environment, I could sensibly reply that I meant it was good from the aesthetic point of view. If I say that someone is a good person and you object that she is a terrible cook, I could sensibly reply that I meant she was good from the moral point of view. To further complicate things, the norms and standards of point of view, such as the moral point of view, might be regarded as overriding or authoritative, such that if some action or person is morally good, then they are good, full stop (Portmore 2011: ch. 2; Stroud 1998). How this idea of ‘goodness from some point of view’ relates to attributive goodness is a complicated matter that deserves more discussion than I can give it here. Is moral goodness best conceptualized as goodness from some point of view—the moral point of view—or is moral goodness instead a sub-category of the aretaic? Suffice it to say that, in principle, these concepts may be combined to create complex categories of goodness, such as that of being a good person from the moral point of view, and some trait being finally or instrumentally (etc.) valuable, vis-à-vis goodness as a person, from the moral point of view. There is one point of view—the epistemic point of view—that is especially pertinent to a discussion of the value of the epistemic virtues, and tricky enough to merit its own section. 6.2.3 Goodness From the Epistemic Point of View

Truth, knowledge, and indeed the epistemic virtues are sometimes said to be valuable, not simpliciter, but “epistemically good”, or good “from the epistemic point of view” (Pritchard 2014: 113; Foley 1987: 125). Here, too, we can assume that being good from the epistemic point of view cross-cuts the distinctions between final, constitutive, and instrumental value, and between goodness simpliciter, goodness as, and goodness for. Yet although the notion of the epistemic point of view is frequently employed, it is not clear how exactly we should make sense of this idea (Grimm 2009, 2015). I propose that the idea of goodness from the epistemic point of view is best understood as goodness relativized to some normative domain: some domain comprising norms (e.g., requirements, permissions), evaluations (e.g., of items as good or bad, fitting or unfitting), and the like.4 The idea of a normative domain may be illustrated with the examples of archery and chess. When one evaluates a shot by an archer, or a move in a game of chess, as good, one may mean only that it is good relative to the standards of archery or chess. In this way, one can sensibly evaluate a shot as a good shot, or a chess move as a good move, even if one


Anne Baril

does not think it is genuinely good, to any degree (if, for example, one does not think that there is anything good about participating in archery or playing chess). We may understand a claim that an item is good from the epistemic point of view likewise: as a claim relative to a normative domain, with its own standards, ends, and values, relative to which items may be evaluated as good or bad, fitting or unfitting, right or wrong. Evaluations of items as good from the epistemic point of view may be understood as evaluations of items as good relative to the standards that comprise some normative domain—call it the ‘epistemic’ domain—where this doesn’t imply that they are genuinely good, to any degree (Pritchard 2014: 113). One important difference between the normative domains of chess and archery, on the one hand, and the epistemic domain, on the other, is that the former are more formally established, their standards more clearly promulgated, such that resolving disagreements about whether a shot was a good shot, or a move was a good move, is a relatively straightforward matter. By contrast, it is far less clear how to go about resolving disagreements about whether some item is epistemically good. The specific boundaries of the epistemic domain are not established by convention in the way that the boundaries of the domains of archery or chess are. Nor is it plausible—as is sometimes suggested by debates about the scope of epistemic value—to think that there is some way of distinguishing the epistemic from the non-epistemic that ‘carves nature at its joints’, and thus some natural basis for claims that one domain or another is the ‘truly’ epistemic domain. How, then, do we determine what the standards and values comprising the epistemic domain are? I submit that, there being no established convention or natural basis for defining the epistemic domain one way rather than another, philosophers who engage in discussions about the epistemic goodness of items should forthrightly stipulate the good relative to which they are evaluating items as epistemically good: whether it is “maximizing truth and minimizing falsity in a large body of beliefs” (Alston 1989: 83), accuracy (Ahlstrom-Vij and Grimm 2013), truths on “topics of interest” (Goldman 2002: 61), “matters that are of interest or importance to us” (Alston 2005: 32), or something else. As long as each philosopher forthrightly stipulates the good or goods, the norm or norms, relative to which she is evaluating items as epistemically good, she may reasonably understand the epistemic point of view in any way that suits her philosophical purposes.5 That being said, there may be good reasons, apart from theoretical ones, for understanding the epistemic point of view in one way rather than another. I alluded to one such reason above: one might believe that the items evaluated as good relative to the epistemic domain are, as a matter of contingent fact, genuinely good. I noted above that an item’s being good relative to any old normative domain does not imply that it is genuinely good, but one might hold, as a substantive thesis, that some particular normative domain evaluates items as good that are genuinely good. By way of analogy: one might think that to evaluate an item as morally good is to say that there is something good about it—that it is genuinely good, at least pro tanto (to some degree). If so, then features that are, from the point of view of morality, good-making (e.g., demonstrating respect for rational beings, or promoting the pleasure of sentient beings) would be genuinely pro tanto good-making. If so, then in developing the moral point of view we will be making an important philosophical contribution. So too, mutatis mutandis, for the epistemic domain. One might think that the features that are evaluated as good-making from the epistemic point of view—truth or justification of beliefs, or open-mindedness of persons, for example—are genuinely pro tanto good-making: the fact that a belief is true or justified, or the fact that a person is open-minded, is genuinely pro tanto good. If so, then developing the epistemic point of view will, likewise, make an

What Makes the Epistemic Virtues Valuable?


important contribution, and this in turn would give us some reason to understand the epistemic domain in this way. For example: if there is nothing pro tanto valuable about true belief as such, while there is something pro tanto valuable about understanding, then philosophical investigations that conceptualize the epistemic domain as positively evaluating items that relate properly to understanding, rather than truth, will be investigating a genuine area of value—a definite point in favor of such investigations, and, thus, of conceptualizing the epistemic domain in that way. Even if we aren’t persuaded that the epistemic domain identifies norms and values that are genuinely important, there still might be reasons to understand the epistemic domain in one way rather than another. Perhaps, on some understanding of the epistemic point of view, it is a point of view that it is helpful to adopt for some specific purpose: perhaps it is a useful point of view for generating guidelines for good scientific practice, or for practical agents to occupy in the course of their reasoning or reflection about everyday matters—about what to do in the day-to-day. This last, to my mind, is an especially important consideration: if some philosophical investigation can actually help us live better, richer lives, then we have quite a weighty reason for engaging in it. To sum up: the proposal that the epistemic virtues are valuable may be merely the proposal that they are valuable ‘from the epistemic point of view’. To say that some item is valuable from the epistemic point of view is to say that it is valuable relative to some normative domain—call it the ‘epistemic’ domain. The standard relative to which items are evaluated, from the epistemic point of view, might be truth and avoidance of falsehood, accuracy, or something else; it may be weighted according to interest or importance, or not. There is arguably no uniquely correct way to delineate the epistemic domain; we may find it helpful to delineate it in different ways in the context of different projects. The important thing is for each philosopher to be clear about what she takes the standard defining the epistemic point of view to be, so that we can have a sensible discussion about whether, why, and in what way some item is valuable. 6 .3 WHAT M AKES THE EPI ST E MIC VIRT U E S VA LU A BLE ?

With these distinctions in mind, we are well positioned to consider the value of the epistemic virtues. Are the epistemic virtues valuable, in any of the ways we have just reviewed? We may see reason for skepticism. Whatever personal qualities we identify as epistemic virtues, it is not obvious that they are valuable in themselves, independent of their relation to some further good, such as truth or knowledge; after all, in the absence of such a relation, what about them would be valuable? If, then, they are valuable in virtue of their relation to other goods, which goods? And which relation? Even restricting ourselves to the epistemic point of view, it is not a given that the epistemic virtues are valuable. Unless it is the epistemic virtues themselves (their possession, cultivation, etc.), rather than truth, knowledge, or understanding, that is the summum bonum of the epistemic domain, it must be explained how the epistemic virtues inherit their value from this highest epistemic good. The burden of proof, then, is on those who would give an affirmative answer to the question “are the epistemic virtues valuable?”. One promising strategy would be to first, establish a relation between the virtues and something else, something we can agree is valuable, and, second, establish that the epistemic virtues inherit value via this relation. Here, I will explore two promising sources of the value of the epistemic virtues: epistemic goods, and a life well lived.


Anne Baril

6.3.1 Epistemic Goods

Recall the definition of epistemic virtue from above. A personal quality is an epistemic virtue insofar as it bears some relation to some epistemic, or partly epistemic, good: knowledge, or significant knowledge; understanding, or understanding of matters of importance, for example. It is natural to think that it is precisely because they bear this relation that the epistemic virtues are valuable. One way that this could be is if the relevant epistemic good is finally valuable, and the personal qualities that bear the relevant relation to this good inherit that value. A number of philosophers, both ethicists and epistemologists, have proposed that some epistemic good or other is finally valuable, either under that description (Alston 2005: 31) or some other description: Sosa (2003) and Greco (2010) believe, roughly, that achievements are finally valuable, and that knowledge properly understood is a kind of achievement. We may then argue that the epistemic virtues are valuable by drawing a connection between them and some epistemic good that is finally valuable. If, for example, like Sosa and Greco, we believe knowledge is finally valuable, and we understand the virtues as the personal qualities that reliably secure knowledge for their possessor, we might explain the value of such traits as follows: Knowledge 1. Knowledge is finally valuable. 2. The epistemic virtues reliably secure knowledge. 3. If a personal quality reliably secures something finally valuable then it is valuable; therefore 4. The epistemic virtues are valuable. Or if, like Roberts and Wood, we understand epistemic virtue as characterized by a certain kind of orientation of the will toward a certain “richly intertwined bundle” of highgrade “understanding, acquaintance, and propositional knowledge” (Roberts and Wood 2007: 153), we might explain the value of such traits as follows: Bundle 1. A certain richly intertwined bundle of high-grade understanding, acquaintance, and propositional knowledge is finally valuable. 2. Epistemic virtue is characterized by an orientation of the will toward this bundle. 3. Having one’s will oriented, in this way, toward something finally valuable is valuable; therefore 4. The epistemic virtues are valuable. Such explanations of the value of the epistemic virtues are only as plausible as each of their steps. Consider step 1 of Knowledge. At first glance, the claim that knowledge is finally valuable is quite plausible. Yet on further reflection, there seem to be examples of trivial or evil knowledge that lacks even pro tanto value (Grimm 2008: 726; Alston 2005: 32; Roberts and Wood 2007: 156). So we may find reason to be skeptical that knowledge per se is valuable, and thus that a personal quality is valuable merely in virtue of reliably securing knowledge for its possessor. Or consider step 3 of Bundle, which holds that having one’s will properly oriented toward an item of final value is, in turn, valuable. A charitable critique of this claim would of course require the claim to first be clarified (what is meant by ‘will’? what is it for a will to be ‘properly oriented’?). But it is safe to assume that it will not have a success component: that a person’s will may be oriented toward a good without the person ever in fact achieving the good. And in the absence of this element, one might wonder whether a mere

What Makes the Epistemic Virtues Valuable?


orientation of the will—however we cash this out—can inherit value from its object, any more than wishing on a star would. Even if we grant that being oriented toward something valuable—or, in the case of Knowledge, reliably securing something valuable—makes a quality valuable in turn, we must still ask ourselves: is it the kind of value that we, intuitively, attribute to the epistemic virtues? The kind of value a trait would inherit in virtue of reliably securing something valuable is, presumably, instrumental value. Knowledge, then, explains only the instrumental value of the epistemic virtues.6 If we think that epistemic virtues are more than merely instrumentally valuable, we must seek a different explanation. The explanation represented by Knowledge makes knowledge the ultimate source of the value. Likewise, mutatis mutandis, for Bundle—for simplicity, I’ll focus on Knowledge in what follows, assuming what I say may be easily extended to Bundle and other similarly formulated explanations. But knowledge may, in turn, inherit its value from some further good, either an epistemic good (if, for example, knowledge is valuable for the role it plays in understanding), or a non-epistemic good (if, for example, knowledge is valuable as instrumental to our satisfying our desires). Consider Knowledge II: Knowledge II 1. Some good G is finally valuable. 2. Knowledge is an (instrumental or constitutive) means to realizing G;7 therefore 3. Knowledge is valuable. 4. The epistemic virtues reliably secure knowledge. 5. If a personal quality reliably secures something that, in turn, is a means to realizing something finally valuable, then that personal quality is valuable; therefore 6. The epistemic virtues are valuable. Perhaps the value of knowledge—an individual person’s knowledge, or ‘our’ knowledge—is ultimately rooted in its being a means to some specific worthy goal: building a safe bridge, for example or landing a person on the moon. Perhaps it is valuable as a means to the end of living a good life; living a good life oneself, or perhaps helping others live good lives. The good life is a plausible candidate for ‘G’. Those who believe that knowledge is valuable often explain that value by way of relation to the good life (where by ‘good’ one may mean aretaically good, prudentially good, or good in some other sense). Knowledge— or at least some knowledge—may be instrumental to the good life. That is, it may be valuable as an instrument to realizing our practical aims (Craig 1990; Kornblith 1993; Zagzebski 2004). Knowledge may even be partly constitutive of the good life: of the good life considered in itself, apart from its effects. This view has found adherents among both ethicists and epistemologists, as illustrated in these passages from James Griffin, Ram Neta, and John Finnis: Simply knowing about oneself and one’s world is part of a good life. We value, not as an instrument but for itself, being in touch with reality, being free from muddle, ignorance, and mistake. (Griffin 1986: 67) Knowledge and other positive epistemic statuses are worthy of pursuit by inquisitive creatures not (or not just) because they are instrumentally valuable . . . What makes them worthy of pursuit for inquisitive creatures like ourselves is that, like health, friendship, and love, their attainment is partly constitutive of our well-being. (Neta 2008: 352)


Anne Baril

It is obvious that a man who is well informed, etc., simply is better-off (other things being equal) than a man who is muddled, deluded, and ignorant, that the state of the one is better than the state of the other, not just in this particular case or that, but in all cases, as such, universally, and whether I like it or not. (Finnis 1980: 72) 6.3.2 Living Well

So far, we have considered explanations of the value of the epistemic virtues that depend on their relation to some epistemic good. But another possibility is that the value of the epistemic virtues can be explained independently of this relation. It could be, for example, that the epistemic virtues are instrumental to living a good life—not, or not only, because they reliably secure knowledge for their possessor, and this knowledge in turn is instrumental to, or part of, a good life, but because their exercise itself is instrumental to living well. Imagine, for example, that open-mindedness, curiosity, intellectual humility, and the like are qualities that enrich their possessor’s life, insofar as they facilitate enjoyment of learning, appreciation of a good puzzle or a good mystery, wonder at the natural world, and so on. Or these personal qualities may be valuable for their own sakes, as part of the good life. Imagine, for example, that aesthetic engagement is a constitutive contributor to well-being (Finnis 1980; Murphy 2001), and that, in engaging aesthetically with an art object, one necessarily exercises the epistemic virtues: charity in interpreting it, honesty in assessing it, intellectual autonomy in making up one’s own mind about it, and so on. If the exercise of the epistemic virtues is not merely instrumental to, but partly constitutive of, the aesthetic experience, and the aesthetic experience, in turn, is partly constitutive of the good life, then the exercise of the epistemic virtues is constitutive of the good life.8 The preceding is a way in which these personal qualities may be partly constitutive of the prudentially good life. They might, alternatively, be partly constitutive of the morally good life. Perhaps being open-minded, intellectually humble, and so on is part of what makes one a morally good person, not only indirectly, by helping people develop the traditional moral virtues, such as honesty and courage, but directly: perhaps open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and so on as such are partly constitutive of moral goodness. These are just a few of the possible explanations of the value of the epistemic virtues, many of which are compatible with one another. It may be, for example, both that the virtues inherit value from bearing a certain relation to knowledge, and that they are also valuable for their own sake, as part of a good life. 6. 4 C O NCLU S ION

We have seen a variety of different possible interpretations of the claim ‘the epistemic virtues are valuable’. It is a deeply engrained part of contemporary philosophical practice to subject positive proposals like this to scrutiny, and to identify counter-examples whenever possible. Such counter-examples can be important for refining our views, but they shouldn’t be treated as necessarily authoritative. Sometimes we have reason to have more confidence in a view than in the aptness of some ostensible counterexample. And we have reason for a high degree of confidence that the epistemic virtues are valuable in some sense. We desire to know. We feel stupid when we don’t. We desire the personal qualities that position us to secure knowledge and other epistemic goods, and we admire these qualities in others,

What Makes the Epistemic Virtues Valuable?


and hope our children will have them. It may not be clear, from our current vantage point, whether the goodness of the epistemic virtues is intrinsic or extrinsic, final, constitutive, or instrumental, aretaic, prudential, or goodness simpliciter, or even whether the epistemic virtues are in some sense morally good. But, in light of the value we place on such qualities, we would do well to inquire further into how, and why, the epistemic virtues are valuable.9 (Related Chapters: 7, 8, 10, 26, 41.) NOTE S 1 A possible example of an item that is finally extrinsically valuable, from the epistemic point of view, are true beliefs. Such beliefs are, arguably, valuable for their own sakes, not in virtue of their intrinsic properties, but their extrinsic, relational properties—in virtue of their relation to the world. 2 I will occasionally talk about goodness rather than value; what I say of goodness should be understood as extended, mutatis mutandis, to other value concepts, such as badness. 3 Even if one isn’t skeptical about goodness simpliciter, one may still intend claims about epistemic goodness in the aretaic sense. It would make sense to say “When I said her open-mindedness was good, I didn’t mean good simpliciter—I meant it was part of what made her good as a person or as a reasoner.” 4 Sosa (2007: ch. 4), on “critical domains.” 5 I am assuming, in this discussion, that the structure of the epistemic domain is teleological: rightness or wrongness, goodness or badness, is understood as deriving from some fundamental value or values. In principle, the structure of the epistemic domain could be deontological: a structure in which norms—permissions, requirements—are the fundamental elements, and values—goodness, badness—are derivative. 6 Assuming that knowledge and epistemic virtue are wholly distinct. Compare Zagzebski (1996). 7 Knowledge might inherit its value from G directly—if, for example, it is part of well-being—or indirectly—if, for example, it is part of understanding, which is, in turn, part of well-being. 8 Baril (2016). Assuming that the part of the good that epistemic virtue constitutively contributes to is the same part that constitutively contributes to well-being. 9 I am grateful to all those who have given me helpful feedback on this chapter, especially to Heather Battaly, Allan Hazlett, Richard Kim, and Micah Lott.

REFERE N C E S Ahlstrom-Vij, K. and S. Grimm. (2013) “Getting it Right,” Philosophical Studies 166(2): 329–347. Alston, W. (1989) Epistemic Justification: Essays in the Theory of Knowledge, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Alston, W. (2005) Beyond ‘Justification’: Dimensions of Epistemic Evaluation, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Baril, A. (2016) “The Role of Epistemic Virtue in the Realization of Basic Goods,” Episteme 13(4): 379–395. Craig, E. (1990) Knowledge and the State of Nature: An Essay in Conceptual Synthesis, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Finnis, J. (1980) Natural Law and Natural Rights, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Foley, R. (1987) The Theory of Epistemic Rationality, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Foot, P. (2001) Natural Goodness, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Geach, P. (1956) “Good and Evil,” Analysis 17(2): 33–42. Goldman, A. (2002) “The Unity of the Epistemic Virtues,” in A. Goldman (ed.) Pathways to Knowledge, New York: Oxford University Press. Greco, J. (2003) “Knowledge as Credit for True Belief,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 111–134. Greco, J. (2010) Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Griffin, J. (1986) Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement and Importance, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Grimm, S. (2008) “Epistemic Goals and Epistemic Values,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research LXXVII(3): 725–744.


Anne Baril

Grimm, S. (2009) “Epistemic Normativity,” in A. Haddock, A. Millar, and D. Pritchard (eds.) Epistemic Value, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 243–264. Grimm, S. (2015) “Knowledge, Practical Interests and Rising Tides,” in D.K. Henderson and J. Greco (eds.) Epistemic Evaluation: Purposeful Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 117–137. Haybron, D. (2008) The Pursuit of Unhappiness: The Elusive Psychology of Well-Being, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hazlett, A. (2014) “Expressivism and Convention-Relativism about Epistemic Discourse,” in A. Fairweather and O. Flanagan (eds.) Naturalizing Epistemic Virtue, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 223–246. Howell, R. (2016) “Extended Virtues and the Boundaries of Persons,” Journal of the American Philosophical Association 2(1): 146–163. Kagan, S. (1998) “Rethinking Intrinsic Value,” Journal of Ethics 2: 277–297. Kawall, J. (2002) “Other-Regarding Epistemic Virtues,” Ratio 15(3): 257–275. Kornblith, H. (1993) “Epistemic Normativity,” Synthese 94(3): 357–376. Korsgaard, C. (1983) “Two Distinctions in Goodness,” The Philosophical Review XCII(2): 169–195. Lewis, D. (1986) On the Plurality of Worlds, Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Montmarquet, J. (1993) Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Moore, G.E. (1994/1903) Principia Ethica, ed. T. Baldwin, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Murphy, M. (2001) Natural Law and Practical Rationality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Neta, R. (2008) “How to Naturalize Epistemology,” in V.F. Hendricks and D. Pritchard (eds.) New Waves in Epistemology, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 324–353. Portmore, D. (2011) Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pritchard, D. (2014) “Truth as the Fundamental Epistemic Good,” in J. Matheson and R. Vitz (eds.) The Ethics of Belief: Individual and Social, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 112–129. Ridge, M. (2013) “Getting Lost on the Road to Larissa,” Nous 47(1): 181–201. Riggs, W. (2003) “Understanding ‘Virtue’ and the Virtue of Understanding,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives From Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 203–227. Roberts, R. and W.J. Wood. (2007) Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Ross, W. (1930) The Right and the Good, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sider, T. (1996) “Intrinsic Properties,” Philosophical Studies 83(1): 1–27. Sosa, E. (1991) Knowledge in Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sosa, E. (2000) “Reliabilism and Intellectual Virtue,” in G. Axtell (ed.) Knowledge, Belief, and Character: Readings in Virtue Epistemology, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 19–32. Sosa, E. (2003) “The Place of Truth in Epistemology,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 157–179. Sosa, E. (2007) A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Stroud, S. (1998) “Moral Overridingness and Moral Theory,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79: 170–189. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zagzebski, L. (2004) “Epistemic Value and the Primacy of What We Care About,” Philosophical Papers 33(3): 353–377.

7 Virtue Epistemology and the Sources of Epistemic Value Robert Lockie


The claim that normative epistemology should be regarded as the ethics of belief may be seen as less contentious than it is often taken to be, provided we treat ‘ethics’ as a marker term holding place for the diversity in approaches to be found in normative ethics. Commonly, this phrase is taken to mark out a specifically deontic stance in epistemology—an adherence to deontic internalism.1 However, if one’s ethics is consequentialist we get a commitment to epistemic externalism; and if a virtue ethics we get a commitment to virtue epistemology. But what is this virtue ethics of belief? That is, what kind of value does it constitute? One problem in assessing the prospects for virtue theory in epistemology is that this position has tended to be all things to all people. Is the kind of value represented by virtue theory a species of [deontic] internalism; or a species of [consequentialist] externalism; or a ‘mixed’ position (combining elements of both of these); or a ‘third force’—something sui generis and original to virtue theory alone? All of these positions are represented in the literature, sometimes (not uncommonly, and apparently without embarrassment) with several of these stances on virtue epistemic value appearing to be employed in one and the same philosophical position—as, for example, where a proponent of a strongly deontic but nevertheless ‘mixed’ virtue responsibilism embraces the view that a virtue theory of this type offers us an original, uniquely virtue-based (‘aretaic’) source of epistemic value. I am of the opinion that, whatever other virtues virtue epistemology may possess, it does not offer us any new source of epistemic value; and that what follows from this should be a deflation of some of the more expansive claims made on behalf of virtue theory. I am of the opinion also that some of the vagueness and inclusive (cure-all) enthusiasm voiced by several generations of virtue theorists may be tempered by asking focused questions as to what kind of epistemic value is being offered, in any given case, by whichever virtue theory is in question.



Robert Lockie


Some virtue theorists are ‘virtue responsibilists’ and some are ‘virtue reliabilists’. The former—e.g., Zagzebski, Montmarquet, Code—emphasize a deontic internalist conception of epistemic value (as a source of epistemic value) and the latter—e.g., Sosa, Greco, Goldman—an externalist conception of epistemic value (as a source of epistemic value). This is especially easy to see in the case of virtue reliabilism, where an interpretation of this position as something like a ‘faculty reliabilism’ is usually explicit, and where our understanding of virtue reliabilism may be assimilated to our understanding of other prefixed reliabilisms of the past (say, ‘J-Rules’ or ‘E-Rules’ consequentialisms). These latter, notably Goldman (1986) following a well-worn model from ethical theory, offer us a first-order rules-based position whose higher-order justification is that following such rules as if these were inviolate will thereby lead to a greater maximization of the epistemic good—which consequentialist value remains the sole, genuine, axiological source. Though there is a divergence at the first-order level between, say, an act-utilitarianism and a rules-utilitarianism, there is no divergence at the level of value-source. We have a merely ‘virtual’ deontology: at the level of axiological source, there is no sui generis deontological value. Likewise with faculty reliabilism, we have, as it were, merely ‘virtual’ virtues: the source notion of epistemic value is maximization of actual (not expected) truth and/or minimization of falsity. There is no other axiological source than maximization of truth. Virtue reliabilism is an interesting first-order variant of generic epistemic consequentialism—distinct as the causal theory is from the counterfactual; or the J-rules theory is from process reliabilism. These are distinct theories all right, but they belong within the same axiological family; they compete at the first-order level to offer us an account of the same species or kind of epistemic value: actual, objective, truth attainment (or error avoidance). As species of epistemic consequentialism, they compete to offer an account of the Epistemic Good, and reduce or otherwise subordinate their account of the Epistemic Right to this. With virtue responsibilist approaches, we have the reverse: accounts that emphasize the agent’s diligent or remiss conduct with regard to the pursuit of truth. Was the agent a conscientious cognizer? Did the agent discharge her intellectual obligations dutifully?2 On the assumption that epistemic value is to be understood thus, in terms of intellectual obligations (responsibilities, oughts), and on the further assumption that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, one might think we should get the subjective, perspectival, access restrictions characteristic of epistemic deontology: we assess the agent for whether she has done all she can, relative to what she has access to—an epistemic access internalism. However, the addition of virtue reliabilist objective requirements (of truth conducivity) will make problematic any such access constraints. Still, responsibilist approaches as such offer us a deontological species of epistemic normativity. Such theories, though they may differ at the first-order level, belong within the same axiological family; they compete at the first-order level to offer us an account of the same species or kind of epistemic value: assessing the fallible agent’s expected, subjective, efforts after truth attainment; their diligence, their conscientiousness. As species of epistemic deontology, they compete to offer an account of the Epistemic Right, and do not reduce or otherwise subordinate their account of the Right to the Good. Thus far, there is nothing in these two theory families to justify any view of virtue epistemology (responsibilist or reliabilist) as offering us a distinct or novel species of epistemic value—a ‘third way’ distinct from internalism [deontology] or externalism [consequentialism]. These are just first-order different accounts within, respectively, externalist and [deontic] internalist epistemology. Perhaps some virtue theorists are happy with this (explicitly, some virtue reliabilists are—though this enthusiasm is less marked among virtue



responsibilists). If they are, a question naturally arises as to why virtue theory is seen as a particularly distinct, interesting, radical or new approach to issues of epistemic value. (A somewhat different way of phrasing this would be to ask why, for example, virtue responsibilist and virtue reliabilist theories should nevertheless each be seen as virtue theories—as having this [what?] in common.) One answer often volunteered here comes from noting that many (most) virtue-based accounts are nowadays ‘mixed’ accounts: requiring that substantial internalist and externalist conditions both be satisfied for the epistemic concept/goal state in question to have been achieved (this latter being commonly knowledge, sometimes rationality, sometimes ‘virtue’3 itself). An obvious problem with this answer is that a mixed account remains an account that derives its epistemic axiology from two more basic and underivative sources of epistemic value—still not a ‘third way’, still no Ur species of virtue normativity, of underivative virtue epistemic value. The source notion of value remains internalist or externalist or, as here, a combination of both. Another problem is that very many (in fact, the great majority of) internalisms and (more contentiously) many externalisms are themselves ‘mixed’ accounts—so we have nothing to mark out a uniquely virtue-based third way. ‘Mixed virtue responsibilism’ remains distinct only at the level of either branding or first-order detail from any generic deontic account in epistemology that falls short of a very extreme internalism—the latter of which Goldman (2009) calls ‘existential’ internalism and Weinberg (2006) calls ‘strict’ or ‘absolute’ internalism, of which the sole example which comes to mind is a Foley-style account of egocentric rationality—with this having in any event a Stoic (as opposed to Aristotelian) virtue equivalent (Annas 2003; Russell 1996). Even a Chisholmian deontic account (of knowledge) fully acknowledges, indeed emphasizes, the stringency of the externalist, objective truth requirement on knowledge, and that this requirement is an externalist requirement. Almost any internalist account of knowledge will have a truth requirement on knowledge, and that is a strong externalist requirement. Many will go beyond this in attempting to respond, with varying degrees of success, to stock externalist objections to their position. The claim that most non-virtue-based epistemologies are ‘mixed’ becomes more contentious when applied to many externalisms, but short of a Sartwell (1991, 1992) Theaetetan account of knowledge as merely true belief (Theaetetus: true judgment), all externalisms embrace third (often fourth, and fifth) constraints on knowledge [/rationality] that are rarely exclusively motivated [and even more rarely well motivated] within externalism alone. Clairvoyant-style examples are commonly used to embarrass externalist accounts. Rarely do the defenders of such accounts entirely bite the bullet and accept the verdict of their opponents in such cases—that such thought experiments’ agents must be held to have knowledge in the presence of reckless and wholesale epistemic irresponsibility: to acquiesce in this conclusion without a fight. At the level of axiological source (not epistemological detail) ‘mixed virtue reliabilism’ remains only terminologically distinct from any of many (acknowledged: perhaps not all) generic externalist accounts. 7 .3 P L U R ALI SM AS DI STI NC T FROM MIXE D VIRT U E S T H E ORY

Here, as a qualificatory aside, the reader is cautioned to take care to distinguish the issue of mixed virtues theory from pluralism. These are quite distinct issues. As I am using the term, a pluralist account is a ‘thick’ account that recognizes many separate epistemic or ethical virtues (often but not always with an incommensurability ‘no common currency’ thesis alongside; and often but not always with a concomitant ‘no overarching—e.g., consequentialist


Robert Lockie

or deontic—superordinate, ‘thin’, ‘master virtue’ thesis’ attached). So, the claim that there are separate virtues of wisdom, justice, compassion, temperance etc., but no unifying master virtue of, e.g., justice or phronesis, would be one such pluralist position. But as I noted in my 2008, in both the classical (e.g., Aristotelian) and in the modern texts, there is chronic, willful, equivocation around this issue, with virtue theorists being all things to all people— saying highly inconsistent things in neighboring paragraphs. In any event, mixed theories per se don’t directly concern themselves with these issues, being far more concerned with the nature of our ‘thin’ axiological source than matters pertaining to thick pluralist virtues. The mixed theorist per se is one who insists upon a deontic and a consequentialist source of epistemic or ethical value needing to be present for our epistemic or ethical goal state to be achieved. Any additional commitment to ‘pluralism’ is just that—additional, separable. So, to pick a generic mixed virtue epistemic account of knowledge: a mixed virtue theorist would require the knower to actually attain truth, of her beliefs (and to do so, say, reliably); yet also to do so through responsible intellectual conduct. Both these components (the deontic, responsibilist component and the consequentialist, reliabilist component) pertain to a ‘thin’, overarching, generalist axiological source.


Virtue theories may perhaps be seen as a new set of theories in epistemology (I shall not argue the contrary, in any event), but despite frequent claims to the contrary they do not offer us a new species of epistemic value, a new epistemic axiological kind—a distinct and underivative source of specifically aretaic value. They are a construct, a conjunction, a portmanteau, out of our existing, and wholly orthogonal, epistemic value-kinds. Virtue theory does not represent a genuine third force as regards epistemic value. The state or kind of ‘virtue’, taken by these theories as constituting epistemic success, is not sui generis but derived. And despite many claims to the contrary, the [re-]emergence of virtue theory does not then represent a sea change in normative epistemology. Familiar to all epistemologists are the two dimensions of assessment offered by epistemic consequentialism and epistemic deontologism. The former of these assesses cognizers for objective truth conduciveness, however this be spelled out—say, for exegetical purposes, in terms of a generic process reliabilism. For any given epistemic modality (visual perception, memory, etc.) and for any given further qualifications or restrictions as to class of cognitive operations, context, etc., and waiving generality issues, the cognizer may have very reliable or very unreliable cognitive processes—with success and failure seen as falling on a continuum: most truth conducive to least truth conducive. It is objective truth conducivity which concerns us here; this is an ‘actual’ consequentialism, it is an account of the Epistemic Good, an account of when a cognizer may be said to have satisfied the theoretical (nonregulative) desideratum of epistemic adequacy: Alston’s ‘objective’, Chisholm’s ‘absolute’ criterion of epistemic achievement (Lockie 2014a). This is one, crucial, axis of assessment we must deploy in epistemology: how much truth did the cognizer actually attain? How much error was actually avoided? Across similar scenarios, how much truth will a cognizer set up like this be liable to attain? How much error will a cognizer set up like this be liable to avoid? The second of our two axes of assessment—that offered by epistemic deontologism— assesses epistemic agents for intellectual responsibility: for the diligence with which they pursued truth (or sought to avoid falsity) regardless of their actual, objective attainment



thereof. On the assumption that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, we get the access restrictions characteristic of internalism (the restrictions to subjective truth conducivity, or error avoidance): the restriction to an expected, not an actual consequentialism (i.e., not a consequentialism at all). How diligently did the epistemic agent act, from the perspective he occupies; how well did he marshal the resources he commands? We have an account of the Epistemic Right and not the Good; an account of when an agent may be said to have satisfied the regulative (practical) desideratum of epistemic adequacy, Alston’s ‘subjective’, Chisholm’s ‘practical’ criterion of epistemic achievement (after Richard Price’s ‘practical virtue’) (Lockie 2014a). If, after nearly four hundred years of ‘modern’ post-Cartesian epistemology, there is one matter that should by now be beyond dispute, it is that these two axes of assessment are orthogonal. There is a double dissociation between these two dimensions of assessment: objective versus expected truth maximization. As an aside, this is something that Stoic as opposed to Aristotelian virtue theory partly appreciated (albeit in an inchoate and pre-enlightenment form); approaching this insight via the Stoics’ distinction between skopos and telos (cf. Annas 2003; Wright 2013). This distinction applies to all stochastic (non-deterministic) arts—e.g., archery, medicine, rhetoric. Although both ancient terms are notionally ‘teleological’ (in our modern parlance) for the Stoics, the skopos is the target to be hit (usually a noun) and the telos is the archer’s aim at the target (usually a verb). Even if the skopos fails to be achieved (the target is missed, the patient dies, the jury is unconvinced), should the archer, doctor, lawyer have practiced his craft skillfully, he has done all he can and has achieved his telos. (The reverse direction of dissociation may be present also of course, as when unconscientious, unskilled or remiss aim strikes lucky.) We may see the Stoic virtue theorists as being more nearly in the right direction than the Aristotelians in marking what, after the Cartesian revolution in early modern philosophy, became a vital double dissociation. We may stand in a reliable, etc., relation to the truth yet be intellectually irresponsible; or we may discharge our epistemic responsibilities ever so diligently yet fail to attain the truth. [I]f I abstain from giving my judgment on any thing when I do not perceive it with sufficient clearness and distinctness, it is plain that I act rightly . . . But if I determine to deny or affirm, I no longer make use as I should of my free will, and if I affirm what is not true, it is evident that I deceive myself; even though I judge according to truth, this comes about only by chance, and I do not escape the blame of misusing my freedom; for the light of nature teaches us that the knowledge of the understanding should always precede the determination of the will. And it is in the misuse of the free will that the privation which constitutes the characteristic nature of error is met with. (Descartes 1931: 176, emphases added)4 Attempts to ‘problematize’ or undermine this double dissociation—to argue or assume that somehow an agent’s epistemic reliability and epistemic responsibility may be elided—are just wholly, utterly, uninteresting: indeed fatuous. Figuratively, these two dimensions of epistemic assessment (of epistemic achievement—or failure) may be placed at right angles; thus mapping out an appropriately Cartesian coordinate space, an ‘epistemic circumplex’ (Fig. 7.1). Famous and not-so-famous thought experiments can be inserted at will into the top-right and bottom-left quadrants above; I have mentioned one esoteric and one quotidian case for each, but there are of course a very large number of such cases, any of which would serve for use as examples. Should I be BonJour’s clairvoyant then I will face Descartes’ charge: “blame of misusing my freedom.” And for every recherché thought experiment, there is a quotidian case (that is: the dissociation is not merely conceptual). For [an adaptation of] the case of

Robert Lockie


Greatest actual (objective) maximization of truth / minimization of falsity

The ‘virtuous’ cognizer

Greco’s truck, BonJour’s clairvoyant Least responsible cognition; poorest (subjective) efforts to attain truth /avoid falsity

Most responsible cognition; greatest (subjective) ef forts to attain truth /avoid falsity New evil demons, Alston’s tribesman

The irresponsible & ignorant cognizer

Least actual (objective) maximization of truth / minimization of falsity

Figure 7.1  The epistemic circumplex. Source: Lockie (2018). Author’s copyright © Robert Lockie, reproduced by permission.

Greco’s truck: I irresponsibly and impulsively step off the curb to be suddenly alerted by a klaxon, as to a truck bearing down upon me, leading me to leap out of the way despite no discharge of any epistemic responsibility contributing to my state of knowledge—indeed, an active irresponsibility (Greco 2002: 296, adapted). Similarly, one may discharge one’s obligations diligently yet be wholly unable to achieve the truth or avoid falsity—whether through being a victim of a New [actually not so new] Evil Demon, or simply by being an agent embedded within a sociocognitive milieu that does not permit one to attain the truth (Alston’s 1985 example of the ‘tribesman’, brought up to accept the traditions of his tribe as authoritative, and diligently working within these resources, with the epistemic resources of other intellectual perspectives wholly beyond his compass (Lockie 2016a, 2016b). This is hardly news to anybody. Since the double dissociation noted is intellectually unassailable, and wholly familiar to any epistemologist, what then are we to make of the idea that ‘virtue’ is, as a species of epistemic value, ‘of its own kind’—sui generis, fundamental? I would suggest we must simply abandon any such view as indefensible. One way to make this point is in terms of measurement. In our descriptive epistemology, the notion of epistemic success that is recognized by virtue epistemologists (‘epistemic virtue’, ‘the virtuous cognizer’) may be represented in terms of the two dimensions indicated (the possession of both deontic value and consequentialist value)—for this, see the upper-left quadrant of the circumplex in Fig. 7.1. The converse is precisely not the case—that is, possession of deontic value or consequentialist value cannot be fractioned or partitioned out of a supposedly sui generis, categorical, irreducible state (‘being virtuous’). And, importantly, the specific nature of any given failure of epistemic achievement cannot be accurately and appropriately described without moving away from any such categorical, sui generis axiology to appraise the agent’s epistemic achievements (and failures of achievement) on those separate registers (deontic and consequentialist)—registers which are recognized by a more traditional internalist-externalist



Virtue reliabilist tendency (emphasizes the importance of this axis of epistemic value)

Virtue responsibilist tendency (emphasizes the importance of this axis of epistemic value)

Figure 7.2  Domestic disputes between virtue responsibilists and virtue reliabilists (expanded top-left sector of the circumplex in Fig. 7.1).

conception of normative epistemology. Virtue epistemology offers us a cruder, categorical (nominal, ‘type’-based) descriptive epistemology than the two-dimensional measurement offered by traditional internalist/externalist epistemology. Virtue theorists routinely deploy these two dimensions in epistemic assessment anyway—as do all epistemologists. They represent the difference in emphasis between virtue responsibilists and virtue reliabilists after all— the former emphasize a ‘West by Northwest’ directional tendency within the top-left quadrant of the coordinate space articulated above, the latter a more ‘North by Northwest’ tendency within this same quadrant (Fig. 7.2). This is not something one can do unless these dimensional tendencies are fundamental, prior. Note that the objection that, as a matter of fact, in most (non-skeptical, nearby-actual) worlds, the dimensions of epistemic assessment are not wholly orthogonal is not to the point. We are making conceptual points here—this is epistemology, after all. Conceptually, these twin dimensions of epistemic assessment are orthogonal. Note also that many examples of beliefs that are justified but false, or true but without deontic justification, are entirely quotidian, and empirically, these axes of assessment may be really very orthogonal (Lockie 2016a). 7 . 5 WHAT M I GHT UNI FY A N A RE T A IC A XIOLOG Y?

The challenge from the above is that virtue theory appears to rest on two avowedly prior sources of epistemic value, consequentialist and deontic, lacking any sui generis value of its own—that is, being a conjunctive notion entirely derivative from these more fundamental axiological kinds. This is surely problematic given that familiar examples from four hundred years of mainstream epistemology establish that such ‘responsibilist’ and ‘reliabilist’ sources of value are doubly dissociated (Descartes 1931: 176; Locke 1975: IV, xvii, 24; Clifford 1999; Chisholm 1956a: 448, 1956b: 731; BonJour 1985: 45; Foley 2004). What then might unify these notions of epistemological value into a singular, distinctively and indispensably aretaic axiology? One sees a variety of candidate ‘unifiers’ in the work of virtue theorists. I acknowledge that I do not find them very convincing.


Robert Lockie

Here, as an epistemologist not sympathetic to virtue theory, I must be on guard against accusations of straw-manning. Jointly necessary and sufficient criteria are not typically (at least, explicitly) advanced by virtue theorists in answer to this ‘unification’ question, and thus targeting particular candidate suggestions offered by a heterogeneity of virtue theorists requires me to offer the caveat: if the cap doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. Still, virtue epistemologists do adopt a variety of stances in the vicinity of this problem. In particular, one encounters claims that some or several out of the following may serve to unify the ‘responsibilist’ and ‘reliabilist’ sources of value into a singular, unitary, distinctively aretaic source of epistemic value.5 • Normativity claims—virtue epistemology represents a distinctively values-based approach to epistemology. • Responsibility claims—virtue epistemology represents a distinctively responsibilist, ‘oughts-based’ approach to epistemology. • Agential evaluation claims—virtue epistemology, in contrast to other approaches to epistemology, evaluates the agent rather than, say, solely the process or proposition or belief under appraisal. • Phronesis as a unifier claims—practical wisdom (phronesis) unifies responsibility and reliability into one ‘virtue-based’ axiology. • The virtues themselves unify responsibility and reliability—the virtues are prior and embody both responsibilist and reliabilist components. • What defines virtue epistemology is a claim about the direction of analysis—justification/ knowledge and belief evaluation should be defined in terms of virtues and agent evaluation rather than virtues and agent evaluation being defined in terms of justification/ knowledge and belief evaluation. The first two of these points are sometimes elided. One sees this in talk of ‘credit’ for believing correctly (and the attempt by some virtue theorists to appropriate this general deontic/ normative point in epistemology to the specifics of virtue theory). We see the first two of these claims illustrated in the first two sentences of the following (merely illustrative) passage. The third of these claims is illustrated in the last two sentences. On the one hand, virtue epistemologists agree that cognition is normative. Cognitive science has much to teach us about how we perceive, remember, reason, inquire, and so on, but unfortunately there is no easy path from these extremely valuable empirical insights to conclusions about how we ought to cognize . . . On the other hand, virtue epistemologists agree that the ultimate source of epistemic normativity, and hence the central focus of epistemological inquiry, are cognitive agents and communities, along with the fundamental powers, traits and habits that constitute their intellect. This contrasts with the mainstream approach in later twentieth-century analytic philosophy, which focuses on individual beliefs and inferences, instead of individuals and their cognitive character. (Turri and Sosa 2013: 1–2, second emphasis added) I think not much consideration is needed to undermine these three claims. To do this, please return to the Descartes quotation given earlier, reading with special emphasis those elements of it that are normative, deontic and pertain to agential-level appraisal (“individuals and their cognitive character”). Then consider Locke, Clifford, Chisholm, Alston and Foley. All normative epistemology is, well, normative. And the deontic tradition in epistemology is, well,



deontic. ‘Responsibility’ language goes back to the Greeks and is probably innate (Cummins 1996), but it is with the enlightenment that we encounter consistent, principled, universalized deontic value theory—a deontology without special pleading or essentialist constraints on its applicability: a deontology inconsistent with slavery, for example (Lockie 2008). The roots of this modern deontological conception were present in Stoic (and Christian)—as opposed to Aristotelian—virtue theory, whereby “virtue is as possible for the slave as for his master” (Russell 1996: 172; Annas 2003; Lockie 2008). This enlightenment, universalized, generalist, unconstrained value theory is the foundation of all our freedoms—intellectual and otherwise—and the attempt to offer an atavistic, restricted, impoverished, particularist simulacrum of its surface form is greatly to be resisted (Lockie 2008). The deontological approach is specifically agential, assessing, normatively, the epistemic agent more stringently than any other normative epistemology (or ethics)—see the quotation from Descartes cited already. The conception of epistemology as normative, deontic and agential cannot be taken as constitutive of virtue theory; it is central to the living, thriving, deontological tradition (Plantinga 1993)—the Cartesian, enlightenment, universal-enfranchisement, ‘ethics of belief’ tradition: To sum up: it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it—the life of that man is one long sin against mankind. (Clifford 1999: 77) What, though, of ‘phronesis’? In the context of discussions of virtue-pluralism one encounters, both in Aristotle and in current neo-Aristotelian virtue epistemology, claims that phronesis is what unifies the different ‘faculties’ (virtues) into one thing (a point when applied to virtue-pluralism which would take us beyond the concerns of this chapter—but Lockie 2008). As regards our concerns regarding the Ur notion of value in virtue epistemology, phronesis is, however, commonly invoked to unify, somehow, responsibility and reliability into one epistemic value. The problem with this is twofold. One is that ‘phronesis’ can all too swiftly become (has all too often become) a Magic Ingredient X, a marketing term, or at best a placeholder for the work needing to be done, rather than any explanation of how this work may be done. As regards Aristotelian ethics, Simpson (1992: 510) puts matters thus: This is where Aristotle appeals to the virtue of prudence (phronesis). The mean is what prudence determines to be the mean. This doctrine has struck many readers as singularly unhelpful. What we want is not a discussion of the faculty which does the deciding but of the criterion by reference to which it does so. I agree with Simpson in this judgment—and not simply of Aristotle, and not simply as applied to virtue ethics. The other aspect to this problem is that phronesis, where it is not treated as all things to all people, looks most naturally to be interpreted as an intrinsically deontic, responsibilist ‘virtue’.


Robert Lockie

Ultimately, it is the behavior of persons with phronesis, or practical wisdom, that determines right acting and justified believing, as well as one’s moral and intellectual duty and the other evaluative properties of acts and beliefs. For the sake of the unity of the self, it is important that there be forms of these concepts that apply to what a person ought or ought not to do all things considered. The virtue of practical wisdom is, among other things, the virtue that permits a person to mediate between and among all the particular considerations of value in any given situation, and to act in a way that gives each its proper weight. (Zagzebski 2000: 175) This axiology is based on what “a person ought or ought not to do all things considered” where this ‘considered’ presumably means actually, personally, psychologically, cogitatively considered by that person.6 This involves “evaluative properties of acts and beliefs” under which that epistemic agent is the person whose practical wisdom may “mediate between and among all the particular considerations of value in any given situation.” What is this (commendable) axiology but a very deontic, internalist conception of epistemic justification: not some glue to irenically adhere responsibilism with reliabilism, but one half of these two distinct possibilities? As a strong deontic internalist I am committed to defending such a conception of epistemic justification; but it does not serve to elide or efface, to coalesce or finesse, the two-dimensional (responsibilist/reliabilist) bifurcation of epistemic value; it just is one (and only one) of those dimensions of epistemic assessment. In the context of a critical discussion of the role of phronesis, it would be inappropriate not to mention a vaguer and more expansive tendency that travels through the last twenty or so years of virtue epistemology, not simply as regards ‘practical wisdom’, but as regards the enterprise of virtue theory more generally: Panacea claims—for any given epistemic problem, virtue epistemology (or its attendant concept of ‘virtue’, or phronesis) offers a uniquely or specially effective resource for solving said problem. But virtue epistemology is no panacea and must argue closely, with the same analytic precision as any other approach in epistemology (i.e., not merely programmatically or in marketing terms) for any explanatory or normative or descriptive advantages it claims over its competitors. What then of the view that the virtues themselves unify responsibility and reliability? The virtue theorist must ask whether virtue is to be explanans/analysans or explanandum/analysandum. Surely, it cannot be both. On the face of it, it should be the first of these alone. We have a task—to explain/account for/analyze normative epistemology and the things it takes as its objects of study (say, rationality, knowledge, justification—whether of beliefs or agents). This is just as is the case in ethics, where one takes as one’s task to explain/account for/analyze normative ethics and the things it takes as its objects of study—as, for instance, in giving an account of the Right or the Good. Virtue theory is a candidate to explain/account for/analyze these normative phenomena—as opposed to other candidates (deontic or consequentialist, responsibilist or reliabilist). Virtue theory’s ontological or other status is not a given—serving as something to be explained itself—it must earn its keep. For virtue to be sometimes explanans/analysans, yet, when radically called into question, instead a given, an explanandum/analysandum, to be explained or analyzed itself, is, I take it, specifically objectionable. What then of the ‘direction of analysis’ point? An objection that is widely canvassed is that virtue theory in ethics or epistemology changes the direction of analysis: we define ‘right



action’ in terms of what the virtuous person would do in these circumstances, and likewise ‘rational belief’, ‘justified belief’ and knowledge in terms of what the virtuous cognizer would do or think or believe in. The core (conjoint) objection to this move is a moral objection allied to an objection from circularity. To claim a metaphysical priority of character/agent over act is morally wrong. It is morally wrong to identify a person or class of persons (for Aristotle, the Athenian nobility7) and then define ‘right act’ or ‘good outcome’ in terms of what they would do or bring about. To make the obvious objection: what if the putatively ‘virtuous’ agent were to commit a vile act? Here is where the circularity response comes in. This ‘direction of analysis’ move will be buttressed by what in 1998 I identified in the virtue-ethical literature as a ‘no true Scotsman’ maneuver. A circularity will be invoked to defend the claim that the virtuous agent will, in virtue of the possession of that status, be incapable of believing irrationally, or being epistemically unjustified, or lacking knowledge: the [truly] virtuous cognizer could not, in virtue of that fact, be epistemically deficient in these regards. This objection would have teeth even were we to restrict ourselves to thought-experiment cases of obviously unjustified yet stipulated-as-virtuous believers; but there are actual figures, including some or all of the greatest thinkers in human history, who are clearly cognitively virtuous yet clearly lack (here, for these examples) knowledge. Newton, for example, believed in absolute simultaneity yet was wrong in this. Aristotle believed beetles were spontaneously generated from mud. These figures were epistemically virtuous if any were—but they were wrong. Attempts to save this ‘direction of analysis’ move against these obvious objections by terminological maneuvers are not well taken (e.g., Zagzebski’s 1999 distinction between Newton’s acting virtuously and Newton’s performing an act of virtue). Such maneuvers, as noted, are merely terminological; and anyway make repair to just the two bifurcated axes of normative-epistemic appraisal which were meant to be combined by virtue theory’s ‘agent first’ direction of analysis move—yet now are needed by the defender of said move in turn. Attempts to concede ground here when it comes to knowledge but save the ‘direction of analysis’ maneuver when it comes to, for example, epistemic justification will be merely to concede what has been argued above: that virtue theory precisely does not ‘unify’ both deontic and consequentialist value properties into a single term. Claiming, for example, that the virtuous cognizer (Aristotle, Newton) might unavoidably lack knowledge, but, in virtue of being ‘virtuous’, could not be unjustified, indeed accords with ordinary language usage, but marks the concession that virtue theory does not combine the reliabilist with the responsibilist—instead coming down heavily on one side (the deontic side) of this division. This is a point emphasized by the Stoic (as opposed to the Aristotelian) tradition in virtue theory (Annas 2003) and persisting into the early modern period: men everywhere give the name of virtue to those actions, which amongst them are judged praiseworthy; and call that vice which they account blamable. (Locke 1975: II, 28; cited in Goldman 2009: 30) 7 .6 HALO EFFEC TS AND THE RIG H T VE RS U S T H E G OOD

‘Mixed’ virtue theory requires we be situated in the top-left sector of the epistemic circumplex detailed in Figure 7.1 above. That is, that we have objectively achieved the Epistemic Good (actually attained truth/avoided falsity) and we have done so in a diligent, praiseworthy, responsible (etc.) fashion—that we have done so in a way that is Epistemically Right (say,


Robert Lockie

roughly, in a fashion that respects the requirements of intentionally seeking after truth/ avoiding falsity). Achieving only one of these in the absence of the other isn’t simply, well, to achieve one epistemically valuable thing and miss another. It is to be essentially incomplete in epistemic [ethical] achievement per se. Examples here abound, switching freely from the ethical to the epistemic and back. Zagzebski claims (after Nagel) that the Nobel prize is not given to people who are wrong,8 and then uses the moral example of a compassionate agent giving money to a fraudulent beggar: “This is not, of course, to suggest that we would withhold praise of the agent, but her act would not merit the degree of praise due it if the beggar really were deserving” (Zagzebski 1999: 107). Brian Weatherson, in defending (as he sees it) the deontic conception of epistemic justification, employs an ethical example precisely akin to that of Zagzebski’s ‘beggar’ case before drawing his intended epistemic conclusion. Despite intending to defend epistemic deontology rather than virtue theory, he draws a conclusion strikingly close to Zagzebski’s: imagine two people dive into ponds in which they believe there are drowning children. The first saves two children. The second was mistaken; there are no children to be rescued in the pond they dive into. Both are praiseworthy for their efforts, but they are not equally praiseworthy . . . praiseworthiness depends on outputs as well as inputs, and if the victim of deception produces beliefs that are defective, i.e. false, then through no fault of their own they are less praiseworthy. (Weatherson 2008: 567) Clifford, however, uses his famous example of the ship-owner, permitting a voyage to take place in a ship he believes to be unseaworthy, to argue against the view that the nature of the outcome consequent upon an action should affect our normative appraisal of that action. He contrasts the case where a ship indeed is unseaworthy with one where, unbeknownst to said owner, it is not: Let us alter the case a little, and suppose that the ship was not unsound after all; that she made her voyage safely, and many others after it. Will that diminish the guilt of her owner? Not one jot. When an action is once done, it is right or wrong for ever; no accidental failure of its good or evil fruits can possibly alter that. The man would not have been innocent, he would only have been not found out. The question of right or wrong has to do with the origin of his belief, not the matter of it; not what it was, but how he got it; not whether it turned out to be true or false, but whether he had a right to believe on such evidence as was before him. (Clifford 1999: 71) I have argued (Lockie 2014a, 2018) that the Weatherson/Zagzebski type of argument derives its dialectical force from what the social psychologists, after Thorndike, call a ‘halo effect’—one that is both ubiquitous and pernicious in epistemology. Pace Weatherson, both of his would-be rescuers are indeed equally praiseworthy—just as both of Clifford’s ship-owners are, as Clifford correctly notes, equally blameworthy. Praiseworthiness and blameworthiness—deontology’s positive and negative terms—pertain wholly and solely to the Right (and see pervasive talk of ‘credit’/‘discredit’ for epistemic conduct in the recent virtue epistemic literature). In each of the cases contrasted by the thought experiments above (drowning, beggar, ship, Nobel prize) there is of course a huge difference in the Good, a difference dependent upon the outcome’s consequentialist yield; but none at all in



the Right. This is not merely a terminological point: the putatively deontic terms of praise or blame are profoundly embedded within ethical and epistemic theory. A failure to be very clear in distinguishing the Right from the Good leads to compounded errors in ethics and epistemology. I have argued (Lockie 2014b) that this type of error derives to a large extent from a flawed framework meta-epistemology: the view that deciding such questions must consist in testing such cases as the above against our immediate, (‘pre-theoretical’) intuitions. Immediate, pre-theoretical intuitions may indeed militate against Clifford and with Weatherson and Zagzebski; but were they to do so, this would be simply in virtue of an unscrutinized intuitive awareness that in such cases as these there is a major difference in some species of ethical or epistemic success or failure. In each such case, we need to be explicit on what species of success or failure this is and not permit a ‘halo effect’ of generalized axiological failure to smear from one axis of epistemic assessment to the other. (Related Chapters: 2, 6, 10, 11, 26.) NOTE S 1 The ‘ethics of belief ’ tradition from Descartes embraces two things: epistemic deontology (‘responsibilism’) and internalist access restrictions. As Plantinga (1993) notes in his masterful review, these may come apart; as when one is a deontologist without access restrictions or embraces access restrictions without deontology. Although these are both positions in logical space, and with actual adherents, they possess profound problems of both internal philosophical motivation and logical coherence. See Plantinga (1993); Lockie (2018). What Plantinga (1993) calls ‘classical deontological internalism’ and Alston (1985) calls ‘Jdi’—deontic, internalist, justification—involves the conjunction of deontologism with internalism: whereby the deontology leads to the internalist access restrictions via ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. I contend (Lockie 2018) that deontology and internalism should not be teased apart and embrace, after Descartes, Clifford, Plantinga et al., ‘classical deontological internalism’, whereby internalism and deontology do not come apart. ‘Ought’ implies ‘can’ is, I contend, a priori; and if you embrace epistemic ‘oughts’ (deontology) you must acknowledge epistemic ‘cans’ (internalist access restrictions). 2 Deontic approaches are sometimes identified with rules-based approaches. Although not entirely a straw man, doing this is nevertheless a mistake. Some externalisms/consequentialisms are themselves rules-based (Goldman’s ‘J-rules’). Some deontological/internalist positions aren’t rules-based. What matters is the source of the normativity, not its surface form. Any value theory based in a sui generis notion of obligation (plus all concomitant—e.g., ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ accompaniments) is a deontic theory. 3 One might think that ‘virtue’ ought to be seen only as explanans/analysans rather than explanandum/analysandum; but this is not always so. At this stage, I leave for the reader to decide whether this may constitute a critical point against ‘virtue’, so conceived. 4 These italics (added) answer to my later desiderata in this chapter and should not distract the reader now. 5 Above, I distinguish mixed virtue theory from pluralism. It should be noted that certain pluralists appear to claim there is no unifier: that virtue epistemology employs reliabilist virtues and responsibilist virtues (and, presumably, a mixture of both). I leave the reader to decide whether he or she feels this to be a satisfactory stance. One might wish to ask of any such stance, in virtue of what such a heterogeneity of items are all ‘virtues’. One might also wish to note that virtue theorists from Aristotle onwards are chronically inexplicit about their relationship to pluralism. For Aristotle, notions such as ‘phronesis’ and ‘justice’ seem to broaden or narrow in scope quite wildly, as the demands of argument would have it: sometimes appearing to explicitly replace his pluralism with a uninomic account, and sometimes quite definitely not. See Lockie (2008). 6 Actually, for a number of epistemologists (take Alston as a paradigm, across a series of very fine papers) this point is—tacitly or explicitly—equivocated upon. If “all things considered” means actually considered by that person this becomes a statement of deontic internalism. If “all things considered” means from the God’s-eye view this becomes a strong externalism. See Lockie (2018, 2014a, 2016b). 7 This, I (2008) suggested, reveals the patrician, pre-enlightenment origins of Aristotle’s virtue theory. He was writing for the elite, the polis (not even the demos, already restricted to the free men of Athens, but specifically the nobility—Simpson 1992). There is an intrinsically anti-enlightenment slant to any theory which identifies a


Robert Lockie

privileged ‘virtuous’ elite and defines ‘virtuous act’ in terms of said elite. What the person does must come first and we judge them normatively after that. 8 I have argued she is wrong in the moral she draws here (Lockie 2008). Most of the greatest thinkers known to intellectual history are known to us to have been wrong—we revere them for their intellectual ‘virtue’ nonetheless. See Annas (2003) for this point as applied to Socrates.

REFERE N C E S Alston, W. (1985) “Concepts of Epistemic Justification,” Monist 68(1): 57–89. Annas, J. (2003) “The Structure of Virtue,” in L. Zagzebski and M. dePaul (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. BonJour, L. (1985) The Structure of Empirical Knowledge, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Chisholm, R. (1956a) “Epistemic Statements and the Ethics of Belief,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research XVI(4). Chisholm, R. (1956b) “The Concept of Empirical Evidence,” Journal of Philosophy 53. Clifford, W. K. (1999) “The Ethics of Belief,” in The Ethics of Belief and Other Essays, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. Cummins, D. (1996) “Evidence for the Innateness of Deontic Reasoning,” Mind & Language 11: 160–190. Descartes, R. (1931) Philosophical Works of Descartes Vol. 1, E. Haldane and G. Ross (eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Feldman, R. (2002) “Epistemological Duties,” in P. Moser (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Foley, R. (2004) “A Trial Separation Between the Theory of Knowledge and the Theory of Justified Belief,” in J. Greco (ed.) Ernest Sosa and his Critics, Malden, MA: Wiley. Goldman, A. (1986) Epistemology and Cognition, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Goldman, A. (2009) “Internalism, Externalism and the Architecture of Justification,” Journal of Philosophy 106(6): 1–30. Greco, J. (2002) “Virtues in Epistemology,” in P. Moser (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Locke, J. (1975) Essay Concerning Human Understanding, P.H. Niddich (ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lockie, R. (1998) “What’s Wrong with Moral Internalism,” Ratio 11(1): 14–36. Lockie, R. (2008) “Problems for Virtue Theories in Epistemology,” Philosophical Studies 138(2): 169–191. Lockie, R. (2014a) “The Regulative and the Theoretical in Epistemology,” Abstracta 8(1): 3–14. Lockie, R. (2014b) “The Epistemology of Neo-Gettier Epistemology,” South African Journal of Philosophy 33(2): 247–258. Lockie, R. (2016a) “Perspectivism, Deontologism and Epistemic Poverty,” Social Epistemology 30(2): 133–149. Lockie, R. (2016b) “Response to Elqayam, Nottelmann, Peels and Vahid on My Paper ‘Perspectivism, Deontologism and Epistemic Poverty’” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5(3): 21–47. Lockie, R. (2018) Free Will and Epistemology: A Defence of the Transcendental Argument for Freedom, London: Bloomsbury Academic. Plantinga, A. (1993) Warrant: The Current Debate, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Russell, B. (1996) A History of Western Philosophy, London: Routledge. Sartwell, C. (1991) “Knowledge is Merely True Belief,” American Philosophical Quarterly 28(2): 157–165. Sartwell, C. (1992) “Why Knowledge Is Merely True Belief,” Journal of Philosophy 89(4): 167–180. Simpson, P. (1992) “Contemporary Virtue Ethics and Aristotle,” Review of Metaphysics 45: 503–524. Turri, J. and E. Sosa. (2013) “Virtue Epistemology,” in B. Kaldis (ed.) Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences, Sage. Downloaded at Weatherson, B. (2008) “Deontology and Descartes’ Demon,” Journal of Philosophy 105: 540–569. Weinberg, J.M. (2006) “What’s Epistemology For? The Case for Neopragmatism in Normative Metaepistemology,” in S. Hetherington (ed.) Epistemology Futures, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 26–47. Wright, S. (2013) “A Neo-Stoic Approach to Epistemic Agency,” Philosophical Issues 23: 262–275. Zagzebski, L. (1999) “What Is Knowledge?” in J. Greco and E. Sosa (eds.) The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology, Oxford: Blackwell. Zagzebski, L. (2000) “Précis of Virtues of the Mind,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60(1): 169–177.

8 Virtue Epistemology, Virtue Ethics, and the Structure of Virtue Jason Baehr

Contemporary virtue epistemology examines the cognitive life with an eye to the epistemic excellences or “intellectual virtues” of knowing subjects (Battaly 2008). It was inspired by virtue ethics, which emphasizes moral virtues and their centrality to acting and living well. While the structural similarities between virtue epistemology and virtue ethics have been widely noted, a certain structural dissimilarity has garnered little attention. Within virtue epistemology, two rather different approaches have emerged. “Virtue responsibilists” emphasize the personal and characterological dimensions of the cognitive life (Zagzebski 1996; Roberts and Wood 2007; Baehr 2011). They conceive of intellectual virtues on the model of moral virtues. Examples include open-mindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual autonomy, and intellectual courage. “Virtue reliabilists” have tended to focus on the more mechanistic or sub-personal aspects of human cognition, identifying intellectual virtues with reliable or truth-conducive cognitive faculties such as memory, vision, introspection, and reason (Sosa 2007; Greco 2010). Unsurprisingly, these very different models of intellectual virtue have given rise to two very different strands of virtue epistemology.1 The theoretical landscape in virtue ethics, by contrast, is considerably more uniform. Specifically, there is no obvious counterpart in virtue ethics of reliabilist faculty virtues like memory or vision. Rather, virtue ethicists generally agree that moral virtues should be understood as stable dispositions of personal character. While this makes for an obvious parallel between virtue ethics and responsibilist virtue epistemology, it appears to leave little room for an approach to virtue ethics on par with virtue reliabilism. As Heather Battaly and Michael Slote observe: [T]here is nothing in virtue ethics that corresponds well with the emphasis within Reliabilist virtue epistemology on the excellence of the functioning of sub-personal and hard-wired human cognitive systems like memory and perception. It is not clear what in virtue ethics could even conceivably correspond to such sub-personal virtue: the emphasis both in ancient and in recently revived virtue ethics has been on acquired/developed human character at the personal level, on what it is to be and become a virtuous person. (2015: 258–259) 95


Jason Baehr

Thus while virtue epistemology admits of at least two distinct approaches, the structure of virtue ethics remains broadly singular. In what follows, I examine these and related issues in greater detail. I begin by considering whether, initial appearances notwithstanding, there is in fact a virtue ethical counterpart of reliabilist virtue epistemology. This leads to a somewhat narrower consideration, namely whether there is a counterpart of reliable cognitive faculties within our moral psychology.2 The overarching aim of the chapter is twofold: first, to clarify and motivate further reflection on the relationship between virtue epistemology, virtue ethics, and the virtues proper to each approach; and, second, to underscore the centrality of intellectual virtue to a certain dimension of moral excellence. Before proceeding, it bears mentioning that in recent years the line between responsibilist and reliabilist approaches to virtue epistemology has begun to blur. Ernest Sosa, the originator of virtue reliabilism, has recently (2015a) given a central role in his account of “reflective knowledge” to traits he calls “agential virtues,” which bear a close resemblance to responsibilist character virtues. As such, Sosa’s epistemology, which ranges over both “animal” and “reflective” knowledge, may provide a way of integrating the concerns of reliabilists and responsibilists. While an interesting prospect, this possibility need not occupy us here. For, even if Sosa’s integrated account of knowledge were correct, it would still be worth asking whether there exists a moral analogue of reliabilist cognitive faculties. 8. 1 A C O NSEQ UENTIA LIS T A N A LOG U E ?

The claim that virtue ethics does not include a counterpart of virtue reliabilism can be called into question. Some virtue ethicists think of something like “moral reliability” as the defining feature of a moral virtue. Of particular interest here is a consequentialist view of moral virtues according to which a trait of character is a moral virtue just in case (roughly) it manifests in actions that tend to result in the greatest amount of happiness and the least amount of unhappiness compared with available alternatives (Driver 2001: ch. 4; Bradley 2005). These views closely mirror the virtue reliabilist’s claim that intellectual virtues are cognitive faculties that systematically result in the production of true beliefs and avoidance of cognitive errors. While an analogue of sorts, a consequentialist view of moral virtues is not a close or complete analogue of a reliabilist conception of intellectual virtues. First, the moral qualities in question are limited to dispositions of personal character. As such they are structurally similar to responsibilist character virtues and different from reliabilist faculty virtues. This difference offers a plausible explanation of why a broad distinction akin to the one between responsibilism and reliabilism has not arisen within virtue ethics. Rather, the distinction between consequentialist and other, more “internalist” or motivational accounts of moral virtue closely parallels the distinction within virtue responsibilism between consequentialist and non-consequentialist accounts of intellectual virtues. That is, like virtue ethicists, virtue responsibilists adopt competing views about what gives the character traits in question their status as virtues, with some responsibilists arguing that qualities like intellectual courage and carefulness are intellectual virtues on account of their epistemic consequences or “outputs” (e.g., Driver 2003; Goldman 2001) and others explaining this status (at least partly) in terms of an element of admirable epistemic motivation (e.g., Zagzebski 1996; Baehr 2011).3 Another way to come at this point is to observe that there is an analogue of consequentialist accounts of moral virtue within virtue epistemology, but that this analogue lies squarely within a responsibilist (not a reliabilist) framework. Julia Driver’s work is especially instructive



on this point. Driver defends an account of moral virtue according to which a trait of character is a moral virtue just in case it “systematically (reliably) produces good consequences” (2000: 126). For Driver, moral virtues include qualities like generosity, benevolence, and honesty. Driver also defends a corresponding account of intellectual virtue according to which a trait of character is an intellectual virtue just in case it “systematically (reliably) produces true belief” (ibid.). She cites intellectual rigor, curiosity, and open-mindedness as key instances of intellectual virtues thus conceived. Driver’s account of intellectual virtues is the clear counterpart of her consequentialist account of moral virtues. Because its scope is explicitly limited to the character traits of a good inquirer, this account is best regarded as a contribution to responsibilist (vs. reliabilist) virtue epistemology.4 Linda Zagzebski’s virtue theory (1996) illustrates a related point. Zagzebski offers a comprehensive account of moral and intellectual virtues according to which, for something to be a virtue of either sort, it must include an element of intrinsically valuable motivation and be reliable at bringing about the end or ends proper to the virtue in question (136–137). Thus she conceives of intellectual virtues as involving a consequentialist or “reliability” component. Nevertheless, Zagzebski is widely regarded as the pioneer of responsibilist virtue epistemology. This is because, while not neglecting considerations of epistemic reliability, her interest is restricted to excellences of intellectual character. This brings to light more and less restricted senses of the term “reliabilist.” In a more restricted sense, it refers to the view known as “reliabilism” or “virtue reliabilism” in epistemology, according to which intellectual virtues are truth-conducive cognitive faculties. It is in this sense of “reliabilist” that we are looking for an analogue of reliabilist cognitive faculties within virtue ethics. In a broader and less restricted sense of the term, “reliabilist” refers (merely and roughly) to the stable or systematic achievement of certain ends or goals. While the narrow sense of “reliability” intersects with the wider sense, in that virtue reliabilists identify intellectual virtues with cognitive faculties that are reliable in the broader sense, the point is that to be a full or proper analogue of a reliabilist conception of intellectual virtues, an account of moral virtues must be “reliabilist” in both senses: it must identify moral virtues with qualities that are conducive to achieving good ends and that are faculty-like in nature. Again, we have found that consequentialist accounts of moral virtue are “reliabilist” only in the first sense. 8. 2 A SENTI M ENTA LIS T A N A LOG U E ?

The suggestion that reliabilist virtue epistemology has a virtue ethical counterpart in consequentialist theories of moral virtue falls short because such theories, while incorporating an emphasis on “reliability” (in the broad sense), conceive of moral virtues as traits of character, which makes them more akin to responsibilist theories of intellectual virtue. Therefore, given the concern to identify a virtue ethical counterpart of virtue reliabilism, it is worth surveying the moral landscape for an analogue of reliabilist cognitive faculties. One distinguishing feature of cognitive faculties is that they are possessed (more or less) from birth. Another is that they are capable of functioning independently of volition or agency. I do not, for instance, choose or initiate the kind of sensory processing in virtue of which I see the computer screen before me or hear a door closing in a nearby room. Memories as well can come to us unbidden, even against our will. Indeed, a significant portion of our basic sensory, memorial, and related forms of knowledge is an output of certain rudimentary and naturally occurring cognitive processes. Acquisition of such knowledge does not depend on an exercise of cultivated excellences of personal character such as openmindedness, intellectual courage, or intellectual tenacity (Baehr 2011: ch. 3; Zagzebski 2013).


Jason Baehr

We would do well, then, to consider whether there are elements of our moral psychology that function in something like this way; that is, that yield moral goods or achievements in a natural and psychologically rudimentary way. When the question is framed in this way, moral sentiments come to mind as a possible analogue of reliabilist faculty virtues. According to one venerable tradition in moral philosophy, with roots in the ethical thought of figures like Adam Smith and David Hume, moral sentiments like empathy, sympathy, and benevolence naturally and spontaneously give rise to morally positive behaviors and outcomes (for a recent overview, see Driver 2013). Moral sentiments can function in at least two ways. Some sentiments, like benevolence, are motivating impulses or desires: they prompt us to act in morally appropriate ways. Others, like empathy, supply appropriate affective responses to morally significant states of affairs.5 Might moral sentiments be a proper moral analogue of reliabilist cognitive faculties? The difficulty for this proposal is similar to the difficulty identified in connection with the consequentialist proposal discussed above. In short, there is already an epistemic analogue of moral sentiments, and it is not reliabilist faculty virtues. Rather, the analogue of moral sentiments is epistemic sentiments. Like moral sentiments, epistemic sentiments can take the form of motivating impulses or affective capacities. Motivating epistemic impulses include the kind of natural curiosity that we ascribe to young children and that Aristotle famously mentions at the outset of the Metaphysics. This motivational disposition is structurally comparable to benevolence conceived as a natural moral sentiment (the difference, of course, is that its object is epistemic rather than moral). Natural epistemic affections include awe or wonder at given facts or possibilities, joy in intellectual discovery, and the kind of affective discomfort involved in the experience of cognitive dissonance (Scheffler 1991: ch. 1). These are appropriate affective reactions to epistemically significant states of affairs. And they are analogous to appropriate affective reactions to morally significant states of affairs; that is, to empathic and other moral affections. This point underscores a largely unexplored theoretical possibility. In particular, it points in the direction of a sentimentalist approach to virtue epistemology, which would be an approach that focuses on intellectual virtues understood as natural epistemic sentiments. While not presently a well-developed theoretical alternative, Battaly and Slote have recently sought to motivate a sentimentalist virtue epistemology and sketch some of its contours. As they note, “there is a choice to be made in virtue epistemology between Aristotle and (roughly) Hume that corresponds to the now well-recognized choice within virtue ethics between the same two figures” (2015: 260). The discussion here offers at least some prima facie support for a sentimentalist approach to virtue epistemology. But, again, such a view would differ considerably from a reliabilist approach to virtue epistemology. The observation that moral sentiments have a counterpart in the epistemic realm, and that this counterpart is distinct from reliabilist cognitive faculties, underscores a related possibility: namely, that we should think of the moral counterpart of reliabilist cognitive faculties, not (or not quite) as natural moral sentiments, but rather along the lines of Aristotle’s “natural virtues” (NE. 1144b).6 Because they can be had from birth, natural moral virtues bear a resemblance to reliabilist cognitive faculties. They are not, however, a proper counterpart of reliabilist cognitive faculties. Rather, natural moral virtues stand to actual or full-blown moral virtues just as natural intellectual virtues stand to full-blown intellectual virtues. That is, just as a person can be naturally brave or generous without possessing the actual virtue of justice or generosity, a person can be naturally curious, open-minded, or intellectually autonomous without possessing the corresponding intellectual virtues. It follows that natural intellectual virtues are the epistemic analogue of natural moral virtues. In that case, neither are natural moral virtues a proper moral counterpart of reliabilist cognitive faculties.7




The foregoing discussion of natural epistemic sentiments suggests that we should look more closely at how epistemic sentiments, which have a clear moral counterpart, are related to our cognitive faculties. Doing so might shed light not merely on a moral counterpart of epistemic sentiments, but also on a moral counterpart of cognitive faculties. One conspicuous difference between epistemic sentiments and cognitive faculties is that the latter, but not the former, function as sources of information. Vision and hearing provide us with information about our immediate physical environment, introspection yields information about our own mental states, and so on. Epistemic sentiments, by contrast, while often leading to the employment of cognitive faculties, are not sources of information in this sense. Given that epistemic sentiments are the analogue of moral sentiments, it is worth considering whether there exists something like an information-yielding capacity in the moral realm. Here as well some familiar moral concepts come to mind. One is moral intuition. On one way of understanding this phenomenon, it involves the grasping of moral properties or truths on the basis of something like intuitive reason (Audi 1997; Ross 1930). Moral intuition thus conceived is a source of moral information in something like the way that vision is a source of information about physical appearances. Therefore, perhaps moral intuition is a proper analogue of reliabilist faculty virtues. The problem with this suggestion is not that moral intuition, understood in the relevant way, is insufficiently like a cognitive faculty. Rather, it is that moral intuition just is a cognitive faculty, or rather a mode or function thereof. Reason is a familiar reliabilist virtue. Therefore, if moral intuition exists, and if it is essentially a function of intuitive reason, then moral intuition is not an analogue of any cognitive faculty, but rather a function or mode of the faculty of reason. It is reason at work in the moral domain. A related point applies to conceptions of moral cognition that are more perceptual in nature. Consider, for instance, John McDowell’s claim that the virtuous moral agent is one who “sees situations in a certain distinctive way” (1979: 347). A similar view is defended by Lawrence Blum, who emphasizes that good moral reasoning must be accompanied by good moral perception: An agent may reason well in moral situations . . . Yet unless she perceives moral situations as moral situations, and unless she perceives their moral character accurately, her moral principles and skill at deliberation will be for naught and may even lead her astray. (1991: 701) On these views, competent moral agents grasp morally relevant facts (e.g., that a person is in need of assistance or has been wronged in some specific way), not or not merely via something like rational intuition, but rather by way of more familiar and empirically grounded perceptual processes. But neither can a capacity of this sort be divorced from reliabilist faculty virtues. On the view in question, one perceives that a person is in need, or that a situation calls for a certain practical response, largely if not entirely by virtue of one’s eyes and ears; that is, by using the very sensory modalities that virtue reliabilists identify as intellectual virtues. Moral perception, then, is not so much a moral analogue of reliabilist cognitive faculties as it is an application of these faculties that is morally informative or evaluable (Dancy 2010: 113). As Jennifer Lyn Wright remarks:


Jason Baehr

[M]ature moral agents do not possess some distinct “moral sense”: their existing faculties of perception have simply been refined and developed in such a way as to enable them to reliably perceive subtle facts about the moral environment that surrounds them (facts that other moral agents might not perceive). (2007: 11–12) There are, of course, ways of understanding moral cognition according to which it is neither rationalistically nor empirically grounded. For instance, one could treat moral intuition as a kind of “sixth sense” distinct from reason and our usual sensory modalities. However, if this sense were grounded in, say, moral sentiments, or in a combination of moral sentiments, reason, and (standard) sensory perception, then, for reasons already considered, it still would not be a proper analogue of reliabilist faculty virtues. Nor would it be such if it were sui generis. For, if the “moral sense” is a (reliable) source of moral information or facts, then in fact it is straightforwardly a reliabilist cognitive faculty, albeit one that is not countenanced by most virtue reliabilists. These points underscore the fact that a certain kind of epistemic excellence lies at the foundation of an important kind of moral excellence. If one’s capacity for moral intuition or perception is flawed or deficient, this is likely to have a deleterious effect on the moral quality of one’s actions, at least insofar as one’s morally relevant actions are based on and guided by one’s moral intuitions or perceptions. Thus a certain kind of moral achievement (viz., something like deliberate, morally right action) would appear to be dependent or parasitic on a kind of proper epistemic functioning that centrally involves reliabilist faculty virtues. A corresponding implication is that reliabilist virtue epistemology apparently occupies some non-trivial real estate within moral philosophy.8 This is at least somewhat surprising given that reliabilist treatments of intellectual virtue, especially by comparison with responsibilist treatments, tend not to have much of a moral or ethical flavor. Indeed, one of the distinguishing features of virtue reliabilism—a feature that is viewed by some as a decided theoretical advantage—is its externalist, quasi-naturalistic character, according to which intellectual virtues are nothing more (or less) than cognitive faculties that reliably generate a preponderance of true beliefs. Understood in this way, virtue reliabilism avoids what some consider to be a controversial and problematic appeal to character virtues, especially character virtues which, like open-mindedness and intellectual honesty, have a notable moral valence.9 However, if we take seriously the idea that moral judgment is grounded in something like moral intuition or perception, and that the latter in turn centrally involve the operation of reliabilist faculty virtues, then present formulations of virtue reliabilism need to be broadened to include an account of the operation of reason or sensory perception in the moral domain.10 8. 4 THE I NTEGR ATI O N OF FA CU LT Y VIRT U E S AND C HAR AC TE R VIRT U E S

Before returning to the question of whether there is a proper moral analogue of reliabilist cognitive faculties, the point just made concerning the moral role of cognitive faculties merits further attention. How plausible is it to think that reason or our perceptual faculties operating in a (more or less) natural or default mode (as is characteristic of reliabilist virtues) are capable of doing the kind of epistemic-cum-moral work we have just considered? On the one hand, it does not



seem too implausible to think of reason, say, as allowing one to grasp the badness of another person’s excruciating pain or the fact that one should alleviate that pain if one can do so easily and with little risk to oneself. Nor does it seem implausible to think that one’s basic perceptual abilities might be sufficient for recognizing certain reasonably obvious moral facts (e.g., that a nearby person is in extreme distress and needs assistance). Such judgments might be on par, in terms of their immediacy and demandingness, with the judgment that, say, the conclusion of modus ponens follows from the premises or that a familiar person has just walked into the room. What seems no less plausible, however, is that many other morally significant judgments or perceptions are likely to require an exercise of more refined cognitive capacities. The point I wish to emphasize is that such capacities include responsibilist character virtues. To illustrate, suppose that in a state of parental exasperation, I deal an unfair consequence to one of my children in response to his poor treatment of one of his siblings. While my child’s behavior was clearly inappropriate and merited some kind of corrective response, my reaction, while not obviously excessive, was at least minimally (and significantly) so. Will intuitive reason operating in a relatively default and unrefined mode be sufficient for grasping my mistake or the fact that I ought to make amends? Similarly, will the possession of keen eyesight be enough to pick up on the slightly forlorn (and morally significant) look on my child’s face? Possibly not. If the moral facts or morally relevant details in question are subtle enough, they may escape my immediate grasp or notice. It may be that I will perceive these factors only if I am, say, open-minded and intellectually humble enough to consider that my perspective on the situation might be mistaken, sufficiently attentive to notice how my behavior has affected my child, or sufficiently intellectually persistent to identify the precise way in which my reaction was unfair. In other words, it may be that I will grasp the relevant facts or features only if I manifest intellectual character virtues like intellectual humility, open-mindedness, attentiveness, and persistence. One lesson to draw from this is that responsibilist virtues contribute to and partly constitute a kind of cultivated or refined capacity for moral judgment and perception that is characteristic of moral excellence and maturity. That is, being an insightful and perceptive moral agent is at least partly a matter of being intellectually humble, open-minded, attentive, and persistent. It follows that responsibilist character virtues also are foundational to a certain kind of moral excellence and that responsibilist virtue epistemology also occupies a notable position within moral philosophy.11 A related point concerns the relationship between reliabilist faculty virtues and responsibilist character virtues. The discussion up to this point may give the impression that these two virtue-types are fundamentally distinct from each other. This impression is mistaken. The case just discussed shows that responsibilist character virtues manifest in the operation of reliabilist faculty virtues. This includes, but is not limited to, the way in which virtues like intellectual humility and honesty can facilitate refined moral judgments and perceptions. In these and related cases, there is no distinguishing between the operation of the relevant responsibilist virtues (e.g., intellectual humility and honesty) and that of certain reliabilist virtues (e.g., reason and vision). In certain respects, these observations are nothing new. Indeed, though under slightly different descriptions, they have a long and distinguished history. I will briefly discuss two examples, one ancient and one contemporary. Consider, first, Aristotle’s account of moral virtue in the Nicomachean Ethics. While spending the better part of Books II–VI discussing the nature and structure of familiar moral virtues, Aristotle makes the controversial point in Book VI that a certain intellectual virtue,


Jason Baehr

phronesis, is both necessary and sufficient for the full possession of any moral virtue, saying that “we cannot be fully good without intelligence [phronesis], or intelligent without virtue of character” (NE.1144b30–35). I do not have the space to explore how phronesis might compare to the kind of moral intuition or perception discussed above (for more on this topic, see Reeve 2013). Nor can I take up the interesting question of whether this capacity is better understood in responsibilist or reliabilist terms. Rather, I will limit my remarks to the observation that on Aristotle’s view, the possession of a certain intellectual virtue is indispensable to the possession of moral virtue. Second, in an early contribution to responsibilist virtue epistemology, James Montmarquet argued that an exercise of responsibilist intellectual virtues is the basis of a certain kind of doxastic responsibility, which in turn is central to moral responsibility (1993: ch. 1, 3, 4). According to Montmarquet, on many occasions, a person’s actions can be deemed morally responsible only if the beliefs that give rise to these actions are epistemically responsible, where the latter is a matter of the belief’s having arisen from doxastic activity characteristic of virtues like open-mindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, and intellectual courage (1993: 23). For Aristotle and Montmarquet alike, a proper understanding of a crucial dimension of moral excellence requires sustained attention to intellectual virtues of one sort or another. Again, the main argument of this section adds to and supports this perspective. 8. 5 C O NCLU S ION

The chapter began with an observation about an apparent structural asymmetry between virtue epistemology and virtue ethics. This gave rise to a question: Is the asymmetry real or merely apparent? More precisely, is there a counterpart to virtue reliabilism within virtue ethics? Or at least a counterpart of reliabilist cognitive faculties within our moral psychology? We have considered several reasons for thinking that the asymmetry in question is real— that there is not a virtue ethical counterpart of reliabilist virtue epistemology, or a moral counterpart of reliabilist cognitive faculties. Instead, the emerging picture is one according to which reliabilist cognitive faculties are unique. If so, then the asymmetry between virtue epistemology and virtue ethics is to be expected. Our findings do not end here. We have also considered reasons for thinking that certain epistemic excellences, including reliabilist and responsibilist virtues, occupy an indispensable role within the psychology of a morally excellent agent, such that our understanding of moral excellence cannot be fully disentangled from our understanding of epistemic excellence. Accordingly, while identifying a structural difference between the subject matter of virtue epistemology and that of virtue ethics, we have also uncovered some conceptual overlap between the fields. Further exploration of this conceptual territory would likely prove worthwhile for virtue epistemologists and virtue ethicists alike.12 (Related Chapters: 1, 2, 9, 17, 41.) NOT E S 1 For more on the relationship between these approaches, see Baehr (2011: ch. 4) and the debate in Sosa (2015b) and Baehr (2015). 2 The first consideration is theoretical: it concerns the relationship between different virtue theoretical approaches; the second, narrower consideration is psychological: it concerns the possibility of a moral counterpart of reliabilist cognitive faculties.



3 For a helpful discussion of these and related issues, see Battaly (2015: chs. 1–3). 4 While Driver herself explicitly restricts her account of intellectual virtue to reliable traits of character, she sometimes identifies as intellectual virtues certain cognitive abilities that are not character traits, for example intelligence (2003: 367, 369, 374). Indeed, one might wonder why, given that Driver’s primary concern is epistemic reliability, she sees fit to restrict her attention to truth-conducive traits of character in the first place. Accordingly, while Driver’s view of intellectual virtues may not be an exact analogue of a consequentialist view of moral virtues, it is clear enough what such an analogue would be, and that it would correspond to responsibilist rather than reliabilist accounts of intellectual virtue. Thanks to Heather Battaly for raising this issue. 5 Of course, empathy need not be purely affective; it might also include a robust cognitive dimension. However, to the extent that empathy is, say, a matter of getting inside another person’s mind (vs. mirroring the person’s affections), it is less an analogue of any intellectual virtue than it is an intellectual virtue itself. Thanks to Heather Battaly for helping me see some of the relevant distinctions here. For a relevant and helpful discussion, see her (2011). 6 Thanks to Heather Battaly for raising this point. 7 Natural (moral or epistemic) virtues are not unrelated to natural (moral or epistemic) sentiments. However, natural virtues arguably exhibit a greater psychological complexity than natural sentiments. Were this not the case, the present point about natural virtues would be entailed by the prior point about natural sentiments. 8 This is not (merely) because the concerns of reliabilist virtue epistemology extend, at least in principle, to the domain of moral facts or truths. Rather, because the capacities at issue (e.g., moral intuition or perception) are morally evaluable, the point is that part of what it is to be a good moral agent is to be a good epistemic agent in certain respects, and that virtue epistemology is well positioned to explain these respects. 9 See Alfano (2012). Sosa’s most recent formulation (2015a) of virtue epistemology is especially interesting in this regard. On the one hand, he eschews responsibilist virtues (at least insofar as they involve an element of intrinsic epistemic motivation); on the other hand, he gives intellectual character virtues of a sort (what he calls “agential virtues”) pride of place in his account of reflective knowledge. See Sosa (2015b) and Baehr (2015). 10 It is, of course, open to naturalistically minded virtue reliabilists to deny that moral judgment is epistemically reliable or that it is grounded in something like moral intuition or perception, and thereby to avoid this implication. 11 See Swanton (2014: 129) for a similar point. 12 I am indebted to Josh Dolin, Steve Porter, and Dan Speak for helpful conversations on the issues discussed in this chapter, and to Heather Battaly for helpful comments on a previous draft. REFEREN CE S Alfano, M. (2012) “Expanding the Situationist Challenge to Responsibilist Virtue Epistemology,” The Philosophical Quarterly 62: 223–249. Audi, R. (1997) “Moderate Intuitionism and the Epistemology of Moral Judgment,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 1(1): 15–44. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Baehr, J. (2015) “Character Virtues, Epistemic Agency, and Reflective Knowledge,” in M. Alfano (ed.) Current Controversies in Virtue Theory, New York: Routledge, 74–87. Baehr, J. and L. Zagzebski. (2013) “Are Intellectually Virtuous Motives Essential to Knowledge?” in M. Steup and J. Turri (eds.) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 133–151. Battaly, H. (2008) “Virtue Epistemology,” Philosophy Compass 3: 639–663. Battaly, H. (2011) “Is Empathy a Virtue?” in A. Coplan and P. Goldie (eds.) Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 277–301. Battaly, H. (2015) Virtue, Cambridge: Polity. Battaly, H. and M. Slote. (2015) “Virtue Epistemology and Virtue Ethics,” in L. Besser-Jones and M. Slote (eds.) Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics, New York: Routledge, 253–269. Blum, L. (1991) “Moral Perception and Particularity,” Ethics 101(4): 701–725. Bradley, B. (2005) “Virtue Consequentialism,” Utilitas 17(3): 282–298. Dancy, J. (2010) “Moral Perception and Moral Knowledge,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 84: 99–117. Driver, J. (2000) “Moral and Epistemic Virtue,” in G. Axtell (ed.) Knowledge, Belief, and Character, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 123–134. Driver, J. (2001) Uneasy Virtue, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Driver, J. (2003) “The Conflation of Moral and Epistemic Virtue,” Metaphilosophy 34: 367–383. Driver, J. (2013) “Moral Sense and Sentimentalism,” in R. Crisp (ed.) Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 358–376.


Jason Baehr

Goldman, A. (2001) “The Unity of the Epistemic Virtues,” in A. Fairweather and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Virtue Epistemology: Essays on Epistemic Virtue and Responsibility, New York: Oxford University Press, 30–48. Greco, J. (2010) Achieving Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. McDowell, J. (1979) “Virtue and Reason,” The Monist 62: 331–350. Montmarquet, J. (1993) Doxastic Responsibility and Epistemic Virtue, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Reeve, C.D.C. (2013) Aristotle on Practical Wisdom, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Roberts, R. and W.J. Wood. (2007) Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ross, W.D. (1930/2002) The Right and the Good, ed. P. Stratton-Lake, New York: Oxford University Press. Scheffler, I. (1991) In Praise of the Cognitive Emotions, New York: Routledge. Sosa, E. (2007) A Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2015a) Judgment and Agency, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2015b) “Virtue Epistemology: Character Versus Competence,” in M. Alfano (ed.) Current Controversies in Virtue Theory, New York: Routledge, 62–74. Swanton, C. (2014) “The Notion of the Moral: The Relation Between Virtue Ethics and Virtue Epistemology,” Philosophical Studies 171: 121–134. Wright, J.L. (2007) “The Role of Moral Perception in Mature Moral Agency,” in J. Wisnewski (ed.) Moral Perception, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 1–24. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

9 Sentimentalist Virtue Epistemology: Beyond Responsibilism and Reliabilism Michael Slote

Both virtue ethics and virtue epistemology have been reviving recently, but the revival has taken them in somewhat different directions. There are currently two main competing branches of virtue ethics: the neo-Aristotelian and the sentimentalist or neo-Humean. But the two main forms of virtue epistemology, Reliabilism and Responsibilism, both take inspiration from Aristotle: the former from his work on intellectual virtue, the latter from his work on ethical virtue. In neither case is Hume in the picture, but I hope to show you that virtue epistemology actually has a lot to learn from Hume and from sentimentalism generally. Responsibilists focus exclusively on the epistemic virtues of persons: all epistemic virtues are considered virtues of someone’s character. By contrast, Reliabilists treat certain subpersonal cognitive systems (e.g., vision) as cognitively virtuous, though in recent years they have also emphasized the role of person-level epistemic virtues. Reliabilists justify perceptual beliefs by reference to the reliability of certain sub-personal cognitive systems, rather than to anything about us as persons. And Responsibilists have found it difficult to say how perceptual beliefs can be justified because they have been unable to persuasively say what such justification requires at the personal level. But I hope to show you how a foundationally sentimentalist virtue epistemology can pinpoint epistemic person-level character traits that can justify not only perceptual, but also memory, inductive, and abductive beliefs. It can arguably accomplish what neither Reliabilism nor Responsibilism has been able to accomplish: provide an account of our justification for the just-mentioned sorts of beliefs in terms of epistemic virtues operating entirely at the level of persons. Let’s start by considering Responsibilism. 9. 1 R ESPO NSI B I LI SM AND S E N T IME N T A LIS M

Responsibilism holds that individuals are responsible for whether they are epistemically virtuous: e.g., whether they are, or are not, intellectually courageous or open-minded. But Responsibilists who discuss open-mindedness as a prime example of epistemic virtue don’t sufficiently emphasize its connection with receptivity, in particular with receptivity to the views of those one (initially) disagrees with. 105


Michael Slote

A genuinely open-minded person doesn’t have to be receptive to every viewpoint: it can be appropriate for them to reject certain crazy beliefs out of hand. But where open-mindedness is called for, it paradigmatically involves an ability and willingness to see things from the point of view of people who disagree with one about some topic, and this clearly involves a kind of epistemic receptivity. This goes beyond “getting into other people’s heads.” If a person who gets into another’s head is exploring for weaknesses in that person’s ideas solely as a means to being to give a better argument for their own intellectual position, they can’t be considered open-minded. Rather, the open-minded person is receptive to what others think and tries to see things from another person’s differing point of view. (This doesn’t entail that they will eventually come to agree with the other person.) And this conclusion moves us in the direction of sentimentalist virtue epistemology. Open-mindedness involves being epistemically receptive vis-à-vis others’ differing opinions. But, it can be argued that an element of receptivity is also required for the justification of ordinary and non-controversial perceptual (and memory) beliefs. Since Responsibilism cannot adequately account for low-grade perceptual and memory justification, this will give the present sentimentalist approach an advantage over Responsibilism. (My critique of Reliabilism will come later in the discussion.) The argument for these conclusions depends on drawing an analogy between practical and epistemic rationality. Political liberals frequently tell us that we should in principle subject all our beliefs, values, emotions, and relationships to critical rational scrutiny and questioning. Now the questioning of beliefs, and even of emotions, may well be an epistemic as well as a practical matter, but since the liberal also talks of questioning relationships and values more generally, it seems they are speaking in practical terms about the most rational way to lead one’s life. But should a parent seriously question their love for their child? Should friends question their relationship even apart from any specific reasons either of them has for wondering whether it is going well or is a good thing (for them)? Many liberals will say yes and therefore say that a failure (ever) to do so would show someone to be less practically rational in and about their life than they could or (rationally) should be (see Nussbaum 1999: 4ff.). But can’t we turn the tables here? Wouldn’t it be irrational to question a friendship in the absence of some particular worrying fact? Or consider our ordinary desire to avoid pain and sickness. If someone, following liberal doctrine, were to seriously question that desire, that value, they would have to put it into a kind of practical abeyance until such time as they could satisfactorily justify having that desire, and if this constitutes a serious, if temporary, personal attitude (not just an issue for debate in a class on philosophy), they will be less highly motivated to avoid these things than it is rational for them to be. So, following the liberal injunction to seriously question everything would require us to have motivational attitudes that are clearly criticizable in practical rational terms. The liberal injunction to seriously question everything in our lives is offered as a way for someone to be in rational control of how they lead their life. But to that extent, the commitment to liberalism also exemplifies a less than receptive attitude to what life may have brought one’s way. By contrast, the idea defended here, that we rationally shouldn’t question what we are doing, etc., without a very specific reason, recommends a (more) receptive attitude toward the contents of one’s own actual life. This receptivity is not always a receptivity toward others, but, given its relevance to all of a person’s practical activities and attitudes, it is certainly an important form of receptivity. What we have been saying therefore implies that practical rationality involves an aspect of receptivity that is violated by the liberal injunction. By the same token, we will now see that epistemic rationality involves receptivity in a much broader way than what is involved in open-mindedness; and this will lead us toward sentimentalist virtue epistemology.



If we distinguish between sheer philosophical doubts about whether the avoidance of pain (or anything in life) is worth pursuing and serious personal doubts about such matters that would involve an attenuation of practical motivation and resultant action that could be characterized as to some extent irrational, we can make a similar distinction in epistemology. If someone believes they see a tree, but then goes into a classroom to discuss whether there is any philosophically convincing reason to have any beliefs about the external world, this will presumably not weaken their earlier belief that they saw a tree. But what if epistemological skepticism gets to them more deeply and personally and makes them start seriously worrying about whether they ever have seen or do see any trees? If they do, it might well be argued that they have become epistemically at least somewhat irrational; that they now lack certain beliefs that they in all epistemic rationality ought to have. This conclusion has a certain plausibility on its own, but it derives additional strength from the analogy with practical rationality. If it is practically irrational to act and think as if nihilism about the avoidance of pain or about all values had to be taken very seriously in one’s life, might it not be epistemically irrational to act and think as if Cartesian-like doubts had to be taken seriously in one’s cognitive life? And the parallel extends further. If the person who seriously doubts the value of their own interests and emotions shows a lack of receptivity and trust toward (the contents of) their own life that can be seen as running counter to the dictates of ordinary practical rationality, then can’t we similarly say that a person who seriously doubts their senses on Cartesian grounds is showing an epistemically deplorable lack of trust or of epistemic receptivity vis-à-vis the deliverances of their senses? Similarly, it makes practical sense to question one’s own interests or emotions if one has specific understandable reasons for doing so, and, similarly, it can be epistemically rational to question a perceptual belief in the light of specific evidence against it (as when one knows one is in a desert and subject to mirage illusions). But it doesn’t follow that it can be practically rational to seriously question one’s emotions or values on the kind of very abstract grounds that liberalism subscribes to or that arise from very general forms of practical/evaluative skepticism. And it also doesn’t follow that it can be epistemically rational to seriously question ordinary perceptual beliefs on grounds deriving solely from Cartesian skepticism. Now you may say that all this ignores how difficult it is to argue against Cartesian skepticism by giving reasons for epistemically favoring commonsense views about the world over various skeptical hypotheses. Can we really be justified in our empirical beliefs if we have no argument(s) to rule out skeptical alternatives? Well, let’s assume we lack such arguments. Even so, we could still claim that it is epistemically irrational or unjustified for one to seriously, personally, doubt most of our perceptual beliefs or not believe things about one’s surroundings on the basis of one’s sense perceptions. And the basis for saying so would be the analogy between practical doubts and epistemic ones, and the force of our original claim that seriously lived liberalism or skepticism about practical value demonstrates an irrational lack of receptivity to what life brings one’s way. If seriously questioning all relationships and feelings for this reason makes no practical sense, then the lack of epistemic receptivity involved in seriously questioning (all) the beliefs that naturally arise from sense perception argues for the epistemic irrationality of such questioning. Think what this means. Responsibilist virtue epistemology has had a difficult time accounting for low-grade perceptual knowing and justified perceptual belief because the virtuous traits it countenances are too “high-level” to be required for such knowledge and justification—children can have perceptual knowledge though they have not yet acquired certain components of the intellectual virtues.1 And Responsibilists also don’t identify any epistemically virtuous character trait that would be lacking in someone who took Cartesian skepticism seriously in their life. But if one casts one’s net more widely to include the putative


Michael Slote

epistemic virtue of receptivity to what one’s sense organs have brought one’s way, then a certain epistemic character trait does lie at the heart of justified perceptual belief. (Similarly for justified memory belief.) The justification for such belief lies in the way it exemplifies a kind of epistemic receptivity that it is rational for human beings to exemplify—just as someone who casts aside their perceptual beliefs on skeptical grounds counts as epistemically irrational for failing to be receptive to what their senses have “told” them. Just as receptivity plays the role of an epistemic virtue in regard to open-mindedness, it can play a similar but broader role re perceptual or memory knowledge. Reliabilism has always seemed to have an advantage over Responsibilism because of its presumed ability to justify ordinary perceptual beliefs via the reliability of the subpersonal cognitive systems that underlie them. But receptivity is a personal or individual character trait; it needn’t be considered sub-personal because it is arguably people who are open-mindedly receptive to others’ ideas and people who can refuse to take skepticism seriously in their lives. This means that a Responsibilist who works solely at the personal level and accepts what we have just been saying about the epistemic virtue of receptivity could account for the epistemic justification of perceptual (and memory) beliefs. One reason for preferring Reliabilism to Responsibilism, namely its supposedly superior ability to account for perceptual and memory justification, is thereby undercut, and this means that Reliabilism has to be defended on other grounds. However, if the Responsibilist moves in this direction, they have to give up one aspect of their own previous theorizing. Our ordinary receptivity to what our sense organs “tell us” is not a trait that has to be cultivated, so if there is virtue in such a personal trait, it isn’t virtue that we are responsible for. Therefore, the Responsibilist who wishes to account for the epistemic justification of perceptual beliefs via receptivity is no longer in the fullest sense a Responsibilist. Their view would then be better described as a form of virtue-epistemological “Personalism,” and in affirming such a view they would have moved closer to the received Reliabilist assumption that some epistemic virtues don’t have to be cultivated. Moreover, the Personalist idea that not all epistemic/cognitive virtue needs to be cultivated or developed actually makes a certain sense on its own. Romantics like Rousseau and Wordsworth admired the curiosity and fresh eyes of childhood, and it favors the Personalist approach that it can regard childhood curiosity and (cognitive) imaginativeness—and not just the perceptual receptivity we also seem to have from the start—as epistemically valuable in a way that Responsibilism, with its emphasis on cultivation and responsibility for epistemic virtue and vice, cannot. And we can begin to see how Personalism takes us toward a sentimentalist (virtue) epistemology, if we notice the similarity with what Hume says about natural (moral) virtues. Hume’s moral sentimentalism treats benevolence and gratitude as “natural virtues” that are present even in children; and the virtue epistemologist can similarly insist that (childhood) curiosity, imaginativeness, and epistemic receptivity are natural epistemic virtues (of persons), an idea that has been absent from Responsibilism and epistemology more generally.2 Now sentimentalist virtue ethics standardly invokes emotions like compassion and benevolence, but what I am calling sentimentalist virtue epistemology rests at least partly on the character trait of receptivity, and receptivity, while a virtue, doesn’t seem to be or involve emotion. So in what sense is what I am proposing a form of sentimentalist (virtue) epistemology? Does the fact that Personalism bases its account of the epistemic virtues (in part) on epistemic analogues of the natural virtues invoked by Hume’s moral sentimentalism by itself show that Personalist virtue epistemology embodies a form of sentimentalism? Perhaps not. But there is a further reason for considering the approach I am taking here to constitute a kind of epistemological sentimentalism.



I earlier said that open-mindedness involves receptivity to the ideas of those who disagree with us. But when someone disagrees with one, they favor a certain way of seeing things that one doesn’t oneself initially favor, and that means that they favor one way of understanding things or seeing the world over others that are incompatible with it. It also means that they have a favorable attitude toward some idea or argument that those who disagree with them do not share. I have elsewhere (Slote 2014) argued at length that all this implies that believing a proposition intrinsically involves favoring it over relevant others for inclusion in one’s theoretical picture of (the truth about) what the world is like. Far from being “inert” and purely intellectual or cognitive, belief arguably involves the kind of affect/emotion involved in favoring one thing over another: just as we can favor one nephew or political party over another, we can favor one idea or proposition over others that are inconsistent with it. And there is no reason to consider this a mere metaphor any more than the idea of intellectual sympathy has to be thought of as metaphorical. As higher creatures, we can feel emotions toward what is abstract or hypothetical and not just toward what is actual and concrete. Moreover, the strong emotional reactions we have when someone “out of the blue” questions or denies ordinary and even unimportant beliefs of ours are some evidence for the intrinsically emotional character of beliefs generally. If someone abruptly and with a straight face tells us that the Empire State Building is in Albany, which is (after all) the capital of the Empire State of New York, we will tend to react with annoyance; and that is some indication that we are emotionally invested in a contrary belief. And this will be true even if we have no personal interest in visiting or knowing more about the Empire State Building. In that case, I want to claim of those beliefs, whether perceptual or otherwise, that are justified, that their justification depends on emotion or affect. This conclusion clearly entails that we are doing sentimentalist virtue epistemology here.3 And for reasons detailed elsewhere (Battaly and Slote 2015; Slote 2010), epistemological sentimentalism doesn’t at all have to undercut the objectivity of (claims about) epistemic virtue any more, as it turns out, than moral sentimentalism has to undercut the objectivity of morality. Now Responsibilism has no plausible account of perceptual and memory justification, but it also has provided no way to understand the justification of inductive beliefs. The Reliabilist can say that generalizing from particular instances is, other things being equal, reliable and can therefore count as a basis for justified belief in generalizations. This doesn’t directly address Hume’s doubts about or Nelson Goodman’s “New Riddle” of induction, but the Reliabilist can consistently hold that our present beliefs in various generalizations and our tendencies to believe in accordance with normal canons of enumerative induction are justified if in fact, and as we all believe, they would lead to truths most of the time. By contrast, the Responsibilist seems unable to offer even this much of an answer to the question of what makes it epistemically rational to inductively generalize. However, the Personalist can offer Responsibilists who are willing to move over to Personalism, a way out of this further difficulty. When we generalize or infer to the next instance—the next crow will be black—this is typically a matter of belief more than of action, but, as we learned from the behaviorists, action-tendencies also generalize. According to the so-called “law of effect,” if in certain circumstances a certain kind of action or behavior is rewarded (punished), then that behavior is more (less) likely to occur in the future when similar circumstances arise than it was prior to its originally being rewarded (punished). The law of effect makes sense whether one is a behaviorist or not (though the term “similar” needs to be pinned down), but I want to say that both beliefs based on enumerative induction and behaviors or actions that have been made more likely by the rewarding or punishing of previous similar/dissimilar actions are cases of generalization.


Michael Slote

Note, however, that in the latter case the tendency to generalize is sometimes based on a single instance: once burned, twice shy. Discussions of enumerative induction have focused on the accumulation of many instances of a given generalization, on what Hume calls “constant conjunction.” But this focus on the many has made us unable to see the full epistemic force of the one. In line with what the law of effect tells us about rewarded behavior, a single instance of a generalization may, other things being equal, support that generalization more strongly than our philosophy of science or epistemology has allowed. I am claiming that a single instance of a generalization can support the generalization when other things are equal in relation to the evidence available to the agent. What else is needed for a single instance to support a generalization? Do we need to know that other things are in fact equal out there in the world; do we need to know that the single instance is actually representative of its kind? Arguably not. We don’t need to know that our sample isn’t biased or unrepresentative in order for our inductive inferences to be justified—it is enough that we have no positive reason to think that our sample is biased or unrepresentative. But even granting this, you may want to say that this applies only to large samples of some generalization, not to any single instance of it. But why not? Let’s say I see a single instance not of a black crow, but of a kind of bird I have never seen before, and let’s assume it is black. In such a case, I may hesitate to generalize to the next member of the new kind because I know that many species of birds or other animals are variable with respect to color. But this may just mean that I am in a situation where the inductive generalizations I would otherwise have reason to make cannot be reasonably made because they are in conflict—because I am in possession of some undermining evidence. Perhaps, then, if we didn’t have evidence of color-variability within species, the spotting of a single bird of a new kind would be evidence, good evidence, that the next member of that kind would be similarly colored. So I am suggesting that a single instance may allow for epistemically reasonable or justified generalization or inference when there are no contrary generalizations or underminers in play, or when other things are equal from an evidential standpoint. Consider a behavioral equivalent of unwillingness to infer from a single instance: a child who has never before encountered an open fire, who is painfully burned by touching that fire, but who acquires on that basis no tendency to fear fire or avoid touching future fires. This would be bizarre, and if the child started speaking, in Hume-like fashion, of how one single instance might not at all be a very good indication of how fires are generally or of what the next fire would be like, we would think that something had gone very wrong. Because we can assume that in this case other things are evidentially equal, a single instance of fire should give rise to a tendency to believe fire dangerous and/or to avoid touching fire in the future, and it would make no rational sense to act as if the given instance didn’t give one strong reason to avoid fire or some particular fire in the future. But similarly, then, noticing the color or song-pattern of a given bird gives us prima facie reason to infer the color or song-pattern of the next instance one will encounter; and I think that if someone hesitated to make such an inference in the absence of any available contrary generalization(s) or underminers, they would show themselves to be lacking in a kind of virtuous epistemic decisiveness that characterizes rational thinking. Because of all the things we know, we usually don’t find ourselves in a situation in which everything else is equal for us, but where everything else is equal, a single instance supports an inference to the next instance and possibly beyond that as much as, in the case of fire, it also supports a behavioral generalization. I am saying, then, that the insistence on constant conjunction as a necessary basis for inductive inference and/or generalization where everything else is equal is a mistake. And if someone were somehow unable or unwilling to make such a generalizing inference, I think that would show them to be epistemically indecisive in an unjustified way.



Now Hume in the first Enquiry (section IV, part II) says that constant conjunction cannot give us any real argument for a generalizing conclusion, because no genuine argument can depend on producing more and more instances of what is similar to the first instance of a given generalization. How, he effectively asks, can finding other instances that are just like a given first instance create a rational argument when the first instance didn’t give us any argument? But if a single instance gives us, ceteris paribus, an argument and if constant conjunction isn’t required, then these doubts about induction that Hume raises in the first Enquiry (but not the Treatise) can be answered. (Ironically, Hume even mentions the case of being burned once and consequently shying from future fire, but doesn’t see how it works against his own insistence on constant conjunction.) And if you then object that having more than one instance is evidentially or epistemically better than having just a single one, one can reply that on the present view having many instances favoring an inductive conclusion is having many different arguments for that conclusion, and having several arguments for a given conclusion is epistemically better than having only one. (Of course, none of this answers Hume’s worry in the Treatise and the Enquiry that inductive arguments can’t meet the standard of deductive validity without begging the question.) The behaviorist literature on the law of effect and common sense about children’s reactions to being burned give us reason to conclude that belief can legitimately generalize on the basis of a single instance when other things are equal. And epistemic decisiveness re induction is a natural epistemic virtue of individuals, not of subsystems of individuals. So by bringing in that epistemic character trait, the Responsibilist who becomes willing to countenance virtues that don’t have to be cultivated can extend their now-Personalist account of epistemic rationality to take in yet another area of the epistemic realm, enumerative induction. And what we have just said can also be applied to abduction. Philosophers often accuse scientists of irrationally “leaping to conclusions,” and the distinction between context of discovery and context of justification is often invoked to make that point. But this second-guessing of scientists seems to me gratuitously disrespectful. When Galileo and Einstein came unhesitatingly to some of their most important conclusions, I think they were being decisive, not irrational. So just as Hume was mistaken to think inductive inferences have to be based in constant conjunction, I think it is a mistake to assume, for example, that one should hesitate to accept an abductive/theoretical explanation because other explanations of a given phenomenon might be forthcoming in the future. Here, as with induction, decisiveness seems a mark of good scientific practice (for more on this topic, see Slote 2016). 9. 2 R ELI AB I LI SM AND S E N T IME N T A LIS M

It is now time to see how all the above bears on Reliabilism. Reliabilists nowadays insist that some epistemic virtues and vices occur at the level of persons (see Sosa 2011, 2015). But there is, nonetheless, a problem about the way in which they base the rational justification of ordinary perceptual, memory, and inductive beliefs solely on the virtues of sub-personal cognitive systems. How, one might ask, does what shows excellence at the sub-personal level translate or get transformed into rational justification or virtue at the level of persons? The natural epistemic virtues of Personalism offer the Reliabilist a possible answer here. The Reliabilist might hold, with the Personalist, that epistemic receptivity and decisiveness are personal virtues that provide the basis for the epistemic justification of perceptual, etc., beliefs that occur at the personal level; but they might then go on to add that this is entirely consistent with being a Reliabilist about our ultimate justification for


Michael Slote

such beliefs; for they could claim that decisiveness and receptivity are rationally justifying epistemic virtues only because they reliably, i.e., more often than not, yield true beliefs. But the sentimentalist/Personalist may well want to reject this last assumption. Consider induction. I have argued that the making of enumerative inductions can be based on the epistemic virtue of decisiveness. But consider, then, a conceivable case where the world is about to change in unexpected radical ways that will falsify most of what we have inductively come to believe. Assume, for example, that our world is about to become a demonworld. In this soon-to-be demon-world, enumerative induction is no longer a reliable mode of inference, and according to Reliabilism such inferences on our part will not be (or will no longer be) rationally justified. But internalists have argued that this seems, intuitively, to be a mistake. In a world that is about to become a demon-world, those who think inductively seem still to be rational in their thinking, even if most of that thinking will turn out to be, unexpectedly, mistaken.4 In this manner, internalists (e.g., Montmarquet 1993) have argued that reliability in producing true beliefs isn’t necessary for epistemic justification or virtue. And as a sentimentalist and Personalist, these (internalist) considerations persuade me that we shouldn’t tie the epistemic virtues to conditions of reliability. And neither, let me add, does an insistence on reliability necessarily support virtueepistemological Reliabilism. Sosa (2011) holds that we acquire propositional knowledge on the basis or through the exercise of epistemically reliable skills and virtues; but if innate knowledge of truths is possible—if evolution, for example, can bring it about that people are born knowing that snakes are dangerous—then knowledge can in principle be acquired through means other than the skill/competence/virtue of the knower. The innate knowledge evolution could thus select for would be adaptive and thus reliable, but it wouldn’t arise through any specific virtue of the knower. So virtue-epistemological Reliabilism turns out to be questionable as a general thesis about knowledge, but Personalism doesn’t have this problem because it can say that when we rely (sic) on innate knowledge we exemplify the same virtuous receptivity displayed by those who don’t question their perceptual/memory beliefs. I would like now to take our discussion in some new (and surprising) directions. 9 . 3 SENTI M ENTALI SM AND CH IN E S E P H ILOS OP H Y

I mentioned earlier that curiosity/inquisitiveness can be considered a natural epistemic virtue. But if we can now show that this virtue impacts the justification of perceptual beliefs, that will move us in a further new direction. Receptivity isn’t the same thing as passivity. Being receptive to something means being primed, even eager, for it, and this isn’t consistent with (total) passivity. Now I argued above that an epistemic virtue of receptivity undergirds our justification for perceptual (and memory) beliefs, but I think this virtue has a deep internal connection with the just-mentioned natural/epistemic virtue of curiosity or inquisitiveness, and that connection can help us to see why perceptual beliefs involve receptivity rather than passivity. Someone who is “taking in their surroundings” isn’t sensorily passive. Rather, they are focusing on and/or paying attention to various things around them, and the perceptual beliefs we gain about our surroundings standardly depend on such psychological factors. Focusing isn’t something we have to be conscious of doing, but it does involve us motivationally at a very basic level. If we have some practical purpose in mind, our focusing serves and expresses that purpose. But often (or even typically) when we look around us and focus on various things, we are not doing so for any particular or familiar practical purpose. We simply want to know what is going on, say, over there, to the right. Our focus expresses and furthers that desire to know, and such a desire to know, existing independently of other



practical purposes, is what we mean by inquisitiveness or curiosity. Focusing requires a certain effort (Dr. Johnson in the Boswell biography says at one point that he is too tired to focus on a distant clock). And I want to say that focusing and other ways of paying attention express a desire to know one’s surroundings. If curiosity is an epistemic/cognitive virtue, then the acquisition of perceptual beliefs involves that virtue. And the exercise of this virtue, as when we focus or pay attention, isn’t and cannot be passive, but, rather, is or constitutes an aspect of the epistemically virtuous receptivity that I have argued underlies perceptual justification. Our epistemically virtuous receptivity to what our senses tell us thus involves two elements: our tendency not to reject or “spit out” our previously acquired perceptual beliefs when confronted with epistemological skepticism and our initial seeking of such beliefs through focusing on our environment. But now I would like to revisit what I said previously about the epistemic decisiveness involved in inductive (and abductive) inferencing. To make an inductive inference involves accepting certain beliefs as the launching pad of that inference. To slightly alter William James’s well-known idea of flights and perchings, we can say that in making an inductive inference we take flight from one perch and fly to a very specific different one. This means that when one makes an inference, something has to be taken for granted, accepted, so one needs to be receptive to some thing(s) in order to be able to make a firm, specific inference to something else. Let me take all of this further. We spoke earlier of two natural epistemic virtues involved in low-level (childhood) epistemic rationality/justification: receptivity (of a certain kind) and decisiveness (of a certain kind). But we divided their roles at that point, treating decisiveness as involved in inductive justification and receptivity as involved in perceptual (or memory) justification. What I now want to argue is that each of these virtues is necessarily involved where the other is involved. The decisiveness of inductive inference involves the receptivity required for not spitting out all one’s beliefs on skeptical grounds or, more positively, the receptivity required for taking something as given and as the basis for inferring to new things. But we are now in a position to argue for the further conclusion that receptivity as involved in perceptual justification involves a certain decisiveness. When we focus, when we pay attention, we are being epistemically decisive, even if we are not (self-)consciously aware of what we are doing or trying to do. Curiosity about one’s environment or more generally involves a kind of (typically subliminal) epistemic decisiveness. (When we don’t focus, when we let our surroundings seem like, in James’s familiar terms, a “blooming, buzzing confusion,” we manifest a kind of epistemic indecisiveness.) So decisiveness is unthinkable without receptivity and vice versa. And more can be said. Doesn’t the contrast between receptivity and decisiveness remind some of you of the ancient Chinese contrast/complementarity of yin and yang? Most of us (Westerners) are familiar with yin and yang only at a superficial level. And yin and yang have got themselves a bad reputation even among Chinese scholars because of all of the popularizations that have been made in their name (as with macrobiotic diets). But I have recently argued (2013: 271–282) that yin and yang can be conceptualized in a way that gives them maximal philosophical import if we start with the idea of yin as the/a virtue of receptivity rather than as sheer passivity. By contrast, yang is traditionally regarded as a form of non-physical strength, and given how natural it is to speak of strength of purpose, it seems plausible to regard epistemic or other forms of decisiveness as yang traits rather than yin ones. But another feature of yin and yang as traditionally conceived is that they necessarily involve one another. And we have already argued that epistemic receptivity involves epistemic decisiveness and vice versa. Which means that the concepts of yin and yang and of an indissoluble yin/yang can be applied directly to the kind of sentimentalist virtue-epistemological approach I have taken here. Something analogous can be said about sentimentalist virtue ethics (though that is a


Michael Slote

long story for another occasion). So it turns out that the Personalist approach advocated here enriches the possibilities for virtue epistemology by taking it in a sentimentalist direction. But it also turns out that the sentimentalist “turn” in epistemology can link up with one of the most ancient traditions of Chinese thought. (Related Chapters: 1, 2, 8, 10, 37.) NOTE S 1 See Zagzebski’s analysis of low-grade knowledge (1996: 277–281). For arguments that this analysis is too strong, see Baehr (2006); Greco (2002). I also want to take this opportunity to thank Heather Battaly for helpful suggestions concerning the present chapter. 2 Reliabilist Ernest Sosa has spoken of the epistemic motivation for truth as operating at a sub-personal level even in children (Sosa 2011: 22ff.). But I think it makes more sense to identify that underlying human motivation with ordinary curiosity or inquisitiveness as a characteristic of persons or individuals. Incidentally, if animals can be curious or can receptively believe what their senses tell them, then my account extends beyond what are usually regarded as persons. But the term “Personalism” is nonetheless convenient for our purposes here. 3 Hume was a moral sentimentalist, but not a sentimentalist about belief (he thought beliefs only caused emotions) or about epistemic virtue. I think this is partly accounted for by the difference between Hume and the Romantics who came after him. The latter saw the values and virtues of childhood much more clearly than anyone in the Enlightenment period, even a moral anti-rationalist like Hume, ever did. Incidentally, even if believing something involves epistemically favoring a certain view of things, that doesn’t entail that one is happy about having to view things that way, about having to believe what one believes—as when someone who discovers that their spouse has been multiply unfaithful may (finally) believe this about them, but be unhappy about having to believe it. 4 Here I am ignoring Goodman’s New Riddle of Induction (1954), but I have elsewhere argued (Slote forthcoming) that inductive inferences with predicates like “grue” can be ruled out as “naturally” unintelligible.

REFERE N C E S Aristotle. (1984) Nicomachean Ethics, in J. Barnes (ed.) The Complete Works of Aristotle, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Battaly, H. and M. Slote. (2015) “Virtue Epistemology and Virtue Ethics,” in L. Besser-Jones and M. Slote (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics, New York: Routledge, 253–269. Baehr, J. (2006) “Character in Epistemology,” Philosophical Studies 128: 479–514. Goodman, N. (1954) Fact, Fiction, and Forecast, University of London: Athlone Press. Greco, J. (2002) “Virtues in Epistemology,” in P. Moser (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology, New York: Oxford University Press. Hume, D. (1978/1739) A Treatise of Human Nature, L.A. Selby-Bigge (ed.), Oxford: Clarendon Press. Hume, D. (1961/1748) An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, in L.A. Selby-Bigge (ed.) Hume’s Enquiries, 2nd edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Montmarquet, J.A. (1993) Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Nussbaum, M. (1999) Sex and Social Justice, New York: Oxford University Press. Slote, M. (2010) Moral Sentimentalism, New York: Oxford University Press. Slote, M. (2013) “Updating Yin and Yang,” Dao 12: 271–282. Slote, M. (2014) A Sentimentalist Theory of the Mind, New York: Oxford University Press. Slote, M. (2016) “From Virtue Ethics to Virtue Epistemology,” in C. Mi, M. Slote, and E. Sosa (eds.) Moral and Intellectual Virtues in Western and Chinese Philosophy, New York: Routledge, 16–33. Slote, M. (forthcoming) “From Goodman’s Riddle to Wittgenstein on Rule Following: Does It All Make Sense?” Sosa, E. (2011) Knowing Full Well, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Sosa, E. (2015) Judgment and Agency, New York: Oxford University Press. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

10 A Third Kind of Intellectual Virtue: Personalism Heather Battaly

What is an intellectual virtue? The literature in virtue epistemology has offered two main answers: virtue reliabilism and virtue responsibilism. Led by Ernest Sosa (2007) and John Greco (2010), virtue reliabilism argues that intellectual virtues are stable dispositions to reliably produce true beliefs. Sosa and Greco are willing to count an array of reliable dispositions—be they faculties, skills, or character traits—as intellectual virtues. Reliabilist virtues will include, for instance, hard-wired faculties of reliable vision and memory, the acquired skill of identifying birds by their songs, and the acquired character trait of openmindedness (provided that it is reliable). Sosa and Greco think that intellectual virtues must be reliable, but need not be acquired, nor need they be praiseworthy or personal. In contrast, led by Linda Zagzebski (1996), Jason Baehr (2011), and James Montmarquet (1993), virtue responsibilism argues that intellectual virtues must be character traits, like openmindedness and intellectual humility, over which we have some control and for which we are (partly) responsible. Inspired by work in Aristotelian virtue ethics, responsibilists argue that like moral virtues, intellectual virtues must be acquired, praiseworthy, and personal. They disagree about whether intellectual virtues require reliability. This chapter argues that we need a third analysis of intellectual virtue: personalism (Battaly 2016a, 2017; Battaly and Slote 2016; Slote and Battaly 2018). Personalism contends that intellectual virtues are personal dispositions, rather than sub-personal ones. That is, it restricts intellectual virtues to character traits—dispositions that express who we are as people, or (since we are here concerned with the intellectual domain) as thinkers. It has this in common with responsibilism. But like reliabilism, personalism argues that an individual need not be responsible (accountable) for possessing intellectual virtues. Personalism allows for the possibility that an individual might have had little or no control over which character traits she came to possess, and thus might not be praiseworthy (or blameworthy) for having the intellectual virtues (or vices) that she has. Below, I examine reliabilism and responsibilism, in turn. I then argue that we should add personalism to our pluralist repertoire: in addition to recognizing both reliabilist and responsibilist virtues—many virtue epistemologists are already pluralists of this sort—we should also recognize this third, personalist, kind of intellectual virtue. In closing, I address some objections to personalism and identify some areas for further research. 115


Heather Battaly


Virtue reliabilism conceives of the intellectual virtues as stable reliable dispositions— dispositions to produce more true beliefs than false ones. Reliabilists are here applying a concept of virtue that was endorsed by Plato in Republic (353c) and Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics VI (1139b12–14).1 This concept does not restrict virtues to character traits, or even to people. As Sosa describes it, “there is a . . . sense of ‘virtue’ . . . in which anything with a function . . . does have virtues. They eye does . . . have its virtues, and so does a knife” (1991: 271). Sosa goes on to apply this concept to intellectual virtues: If we include grasping the truth about one’s environment among the proper ends of a human being, then the faculty of sight would seem in a broad sense a virtue in human beings; and if grasping the truth is an intellectual matter then that virtue is also in a straightforward sense an intellectual virtue. (Sosa 1991: 271) In other words, intellectual virtues are stable dispositions that enable us to perform our intellectual functions well, or (sans teleology) to produce good intellectual effects like true beliefs. These dispositions can be faculties, skills, competences, abilities, or even character traits. In early work, Sosa (1991) and Greco (2000) focused on hard-wired faculties, like vision and memory. More recently, they have broadened their scope to emphasize both hard-wired faculties and acquired intellectual skills: ‘competences’ (Sosa 2011) and ‘abilities’ (Greco 2010) include, e.g., 20/30 vision and the skill of identifying birds by their songs. Sosa’s Judgment and Agency even highlights “agential” virtues like proper care and attentiveness, and character virtues like open-mindedness (2015: 48).2 In short, reliabilism doesn’t prevent intellectual character traits from counting among the intellectual virtues, it just insists that those character traits be reliable. We can zero in on virtue reliabilism by identifying five of its key features. First, as mentioned above, reliabilists argue that intellectual virtues need not be acquired; they can be hard-wired. As Sosa puts the point, some intellectual virtues “come courtesy of Mother Nature and her evolutionary ways, but many others must be learned” (2007: 85). Similarly, Greco contends that intellectual virtues can include “both a person’s natural cognitive faculties and her acquired habits of thought” (2000: 177). Despite Sosa’s recent shift toward “agential” virtues (2015: 48), hard-wired faculties like reliable vision are still a crucial part of his view—they help him explain animal knowledge (Sosa 2017). Second, reliabilists argue that we need not be responsible for our intellectual virtues. Since we have no control over which hard-wired faculties we end up possessing, we can’t be praised for possessing reliable ones (20/30 vision) or blamed for possessing unreliable ones (20/200 vision). In other words, we can have intellectual virtues and vices for whose possession we are not responsible.3 Third, reliabilists think that intellectual virtues need not be personal—they need not express one’s epistemic character; they can be sub-personal. As I am using the term, ‘personal’ intellectual dispositions express an individual’s epistemic character—her epistemic motivations and value-commitments. In other words, they express her conception of epistemic value and her corresponding motivations. They tell us whether an individual values and cares about (for example) truth and understanding, or looking smart, or getting a good grade, or taking whatever intellectual path is easiest. Hard-wired virtues like reliable vision don’t do this. They don’t tell us anything about the epistemic character of the person who



has them. Case in point: an intellectually diligent person, who values and loves truth, and an intellectually lazy person, who is motivated to take the easy path, can both have the virtue of 20/30 vision. Even animals that are incapable of developing epistemic motivations and values can have reliable vision. In short, reliabilists think that some intellectual virtues— e.g., reliable vision—are sub-personal (in the above sense). Granted, Greco (2005) and Sosa (2011) have both suggested that intellectual virtues, even hard-wired ones, may require a default motivation for truth. But, neither thinks this default motivation expresses anything as robust as epistemic character. As Greco stresses, “there is no strong motivation condition, no control condition” (2005: 304). Similarly, Sosa argues that although intellectual virtues involve “endeavoring” to attain truth, such endeavoring can be “involuntary, unconscious, and sub-personal” (2011: 23). A word of caution: reliabilism does not exclude personal intellectual virtues; rather, it contends that intellectual virtues can be personal, but need not be. Fourth, reliabilism argues that intellectual virtues must be reliable. They must be disposed to produce a preponderance of true beliefs. Sosa and Greco point out that they need only be disposed to produce a preponderance of true beliefs in the sorts of conditions we typically encounter. After all, the reliability of vision is not impugned by its failure to produce true beliefs in the dark, though it is impugned by its failure to produce true beliefs about objects seen in broad daylight. Accordingly, Sosa argues that for vision to be reliable, it must be disposed to produce more true beliefs than false ones about the basic shapes and colors of medium-sized objects, when they are seen nearby, without occlusion, and in good light (Sosa 1991: 139, 2015: 95; Greco 2010: 77). Reliabilists also tend to treat reliability as sufficient for intellectual virtue, on the assumption that virtues are already restricted to stable cognitive dispositions that are seated in the individual (Greco 2000). Finally, for reliabilism, the intellectual virtues must be instrumentally valuable but need not be intrinsically valuable. Intellectual virtues—like reliable vision, reliable logical skills, reliable open-mindedness, and all the rest—are valuable because they consistently produce true beliefs, which are themselves fundamentally or intrinsically valuable. If a disposition doesn’t produce true beliefs—if it isn’t instrumentally valuable—then it isn’t an intellectual virtue. Reliabilists also tend to treat instrumental value—in the form of reliability—as sufficient for intellectual virtue, given that virtues are already restricted to stable cognitive dispositions that are seated in the individual. In short, they think the value of the intellectual virtues comes solely from the good intellectual effects that they produce. In a similar vein, intellectual vices, like unreliable vision, will be instrumentally dis-valuable. A disposition will count as an intellectual vice only if, and to the extent that, it produces false beliefs.


Virtue responsibilism argues that intellectual virtues require features of agency— motivations, values, and actions—over which we have some control and for which we are responsible. For responsibilists, the intellectual virtues are character traits that express who we are as thinking agents. Like reliabilists, responsibilists take their inspiration from Aristotle; but unlike reliabilists, they model their conception of intellectual virtue on Aristotle’s analysis of moral virtue. They think the structure and features of intellectual virtues are analogous to those of Aristotelian moral virtues (Zagzebski 1996; Baehr 2011; Montmarquet 1993). In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle famously argues that moral virtues are acquired dispositions of action, motivation, emotion, and perception. Following suit, responsibilists argue that intellectual virtues are acquired character traits—like


Heather Battaly

open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and intellectual perseverance—that require dispositions of epistemic motivation and epistemic action. To illustrate, responsibilists think that the intellectual virtue of open-mindedness is (roughly) an acquired disposition to care about truth and care about generating and considering alternative ideas (epistemic motivations), and an acquired disposition to actually generate and consider alternative ideas (epistemic actions).4 Responsibilists agree that intellectual virtues are reliable in the actual world, but disagree about whether the virtues conceptually require reliability. They likewise agree that reliability isn’t enough to turn a stable disposition into an intellectual virtue. It isn’t enough because intellectual virtues must be both personal and praiseworthy. As we will see below, the notion of personalism recognizes that these two concerns can be pulled apart. Let’s zero in on virtue responsibilism. In contrast with reliabilism, responsibilists argue that intellectual virtues must be acquired; they cannot be hard-wired. They think that like Aristotelian moral virtues, intellectual virtues must be praiseworthy, and we cannot be praised for possessing hard-wired faculties, since their possession isn’t subject to our control. We can only be praised for dispositions whose possession is subject to our control— dispositions we acquire and learn. In Baehr’s words: “intellectual virtues are not ‘natural’— either in the sense of being innate . . . or being a mere product of one’s upbringing.” Rather, “virtues are to a significant extent a product of their possessor’s repeated choices or actions—choices or actions that are under their possessor’s voluntary control” (2011: 27). Accordingly, responsibilists think that we must be responsible for our intellectual virtues. Intellectual virtues must be dispositions for which we can be praised; likewise, intellectual vices must be dispositions for which we can be blamed. Importantly, Montmarquet argues that a disposition won’t count as an intellectual virtue or vice unless we have control over, and are responsible for, its operation.5 But, I will here focus on responsibility for the possession of a disposition rather than its operation. In this vein, Zagzebski contends that “virtues are qualities that deserve praise for their presence and blame for their absence. Even greater blame is due to a person who has the contrary of a virtue, namely, a vice” (1996: 104). On her view, we are praiseworthy for possessing virtues because they are the sorts of dispositions that one must work to acquire. As she puts the point: “it is part of the nature of a virtue in the standard case that it be an entrenched quality that is the result of moral work on the part of the human agent” (1996: 125). Acquiring virtue requires effort; the agent who succeeds in acquiring virtue is praiseworthy for putting in the requisite effort. For Zagzebski, this is a conceptual requirement on virtue, not merely a causal one. She argues that Nozick’s transformation machine cannot produce virtues, since virtues necessitate effort on the part of the agent and praise for that effort, neither of which is afforded by the machine (Nozick 1974: 44). For Zagzebski and for Baehr (see the quote above), the agent has some control over her development and over whether she becomes virtuous or vicious. The kind of praise that attaches to virtue reflects that control. Third, responsibilists argue that intellectual virtues must be personal—they must express one’s epistemic character. They must be deep qualities of a person that are “closely identified with her selfhood,” rather than mere “raw materials for the self” (Zagzebski 1996: 104). To express an individual’s epistemic character, intellectual virtues must be (at least partly) constituted by internal psychological features like epistemic motivations and value-commitments. With respect to epistemic motivations, responsibilists contend that all intellectual virtues require an underlying motivation for truth, understanding, or other epistemic goods.6 Thus, Baehr argues that an intellectual virtue is “a character trait that contributes to its possessor’s personal intellectual worth on account of its involving a positive psychological orientation toward epistemic goods” (2011: 102). This underlying motivation for epistemic goods—common to all



of the intellectual virtues—is said to spawn motivations that are distinctive of each individual virtue: e.g., the motivation to generate and consider alternative ideas (distinctive of openmindedness), the motivation to persevere in one’s inquiry in the face of threats (distinctive of intellectual courage), and so forth. With respect to epistemic value-commitments, responsibilists think that intellectual virtues require true, or at least justified, beliefs about what is (and is not) epistemically valuable. To put this point in Aristotelian terms: having an intellectual virtue requires having a true, or justified, “conception” of the epistemic good.7 In this vein, Baehr contends that an intellectually virtuous person will love what she has good reason to believe is an epistemic good and hate what she has good reason to believe is an epistemic bad. Importantly, on the responsibilist picture, agents must have some control over the development of their epistemic motivations and values. These two requirements—that the virtues be praiseworthy and personal—are vital for responsibilism: they explain why hard-wired faculties won’t count as intellectual virtues, and why reliability won’t be sufficient for intellectual virtue. Fourth, although responsibilists agree among themselves that reliability is conceptually insufficient for intellectual virtue, they disagree about whether the virtues conceptually require reliability. Zagzebski argues that the intellectual virtues require reliability (1996: 99–100); Montmarquet (1993: 20) and Baehr (2011: 123–126) argue that they do not. For Zagzebski, virtues of all sorts (whether intellectual or moral) require success. On her view, a virtue is a “deep and enduring acquired excellence of a person, involving a characteristic motivation to produce a certain desired end and reliable success in bringing about that end” (1996: 137). Intellectual virtues require a motivation to produce true beliefs (see above) and success in attaining that end; i.e., reliability. In contrast, Montmarquet and Baehr argue that reliability is not necessary for intellectual virtue because intellectual virtue is (sufficiently) subject to our control, whereas “reliability is largely a matter of luck” (Baehr 2011: 123). Producing true beliefs requires that one land in a hospitable environment rather than a demon world; but this, Baehr points out, is “substantially or even entirely beyond our control” (2011: 97). On his view, it is mistaken to think that an individual’s goodness . . . qua person . . . might depend on whether she is lucky enough to have the cooperation of her environment. Rather . . . what seems relevant are certain “internal” or psychological factors . . . what the person . . . desires, or strives to achieve. (2011: 97–98) In other words, internal psychological factors—our epistemic motivations and values—are (sufficiently) subject to our control, but reliability is not, and thus is not required for intellectual virtue. Responsibilists think that we have significantly more control over which epistemic motivations and values we develop than we do over getting true beliefs. Finally, responsibilists argue that the intellectual virtues must be (at least partly) intrinsically valuable. Intellectual virtues are valuable (at least partly) because they are constituted by intrinsically valuable motivations and commitments—e.g., the motivation for truth or other epistemic goods. If a disposition isn’t constituted by intrinsically valuable motivations and commitments, then it isn’t an intellectual virtue. In a similar vein, intellectual vices will be intrinsically dis-valuable. A disposition will count as an intellectual vice only if it is constituted by intrinsically bad motivations and commitments—e.g., the motivation to take whichever intellectual path is easiest. Responsibilists disagree about whether the virtues (and vices) must also be instrumentally (dis)valuable. For Zagzebski, intellectual virtues must be both intrinsically and instrumentally valuable, since they require good motivations and reliability. For Montmarquet and Baehr, they must be intrinsically (or fundamentally) valuable,


Heather Battaly

but need not be instrumentally valuable. By comparison, reliabilists think that intellectual virtues must be instrumentally valuable, but need not be intrinsically valuable. Reliabilists and responsibilists do agree about something! They all agree that intellectual virtues are dispositions that make us excellent thinkers. But, as we have seen, they disagree about exactly what makes someone an excellent thinker, and exactly what makes a disposition an intellectual virtue. Now, I submit that we need not choose between reliabilism and responsibilism; instead, we can endorse virtue-pluralism, which allows us to recognize both kinds of virtue. Arguably, there is more than one way to be an excellent thinker, and more than one kind of intellectual virtue (Battaly 2015a). We can be excellent thinkers, and be intellectually virtuous, by producing good intellectual effects like true beliefs, even if we don’t have good epistemic character. Likewise, we can be excellent thinkers, and be intellectually virtuous, by having good epistemic motives and values that we worked hard to get, even if we don’t produce true beliefs (Battaly 2015a, 2015b). Many virtue epistemologists today are willing to embrace this sort of pluralism.8 As John Greco and John Turri put the point: “Nowadays . . . most virtue epistemologists are happy to agree that there are at least two kinds of intellectual virtue, or intellectual excellence” (2012: viii). In the next section, I suggest that we add a third kind of intellectual virtue to our pluralism: personalism. 10. 3 PER SON A LIS M

What is personalism, and why should we add it to our pluralist repertoire? Personalism is a via media between responsibilism and reliabilism (Battaly 2016a, 2017; Battaly and Slote 2016; Slote and Battaly 2018). Like responsibilism, it argues that intellectual virtues and vices must be personal—they must express the individual’s epistemic character and, thus, be (at least partly) constituted by her epistemic motivations and value-commitments. Likewise, personalism requires the intellectual virtues to be (at least partly) intrinsically valuable: an epistemic character trait won’t be an intellectual virtue unless the epistemic motivations and commitments that help to constitute it are themselves intrinsically good.9 This intrinsic goodness is (at least part of) what makes such traits virtuous. But, like reliabilism, personalism recognizes that the agent need not be responsible for possessing intellectual virtues or vices. Personalism is compatible with responsibility-skepticism (Pereboom 2014). It allows for the possibility that an individual might have had little or no control over which character traits she came to possess, and thus might not be responsible (in the standard voluntarist sense) for having the intellectual virtues or vices that she has. It acknowledges that she might have come to possess her epistemic motivations and values largely, or even entirely, as a result of luck (good or bad); her environment might have done most or all of the “characterbuilding.” In short, personalism recognizes that the two main requirements that animate responsibilism—character and responsibility—can come apart. Though I will focus on its key features below, we should note that personalism can be filled out in a variety of ways. For instance, personalists are free to disagree about whether intellectual virtues conceptually require reliability (though they will agree that reliability isn’t sufficient for intellectual virtue). Likewise, they are free to disagree about whether the virtues must (conceptually) be acquired (since they reject the responsibility requirement).10 So much for carving out logical space. Even if we admit that there is logical space for personalism in a pluralist virtue epistemology, we might still doubt that personalism has an important role to play. After all, its extension might be empty, or nearly empty. Here, I suggest that personalism does have an important role to play. For starters, its extension includes intellectual character traits that are indoctrinated. Such traits may be especially



significant for vice epistemology (Battaly 2017)—hence, I use the intellectual vice of closedmindedness to illustrate this point. Consider children raised by the Hitler Jugend or by ISIS. They are indoctrinated to behave in ways that closed-minded people behave—to ignore, dismiss, and suppress alternative ideas. But, importantly, they also acquire the epistemic motivations and value-commitments of closed-minded people. Their environments indoctrinate them to care about and value stability, obedience, and conformity in their thinking, and to judge open-minded thought as weak and dangerous. They emerge with integrated dispositions of action, motivation, and value: they ignore, dismiss, and suppress alternative ideas and do so because of the epistemic motivations and value-commitments they have acquired. They are not conflicted, nor are they “just going through the motions”; rather, they are “true believers” who are executing their evaluative plans. Notice that the Jugend graduate’s closed-mindedness is personal—it expresses his epistemic character and is grounded in his epistemic values and motives. His epistemic values and motives are also intrinsically bad. Further, crucially, he isn’t responsible for becoming closed-minded—he isn’t blameworthy in the standard voluntarist sense where blame requires control. As Robert Adams suggests, children raised by the Hitler Jugend “were victim[s] of their education” (1985: 19). They acquired closed-mindedness (and other reprehensible character traits) involuntarily as products of their environment. In sum, the Jugend graduate’s closed-mindedness satisfies the conditions of a personalist vice (Battaly forthcoming). Arguably, intellectually virtuous traits can also be indoctrinated, though this might be a tougher case to make (see section 10.4). Philosophers of education have certainly worried that “character education” programs might be indoctrinating moral virtues.11 Accordingly, we can at least raise analogous worries about whether intellectual virtues can be indoctrinated. Perhaps, students could be indoctrinated—by particular organizations, schools, or teachers—to be open-minded. They, too, would emerge from indoctrination with integrated dispositions of action, motivation, and value; but, unlike their closed-minded counterparts, they would be disposed to generate and consider alternative ideas because they cared about and valued truth. If this picture is viable, their open-mindedness would satisfy the conditions of a personalist virtue. It would be personal—it would express their epistemic value-commitments and motives. Those value-commitments and motives (for truth) would be intrinsically valuable. Moreover, the students in question wouldn’t be responsible for becoming open-minded—they wouldn’t be praiseworthy in the standard sense where praise requires control. They would have acquired open-mindedness involuntarily as products of their environment. Is the extension of personalism limited to indoctrinated traits, or is it broader than this? The answer depends on how much control one has over one’s own character-formation. We may have less control than responsibilists think. This is the view of non-voluntarists like George Sher (2006, 2009) and Miranda Fricker (2007, 2016). Sher contends that “we rarely exercise effective control over the development of our traits” (2006: 12). He thinks that exercising such control would require knowingly performing actions that contribute to our character-development. But, he argues that much of our development occurs when we are children—when we are unlikely to know or care about performing such actions. Accordingly, he concludes that we aren’t usually responsible (in the standard voluntarist sense) for our initial possession of character traits. Indeed, Sher goes further, arguing that even as adults we aren’t usually in a position to know which actions will contribute to which traits. On his view, the connections between actions and traits are often “transparent only in retrospect” (2009: 38). Fricker is also skeptical of our control over, and responsibility for, our initial possession of character traits. She suggests that, in typical cases, we initially come to possess traits by “passively inheriting” them from the societies in which we grow up (2007: 82).


Heather Battaly

She thinks that since these societies are often racist and sexist, the traits we passively inherit are often intellectual and moral vices rather than intellectual and moral virtues (2007: 96). Now, if non-voluntarists like Sher and Fricker are correct, then many of our character traits—both vices and virtues—will be personalist ones. Indeed, personalism could end up having a much broader extension than responsibilism. Responsibilism could be the exception, and personalism the norm. Of course, responsibilists may object that the scope of personalism is beside the point, since it founders on a basic category mistake: it mistakenly assumes that traits for which the agent isn’t responsible are qualified to be virtues and vices in the first place. On a responsibilist picture, such traits can be good or bad, and lucky or unlucky, but they aren’t qualified to be virtues or vices, which require agent-praise and agent-blame. In short, whatever personalism is, it isn’t an analysis of virtue and vice. Replying to this objection is tricky because the objection and reply risk talking past each other. That said, as someone who has previously felt the pull of this objection, and has since changed her mind, my hope is that the following defense of personalism will be illuminating. Imagine that we come across two people, A and B, with identical dispositions. Both consistently dismiss and ignore alternative ideas. Both consistently value stability and conformity in thought, and judge open-minded thought to be dangerous. Moreover, both are consistently motivated to dismiss and ignore alternative ideas because of these values. Isn’t it reasonable to think that A and B both have the intellectual vice of closed-mindedness? And that we can make this determination without any need to investigate their backgrounds? I submit that it is. Suppose we later discovered that B had little or no control over the development of his trait, whereas A’s trait was the result of conscious and blameworthy neglect. What we should not do in this situation is conclude that B must lack an intellectual vice. After all, B consistently dismisses and ignores alternative ideas, and does so because of his epistemic motives and value-commitments, which are themselves intrinsically bad! B, like A, has bad epistemic character. B’s psychology is also just like A’s—both A and B are executing their evaluative plans and acting from their bad character traits. Accordingly, if A has an intellectual vice, so should B—their dispositions are identical. Investigating the provenance of their traits isn’t necessary for making this determination. The same argument applies to intellectual virtues. Suppose we encounter C and D, both of whom consistently generate and consider alternative ideas, and do so because they value and care about truth. Here, too, it is reasonable to think that both C and D have the intellectual virtue of open-mindedness, and that we can make this determination without knowing anything about the etiology of their traits. Even if we were to discover that only C, but not D, had control over the cultivation of her trait, we should not conclude that D must lack an intellectual virtue. After all, C and D have identical dispositions—both care about and pursue truth and alternative ideas—and both are executing their evaluative plans. If C has an intellectual virtue, so should D (Battaly 2016a, 2016b, forthcoming). Now, as I am conceiving of it, this is not an argument for excluding responsibilism from our pluralism. Defenders of personalism’s viability can, and (in my view) should, be pluralists.12 After all, even non-voluntarists like Sher and Fricker think that we sometimes have control over our character-development (they just think this is the exception rather than the norm). Pluralists, who acknowledge personalism and responsibilism, can use responsibilism to explain those cases where we do have control. They can even emphasize that in such cases responsibilism captures a special sort of agent-praise (for intentionally cultivating virtues) and agent-blame (for knowingly performing acts that contribute to vice). The argument above has nothing to say against any of this. Rather, it is an argument for including personalism in our pluralism—it points out that when it comes to epistemic character virtues, responsibilism isn’t the only game in town.



Indeed, personalism allows us to do something that responsibilism doesn’t. It allows us to hedge our bets, in case we lack control over the possession of our epistemic character traits. As we have seen, non-voluntarists think that we typically lack control over our characterdevelopment, whereas Aristotelians in epistemology (responsibilists) and ethics disagree. At best, the jury is still out on whether we typically control the possession of our epistemic character traits; at worst, control has been a red herring. Recognizing personalism as a third kind of intellectual virtue (and vice) allows us to circumvent this debate over control. Whether or not we usually have control over our epistemic character-development, personalism will allow us to count epistemic character traits as virtues and vices. Relatedly, personalism focuses on the environment’s contribution to epistemic character traits rather than the individual’s contribution. In this way, it complements feminist and liberatory epistemologies, many of which focus on structural influences on epistemic character traits.13 At this point, one might wonder: why can’t the reliabilist part of our pluralism do this work? Why do we need a third kind of intellectual virtue to account for epistemic character traits over whose development we lack control? Isn’t reliabilism already able to account for such traits? The answer comes in two parts. First, reliabilism does allow for character virtues (and vices) over whose development we have little or no control. It allows traits like the closed-mindedness of the Jugend graduate (and of B above) to be intellectual vices, and traits like the open-mindedness of D (above) to be intellectual virtues. Reliabilism can do this on its own; we don’t yet need personalism. But, second, reliabilism locates the virtuousness and viciousness of such character traits solely in their instrumental value and dis-value. This is why personalism is needed. To explicate, according to reliabilism, whether a stable cognitive trait is an intellectual virtue or vice depends solely on its intellectual effects. It is a trait’s instrumental value or dis-value—its production of good or bad intellectual effects—that makes it virtuous or vicious. Now, let’s assume that D’s open-mindedness produces good intellectual effects, and the Jugend graduate’s closed-mindedness produces bad intellectual effects; i.e., that these traits are, indeed, reliabilist virtues and vices. Here is the problem: if we took these traits to be nothing more than reliabilist virtues and vices, we would leave out an important part of our explanation of what makes them virtuous and vicious—the intrinsically good (and bad) motives and values that drive them! From the reliabilist perspective, intrinsic goodness and badness play no role in making a trait virtuous or vicious. Instrumental value and dis-value do all of the work. Reliabilism is blind to the contribution made by the intrinsic goodness of D’s motivation for truth and to that made by the intrinsic badness of the graduate’s commitment to conformity and stability. To be sure, reliabilism allows traits over whose possession we lack control to be virtues and vices, but it only provides a partial explanation of what makes such traits virtuous and vicious. Personalism doesn’t have this problem, and it allows us to do what reliabilism can’t. Namely, it allows us to recognize that the intrinsic goodness of D’s open-mindedness and the intrinsic badness of the graduate’s closed-mindedness are at least part of what make their traits virtuous and vicious. Personalism can even do this without denying that instrumental value and dis-value also play a role in making traits virtuous and vicious.14 In sum, I have argued that we should include personalism in our pluralist repertoire. Personalism has an advantage over responsibilism: it skirts the debate over control. It allows us to count traits as virtues and vices whether or not we have control over their development. Personalism also has an advantage over reliabilism: it factors in the intrinsic goodness and badness of traits whose development we don’t control. Without personalism, our pluralism could only give a partial explanation of what makes such traits virtuous and vicious. Moreover, adding personalism to our pluralism enables us to refine our pluralism. We can now recognize two separate values—(i) intrinsically good character and


Heather Battaly

(ii) agent-praise—where before these were lumped together. To explicate, first, we can be excellent thinkers, and be intellectually virtuous, by having reliabilist virtues: by producing good intellectual effects, even if we don’t have good epistemic character. Second, we can be excellent thinkers, and be intellectually virtuous, by having personalist virtues: by having good epistemic character, even if we don’t have control over its development. Third, we can be excellent thinkers, and be intellectually virtuous, by having responsibilist virtues: by having good epistemic character that we worked hard to get and for which we, as agents, are praiseworthy. 10. 4 O B JEC TI O NS A N D P ROJ E CT S

One might object to adding personalism to our pluralist repertoire. First, one might worry that personalism is, as it were, too personal. That it focuses on the epistemic character of individuals, and as such is not amenable to social epistemology.15 In reply, personalism—as I have described it here—does focus on the epistemic character traits of individuals. But, that isn’t essential to personalism. If groups and institutions can have epistemic motives and values and, more broadly, epistemic character traits, then they, too, can have personalist virtues and vices. Indeed, personalism could be an especially important resource for analyzing group virtue and vice, if groups have even less control, than individuals do, over which character traits they possess. In this vein, personalism might be useful in grounding nonsummative analyses of group virtue and vice.16 Second, one might object that personalism doesn’t apply to intellectual virtues, even if it does apply to intellectual vices. This is because intellectual virtues are difficult to acquire, and aren’t the sorts of traits that could be produced entirely by the environment. Even if the environment helps the agent succeed, the agent will still have to put in work to become intellectually virtuous—work for which she is praiseworthy. To put the point differently, this objection denies that C and D (above) would have identical dispositions. This is an excellent objection. Whether it succeeds or fails will depend, partly, on the failure or success of non-voluntarism. But, importantly, the objection also raises a set of questions that warrant exploration in the nascent field of vice epistemology. These include: does the objection identify a point of disanalogy between intellectual virtues and intellectual vices? If so, should vice epistemologists exercise caution in modeling their analyses of intellectual vice on extant analyses of intellectual virtue (Crerar forthcoming)? Are intellectual vices easier to acquire than intellectual virtues—why or why not? And, what (if anything) does this tell us about the features of intellectual vices? Third, one might raise a problem for personalist analyses of intellectual vice. One might worry that personalism lets the Jugend graduate and B (above) off too easily, since it commits us to claiming that they aren’t blameworthy for possessing the vice of closed-mindedness. In reply, personalism does claim that the graduate and B aren’t accountable for possessing the vice of closed-mindedness, and thus aren’t blameworthy in the standard voluntarist sense. But, it allows the graduate and B to be blameworthy for vice-possession in a different, non-voluntarist sense that involves attributability. Non-voluntarists have argued that the notion of blameworthiness has “two faces” (Watson 2004). One is accountability, which requires control; the other is attributability, which does not. The features of attributabilityblameworthiness are hotly debated among non-voluntarists (Talbert 2016). To illustrate, Gary Watson advocates strict constraints, arguing that an agent is only blameworthy for bad traits that express her “real self”; i.e., motives and values that she has endorsed (Watson 2004: 270). Sher’s constraints are more permissive: he argues that an agent is blameworthy



for traits that “reflect badly on her,” whether or not these traits express her “real self” (Sher 2006: 57). Fricker’s constraints are more permissive still: she argues that an agent is blameworthy for bad traits that have their source either in the agent’s epistemic character or epistemic system (Fricker 2016: 41). Clearly, further work on attributability-blame for epistemic vices is warranted. It is also worth exploring whether non-voluntarist analyses of attributability-responsibility might help ground the reliabilist notions of achievement and credit.17 For now, in reply to the objection, we can note that all three of the above analyses of attributability-blameworthiness allow the Jugend graduate and B to be blameworthy for possessing the vice of closed-mindedness (Battaly 2017). (Related Chapters: 1, 2, 6, 9, 11.) NOTE S 1 Sosa (2009: 187); Greco (2010: 3). 2 Granted, Sosa argues that “virtues of inquiry” like open-mindedness merely put one in a position to gain judgmental knowledge; their exercise does not constitute such knowledge. The exercise of “agential virtues” constitutes judgmental knowledge (Sosa 2015: 45). 3 We can also have intellectual virtues and vices for whose operation we are not responsible. 4 Zagzebski (1996: 166–167, 177, 181); Baehr (2011: chapter 8); Montmarquet (1993: 23–25); Riggs (this volume). 5 Montmarquet thinks that we are not typically responsible for possessing our virtues: “it seems a truism” that “we are not directly responsible for, and cannot exert control with respect to” the existence and origination of our virtues (1993: 15). 6 Intellectual vices will also require epistemic motivations, but the motivations they require will be intrinsically bad rather than intrinsically good. 7 Intellectual vices also require a conception of the epistemic good, but that conception may be false or unjustified (Battaly 2014). One need not be a theorist to have a conception of the epistemic good. 8 For criticisms of pluralism, see Alfano (2015); van Zyl (2015). 9 Likewise, an epistemic character trait won’t be an intellectual vice unless the motivations and commitments that constitute it are intrinsically bad. 10 Battaly (2016a). We can assume that in humans, personalist virtues will in fact be acquired. Arguably, Stewie Griffin, the fictional evil baby in the Fox television comedy Family Guy, has hard-wired personalist vices. 11 Siegel (2017) canvasses these worries. 12 Personalism doesn’t conceptually entail pluralism, and personalists need not be pluralists. Thanks to Michael Slote for this point. 13 See Daukas, this volume. 14 At least, some versions of personalism can do this—those that require virtues to be reliable. Recall that personalists are free to disagree about whether intellectual virtues require reliability. 15 Thanks to Laura Beeby for this worry. 16 See Lahroodi, this volume. 17 See Greco, this volume.

REFEREN CE S Adams, R.M. (1985) “Involuntary Sins,” Philosophical Review 94(1): 3–31. Alfano, M. (ed.) (2015) Current Controversies in Virtue Theory, New York: Routledge. Aristotle. (1998) Nicomachean Ethics, trans. D. Ross, New York: Oxford University Press. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind, New York: Oxford University Press. Battaly, H. (2014) “Varieties of Epistemic Vice,” in J. Matheson and R. Vitz (eds.) The Ethics of Belief, New York: Oxford University Press, 51–76. Battaly, H. (2015a) “A Pluralist Theory of Virtue,” in M. Alfano (ed.) Current Controversies in Virtue Theory, New York: Routledge, 7–22. Battaly, H. (2015b) Virtue, Cambridge: Polity Press.


Heather Battaly

Battaly, H. (2016a) “Epistemic Virtue and Vice: Reliabilism, Responsibilism, and Personalism,” in C. Mi, M. Slote, and E. Sosa (eds.) Moral and Intellectual Virtues in Western and Chinese Philosophy, New York: Routledge, 99–120. Battaly, H. (2016b) “Developing Virtue and Rehabilitating Vice,” Journal of Moral Education 45(2): 207–222. Battaly, H. (2017) “Testimonial Injustice, Epistemic Vice, and Vice Epistemology,” in I.J. Kidd, G. Polhaus, and J. Medina (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice, New York: Routledge, 223–231. Battaly, H. (forthcoming) “Closed-Mindedness as an Intellectual Vice,” in C. Kelp and J. Greco (eds.) Virtue Theoretic Epistemology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Battaly, H. and M. Slote. (2016) “Virtue Epistemology and Virtue Ethics,” in L. Besser-Jones and M. Slote (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics, New York: Routledge, 253–269. Crerar, C. (forthcoming) “Motivational Approaches to Intellectual Vice,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy. Fricker, M. (2007) Epistemic Injustice, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fricker, M. (2016) “Fault and No-Fault Responsibility for Implicit Prejudice,” in M.S. Brady and M. Fricker (eds.) The Epistemic Life of Groups, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 33–50. Greco, J. (2000) Putting Skeptics in Their Place, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Greco, J. (2005) “Virtues in Epistemology,” in P.K. Moser (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 287–315. Greco, J. (2010) Achieving Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Greco, J. and J. Turri. (2012) Virtue Epistemology, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Montmarquet, J. (1993) Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Nozick, R. (1974) Anarchy, State, and Utopia, New York: Basic Books. Pereboom, D. (2014) Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Plato. (1992) Republic, trans. G.M.A. Grube, Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing. Sher, G. (2006) In Praise of Blame, New York: Oxford University Press. Sher, G. (2009) Who Knew? New York: Oxford University Press. Siegel, H. (2017) Education’s Epistemology, New York: Oxford University Press. Slote, M. and H. Battaly. (2018) “Sentimentalist Virtue Epistemology: The Challenge of Personalism,” in N. Snow (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Virtue, New York: Oxford University Press, 765–782. Sosa, E. (1991) Knowledge in Perspective, New York: Cambridge University Press. Sosa, E. (2007) A Virtue Epistemology, New York: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2009) Reflective Knowledge, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2011) Knowing Full Well, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Sosa, E. (2015) Judgment and Agency, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2017) “Replies to Comments on Judgment and Agency,” Philosophical Studies 174(10): 2599–2611. Talbert, M. (2016) Moral Responsibility, Cambridge: Polity Press. van Zyl, L. (2015) “Against Radical Pluralism,” in M. Alfano (ed.) Current Controversies in Virtue Theory, New York: Routledge, 22–34. Watson, G. (2004) Agency and Answerability, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

11 There Are No Epistemic Virtues Trent Dougherty


Here I will lay the foundations for a re-focused research project in virtue epistemology. The research project consists in giving more focused and critical attention to problems along two horns of a dilemma for virtue epistemologists. Briefly put, the dilemma is as follows. ‘Intellectual virtues’, as treated in virtue epistemology, are conceived of as either responsibilist or as reliabilist. However, the proper study of intellectual virtues as conceived of by reliabilists is cognitive psychology, and as conceived of by responsibilists is ethics. Thus, the proper study of intellectual virtues is either cognitive psychology or ethics. Yet, neither cognitive psychology nor ethics are epistemology. Thus, the proper study of intellectual virtues is not epistemology. The dilemma is in one way hardly unknown: different kinds of virtue epistemologists have been using one horn or the other of the dilemma against one another for a long time, and foes of virtue epistemology have used it to take aim at one form of virtue epistemology or another. By combining these critiques into one dilemma, I am perhaps calling into question the pursuit of virtue epistemology as such. Those who practice what goes by the name ‘virtue epistemology’, however, are hardly going to consider giving up the trade, and I wouldn’t want them to do so. Rather, I simply hope for more clarity about (1) two very different kinds of value that the so-called intellectual virtues are supposed to have, and (2) the relationship between what goes by the name ‘virtue epistemology’ and both the empirical sciences and moral theory. My position is that everything that goes by the name ‘virtue epistemology’ in the current literature is either cognitive science or ‘plain old’ moral theory. In no case is it actually a kind of epistemology as such. Furthermore, I think it matters how we classify what we do, which I will discuss at the end of this chapter. I also consider just how hard the virtue epistemologist should take the news that there is no such thing as epistemic virtue.



Trent Dougherty


There is a difficulty in evaluating virtue epistemology as such, about which I will have something to say. The difficulty arises because virtue epistemologists, as is well known (Axtell 1997; Battaly 2008), divide (roughly) into two categories. First, there are virtue reliabilists. Sosa (2009), Greco (2010), and usually Zagzebski (1996) fall into this category. Next, there are virtue responsibilists such as Code (1984), Baehr (2011), Axtell (1997), and Montmarquet (1993, 2000). Zagzebski represents a bit of a difficult case to classify. She is typically categorized as a reliabilist, because she makes reliability a necessary condition of knowledge. But she also clearly cares about the role of certain character traits, especially conscientiousness. Thus, in what follows I will have to address this ambiguity more than once. There is, on the face of it, little if anything by way of a common list of paradigmatic virtues. Reliabilists standardly list things like vision, memory, rational insight, inductive and deductive reasoning, and certain recognitional capacities. Though reliabilists are open to counting character traits as epistemic virtues, they don’t usually focus on character traits. Responsibilists, on the other hand, list character traits like open-mindedness, impartiality, inquisitiveness, and many others (Baehr 2011: 21). One could be forgiven for thinking that these theorists are simply talking past one another. The things virtue reliabilists call virtues have in common that they are taken to be generally reliable.1 The things virtue responsibilists call virtues are all character traits. Both are concerned with the agent, but in quite different ways. Reliabilists look to faculties or capacities of agents and to outputs that one can ‘chalk up’ to the agent in virtue of being produced by that agent’s faculties. What confers value on these faculties is that they are ‘reliably’ connected to the truth. That is, they bear some kind of objective statistical correlation to truth. Responsibilists look, primarily at least, to habits or dispositions in the behavior of the agent. What appears to unify and confer value on these dispositions of behavior is that they are in some appropriate way related to the agent’s stable love of truth. We might say these traits are ‘manifestations’ of the agent’s love of the truth. Perhaps the manifestation relation is ultimately causal—loving the truth may cause one to be open-minded, or inquisitive or objective. Or perhaps it is more holistic—perhaps loving the truth is a multiple-realizable property. Love of truth may be a second-order property, the property of having some property or other in virtue of which the agent is disposed to seek truth. This considerable conceptual bifurcation in the two common referents of ‘virtue epistemology’ raises the risk of ambiguity. I shall have to be careful not to fall into this pit, and I beg the reader’s patience on this matter as I try to pick the threads apart.


One way to address the above problem is suggested by Battaly. She thinks it is a mistake to see these theories as competitors and that it is rather better to treat them as “complementary” (2008: 651). “Both accounts are good,” she says, “neither is more ‘real’ or ‘correct’ than the other” (2008: 651). This is not because of some nefarious relativism, but, rather, “because the concept of intellectual virtue is vague” (2008: 651). Optimism is itself a laudable virtue, but in this case, I cannot see an ultimate basis for this hopeful position. When terms are vague, it is certainly true that this can render debate otiose. For example, ‘tall’ is indisputably vague. Thus, there will be a lot of debates that would be silly as a result of the vagueness of ‘tall’. One such silly debate would be an argument over the exact border between tall and non-tall (though see Williamson 1994 where he defends epistemicism).

There Are No Epistemic Virtues


Another kind of fruitless debate would concern token borderline cases. Is 5 feet 9-1/2 inches tall for an American man? Well, it is taller than average, but does that warrant ‘tall’? How about 5 feet 9 inches? 5 feet 8-1/2 inches? It is looking like a silly debate. But is this a good analogy for what Battaly takes to justify her claim that “there is no single ‘real’ account of intellectual virtue, and arguments to that effect will be unproductive” (2008: 651)? It seems not. For there is no remotely natural graded property that has reliability on one end of the spectrum and love of truth on the other. There is no natural case that is a borderline case between reliability and love of truth. They are just two different kinds of goods. This is worth going on about at some length, since my argument against the existence of virtue epistemology will depend crucially upon it. Furthermore, owing to the radical (to the roots) difference between the notion of the reliability of a faculty and the character trait of loving the truth, there is no useful notion of ‘vagueness’ that can encompass them both. There is no one thing they are both modes of, there is no natural disjunction of them as disjuncts. My position is that there is zero hope to unify them in any natural and useful way. This is a challenge to those who think otherwise to explain how the two clearly different notions can be unified in a natural and useful way. The concept of distinctively epistemic value derives from the concept of a distinctly epistemic reason. An epistemic reason is a reason for belief. I intend the expression ‘for belief’ to be starkly different from ‘to believe’. The attitude of belief is cognitive in the sense that it is characterized by a mind-to-world direction of fit. A belief has achieved its function when the thought that constitutes it matches the relevant bit of the world. This is part of what individuates the state of belief from other states. When we reason to conclusions about how the world is, this is ‘theoretical reason’ at work, in contrast to ‘practical reason’ which concerns how to best bring it about that our desires are satisfied. The desire state is characterized in the opposite way from belief; that is, by its world-to-mind direction of fit. Desires achieve their function when a relevant bit of the world matches their content. Because of their relative concerns with oppositely-oriented propositional attitudes, practical and theoretical reasoning are perfectly distinct.2 A theoretical, or intellectual, or epistemic reason for belief is one that counts in favor of the truth of the belief. Since we have a clear notion of the distinctness of belief and desire and of theoretical and practical reasoning, we therefore have a clear notion of the distinctions of practical and theoretical reasons, and, therefore, of practical and theoretical value. ‘Epistemic’ (in a sense intended to be distinctive) and ‘intellectual’ are just synonyms for ‘theoretical’. Epistemic reasons are: reasons to think that some thought accurately represents reality. This is in contrast to practical reasons which are: reasons to think that some action is good to do, i.e. will satisfy desires (or, more objectively, ‘right’ desire, if you prefer). When a belief does accurately represent reality in the right kind of way, distinctively epistemic goodness is maximized (Dougherty 2014). Epistemology is a normative discipline that investigates the exact nature of epistemic reasons, the epistemic support relation, the notion of accuracy, and other notions of theoretical success like understanding and wisdom. Reliability has distinctively epistemic value insofar as it is oriented toward accuracy. This value is objectively instrumental. That is, beliefs that are formed by reliable belief-forming methods or processes (or by reliable agents, in the relevant domain) are objectively likely to be true. Also, beliefs based on evidence have at least subjective instrumental value, in that an agent reacts in a way that appears to them to reveal reality. When the evidence is veridical and caused in the right way by the bit of reality it represents, beliefs based on evidence will also have objective instrumental value (and be items of knowledge). Because of belief’s mind-to-world direction of fit, this value is distinctively epistemic.


Trent Dougherty

We are investigating two different suggestions for what makes members of a certain set of ‘virtues’ valuable. The first, reliability, has been seen to have distinctively epistemic value. What kind of value does love of truth have? I will argue shortly that it is not instrumental value. But even if love of truth is in some contexts conducive to reliability—as no doubt it is—this value is not the right kind of instrumental value to count as epistemic. For eating more protein and fewer carbs is also often conducive to reliability; as is getting enough sleep and perhaps taking some herbal supplements. This does not confer distinctively epistemic value on dietary and other lifestyle choices. This is not meant to be cheeky. For one of my core claims is that something doesn’t get to be epistemic or intellectual merely by having a positive effect on our epistemic/intellectual lives. Such an argument would be subject to a reductio ad absurdum via parallel arguments that a disposition to eat ‘brain food’ is an intellectual virtue. Or, it may well be that the character trait of being pretentious is helpful for getting to the truth, for it may well co-vary with higher education which may well offset any downsides of pretentiousness. We just don’t know, for it hasn’t been studied. What love of truth reveals of someone is that they have a certain affective orientation that is in some way correctly aligned with an ideal. I will help myself to the undefended assumption that there is some kind of objective scale of value and that the truth is high up on it. If this assumption is false, then of course my argument is much stronger. I will also assume without defense that something like the correspondence theory of truth (on a pretty deflationary reading) is correct. ‘Love’ in this case can only mean something like desire or appreciation. So then to ‘love the truth’ is to desire that one’s thoughts conform to reality. There are broadly two reasons this might be thought admirable. First, given the assumption that truth is high up on some objective scale of value, to desire that one’s thoughts correspond to reality has the same kind of value as someone’s desiring pleasure rather than pain, peace rather than war, and beauty rather than ugliness. That is a good way to be, in my opinion. It is morally valuable. But there is nothing distinctively epistemic about it. It has no substantive connection with theoretical reasoning or reasons for belief. Unificationists may want to respond as follows.3 The responsibilist virtues involve a love of truth, a stable motivation to acquire true beliefs, and are thus connected to accuracy. The responsibilist virtues aim at accurate beliefs, and perhaps even at having good reasons for our beliefs. And, thus, in these ways, they are epistemic. Just as reliabilism has distinctively epistemic value because it is oriented toward accuracy, responsibilist virtues have distinctive epistemic value because they are oriented toward accuracy. The problem with this attempt at unification is, to my mind, insurmountable. There is no logical connection between love of truth and accuracy. Whether love of truth leads to greater or lesser accuracy, or is in the end statistically independent, is a purely contingent matter and only detailed empirical investigation could tell us how they are related in the actual world, and under what variety of situations. The value of the trait of love of truth is intrinsic, it is a praiseworthy trait, a lofty ideal. Its value is in no way derived from its empirical results. To attempt to derive its value from its results actually demeans it by making its value contingent and instrumental rather than intrinsic. Furthermore, the value intrinsic to love of truth is not epistemic value. It is simply a kind of moral worth, a mark of a good kind of person, a person whose subjective valuations reflect the objective value of truth. The mark of the distinctively epistemic comes from the nature of epistemic reasons. The science of epistemic reasons is ‘theoretical reason’ as opposed to ‘practical reason’. Theoretical reason serves belief, which has a mind-to-world direction of fit. Practical reason serves desire, which has a world-to-mind direction of fit. Since love of truth has no logical connection to epistemic reasons for belief, its value is not epistemic.4

There Are No Epistemic Virtues


In other words, love of truth is a moral virtue, which may well—we don’t really know, for it hasn’t been studied—positively affect one’s search for truth. But then again, so might simple honesty, patience, or even chastity. If that were so, it wouldn’t make chastity an intellectual virtue. 11. 4 THE DI LEM MA RE S T A T E D

We are now well positioned to investigate the details of the dilemma. As you read, let the phrase ‘the virtues’ be an indexical expression referring to whatever subset of the canonical list you favor most. This chapter does not lay out a careful account of reliability or of moral value, but nothing in the dilemma hinges on the finer points, and such matters are treated elsewhere in this volume. Here, again, is the formal dilemma. 1. ‘Intellectual virtues’, as treated in virtue epistemology, are conceived of as either responsibilist or as reliabilist. 2. The proper study of intellectual virtues as conceived of by reliabilists is cognitive psychology. 3. The proper study of intellectual virtues as conceived of by responsibilists is ethics. 4. The proper study of intellectual virtues is either cognitive psychology or ethics. 5. Neither cognitive psychology nor ethics are epistemology. Therefore, 6. The proper study of intellectual virtues is not epistemology. Let us take the premises in turn. Premise 1. I am limiting my discussion to the actually discussed extant versions in the literature, so Premise 1 will be an undefended assumption. Pluralists, who endorse both kinds of intellectual virtues, will be subject to both horns of the dilemma. Premise 2. Recall that reliabilism does have distinctively epistemic value. What I will be arguing is that determining which qualities are reliable is not a project of epistemology. It is a project of cognitive science. While reliabilists often emphasize virtues like vision, they also allow habits of inquiry, like open-mindedness, to be virtues. Let’s address habits of inquiry first. The question of when certain habits of inquiry (e.g., open-mindedness) are reliable is not too different from the question of what ratio of fuel to air is the best for a fuel injection system in an internal combustion engine, or what amount of some drug best moderates some clinical condition, for example: how much atorvastatin (the main ingredient in Lipitor™) best controls the balance between good and bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream? If the ratio of fuel to air is too high, then the engine will run too rich and will be hard to start. Too low a ratio, and it runs ‘thin’ and won’t have much power. The only way to get the ratio right is to experiment.5 The scenario is similar for clinical trials of medications. You might think that is too technical an example, and the analogy fails. But, in reply, think about the number of variables that would have to be aligned for a trait like open-mindedness to be positively correlated with truth enough of the time to secure a high-enough degree of accuracy to count as a stable virtue. It is utterly implausible to think this could be a matter of common sense. Only careful empirical research could reveal the answer to this question. The same issue arises for cognitive faculties and belief-forming processes. Epistemologists are familiar with the generality problem for reliability (Conee and


Trent Dougherty

Feldman 1998), but here it points to the need for empirical investigation. In their original paper, Conee and Feldman say that reliabilism is “radically incomplete” without a specification of the relevant type for any token process (1998: 3). They say that this problem makes process reliabilism “hopeless” (1998: 24). I think this is far too strong. My point here is rather that this incompleteness could only be filled by a robust empirical investigation that is not part of philosophy. Virtue reliabilists talk of the virtues of perception, memory, and reasoning, but of course it is only perception-under-certaincircumstances, memory-under-certain-circumstances, and reasoning-under-certaincircumstances. Under which circumstances? Philosophy has almost nothing to say about this. It is not very interesting to point out that the beliefs you form about the colors of medium-sized objects in your office are likely to be true. Outside of such claims, we can know very little about which qualities are reliable without details of empirical research. Reliabilists seem to implicitly acknowledge this. Rather than trying to solve the generality problem, for example, Alston simply asserts that there is no special difficultly for cognitive psychology in identifying which are the reliable processes (1995: 21). Similarly, Goldman freely admits that “Only psychological investigation can yield answers to these questions” about which processes are reliable (Goldman 1985: 64). Alston is worth quoting at length: The second complication is this. I have been talking as if every belief is generated by a single momentary input-output mapping. But, as we all know, some beliefs are arrived at only after a more or less extended period of deliberation, search for evidence or reasons . . . and so on. How are we to fit that sort of thing into the picture I have been developing? Here I believe that it is primarily the psychologist, rather than the epistemologist, who has additional work to do. In developing the psychology of belief formation, the cognitive psychologist has to decide how to represent the structure of these extended deliberative processes. For one more thing, more than input-output mappings are involved . . . In any event, I am happy to leave this issue to the cognitive psychologist. So far as I can see, a reliabilist epistemology could work with whatever account seems best from the standpoint of psychological theory. (Alston 1995: 21–22) Premise 3. Recall, from above, the distinction between belief and desire and of theoretical and practical reasoning. This gave us a clear notion of the distinctions of practical and theoretical reasons, and, therefore, of practical and theoretical value. Epistemic reasons, we saw, are reasons to think that some thought accurately represents reality, in contrast with practical reasons, which are reasons to think that some action is good to do. When a belief does accurately represent reality in the right kind of way, epistemic goodness is maximized. This yielded the notion of epistemology as the normative discipline that investigates the exact nature of epistemic reasons, the epistemic support relation, the notion of accuracy, and other notions of theoretical success like understanding and wisdom. This allows us to disambiguate two opposing senses of ‘reason to believe’. On the one hand, there are distinctively epistemic reasons to believe. Here are some examples. That 990 of 1000 observed swans have been white is an epistemic reason to believe that the next observed swan will be white. This information counts in favor of the target proposition’s truth. That the world’s foremost authority on toads says that a specimen is a Kihansi spray toad is an epistemic reason to believe it is so. The testimony counts in favor of the proposition’s truth. Jones’s fingerprints on the safe combined with a corresponding deposit of the amount stolen into his account is an epistemic reason to believe Jones took the money. The

There Are No Epistemic Virtues


information counts in favor of the proposition’s truth. The accumulation of all your epistemic reasons to believe constitutes your total evidence. On the other hand, there are practical reasons to believe. Here are some examples. I offer you $1,000,000 to believe that the number of stars in the universe is odd. You have no information about this, of course, but you now have a good practical reason to try to bring it about that you believe the target proposition. If your believing you will survive some oftenfatal disease will significantly increase the chances of your survival, then you have a practical reason to believe you will survive. If believing you will close the deal on the big sale you are working on, which otherwise seems like it could go either way, significantly increases the probability that you will close the deal, then you have a practical reason to believe you will do so. All of these considerations bear upon the world-to-mind direction of the normativity of desire. None of them count in favor of the truth of the propositions in question. I say these two senses of ‘reason to believe’ are ‘opposed’ for the following reason. The first set of examples concerns a mind-to-world direction of fit, while the latter concern the world-to-mind direction of fit. It is easy to generate examples where these two senses of ‘reason to believe’ are opposed to one another in a single token case. Baseball is such that a batter is doing really well if they can hit the ball approximately one third of the time. And unless they are a switch hitter, they will do less well against a left-handed pitcher. So, let us assume that the bases are loaded and Casey is at bat and has a lifetime average of .333 but only .250 against left-handed pitchers. And, wouldn’t you know it, the opposing team’s coach puts in Lefty as the pitcher. There are two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Casey’s team is down by two in the last game of the World Series. There is a lot on the line. Casey, we may assume, is well aware of his batting average. So, Casey does not have epistemic reasons for believing that he will get a hit during this at bat. However, Casey’s coach may have convinced Casey that if he believes he will hit the ball, then his chances of doing so rise substantively. Casey can therefore see that it is to his practical advantage (i.e., would conduce to the satisfaction of his desires) to bring himself (through hypnosis, say) to believe this, even in the full recognition that, from the mind-to-world perspective, it makes no sense at all. If he sufficiently prizes winning the game, it can easily be practically rational to take measures to bring it about that he believes, even though his belief is not epistemically justified in the mind-to-world fit sense just delineated above. In this scenario, the two senses of ‘reason to believe’ are opposed to one another. There is no common scale to weigh them on, because they concern different kinds of value: one epistemic, one practical. Distinctively epistemic value is realized when a belief state (the state individuated by its truth-aim) is (non-accidentally) true. My position is that the above demonstrates clearly that when we appreciate the ontology of the distinct mental states that practical reason and theoretical reason serve—desire and belief, respectively—we see that the mark of the distinctively epistemic is the evidential: what gives reasons to believe that the world is a certain way. Thus, there is no overlap between ethics and epistemology. Fusing them together can only cause confusion. Premise 5. A prominent defender of the negation of Premise 5 is Linda Zagzebski. Given the importance of her work and the subtlety of her position, it is worth considering her view at some length. Zagzebski claims that “the relation between ethics and normative epistemology is both close and uneasy” (1996: 3). I will argue that it is much more uneasy than close. Zagzebski appends “normative” to both “ethics” and “epistemology” in most cases. But what makes a field of study normative? My position is that the most sensible answer is that they have to do with reasons. So then, the only sensible distinction between normative epistemology and ethics has to do with the distinction between epistemic reasons and practical reasons.


Trent Dougherty

Practical reasons can be both self-regarding and other-regarding. The focus of normative ethics has principally been on other-regarding reasons for action. For Aristotle, the foundation of practical reason is “right desire” (Pearson 2012). Epistemic reasons, by contrast, are factors that count in favor of belief. Since desire is characterized by a world-to-mind direction of fit and belief is characterized by a mind-to-world direction of fit, practical reasons and epistemic reasons are quite distinct indeed. Normative ethics is characterized by the study of practical reasons and normative epistemology is characterized by the study of epistemic reasons. From this, it follows that normative epistemology and normative ethics are distinct disciplines. Zagzebski further claims that “epistemic evaluation is a form of moral evaluation” (1996: 6). She says it will take most of her book to demonstrate that claim. When we come to the end of her theory of virtue and vice, she puts it this way. She “subsumes,” she says, “the intellectual virtues under the general category of the moral virtues . . . roughly as Aristotle understands the latter” (1996: 255). “The scope of the moral in classical Greek philosophy,” she says, “was intended to cover everything encompassed by human flourishing” (255, emphasis added). A liberal reading of this would certainly bring normative epistemology under the heading of the moral. The problem is, it would also make the category of ethics far too broad! Every nutrition major in the health sciences department would suddenly become an ethicist. Every dental hygienist would suddenly become an ethicist as well. I take this to be true, and not cheeky. For the dental hygienist uses normative language: “You ought to floss more.” (And, really, you ought to.) And if you don’t, your teeth won’t function as they are intended, they won’t be able to perform their characteristic function in human life, and to that extent, your flourishing would be diminished. On Zagzebski’s neo-Aristotelian account of the scope of the moral, there is no other kind of ought for the ‘ought’ in “You ought to floss more” to be than a moral ought. In fact, it is hard to think of something that is non-trivial and evaluative that is not ethical on this model. It is an unhelpful notion of the moral because it is too broad. Accordingly, I am willing to set my account of the distinction between normative ethics and normative epistemology up against Zagzebski’s and let the reader decide. Ironically, even though Zagzebski and I have extremely different accounts of the scope of the moral, we end up endorsing similar conclusions regarding the so-called intellectual virtues. That is to say, we both agree that the ‘intellectual’ virtues are moral. Zagzebski thinks they are also intellectual, whereas I think they are not. On the surface, taxonomically, it sounds like we disagree completely: “Epistemic evaluation just is a form of moral evaluation” (Zagzebski 1996: 256, emphasis in original), “normative epistemology is a branch of ethics” (1996: 258). However, this appearance arises because at work in these claims is a very different theory of the normative. When we look at the level of token virtues, Zagzebski and I have similar judgments about some virtues: “there is really only a single virtue [in a given instance] that operates in both the moral and intellectual spheres” (1996: 162). For example, Trust as an intellectual virtue involves trusting those persons, faculties, and processes that are reliable in giving us the truth, whereas trust as a moral virtue involves trusting those who are reliable in their relationship to ourselves. (160) Note that there is only a single relation referred to here. In the first case—trust-as-anintellectual-virtue—the trust relation (simpliciter) is born to one set of relata, and in the

There Are No Epistemic Virtues


second case—trust-as-a-moral-virtue—the trust relation (simpliciter) is born to a different set of relata. There is only one virtue—trust—which has different targets. The key thing to note here, is that Zagzebski’s use of “intellectual” has nothing at all to do with reasons we have. To explicate, that someone is a reliable source of information in no way gives me a reason to trust them, for I may have no information indicating this. If I am introduced to two people for the first time—A who is reliable, and B who is not—who are indiscernible in every way to me, and A says P and B says ~P, I don’t thereby gain a reason to believe P. Accordingly, being an “intellectual” virtue has no essential connection with normative epistemology, as I have defined it. It is perfectly on par with talk of ‘culinary’ virtue where one has the good habit of always seasoning meat correctly. It is merely a species of getting it right in a specific domain. 11. 5 C O NCLU S ION

In general, if we let the phrase ‘intellectual virtue’ refer to either the reliabilist’s or the responsibilist’s preferred canonical list of items, then none of the intellectual virtues fall under the study of normative epistemology. None of them are distinctively epistemic in nature. There are two ways to see this. One is by looking at the items on the lists themselves. When one looks at the items on the reliabilist’s list, it is not hard to see they are just placeholders for more detailed descriptions of some related subspecies we cannot identify and the identification of which is not a philosophical matter. When we look at the responsibilist’s list, it is not hard to see that they are not a distinct kind of trait from moral traits. Rather, they are moral traits with broadly intellectual consequences, such as causally affecting the distribution of truth and falsehood among our beliefs. Thus, in neither case are the items on the lists—the ‘intellectual virtues’—distinctively epistemic. In somewhat colloquial terms, there simply are no epistemic virtues. Another way to see the point is to consider the mark of the normative. I have advocated the position that the mark of the normative is the having of reasons. Because of the differences in mind-to-world and world-to-mind direction of fit, moral and practical reasons are necessarily distinct. Thus, given the account of the normative I have advocated, normative ethics and normative epistemology remain wholly and necessarily distinct. I have not fully defended this position, but it is a view I am willing to set up against the rather baggy view that brings epistemology under the aegis of ethics by counting almost every non-trivial evaluation as ethical. The argument is admittedly incomplete, but my goal throughout has been to urge so-called ‘virtue epistemologists’ to take more seriously the set of challenges I have canvassed. I sincerely hope they do so. One reason it matters how we classify the traits in question is that philosophical progress is important. Epistemology and ethics are as distinct as the mental states that are central to them. If one goes looking for answers in the wrong place, one is unlikely to make progress. The conceptual anchors in epistemology and ethics are not only different, they are in many ways opposites. You simply can’t make progress in building a theory from the wrong kinds of parts. Progress is important, so choosing from among the right kinds of conceptual resources is important. You will never build a good theory of character traits by looking to epistemology. A natural question at this stage is this: What are practitioners of so-called ‘virtue epistemology’ supposed to make of my conclusion, if true? There are two opposite and equally bad reactions. One is to think that what they have been doing is worthless. That is not necessarily true, because they might have been doing something worthwhile in ethics or psychology.


Trent Dougherty

The other is to think that it is ‘no big deal’ what one calls what they are doing. That is not true because of what I said in the previous paragraph. Because ethics and epistemology are as different as practical reasons and epistemic reasons, desire and belief, if one miscategorizes what one is doing, one will be ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’ as the old country song says. No one discipline in philosophy is intrinsically more important in all respects than another. But if we don’t keep them straight, we will be trying to put square pegs in round holes. Epistemic questions will be answered primarily by the nature of belief, whereas ethical questions will be answered primarily by the nature of desire. When one finds a phenomenon interesting, such as the phenomenon of trust or honesty or conscientiousness one should first ask whether it is, at bottom, a matter of belief or a matter of desire that ultimately interests them. One can of course be simultaneously equally interested in belief-rooted issues and desire-rooted issues, but that in no way whatsoever indicates a kind of ‘unity’ between the two mental states.6 (Related Chapters: 1, 2, 7, 10, 41.) NOTE S 1 There are various problems associated with the ‘generally’ here. Notoriously, it is hard to specify, in non-circular fashion, under which circumstances these ‘virtues’ really are reliable. See Conee and Feldman (1998); Bishop (2010); and Conee (2013). 2 This is of course perfectly consistent with practical reasoning making use of doxastic states about the world to figure how to bend the world to ones wishes. That is precisely what decision theory does. But this making-use-of relation is just further testimony to the distinctness of the relata. 3 Heather Battaly suggested this kind of reply. 4 Note that even if there is a conceptual connection between love of truth and love of epistemic reasons—which is brought into doubt by so-called ‘knowledge-first’ epistemology—the argument would simply iterate: there is no logical connection between love of epistemic reasons and having good epistemic reasons. 5 Technically, someone extremely good at physics might be able to deduce it from a model, but there is no useful analogy to this in the virtue case. 6 Thanks to Robert Audi, Etti Bane, Rose Bruger, Heather Battaly, Mark Murphy, and Brandon Rickabaugh for helpful comments.

REFERE N C E S Alston, W. (1995) “How to Think About Reliability,” Philosophical Topics 23(1): 1–29. Audi, R. (2008) “The Ethics of Belief: Doxastic Self-Control and Intellectual Virtue,” Synthese 161(3): 403–418. Axtell, G. (1997) “Recent Work in Virtue Epistemology,” American Philosophical Quarterly 34: 1–27. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Battaly, H. (2008) “Virtue Epistemology,” Philosophy Compass 3(4): 639–663. — (2015) Virtue, Cambridge: Polity. Bishop, M. (2010) “Why the Generality Problem Is Everybody’s Problem,” Philosophical Studies 151(2): 285–298. Code, L. (1984) “Toward a ‘Responsibilist’ Epistemology,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 45(1): 29–50. Conee, E. (2013) “The Specificity of the Generality Problem,” Philosophical Studies 163(3): 751–762. Conee, E. and Feldman, R. (1998) “The Generality Problem for Reliabilism,” Philosophical Studies 89(1): 1–29. Dougherty, T. (2014) “The ‘Ethics of Belief’ is Ethics (Period): Reassigning Responsibilism,” in J. Matheson and R. Vitz (eds.) The Ethics of Belief, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Firth, R. (1978). “Are Epistemic Concepts Reducible to Ethical Concepts?” in A.I. Goldman and J. Kim (eds.) Values and Morals Essays in Honor of William Frankena, Charles Stevenson, and Richard Brandt, Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing.

There Are No Epistemic Virtues


Goldman, A. (1985) “The Relation Between Epistemology and Psychology,” Synthese 64(1): 29–68. Greco, J. (2010) Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Montmarquet, J. (1993) Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. — (2000) “An ‘Internalist’ Conception of Intellectual Virtue,” in G. Axtell (ed.) Knowledge, Belief, and Character, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Pearson, G. (2012) Aristotle on Desire, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sosa, E. (2009) Reflective Knowledge, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Williamson, T. (1994) Vagueness, New York: Routledge. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

CZ\ Taylor & Francis �

Taylor & Francis Group

II Analyses of Individual Epistemic Virtues

CZ\ Taylor & Francis �

Taylor & Francis Group

12 Open-Mindedness Wayne Riggs

It is uncontroversial that open-mindedness is an admirable and rather rare quality in human beings. Being open-minded is popularly associated with many other positive qualities like curiosity, fairness, and thoughtfulness. An open-minded person doesn’t jump to conclusions, but considers alternatives carefully. An open-minded person is interested in learning new things; willing to cast aside cherished beliefs if new and better possibilities are on offer. An open-minded person doesn’t discredit an opinion because of whom it comes from, but rather judges it on its merits. If only more of us met these descriptions more often! The question remains, however, whether this positive quality is an intellectual virtue. Answering this question is complicated by the fact that no consensus exists about even the most central features of such virtues. But to stay focused on the topic at hand, which is openmindedness as an intellectual virtue, we must set aside most questions regarding the definition of “intellectual virtue.” Thus, I will assume rather than argue that open-mindedness is a virtue. I will say only enough to situate, elucidate, and develop what I think is the most promising approach for understanding open-mindedness as an intellectual virtue, which is the following: Open-mindedness is an intellectual character virtue, involving characteristic motivations, including that of increasing or improving one’s cognitive contact with reality. It requires particular cognitive abilities, including those involved in rendering new and difficult information intelligible to oneself, as well as ancillary habits that ensure that one actually engages those cognitive abilities when appropriate. Settling whether or not having the virtue ensures success at increasing or improving one’s cognitive contact with reality is an open question and an ongoing problem for virtue theorists. 12. 1 R ELI AB I LI SM O R RE S P ON S IBILIS M?

The territory of virtue epistemology is sufficiently well traveled that some useful maps of the terrain have been produced. It is common, for instance, to distinguish two broad approaches to the subject—virtue reliabilism and virtue responsibilism.1 One need not accept that these 141


Wayne Riggs

are disjoint, competing, or exhaustive categories to appreciate the usefulness of distinguishing theories along these lines. Very roughly, virtue reliabilism is best seen as an evolution of plain reliabilism—the theory of epistemic justification according to which the primary determinant of a belief’s justification is the reliability of the process or method that produced it. “Reliability” here means reliability at producing true beliefs. According to Heather Battaly, virtue reliabilists, led by Ernest Sosa and John Greco, [have] argued that the intellectual virtues are reliable faculties, the paradigms of which include sense perception, induction, deduction, and memory . . . Since our primary intellectual function is attaining truths, the intellectual virtues are (roughly) whatever faculties enable us to do that, be they natural or acquired. (Battaly 2008: 644) The lineage of this approach begins with Ernest Sosa’s classic paper “The Raft and the Pyramid” (Sosa 1980) and received its fullest treatment via his own further work (Sosa 2007, 2009) as well as the work of John Greco (2007, 2009, 2010). Virtue responsibilism has a slightly more tangled origin. Lorraine Code (1987) and James Montmarquet (1993) published early books that were harbingers of a fresh approach to epistemology, but their works were not commonly seen in this light until after the publication of Linda Zagzebski’s now-classic Virtues of the Mind (1996), which first brought sustained attention to this approach to epistemology. Battaly tells us that virtue responsibilists “[conceive] of the intellectual virtues as states of character, as ‘deep qualities of a person, closely identified with her selfhood’ (Zagzebski 104)” (Battaly 2008: 644–645). Virtue responsibilists model their analyses of intellectual virtue on Aristotle’s analysis of the moral virtues; i.e., they conceive of the intellectual virtues as acquired character traits, for which we are to some degree responsible. Their paradigms of intellectual virtue include open-mindedness, intellectual courage, and intellectual autonomy (Battaly 2008: 648). This approach to intellectual virtue explicitly denies that mere faculties, such as perception or memory, could count as virtues. As often happens in philosophy, there has been some movement toward the center from these initially polarized camps. Some responsibilists have acknowledged from the start that their trait virtues must have a reliability component (Zagzebski 1996) and prominent virtue reliabilists have explicitly acknowledged that character traits can count as virtues alongside lower-level cognitive faculties (Sosa 2015: 45). I do not mean to mediate the dispute between these two approaches here, but there are two reasons it seems most appropriate to pursue an account of open-mindedness as a character trait along the lines of responsibilist theories. First, we naturally think of one’s degree of open-mindedness as a reflection of one’s character. We think it reflects well upon someone as a thinker and as a person if they are open-minded. This accords very well with leading accounts of responsibilist virtues. Second, arguing against the claim that open-mindedness is an intellectual virtue, some philosophers have raised the objection that being open-minded does not necessarily lead one to have a higher ratio of true beliefs than being less openminded. If this objection is sound, the jig is truly up for it as a reliabilist virtue. But some conceptions of responsibilist virtues might be able to accommodate this inconvenient possibility (Baehr 2011; Montmarquet 1993).2 Hence, the most charitable approach seems to be to offer a responsibilist account of open-mindedness as an intellectual virtue. That is the strategy I will pursue here.




Several different approaches are available to us for analyzing a topic this complex and controversial. We could survey and critique extant theories; we could try to break the concept down into more easily digestible bits and then put it back together again; we could start from clear cases of open-mindedness and build up from there; and so on. I shall attempt an intersecting approach in which I do a little bit of each. I shall take Jason Baehr’s well-known and well-developed account of open-mindedness (Baehr 2011) as a starting point, as I have done in previous work (Riggs 2016). Baehr’s admirably clear, cogent, and thoughtful account also provides abundant examples to help guide theorizing. Subsequently, I shall ask three questions that will guide our quest to articulate necessary elements of a successful account of open-mindedness. These questions are: (1) What motivations, if any, are required for someone to be open-minded? (2) What are the cognitive features of open-mindedness—i.e., what exactly do we have to be able to do cognitively in order to possess the virtue? (3) Does possessing the virtue of open-mindedness entail that one is successful at it? A comprehensive picture of the virtue will begin to emerge if we consider various virtue theorists’ answers to these questions. Finally, I will briefly address what I see as the biggest problem with considering open-mindedness to be an intellectual virtue and outline a promising avenue of development for the theory. 12.2.1 Baehr’s Account of Open-Mindedness

Baehr’s (2011) account of open-mindedness is, appropriately enough, quite intentionally broad in its scope. Open-mindedness seems mainly to be about fairly or dispassionately adjudicating conflicts between one’s own current beliefs and some alternative and incompatible position. However, Baehr argues convincingly that open-mindedness encompasses more than this. He claims that it is sometimes correct to attribute open-mindedness to a person in situations in which they neither encounter intellectual conflict nor even engage in rational assessment. To demonstrate the claim that intellectual conflict is not required, he asks us to consider a judge preparing to hear arguments in a trial (Baehr 2011: 143). It seems reasonable to say that the judge should be open-minded in hearing both sides, despite the fact that the judge presumably has no current belief about the case one way or the other. Hence, open-mindedness can be attributable in cases where there is no current doxastic commitment, and hence no doxastic conflict. However, rational assessment is still occurring in this example. The judge is evaluating and, well, judging—evaluating the two positions and discriminating between them. To make his case for the second, bolder part of his claim, Baehr provides a different example (Baehr 2011: 145–146). Imagine a high school physics teacher about to introduce her students to the theory of relativity. She prepares them by telling them to listen and approach the subject with “open minds.” Baehr claims that this scenario involves no rational assessment at all, as the students are simply trying to “wrap their minds” around new and difficult concepts. If this is an appropriate invocation of the need for open-mindedness, then exemplifying open-mindedness in a situation need not involve rational assessment at all, according to Baehr. I will have more to say about this last point in the section on cognitive aspects of open-mindedness. Of course, Baehr acknowledges that open-mindedness must encompass situations in which one does encounter actual intellectual conflict. We invoke the virtue to encourage others (and ourselves) to give a sympathetic hearing to opinions that we don’t currently share. I believe that this ability constitutes the core of our everyday notion of open-mindedness.


Wayne Riggs

Now that we have informally sketched its contours, let’s turn to Baehr’s formal account of open-mindedness as an intellectual virtue: (OM) An open-minded person is characteristically (a) willing and (within limits) able (b) to transcend a default cognitive standpoint (c) in order to take up or take seriously the merits of (d) a distinct cognitive standpoint. (Baehr 2011: 266) Baehr’s characterization raises quite a few questions, of course. What is a “cognitive standpoint”? What does it mean to “transcend” one? How do we distinguish “distinct” ones? These questions will be taken up briefly in what follows. For now, though, one can see that this account accommodates the various scenarios that Baehr describes. Being open-minded in a conflict obviously requires taking seriously the merits of an alternative view. Baehr’s account also captures the judge’s situation where she is noncommittal between two views: adjudicating fairly between them requires her taking up more than one cognitive standpoint. And the high school physics students surely must at least transcend their default cognitive standpoint to make any sense of the theory of relativity—which itself presumably counts as a distinct cognitive standpoint from the one they started with. 12.2.2 Motivation

With this account of open-mindedness in hand, we will now turn to the first of our three questions. Does being open-minded require a special motivation? In deciding to treat open-mindedness as a responsibilist virtue, we have essentially answered this question in the affirmative. As Battaly explains, “Virtue responsibilism begins with the intuition that what makes an agent an excellent thinker are active features of her agency: actions, motivations, and habits over which she has some control and for which she is (to some degree) responsible” (Battaly 2008: 648). Virtue responsibilists insist that, among the requirements for having a virtue, and for acting from virtue in a given instance, is that one must act for the right reasons, or with the right motivation. Paradigm virtue responsibilists such as Zagzebski and Montmarquet endorse this requirement explicitly (Zagzebski 1996; Montmarquet 1993). Baehr’s account of character virtues has responsibilist features as well, and he, too, requires proper motivation for the presence and exemplification of the virtues (Baehr 2011). For each of these philosophers, the proper motivation required for all intellectual virtues is something like the love of or desire for truth, knowledge, or other epistemic goods. Zagzebski has a particularly apt way of expressing her take on the requirement: The simplest way to describe the motivational basis of the intellectual virtues is to say that they are all based in the motivation . . . to have cognitive contact with reality, where this includes more than what is usually expressed by saying that people desire truth. (Zagzebski 1996: 167) The above-quoted philosophers agree that possessing any of the intellectual virtues requires being characteristically motivated in the right way. This follows from their general conception of intellectual virtues. But are there reasons to think that being open-minded in particular requires a specific motivation?



Baehr thinks it is intuitively obvious that it does. He claims that a person who sets aside his own beliefs in order to assess some alternative, but does so with no intention of making a fair assessment (i.e., taking the alternative seriously), is not open-minded. “This reveals that a certain immediate motivation is partly constitutive of open-mindedness” (Baehr 2011: 151–152). His footnote on this statement, however, is instructive: Note that the present concern is distinct from a concern with an open-minded person’s ultimate motivation for engaging in open-minded activity. Someone who consistently sets aside his beliefs in an effort to give a fair and honest hearing to the “other side,” but who does so for entirely non-epistemic reasons (e.g. to better his reputation), might be open-minded, even if not virtuously so. (Baehr 2011: 152, fn. 14) Baehr, then, thinks that one can exhibit the trait of open-mindedness in having the proximate motivation of giving a fair hearing, yet fail to be virtuously open-minded because one lacks the deeper, ultimate motive of love of truth. In other words, open-mindedness per se is not necessarily a virtue according to Baehr. This is a detail that need not detain us here, since Baehr still holds both the proximate and ultimate motivations are required to have the virtue. I will note, though, that it is hard to imagine someone having the proximate motivation of fair assessment without the ultimate motive of attaining greater cognitive contact with reality.3 This discussion has brought out an ambiguity in much talk about virtues in general and open-mindedness in particular. We give examples of individuals who fail to be motivated in the right way in a particular instance, and then conclude that the person is thereby not open-minded. But this is surely too quick. After all, even the virtuous sometimes have bad days. Someone who possesses the virtue of open-mindedness could still slip up sometimes and be motivated by a desire to be admired, say, and could therefore engage in what appears to be an open-minded way. In such a case, the fact that they do not display open-mindedness in this instance does not imply that they lack the virtue. One needs to be careful about the inferences one draws from these sorts of examples. What does seem safe to say is that if someone characteristically considers alternative views only for the purpose of appearing, say, intellectually sophisticated, then that person is not open-minded, even if the result is frequently a change of mind for the better. But whether or not someone lacks a proper motivation in an instance does not tell us much about their possession (or not) of a virtue. Nor does the possession of the virtue ensure that its possessor acts virtuously in any particular instance. Open-mindedness requires us to be habitually motivated by our love of cognitive contact with reality to engage in whatever cognitive activities further constitute the virtue. While this seems a plausible take-away form the discussion thus far, it raises a problem for the account. The problem has to do with the “fit” between the goal implicit in the motivation required for open-mindedness and the ability of the virtuous activity to deliver on that goal. Put bluntly, why think that being open-minded is a good way to achieve “cognitive contact with reality”? This is another way of asking whether being open-minded is a good way to get to truth, knowledge, or the like. After all, whenever one sets aside one’s own view to take another seriously, one could end up being deceived and swap a true belief for a false one. This would not be a step in the direction of better cognitive contact with reality. The proponent of openmindedness as an intellectual virtue must either show that the trait is indeed a good means to achieving epistemic goods, or else argue that such success is not necessary for a trait to be


Wayne Riggs

an intellectual virtue. I will return to this puzzle in a later section when I address the question of whether having the virtue requires meeting a “success” condition.4 12.2.3 Cognition

What, then, are the cognitive features of open-mindedness? Being open-minded definitely makes cognitive demands on us. It requires that we have certain cognitive abilities, skills, and habits. This much is obvious. What more can be said about these cognitive aspects of the virtue? To begin to answer this question, I want to return to a point raised in my initial presentation of Baehr’s account. Recall that Baehr endorses a broad view of what counts as open-mindedness, and he gives several scenarios to press his case. I think Baehr is right to say that each of these scenarios describes a situation in which the virtue of open-mindedness could reasonably be attributed. However, I think his description of the high school physics case is misleading in a way that is worth drawing out. First, I don’t think it is strictly correct to say that the students are not engaging in rational assessment. Here is what Baehr says about it: This example also shows that open-mindedness does not necessarily involve rational assessment. For the students are not attempting to assess or evaluate Einstein’s General Theory. At this stage, they are simply trying to follow or understand it. This shows that open-mindedness, while at times bearing on the activity of rational assessment or evaluation, can also bear on other intellectual activities or operations: for instance, on the process of coming to understand or comprehend a certain foreign or challenging subject matter. (2011: 146) The students are not attempting to determine whether the view they are trying to grasp is objectively correct. They are not doing what, say, the judge is doing. They are just trying to make sense of a challenging bit of new information. One might say that the students are trying to render what their teacher is telling them intelligible to themselves. That is, they are trying to find a way to make sense of the theory of relativity in a way that allows them to see how it fits evidentially, explanatorily, and descriptively with how they take the world to be. Of course, the whole point is that this is probably not possible without revising, at least provisionally, how they take the world to be. This is precisely what makes it reasonable for Baehr to say that the students need to be open-minded. Provisional revision, accommodation, and possibly expansion of their ideas about the world will be required. However, I must quibble here with the claim that this doesn’t count as rational assessment. Confronting a body of information and working to render it intelligible to oneself is very much a task that I would call rational assessment. Indeed, sometimes when we fail to make sense of some body of information, we conclude that the information provided simply is not intelligible, which might count as a rational assessment even on Baehr’s view. Admittedly, in the high school physics class example, this is unlikely. Presumably, the students are all convinced that their teacher would not lead them astray, so they would not blame the theory for any lack of comprehension on their part. Nevertheless, the comparison is instructive. The mental efforts and processes that the students undertake are precisely the same sorts that, say, a philosopher might undertake when encountering a difficult and obscure theory for the first time. And such a philosopher might well conclude that the theory is unintelligible—a conclusion that clearly is an assessment. But if the latter counts as rational assessment, it seems the former should as well.



Let us go further. Suppose that the philosopher in question manages to render the theory under consideration intelligible to himself after all. But it conflicts with his preferred theory. Now he undertakes to adjudicate between them. How shall he proceed? I would argue that he will use thought processes of the very sort he was using in rendering the alternative theory intelligible. How does each theory accord with the evidence? How does it accord with the rest of my world view? How much revision is necessary? What is the epistemic payoff for doing so in each case? Adjudicating between complex theories is a complicated, messy, and holistic business, much like coming to understand challenging theories in the first place. Why bother with what might seem to be a minor terminological point? I think it is not so minor, because correcting it gives us a way to characterize open-mindedness in a more unified and coherent way than is otherwise possible. If my quibble has merit, then it seems that open-mindedness has fundamentally to do with attempting to make intelligible some new information that has come to your attention. As the previous examples illustrate, this might have happened (a) by way of a doxastic conflict or (b) due to the need to adjudicate between two views or (c) in order to understand some new information that is prima facie difficult to reconcile with one’s current thoughts on the matter. Bear in mind, I am not saying that open-mindedness is nothing more than the ability to render information intelligible to oneself. I am saying that finding ways to make challenging ideas intelligible to oneself is a cognitive ability that is fundamental to being open-minded. Giving an alternative view a sympathetic hearing involves first rendering that view intelligible to oneself. If further assessment is involved, the same cognitive abilities (and perhaps others as well) that were involved in rendering the view intelligible will also be used to evaluate the two views and compare one with the other. This gives us a useful vantage from which to approach further elaboration of the cognitive features of open-mindedness. What kinds of cognitive efforts or abilities are required generally to make sense of, or render intelligible to oneself, some body of information that one has become aware of? My answer to this requires a certain amount of stage-setting. In previous work (2016), I argue for the cognitive importance of what I call “perspectives.” I think these are very much like what Baehr means by the phrase “cognitive standpoints.” As I say there (Riggs 2016), perspectives are complex representations. Or perhaps better, they are representation complexes. However beliefs, memories, attitudes, and emotions (to name a few elements of these complexes) are stored, they are often entwined with each other—causally, psychologically, and epistemically. They are causally and psychologically entwined in the sense that bringing one element to mind often brings with it other associated elements. And these elements have further effects, and so on. For example, remembering the time I was robbed while last visiting a foreign city will bring with it an echo of the feelings of embarrassment and outrage that I felt then. It will prompt me to be suspicious of the stranger who strikes up a conversation with me at the bus stop. It will cause me to notice different features of my environment than I would otherwise, like the fact that the stranger seems strangely eager to talk to me. I will recall my belief that this city is actually renowned for being extremely safe. When we turn to more stable representation complexes, rather than our real-time take on our immediate environment, the epistemological entwining becomes more clear. For a simplistic example, suppose my representation of the U.S. economy contains the beliefs that it is largely a capitalist, free-market system, and that people are rewarded for their initiative and hard work by getting jobs, raises, and promotions. It may also contain attitudes of distaste for people who don’t have jobs, and the emotion of hope for what I myself might be able to accomplish in time.


Wayne Riggs

Notice how the elements in this perspective are self-reinforcing. The beliefs are coherent with one another, they make my attitude seem appropriate and my emotion reasonable. Moreover, from within this perspective, I am going to perceive and react to the world in certain predictable, and from within the perspective, reasonable ways. Confronted with unemployment data showing fewer young people with jobs, I am more likely to come to believe that young people today are lazier than they used to be than to believe that corporations are pocketing their profits and squeezing the labor market. Whatever one thinks of this particular perspective, evaluating it open-mindedly requires, so far as possible, seeing it all together—seeing how it hangs together and makes sense holistically, and seeing how it disposes me to perceive the world in a particular way. To take back up the argumentative thread, we have a multitude of “takes” or “perspectives,” within which our beliefs about specific states of affairs and general causal principles (among other things) are psychologically and epistemically entwined so as to create an intelligible overall representation of some part of the world or some body of information. By “intelligible,” I mean a rather subjective sense of having answers to obvious questions that arise from within the perspective, having a set of explanatory inferences ready to hand that seem to account for features of the perspective, and so on. Obviously, these perspectives can overlap one another and can be hierarchically arranged, and some perspectives can be subsumed within others (Riggs 2016: 20). Much more needs to be said, of course, about both perspectives and intelligibility. But for our current purposes, we can glean enough to get some idea of the kinds of cognitive or mental tasks that being open-minded sets us to. Suppose I am confronted with a claim that is simply not compatible with my relevant perspectives. For instance, suppose an acquaintance tells me that his house is haunted by a ghost. I don’t believe that ghosts exist, that nonphysical entities have causal powers to rattle doorknobs, or that human personalities survive in any fashion after their associated body’s death. In other words, the existence of ghosts is simply not intelligible in any perspective that I currently adopt. What would being openminded about this claim require of me? First, I would have to find some perspective within which the claim is intelligible. That means imagining a perspective that differs from my own in some way that makes sense of the existence of ghosts. In this case, I am involved in an intellectual conflict with another, so I should be guided by what my acquaintance believes. By questioning him, I try to discover where his perspectives differ from mine in such a way that non-material personality remnants can persist and manifest themselves physically after a person’s death. Then I try to imaginatively construct a perspective that incorporates as much of my own as possible but can accommodate the necessary elements to render the existence of ghosts intelligible. This is what I take Baehr to mean when he talks about “transcending a default cognitive standpoint.” Now suppose I have managed to do this. Thus far, I have done only what the high school physics students did when trying to understand relativity theory. They had to flex their perspectives to try to accommodate some very counter-intuitive claims. But because I have an interlocutor, I am in a conflict situation. My acquaintance wants me to defend my assessment of the two views — “ghosts exist” vs. “ghosts don’t exist.” Now I must evaluate the two perspectives. This is what it means to “take up or take seriously the merits of a distinct cognitive standpoint” in Baehr’s characterization of open-mindedness quoted earlier. It means taking it seriously, as far as possible, on its own terms. Given perspectives’ holistic nature, their epistemic merits are not always apparent from the outside. One must do one’s best to inhabit the perspective—to open oneself to the likely changes in one’s perception of the world, to one’s dispositions toward potential evidence, to one’s likely patterns of inference,



and so on. This is what is involved in giving another view a sympathetic consideration, and it is very hard for human beings to do. In the end, we must make a determination about which of the two perspectives, on the whole, presents the most plausible picture of reality, which brings us back to cognitive contact with reality. We want to know which perspective is closer to the truth. But making a plausibility assessment before rendering the alternative view maximally intelligible by giving it a sympathetic consideration would be a failure of open-mindedness. Having both the motivation to undertake this difficult task and the mental and cognitive wherewithal to do it well are required to possess the virtue of open-mindedness. 12. 3 SUCCE S S !

We must distinguish two different questions about success. The first is a question about the adequacy of one’s characterization of open-mindedness. If somebody meets the terms of the characterization, does that guarantee that they will succeed in being open-minded? In other words, has the characterization captured everything that is necessary to the virtue? The second question is about whether open-mindedness should be counted as a virtue or not. Does being open-minded effectively promote our epistemic goals? For instance, does being openminded get us more truth, or knowledge, or cognitive contact with reality than we would have otherwise? I will address each of these questions in turn. As I said at the outset, Baehr’s account provides an excellent starting point for an account of open-mindedness as a virtue. Where it falls short is with respect to this question of whether his conditions really get us all the way to open-mindedness. In part, the issue is with the formality of the characterization he provides. Although it renders the view admirably succinct and clear, it is somewhat vague on important details. I have tried to fill in some of those details in previous sections. But it remains, I think, easily imaginable that someone could be willing and able, as Baehr requires, to transcend their own perspective and take seriously another one, but still fail to be open-minded. This is because, in general, one can be willing and able to X, but still fail to X when one should. In Riggs (2016), I offer two examples to illustrate this. Smugford: While willing and able to sympathetically consider views contrary to his own, Smugford fails to make the attempt on most or all of the occasions when an openminded person would do so. This is because Smugford has faulty judgment about when being virtuous requires making the effort to transcend his own perspective and consider another. He judges virtually all alternative views to be too implausible from the start to be worth serious consideration. He is fully able and willing to do such assessments, but his faulty judgment prevents him from doing so (Riggs 2016: 24). Oblivia: Oblivia’s problem is that she rarely recognizes that there are alternative cognitive standpoints to her own at all. When others disagree with her or behave in ways she finds strange, it never occurs to her to explain this in terms of a different belief or value system. She simply assumes they are odd and/or weirdly mistaken. Since she perceives no alternative cognitive standpoints, her willingness and ability to seriously consider such standpoints are rather moot (Riggs 2016: 24). The individuals described in both of these cases will consistently fail to do what openminded people do. They will virtually never transcend their own cognitive standpoint and seriously consider another. Or, to put it differently, they will virtually never attempt to


Wayne Riggs

render intelligible a perspective other than their own. Yet they seem to meet the conditions of Baehr’s account of open-mindedness, because they have the abilities required and are technically willing to use them. They simply never perceive themselves to be in a situation when doing so is called for. This seems to me to be good enough reason to add two additional clauses to Baehr’s characterization of open-mindedness. Clause (e) addresses the case of Oblivia while clause (f) addresses Smugford. (OM) An open-minded person is characteristically (a) willing and (within limits) able (b) to transcend a default cognitive standpoint (c) in order to take up or take seriously the merits of (d) a distinct cognitive standpoint, (e) and is sufficiently sensitive to cues indicating the existence of such alternative standpoints, (f) while having a well-calibrated propensity to exercise these abilities (Riggs 2016). Now let us turn to the question of whether open-mindedness effectively promotes our epistemic goals. This is a central debate surrounding open-mindedness as many epistemologists hold that promoting our epistemic goals is mostly, if not entirely, a matter of leaving us with more true beliefs and/or knowledge than we would otherwise have had. It is not obvious that open-mindedness does that. Thus, resolving this issue is one of the biggest problems facing a virtue epistemology that wishes to include open-mindedness. 12. 4 THE PR O B LE M OF T RU T H

To make the case that being open-minded does not necessarily make us better at getting the epistemic goods, I will focus on an article by Adam Carter and Emma Gordon (Carter and Gordon 2014) because their arguments are both straightforward and powerful. Carter and Gordon begin their argument by assuming that the epistemic goods in question are true beliefs. Hence, they ask whether being open-minded leads one to have more true beliefs than the alternative (being closed-minded). As they cogently reflect, “unlike other paradigmatic intellectual virtues, open-mindedness’s connection to the epistemic good is fuzzy. This is plain to see when we reflect on open-mindedness as it relates to the epistemic aim of believing truly” (Carter and Gordon 2014: 207). They offer two disarmingly simple arguments to demonstrate the infirmity of the connection between open-mindedness and true belief. First, they ask us to imagine that we have a set of beliefs about physics, P, and each belief in the set is true. What is the possible epistemic upshot of being open-minded about the beliefs in P? Our position with respect to truth cannot be improved with respect to P, by hypothesis. Ironically, being dogmatic is the most truth-preserving strategy for us in this case. Being open-minded would leave us open to the possibility of being misled into giving up one of these beliefs, which can only leave us worse off epistemically. “So whether open-mindedness is ceteris paribus more truth conducive than the manifestation of dogmatism seems conditional upon what one already believes” (Carter and Gordon 2014: 208). The second argument has to do with coming to form new beliefs rather than retaining or losing current beliefs. Suppose we are lucky to be in an environment that is quite “epistemically friendly.” In other words, forming beliefs based on the way things seem to be on casual



inspection is actually a good way to get to the truth. What you see is pretty much what you get in this environment. Now let us suppose, plausibly, that: the open-minded individual is less inclined than the credulous individual to accept the appearances uncritically and without suspicion. Whether open-mindedness is, ceteris paribus, more truth conducive (for two same-believers) for the purpose of forming new beliefs is largely beholden to whether the environment is epistemically hospitable or epistemically inhospitable. Open-mindedness affords no clear truthrelated advantage over uncritical credulity if the environment is maximally friendly. (Carter and Gordon 2014: 208) These arguments seem to show indisputably that open-mindedness is not reliably truthconducive in all environments, and certainly not in all circumstances. This leaves its status as an intellectual virtue in doubt. Defenders of open-mindedness as an intellectual virtue have at least three possible strategies available to them, each of which has adherents. First, one could argue that, despite appearances, open-mindedness is truth-conducive enough, though admittedly not perfectly so, to pass muster as an epistemic virtue (Zagzebski 1996; Kwong 2017). Second, one could argue that open-mindedness conduces to some other epistemic good that isn’t true belief (and whose epistemic value does not derive wholly from that of true belief) that makes it an epistemic virtue (suggested by Carter and Gordon 2014; Riggs 2003; and arguably Roberts and Wood 2007). Or, third, one could argue that epistemic virtues need not have this kind of productive relation to epistemic goods to count as genuine virtues. Some other connection between open-mindedness and the epistemic goods is what makes the trait a virtue (Montmarquet 1993; Baehr 2011). Another way to understand this issue is as a dispute about how to explain the epistemic value of intellectual virtues generally, and of open-mindedness specifically. If open-mindedness reliably (enough) leads to true belief, then the trait is clearly epistemically valuable and hence plausibly a virtue. Both Zagzebski and Kwong argue that, if we understand both openmindedness and the reliability condition correctly, then open-mindedness turns out to be reliably truth-conducive despite the sorts of examples adduced by Carter and Gordon. If we give up on deriving the epistemic value of open-mindedness (partly) from its truthconduciveness, we might argue that true belief is not the only epistemic value, and that openmindedness is conducive to a different epistemic value. For instance, I have suggested (2003, 2016), as have Carter and Gordon (2014), that open-mindedness could be conducive to understanding or wisdom, where these are understood as neither equivalent to nor reducible to either true belief or knowledge. If these two claims can be substantiated, an argument can be made for the epistemic value of open-mindedness that is not diminished by the examples from Carter and Gordon. Finally, one could simply deny the need for epistemically valuable traits (intellectual virtues) to be reliably productive of any particular kind of epistemic good at all. Montmarquet characterizes open-mindedness (and other intellectual virtues) in terms of a person’s desire for truth (Montmarquet 1993: 21-26). It is the agent’s desire for truth that makes the trait epistemically valuable, not the reliable success such an agent has at achieving cognitive contact with reality. Montmarquet is aware of the problems raised by the kinds of cases that Carter and Gordon offer. He is keen to ensure an internalist account of intellectual virtues according to which “individuals are in many instances responsible for being epistemically virtuous, at least to some reasonable degree” (Montmarquet 1993: 28). This leads him to deny that objective reliability can be strictly required by the possession of the virtue,


Wayne Riggs

because individuals will not typically be able to tell whether they are in situations such as those described in Carter and Gordon’s examples. (Despite similar commitments to personal responsibility for the intellectual virtues, Zagzebski (1999: 106ff), for example, still holds to a reliability requirement.) As should be obvious, which of these strategies one finds most compelling will depend on one’s intuitions about open-mindedness and one’s commitments regarding the structure of virtues generally and the ontology of epistemic value. For my part, I prefer a combination of all three strategies: (1) Like Zagzebski and Kwong, I think open-mindedness is truth-conducive enough (albeit contingently), to derive some epistemic value therefrom. (2) As Carter and Gordon (2014: 218) suggest and Riggs (2003, 2016) argues, I think openmindedness is likely conducive to other epistemic goods, such as understanding and possibly wisdom. The jury is still out as to whether the value of those goods is derivative of the value of true belief, so this might be another source of epistemic value for the virtue. (3) Along with Montmarquet and Baehr, I think that open-mindedness has epistemic value even if it does not actually deliver epistemic goods like knowledge, truth, or understanding. It is hard to overstate our dependence on other people for so much of what we know, and for creating epistemic communities within and through which knowledge can be passed along, expertise can be nurtured, epistemic authority can be granted, and epistemic credentials can be conferred. This is the human form of epistemic life. Consequently, being open-minded is epistemically valuable, not just for the good that accrues to the virtuous individual, but for the part the individual’s open-mindedness plays in building and sustaining a robust and healthy epistemic community. 12. 5 PR OS P E CT S

I will conclude by reflecting briefly on the prospects for one way of extending the range of virtue epistemology, and in particular the application of the theory of open-mindedness. What I have in mind is the extension of virtue epistemology into the burgeoning field of social epistemology. I will not try to give a comprehensive characterization of social epistemology here, but it focuses on the ways in which human cognizers are epistemically interdependent on one another. Testimony is often the first example that comes to mind of epistemic dependence, but our epistemic inter-dependence goes much deeper than this, as I alluded to at the end of the last section. According to philosophers like Annette Baier (1985), Lorraine Code (1991), Cynthia Townley (2011), and Heidi Grasswick (2004), our ability to be knowers, testifiers, and inquirers depends upon our having epistemic agency. Developing and employing this agency, they argue, requires that agents are in an empowered location in a network of epistemic inter-dependence and acknowledgment. In Grasswick’s words: [E]pistemic agency, one’s capacity to be an active and reflective inquirer, is not a faculty one is born with, but rather requires a history of social development within a communal context. Our experiences of being recognized by others as knowing agents, and correspondingly the expectations placed on us to recognize others as knowing agents, are what allow us to develop individual epistemic agency. (Grasswick 2004: 102)



By bringing into epistemological focus our individual contributions to the social network required to foster epistemic agency in everyone, we introduce a whole new scope for intellectual virtues. And open-mindedness seems likely to have a role here. Indeed, Jack Kwong (2015) has already argued that open-mindedness, properly understood, can counteract the phenomenon Miranda Fricker (2003: 165) calls “testimonial injustice.” A full accounting is not possible here, but testimonial injustice involves individuals failing to recognize others as knowers when they should. The examples Fricker focuses on are those in which this failure is explained by the influence of a negative identity stereotype. Fricker argues that we need to introduce a novel virtue, testimonial justice, in order to both identify and combat testimonial injustice. Kwong argues, to the contrary, that our standard panoply of intellectual virtues, including open-mindedness, is up to the task. Whether Kwong is right about this or not, bringing social and virtue epistemologies together has already produced valuable and interesting work, specifically with regard to the intellectual virtue of open-mindedness. I am optimistic that much more good work in that vein remains to be done.5 (Related Chapters: 2, 3, 13, 14, 28.) NOTE S 1 2 3 4 5

See Battaly (2008), Axtell (1997), Baehr (2011). This issue will be discussed further in a later section of the chapter. Thanks to Heather Battaly for help articulating this point. See Riggs (2010) for further discussion. Many thanks to Karen Antell and Heather Battaly for helpful commentary on earlier drafts of this chapter.

REFERE N C E S Axtell, G. (1997) “Recent Work in Virtue Epistemology,” American Philosophical Quarterly 34: 1–27. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Baier, A. (1985) Postures of the Mind, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Battaly, H. (2008) “Virtue Epistemology,” Philosophy Compass 3(4): 639–663. doi:10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00146.x. Carter, J. and E. Gordon. (2014) “Openmindedness and Truth,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44(2): 207–224. Code, L. (1987) Epistemic Responsibility, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. Code, L. (1991) What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Fricker, M. (2003) “Epistemic Injustice and a Role for Virtue in the Politics of Knowing,” Metaphilosophy 34: 154–173. Grasswick, H. (2004) “Individuals in Communities: The Search for a Feminist Model of Epistemic Subjects,” Hypatia 19(3): 85–120. Greco, J. (2007) “The Nature of Ability and the Purpose of Knowledge,” Philosophical Issues 17: 57–69. Greco, J. (2009) “Knowledge and Success From Ability,” Philosophical Studies 142(1): 17–26. Greco, J. (2010) Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kwong, J. (2015) “Epistemic Injustice and Open-Mindedness,” Hypatia 30(2): 337–351. Kwong, J. (2017) “Is Open-Mindedness Conducive to Truth?” Synthese 194: 1613–1626. Montmarquet, J. (1993) Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Riggs, W. (2003) “Understanding Virtue and the Virtue of Understanding,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Wayne Riggs

Riggs, W. (2010) “Open-Mindedness,” Metaphilosophy 41; reprinted in H. Battaly (ed.) Virtue and Vice: Moral and Epistemic, Wiley-Blackwell. Riggs, W. (2016) “Open-Mindedness, Insight, and Understanding,” in J. Baehr (ed.) Intellectual Virtues in Education: Essays in Applied Virtue Epistemology, London: Routledge. Roberts, R. and Wood, J.W. (2007) Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (1980) “The Raft and the Pyramid: Coherence Versus Foundations in the Theory of Knowledge,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy V: 3–25. Sosa, E. (2007) Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Volume 1: A Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2009) Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Volume II: Reflective Knowledge, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2015) Judgment and Agency, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Townley, C. (2011) A Defense of Ignorance, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind, New York: Cambridge University Press. Zagzebski, L. (1999) “What Is Knowledge?” in J. Greco and E. Sosa (eds.) The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology, Malden, MA: Blackwell.

13 Curiosity and Inquisitiveness Lani Watson

Curiosity and inquisitiveness are subjects of emerging interest in contemporary epistemology. Curiosity, in particular, has attracted attention from epistemologists in recent years (Miščević 2007; Brady 2009; Whitcomb 2010; Inan 2012; Kvanvig 2012). This is notable given the limited attention paid to both curiosity and inquisitiveness in philosophical history. The most frequent (and more or less only) references to curiosity can be found in the context of early empiricism. Thomas Hobbes describes curiosity as the ‘lust of the mind’, comparing it (favorably) with base desires such as hunger and other sensory pleasures (Leviathan 1998: Chapter 6, p. 35). John Locke projects an exalted view of curiosity, arguing that “[C]uriosity should be as carefully cherished . . . as other appetites suppressed” (Some Thoughts Concerning Education 1989: section 108). David Hume concludes Book II of A Treatise of Human Nature (1986) with a discussion of curiosity, endorsing it as “the first source of all our enquiries” (section 2.3.10). The flattering light in which curiosity is presented within this Enlightenment context would suggest it a topic worthy of philosophical scrutiny. Yet, beyond these minimal comments, little has been said of curiosity. Inquisitiveness has received less attention still. Plausibly this is because curiosity and inquisitiveness have typically been regarded as synonymous. Given this, and the limited attention that curiosity has received, it is not surprising to find even fewer mentions of inquisitiveness in the philosophical canon. At any rate, neither curiosity nor inquisitiveness has been the subject of sustained philosophical investigation. Ilhan Inan observes the lack of attention paid to curiosity in philosophical history in his recent book The Philosophy of Curiosity (2012). In particular, Inan highlights this deficiency within epistemology: “the history of epistemology is guilty of having ignored it [curiosity] until very recently” (184). Yet, as he emphasizes, “[I]t is difficult even to imagine how our intellectual achievements would have been possible without the basic motivation of curiosity” (1). It is indeed surprising that so little philosophical resource has been expended on understanding this ‘basic motivation’. Inan’s comprehensive discussion of curiosity represents perhaps the first extended treatment of curiosity in philosophical literature. Naturally, however, this treatment cannot cover the topic from all angles and Inan explicitly limits the discussion to questions concerning the relationship between curiosity and language. Notably, he says, 155


Lani Watson

“I will have little to say on whether curiosity is a virtue” (xiii). Given the relative dominance of virtue epistemology in contemporary epistemology, however, one might expect any discussion of curiosity within epistemology to arise precisely from its treatment as an intellectual virtue. Indeed, curiosity appears regularly on lists of the intellectual virtues and is a natural companion to virtues such as open-mindedness, attentiveness and intellectual humility (Alfano 2012; Baehr 2011; Zagzebski 1996). Inquisitiveness can also be found on these lists, albeit less often (Baehr 2011; Watson 2015). Arguably, curiosity and inquisitiveness can be and are viewed as key components of the intellectually virtuous life. With this in mind, a discussion of curiosity and inquisitiveness is both timely and apt. In addition, a discussion of the largely overlooked distinction between curiosity and inquisitiveness is, I will argue, of significance for virtue epistemology; particularly when considered in light of the emerging impetus toward intellectual character education advocated by prominent virtue epistemologists and educational theorists (Baehr 2011; Kotzee 2013; Pritchard 2013). In the following, I offer characterizations of curiosity and inquisitiveness and argue that they are distinct, albeit closely related intellectual virtues. They should not be regarded as synonymous. The difference is revealed by highlighting the distinct relationships that curiosity and inquisitiveness bear to the practice of questioning: the inquisitive person must ask questions while the curious person manifests her curiosity in a broader range of activities and behaviors, including, but not limited to, questioning. Inquisitiveness emerges as a restricted form of curiosity. By drawing a relatively fine-grained distinction between curiosity and inquisitiveness, we can distinguish two important aspects of intellectually virtuous inquiry. 13. 1 PR ELI MIN A RIE S

To characterize any of the individual intellectual virtues, like curiosity or inquisitiveness, it will be helpful to take account of the structure of the intellectual virtues, in general. I draw on Linda Zagzebski’s (1996) account of the virtues, which identifies two components: motivation and success. The motivation component picks out the motivation that drives intellectually virtuous inquiry. The success component demands a degree of success or skill in the realization of that motivation. More specifically, drawing on a recent observation by Jason Baehr (2013a), one can distinguish between the common and distinctive motivations of the virtues. The common motivation is the motivation that drives all of the intellectual virtues. The distinctive motivations are the motivations that are particular to each of the individual intellectual virtues. The success component is also understood according to this distinction: a person can skillfully realize the common motivation of all the intellectual virtues, or they can skillfully realize the distinctive motivation of an individual intellectual virtue, or neither of these, or both. I characterize the common motivation of the intellectual virtues as that of improving epistemic standing: the intellectually virtuous person is motivated to improve epistemic standing. An individual’s epistemic standing encompasses all of her true beliefs, knowledge, understanding and information. An improvement in epistemic standing can be understood intuitively as an improvement in the breadth, depth or accuracy of an individual’s true beliefs, knowledge, understanding or information. Such an improvement may occur in one’s own, or another person’s, epistemic standing.1 The motivation to improve epistemic standing gives rise to the intellectual virtues; it is this that motivates the intellectually virtuous inquirer. Accepting this characterization of the common motivation, the task when characterizing the individual intellectual virtues is to identify their distinctive motivations,

Curiosity and Inquisitiveness


and the distinctive skills involved in the realization of these. The following two sections will identify the distinctive motivations and skills required of the intellectual virtues of curiosity and inquisitiveness.2 13. 2 WHAT I S CU RIOS IT Y?

I begin with the distinctive motivation of virtuous curiosity. Firstly, I take the following to be an intuitively central feature of the virtue of curiosity: the virtuously curious person values epistemic goods. This is as opposed to other goods such as money, property or health, for example. Imagine a person who valued only wealth, fame or, as Hobbes (1998) puts it, “the short vehemence of any carnal Pleasure” (Chapter 6, p. 35). Such a person could not be described as curious (virtuously or otherwise) and it is the lack of value that she places on epistemic goods that determines this. More specifically, the virtuously curious person shows that she values epistemic goods by being motivated to acquire them. This is as opposed to other ways in which a person can value a thing: one can value something without being motivated to acquire it, after all. Compare the butterfly preservationist with the butterfly collector. The butterfly preservationist values butterflies but he is not motivated to acquire them. The butterfly collector, in contrast, shows that he values butterflies precisely by being motivated to acquire them. The collector is akin to the curious person. The latter values epistemic goods and this value is revealed by her motivation to acquire them. The virtuously curious person is characteristically motivated to acquire epistemic goods.3 In support, consider the following case. A philosophy student waits at the end of a lecture and tells the lecturer that he is curious about something she said. The lecturer offers to expand. The philosophy student has nowhere to be and nothing preventing him from hearing what she has to say. Despite this, he declines. In this case, we would be disinclined to describe the philosophy student as genuinely curious. He does not acquire the information that he claims to be curious about despite the fact that it is readily available and there is nothing preventing him from doing so. As such, he reveals a lack of sufficient motivation for acquiring the information. It is this that stops us short of describing him as curious. If he were in fact curious, he would accept the lecturer’s offer. Given that he does not, we might say that he is mistaken when he claims to be curious or be tempted to explain his behavior by suggesting that he has some alternative reason for telling the lecturer that he is. In general, it is misplaced to ascribe curiosity about X to someone who, when offered information about X, at no cost to themselves, nonetheless declines it. This is because, by declining the readily available information, they are failing to demonstrate the motivation to acquire it that is required for the attribution of virtuous curiosity. In fact, the virtue of curiosity requires slightly more than this. In order to demonstrate sufficient motivation for acquiring an epistemic good, in the case of virtuous curiosity, one must be willing to acquire that good at some marginal cost, if necessary. Willingness to accept an apple when it is offered reveals merely that one has no all-things-considered reason not to do so. But, if when asked to exchange the penny in one’s hand for the apple, one declines the apple, it would be fair to surmise that one is not sufficiently motivated to acquire the apple. Likewise with epistemic goods. The philosophy student must be willing to sacrifice, say, ten minutes in the pub in order to hear what the lecturer has to say. If, when faced with this small sacrifice, he declines, we would be disinclined to describe him as genuinely curious. If he is willing to make the sacrifice, then he demonstrates sufficient motivation for acquiring the epistemic goods on offer. The virtuously curious person is characteristically motivated to acquire epistemic goods.4


Lani Watson

Note here the close alignment between this central feature of the virtue of curiosity and the common motivation of all the intellectual virtues. The intellectually virtuous person is characteristically motivated to improve epistemic standing. The virtuously curious person is characteristically motivated to acquire epistemic goods (according to the characterization so far). The motivation to acquire epistemic goods is not identical with the motivation to improve epistemic standing because acquiring epistemic goods is not the only way to improve epistemic standing. The rigorous inquirer, for example, at times improves epistemic standing by carefully scrutinizing the epistemic goods that she already has, rather than by acquiring more. The intellectually humble inquirer improves epistemic standing by ‘owning her intellectual limitations’ (Whitcomb et al. 2017). Nonetheless, the motivation to acquire epistemic goods is closely aligned with the common motivation of the intellectual virtues in that one cannot be motivated to acquire epistemic goods (in the full sense required for virtuous curiosity, discussed below), without being motivated to improve epistemic standing. This close alignment between the virtue of curiosity and the common motivation of the intellectual virtues accords with a plausible view of curiosity as a ‘fundamental’ or ‘basic’ intellectual virtue; a view which emerges in the literature. Nenad Miščević (2007), for example, describes curiosity as the “mainspring of motivation” and identifies it as “the core motivating epistemic virtue” (246, emphasis original). Similarly, Baehr (2011) places curiosity in the first of his categories, labeled ‘initial motivation’ (21), when offering a taxonomy of the intellectual virtues, and regards curiosity as a key intellectual virtue to educate for. Inan (2012) refers to curiosity as a ‘basic motivation’ for inquiry (1). This treatment of curiosity as a core or basic motivating intellectual virtue suggests a characterization that places curiosity at the heart of intellectually virtuous inquiry. Identifying the characteristic motivation to acquire epistemic goods as a central feature of the virtue of curiosity does just that. It is no accident that this central feature of the virtue of curiosity is closely aligned with the common motivation of the intellectual virtues. The characterization so far captures something intuitively central to the intellectual virtue of curiosity. One may reasonably contend, however, that it is still too broad. Specifically, the virtuously curious person is not motivated to acquire any and all epistemic goods. With this in mind, we can refine the characterization of virtuous curiosity by examining which epistemic goods the virtuously curious person is motivated to acquire. Firstly, over and above a motivation to acquire epistemic goods, the virtuously curious person must also have recognized, or at least believe, that she is missing the epistemic goods in question. I value knowing my true date of birth, for example, but I’m not curious about it because I believe that I already know it. If my mother were to tell me that it is different from what I think it is, then I would become very curious, very quickly. I certainly do value knowing my true date of birth, even though I’m not currently curious about it, and it is precisely because I believe that I already know it that I am not curious. The virtuously curious person must have recognized, or at least believe, that she is missing epistemic goods, in order to be curious about them. This requirement—in essence, that one must be aware of one’s ignorance in order to be curious—is developed comprehensively by Inan (2012). He states, “when . . . an awareness of ignorance is coupled with an interest in the topic, it motivates curiosity” (1). This neatly captures the core of the characterization developed so far. The virtuously curious person must believe that she is missing some epistemic good and be motivated to acquire the good, in light of that fact. The virtuously curious person is characteristically motivated to acquire epistemic goods that she lacks, or believes that she lacks. This is the distinctive motivation of virtuous curiosity.5 We may now consider the distinctive skill required of the virtuously curious person in order for them to realize the distinctive motivation, just described. Here again, we

Curiosity and Inquisitiveness


can refine the characterization of virtuous curiosity by examining which epistemic goods the virtuously curious person is motivated to acquire. Specifically, the virtuously curious person is not motivated to acquire any and all epistemic goods that she lacks, or believes that she lacks. A final modification is required: the virtuously curious person is characteristically motivated to acquire worthwhile epistemic goods that she lacks, or believes that she lacks. This final constraint provides a success condition for curiosity. Notably, this success condition demands not that the virtuously curious person must acquire worthwhile epistemic goods, and thereby actually improve epistemic standing, but that the epistemic goods she is motivated to acquire must be worthwhile; they must be goods that would improve epistemic standing, were she to acquire them. It is the virtuously curious person’s skillful identification of worthwhile epistemic goods that renders her virtuously curious. This is so even if she fails to acquire the worthwhile epistemic goods that she seeks, and in turn, fails to improve epistemic standing.6 In support of this final modification, consider the following cases. A philosophy student is attending a lecture on the philosophy of time. She has a keen interest in the topic, is aware that she knows very little about it and is motivated to acquire all the information she can. Unfortunately, her lecturer believes (falsely) that he arrived at the lecture hall through a loophole in space-time from the year 3017. Consequently, he has a series of deeply mistaken beliefs about the philosophy of time and proceeds to lecture on these. The philosophy student thereby fails to acquire the worthwhile epistemic goods that she seeks, despite the fact that she is genuinely motivated to learn about the philosophy of time and recognizes her relative ignorance on the topic. Nonetheless, in this case we would still be inclined to describe the philosophy student as virtuously curious. In contrast, imagine another student, also signed up for a course on the philosophy of time and not at the mercy of an epistemically unfriendly lecturer. This student, however, instead of being motivated to acquire information about the philosophy of time, is obsessed with the number of blades of grass in the courtyard outside the lecture theatre. As a result, she spends her philosophy of time lecture meticulously counting and recording blades of grass. Under these circumstances, we would be disinclined to describe the second student as virtuously curious. This is despite the fact that, as in the first case, the student is motivated to acquire epistemic goods that she lacks. The difference between these cases lies not in the students’ motivations to acquire epistemic goods, or in the successful or unsuccessful acquisition of those goods. Rather, the difference lies in the kinds of epistemic goods that the students are motivated to acquire. Unlike her virtuous counterpart, in the first case, the blades-of-grass student, in the second case, is motivated to acquire the wrong kind of epistemic goods; goods that will not improve her epistemic standing in the sense required for intellectual virtue. She chooses to acquire trivial information about blades of grass whilst forgoing worthwhile information about the philosophy of time. The blades-of-grass student’s failure is thereby due to a fault in her intellectual character, as opposed to her epistemic environment. This is significantly different from the first case in which the student is prevented from acquiring worthwhile epistemic goods, and so improving epistemic standing, due to her epistemically unfriendly circumstances. Actually acquiring worthwhile epistemic goods, and so improving epistemic standing, is not a requirement of the intellectual virtue of curiosity, provided that the goods one is motivated to acquire are indeed worthwhile. Identifying worthwhile epistemic goods is the distinctive skill required of the virtuously curious person. It is now possible to offer a characterization of the intellectual virtue of curiosity. The virtuously curious person is characteristically motivated to acquire worthwhile epistemic goods that she lacks, or believes that she lacks.


Lani Watson


Inquisitiveness is not synonymous with curiosity. As such, it requires a distinct characterization. I have presented an extended characterization of the virtue of inquisitiveness in previous work (Watson 2015) and will offer a shortened version below. Notably, virtuous inquisitiveness will emerge as a restricted form of virtuous curiosity, defined, unlike curiosity, by its relationship to questioning. As with the characterization of virtuous curiosity, I begin with the distinctive motivation of virtuous inquisitiveness. Firstly, I take the following to be intuitively central to the characterization of the virtue of inquisitiveness: the virtuously inquisitive person is characteristically motivated to ask questions. This identifies questioning as a defining feature of inquisitiveness from the outset. In support of this, imagine a philosophy student who, despite sitting through numerous lectures and having access to a range of philosophical resources, fails to ask a single question relating to philosophy. It seems clear that such a student could not be described as inquisitive. It is her failure to ask questions, in the absence of any barriers to doing so, that exposes her lack of inquisitiveness.7 The inquisitive person asks questions; without doing so she cannot possess the virtue of inquisitiveness. In addition, not only is the virtuously inquisitive person characteristically motivated to ask questions but her questioning must be sincere. A sincere question is one in which the questioner genuinely wants to improve epistemic standing with respect to the subject matter; she genuinely wants to know or understand the answer. To see this, imagine a second philosophy student who regularly asks questions during lectures. However, unbeknownst to his lecturer he is earning money from a group of rich and lazy classmates for every question asked. The student has no genuine interest in finding out the answers to his questions and is motivated purely by the prospect of financial gain. In this case, it again seems misplaced to attribute the virtue of inquisitiveness to the student. Although he exhibits a characteristic motivation to ask questions, he is not motivated to do so in order to know or understand the answers given; his questions are not sincere. It is the student’s insincerity that stops us short of attributing the virtue of inquisitiveness to him. The virtuously inquisitive person is characteristically motivated to engage sincerely in questioning. This is the distinctive motivation of virtuous inquisitiveness. We may now consider the distinctive skill required of the virtuously inquisitive person in order for them to realize the distinctive motivation, just described. Here we can refine the characterization of virtuous inquisitiveness by examining the type of questioning that the virtuously inquisitive person is motivated and able to engage in. Specifically, the virtuously inquisitive person is not motivated to engage in questioning of any unskilled sort regarding any arbitrary subject matter, however sincerely. A final modification is required: the virtuously inquisitive person is characteristically motivated and able to engage sincerely in good questioning. This final constraint provides a success condition for inquisitiveness. Notably, this success condition demands not that the virtuously inquisitive person must acquire correct answers to her questions, and thereby improve epistemic standing, but that in attempting to improve epistemic standing, the questioning she engages in must be good; it must be questioning that is likely to improve epistemic standing, if the correct answers are forthcoming. It is the virtuously inquisitive person’s ability to engage in good questioning that renders her virtuously inquisitive. This is so even if she fails to acquire correct answers to her questions, and in turn, fails to improve epistemic standing.8 In support of this final modification, we can return to our unfortunate philosophy of time student, at the mercy of an epistemically unfriendly lecturer. Imagine that this student not only attends her philosophy of time lectures in order to acquire information about the topic but also asks good questions throughout the lectures and in discussion with the lecturer

Curiosity and Inquisitiveness


afterwards. Given the lecturer’s deeply mistaken beliefs about the philosophy of time, however, the student fails to acquire correct answers to her questions and so fails to improve epistemic standing, despite her characteristic motivation to engage sincerely in questioning. Nonetheless, in this case we would still be inclined to describe the philosophy student as virtuously inquisitive. In contrast, return to our blades-of-grass student, also signed up for a course on the philosophy of time but not at the mercy of an epistemically unfriendly lecturer. Imagine that this student takes a break from counting blades of grass outside the lecture theatre to attend one of her lectures. However, instead of focusing on the philosophy of time, she asks persistent questions, throughout the lecture and in discussion with the lecturer afterwards, about the number of blades of grass outside the lecture theatre. Despite their sincerity, the questions are badly articulated, irrelevant and asked in an inappropriate context, about a trivial subject matter. Under these circumstances, we would be disinclined to describe the philosophy student as virtuously inquisitive. This is despite the fact that, as in the first case, the student is characteristically motivated to engage sincerely in questioning. The difference between these cases lies not in the students’ motivations to engage sincerely in questioning, or in the successful or unsuccessful acquisition of correct answers to their questions. Rather, the difference lies in the type of questioning that the students are motivated and able to engage in. Unlike her virtuous counterpart, in the first case, the blades-of-grass student, in the second case, is employing a faulty question-asking strategy; she is engaging in bad questioning that will not improve her epistemic standing in the sense required for intellectual virtue. Once again, the blades-of-grass student’s failure is due to a fault in her intellectual character, as opposed to her epistemic environment. This is significantly different from the first case in which the student was, again, prevented from acquiring correct answers to her questions, and so improving epistemic standing, due to her epistemically unfriendly circumstances. Actually acquiring correct answers, and so improving epistemic standing, is not a requirement of the intellectual virtue of inquisitiveness, provided that the questioning one engages in is good. Good questioning is the distinctive skill required of the virtuously inquisitive person. It is now possible to offer a characterization of the intellectual virtue of inquisitiveness. The virtuously inquisitive person is characteristically motivated and able to engage sincerely in good questioning. 13. 4 THE DI STI NC TI O N BE T WE E N CU RIOS IT Y AND I NQ UI S IT IVE N E S S

Curiosity and inquisitiveness are closely related virtues, both arising in the initial stages of intellectually virtuous inquiry. They are, however, not synonymous and warrant distinct characterizations in the context of virtue epistemology. Virtuous inquisitiveness emerges as a restricted form of virtuous curiosity; a form of virtuous curiosity in which the agent must engage in questioning.9 If a person does not engage in questioning, she may still be virtuously curious in other ways but cannot be described as inquisitive (virtuously or otherwise). Characteristically engaging sincerely in good questioning is a restricted form of virtuous curiosity. It is a restricted form of the characteristic motivation to acquire worthwhile epistemic goods that one lacks or believes that one lacks. Virtuous inquisitiveness is virtuous curiosity manifested as good questioning. One may wonder if this relatively fine-grained distinction collapses under further scrutiny. Doesn’t all curiosity manifest itself as questioning of one sort or another? If so, the two terms should indeed be regarded as synonymous. To address this, it will be illuminating to provide a defense of the claim that one can be curious without engaging in questioning. The curious (but not inquisitive) philosophy of time student demonstrates this well. Recall


Lani Watson

that this student was deemed virtuously curious on the basis of her keen interest in the philosophy of time coupled with an awareness of her ignorance on the topic, resulting in her motivation to acquire information about it by attending philosophy of time lectures. At no point was it argued that she must, in addition, engage in questioning about the philosophy of time in order to be deemed virtuously curious. This would, I think, be too demanding. Significantly, it is not a motivation to question that renders the philosophy of time student curious but her motivation to acquire information about the philosophy of time. Consider the many different ways in which this could be manifested. The student may, for example, buy a book on the philosophy of time, watch a documentary on the subject or attend a philosophy of time conference. In all these ways she is exposing herself to further information about the philosophy of time revealing her motivation to acquire such information (as well, we can assume, as a recognition of her ignorance on the topic). These actions do not, in themselves, amount to questioning, and yet it seems highly plausible that the student could be accurately described as curious on the basis of this behavior. In general, virtuous curiosity can be identified through a variety of behaviors and actions, all arising from the motivation to acquire worthwhile epistemic goods, which a person lacks or believes that she lacks. The virtuously curious person may, if given the opportunity, expose herself to reliable sources of information on her topic of interest, monitor her epistemic environment for such information, and seek out environments that are conducive to acquiring it. Again, these behaviors do not need to amount to questioning in order to be deemed the actions of a virtuously curious person. Of course the curious person often will engage in questioning, in which case, provided it is good questioning, she will also be exhibiting virtuous inquisitiveness. Unlike inquisitiveness, however, curiosity is not defined either by the activity of questioning or by a motivation to question; one can be curious without asking questions. With this in mind, we can see that the virtue of curiosity allows for a more passive characterization than the virtue of inquisitiveness. Inquisitiveness is characterized in terms of an activity; the activity of questioning. Curiosity is characterized in more passive terms; as the motivation to acquire worthwhile epistemic goods, rather than in terms of the actions and behaviors associated with that motivation. It is this that positions virtuous curiosity so close to the common motivation of all the intellectual virtues and at the heart of intellectually virtuous inquiry. Interestingly, these characterizations are echoed in the etymology of the terms. ‘Curiosity’ derives from the Latin ‘cūra’ meaning ‘care’ or ‘concern’. ‘Inquisitiveness’ derives from the Latin ‘inquirere’ meaning ‘seek after’, ‘search for’, ‘examine’ or ‘investigate’. Beyond this purely etymological point (and perhaps because of it), the distinction appears to track subtle differences in the way the two terms are commonly employed in ordinary language. ‘Idle curiosity’, for example, is permitted whilst ‘idle inquisitiveness’ sounds oxymoronic. Notably, Inan (2012), perhaps unintentionally, reflects this usage when commenting on the ancient Greek notion of wonder, ‘thauma’; “it had to include a kind of inquisitiveness, a way of questioning things unknown; it had to involve a form of curiosity to serve as the driving force for philosophy” (2, emphasis added). Inquisitiveness, rather than curiosity, is directly associated with questioning and is described as a form of curiosity, rather than curiosity itself. In line with this ordinary language usage, I believe that this more passive characterization of virtuous curiosity likewise accords with real-world attributions of curiosity, both to ourselves and to others. I consider myself curious about many things: quantum gravity, car engines, power dynamics in the Roman Empire. At the same time, I am acutely aware of the limited time and intellectual resources that I have to expend on these topics of interest. My failure or inability to actively seek and acquire information about these things, by engaging in questioning or otherwise, does not, I think, preclude me from claiming to be (and in fact being)

Curiosity and Inquisitiveness


genuinely curious about them. Likewise, when my ninety-nine-year-old grandfather recently told me that he was disappointed he wouldn’t be around to see what world events will unfold over the next one hundred years, I took him to be expressing his (insatiable) curiosity; in the simple act of articulating its very insatiability. No more, I think, is required for the attribution of virtuous curiosity. Again, this distinctively passive characterization further emphasizes the close alignment that exists between virtuous curiosity and the common motivation of the intellectual virtues. The motivation to improve epistemic standing concerns the inner states of the intellectually virtuous inquirer. Virtuous curiosity, as characterized above, also concerns these inner states. In its most passive forms virtuous curiosity may amount to no more than these. Consequently, more so than with any of the other intellectual virtues, the question of what it means to ‘act virtuously’ in the case of curiosity is potentially misleading. ‘Acting virtuously’, in this case, may sometimes, perhaps often, manifest itself entirely as an inner state; one reflecting the fundamental motivation underpinning the intellectually virtuous life. 13. 5 WHY DO ES THE DIS T IN CT ION MA T T E R?

The distinction between curiosity and inquisitiveness is of significance for virtue epistemologists concerned with the project of characterizing the individual intellectual virtues (Roberts and Wood 2007; Riggs 2010; Battaly 2010, 2011; Baehr 2011). This project, termed ‘autonomous’ virtue epistemology (Baehr 2011), has developed significantly over the past decade with increasingly sophisticated treatments of the individual intellectual virtues. The present discussion contributes to this project by offering characterizations of two commonly cited intellectual virtues, which may at first glance appear to be one and the same. The more nuanced treatment of these as distinct, albeit closely related intellectual virtues contributes to an increasingly refined understanding of curiosity and inquisitiveness within the context of autonomous virtue epistemology. Similarly, the distinction should be of interest to those working on either of the virtues independently, particularly where the distinction between these closely aligned terms has not been made explicit or they have been treated, either implicitly or explicitly, as synonymous (Miščević 2007; Whitcomb 2010; Inan 2012; Kvanvig 2012). Beyond this contribution to contemporary analytical projects in epistemology, however, the significance of marking a distinction between curiosity and inquisitiveness can be seen within applied virtue epistemology. The case for intellectual character education that has emerged in recent years, at the intersection of virtue epistemology and educational theory, places the cultivation of intellectual virtues at the heart of an effective education (Baehr 2011, 2013b; Kotzee 2011, 2012; MacAllister 2012; Pritchard 2013). Curiosity has received notable attention within this setting. One of the movement’s most prominent advocates, Jason Baehr, for example, places curiosity first on a list of nine intellectual virtues that comprise the ‘master virtues’ at the Intellectual Virtues Academy (IVA); a unique charter school in Long Beach, California, founded on the philosophical principles of intellectual virtues education. The academy aims to provide an education that fosters “meaningful growth in intellectual character virtues” and “equip[s] students to engage the world with curiosity and thoughtfulness, to know themselves, and to live well” ( mission-and-vision). Curiosity is seen to play a central role in the intellectual character education offered at the IVA. I think this can be explained by the close relationship that curiosity bears to the common motivation of the intellectual virtues and its status as a ‘fundamental’ or ‘basic’ motivating virtue. Curiosity is, to some extent, a defining feature of intellectual character itself.


Lani Watson

Significantly, the characterization of virtuous curiosity in more passive terms than virtuous inquisitiveness may help to inform the project of educating for both these virtues in a context such as the IVA. Characterizing virtuous curiosity in terms of the characteristic motivation to acquire worthwhile epistemic goods highlights the sense in which educating for this virtue concerns nurturing the inner drive of a student to learn and explore the world; to care about seeking out information, knowledge and understanding. The significance of this inner drive has long been identified in educational theory, perhaps most prominently in the first instance, by John Dewey (1916, 1933), and subsequently in the progressive education movement of the late twentieth century (Cremin 1959; Dearden 1967). Educating for virtuous curiosity, understood in these terms, requires focusing on the subjective and affective aspects of the virtue as it manifests in students through a wide variety of activities and behaviors. Moving beyond the somewhat narrower aim of encouraging student questioning, this characterization of virtuous curiosity draws attention to the many ways in which it serves as a fundamental motivation for intellectually virtuous inquiry. This opens up a space for cultivating the motivation itself, apart from a set of skills or behaviors, recognizing the sense in which one’s intellectual character comprises not only one’s intellectual capacities but the motivation to acquire epistemic goods in the first place. Taking this seriously within a classroom setting allows education practitioners to facilitate, encourage and nurture this motivation, even in its most passive manifestations. By contrast, educating for inquisitiveness requires an explicit focus on the active skill of questioning. This focus is also key to an effective education, incorporating the aims of both skills and virtues-based educational models (Watson 2016). No others of the intellectual virtues, including curiosity, are defined by their relationship to questioning. Inquisitiveness, thereby, not only often leads to intellectually virtuous inquiry but is defined by its role in the active initiation of such inquiry. Insofar as nurturing intellectually virtuous inquiry is a central aim of the project of educating for intellectual virtue, this places virtuous inquisitiveness, alongside virtuous curiosity, center-stage. Educating for virtuous inquisitiveness, understood as a restricted form of virtuous curiosity, demands dedicated approaches and techniques, distinct from those required for nurturing a virtuously curious disposition. These will concentrate on the skills involved in raising and pursuing a line of inquiry by engaging in good questioning. Such techniques are not yet fully developed in educational theory and practice and deserve dedicated attention. By drawing a distinction between virtuous curiosity and virtuous inquisitiveness, we can distinguish between two aspects of intellectually virtuous inquiry; that in which a person’s motivation to know and understand the world is awakened, and that in which they begin to master a fundamental skill required in order to achieve this. In the context of educating for intellectual virtues, recognizing this distinction provides an enhanced opportunity to dedicate time and resources toward developing pedagogy and designing curriculum that speaks to both of these critical aspects of an individual’s intellectual character.10 (Related Chapters: 3, 4, 12, 29, 38.) NOTE S 1 In order to serve as the common motivation of the intellectual virtues some constraints on the notion of improving epistemic standing must be admitted. Given the finite intellectual resources available to us, the mere acquisition of true beliefs, knowledge or information will not always be sufficient to satisfy the goal of improving epistemic standing in the sense required for intellectual virtue. The acquisition of a large number of so-called ‘trivial truths’ will not usually be sufficient, for example, even though epistemic standing is in some sense broadened, given that the intellectual resources spent on such activity could be more fruitfully employed

Curiosity and Inquisitiveness

2 3 4 5


7 8

9 10


elsewhere. Similarly, one may improve one’s epistemic standing, in the sense required for intellectual virtue, by becoming aware of one’s ignorance. Note that both inquisitiveness and curiosity are treated here as character-based virtues, as opposed to facultybased virtues such as good memory or keen eyesight. This distinction is drawn by Greco and Turri (2011). I introduce ‘characteristic’ here to ensure that, when treated as a virtue, curiosity cannot be attributed on the basis of a single instance of the motivation to acquire epistemic goods (Zagzebski 1996). Rather, this motivation represents a stable feature of the curious person’s character. Thanks to Stephen Ryan for a useful discussion of this point. Interestingly, this requirement suggests a close connection between the intellectual virtues of curiosity and intellectual humility, at least insofar as the latter is characterized in terms of a person’s willingness and ability to recognize their intellectual limitations (Whitcomb et al. 2017). If awareness of one’s ignorance is a form of recognizing one’s intellectual limitations, then the virtuously curious person exhibits a restricted form of intellectual humility. There are two senses in which epistemic goods may be considered worthwhile in this context. In the first sense, worthwhile epistemic goods must be non-trivial. In the second sense, acquiring worthwhile epistemic goods requires the virtuously curious person to exercise judgment with respect to the most relevant or significant epistemic goods available. The issue of which epistemic goods can be deemed non-trivial, relevant or significant, in any given case, is complex and potentially contentious. Nonetheless, if one grants that some epistemic goods are indeed worthwhile, whilst others are not, then this constraint on virtuous curiosity is required. Questioning here refers to both articulated and non-articulated questioning. The notion of good questioning is rich and complex. Firstly, good questioning requires targeting worthwhile information in the two senses of worthwhile discussed above. Secondly, good questioning requires identifying the appropriate context for one’s questions; one must ask at the right time and place, and identify the right person or source of information. Thirdly, good questioning requires the ability to formulate questions well; one’s questions must be well articulated and appropriately communicated. With these parameters in place, the good questioner will meet the conditions required for virtuous inquisitiveness (Watson forthcoming). Thanks to Alan Wilson for useful discussion. Thanks to Heather Battaly for extremely helpful comments. REFEREN CE S

Alfano, M. (2012) “The Most Agreeable of All Vices: Nietzsche as Virtue Epistemologist,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21(4): 767–790. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Baehr, J. (2013a) “The Cognitive Demands of Intellectual Virtue,” in T. Henning and D. Schweikard (eds.) Knowledge, Virtue and Action: Putting Epistemic Virtues to Work, New York: Routledge, 99–118. Baehr, J. (2013b) “Educating for Intellectual Virtues: From Theory to Practice,” Journal of Philosophy of Education 47(2): 248–262. Battaly, H. (ed.) (2010) Virtue and Vice, Moral and Epistemic, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Battaly, H. (2011) “Is Empathy a Virtue?” in A. Coplan and P. Goldie (eds.) Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 277–301. Brady, M. (2009) “Curiosity and the Value of Truth,” in A. Haddock, A. Millar and D. Pritchard (eds.) Epistemic Value, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 265–283. Cremin, L. (1959) “John Dewey and the Progressive-Education Movement, 1915–1952,” The School Review 67(2): 160–173. Dearden, R.F. (1967) “Instruction and Learning by Discovery,” in R. Peters (ed.) The Concept of Education, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 135–155. Dewey, J. (1916) Democracy and Education, New York: Macmillan. Dewey, J. (1933) How We Think, Chicago, IL: Henry Regnery. Greco, J. and J. Turri. (2011) “Virtue Epistemology,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford. edu/entries/epistemology-virtue. Accessed June 17, 2014. Grimm, S. (2008) “Epistemic Goals and Epistemic Values,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77(3): 725–744. Hobbes, T. (1998) Leviathan, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hume, D. (1986) Treatise of Human Nature, New York: Penguin Classics. Inan, I. (2012) The Philosophy of Curiosity, New York: Routledge. Kidd, I.J. (2016) “Educating for Intellectual Humility,” in J. Baehr (ed.) Intellectual Virtues and Education: Essays in Applied Virtue Epistemology, New York: Routledge, 54–70.


Lani Watson

Kotzee, B. (2011) “Education and ‘Thick’ Epistemology,” Educational Theory 61(5): 549–564. Kotzee, B. (2012) “Intellectual Virtue and the Aims of Education Debate,” Conference presentation, Jubilee Centre for Character and Values, University of Birmingham, Dec. 14. Kotzee, B. (2013) “Introduction: Education, Social Epistemology and Virtue Epistemology,” Journal of the Philosophy of Education 47(2): 159–167. Kvanvig, J. (2012) “Curiosity and a Response-Dependent Account of the Value of Understanding,” in T. Henning and D. Schweikard (eds.) Knowledge, Virtue and Action: Putting Epistemic Virtues to Work, New York: Routledge, 151–175. Kvanvig, J. (2014) Rationality and Reflection: How to Think About What to Think, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Locke, J. (1989) Some Thoughts Concerning Education, Oxford: Clarendon Press. MacAllister, J. (2012) “Virtue Epistemology and the Philosophy of Education,” Journal of the Philosophy of Education 46(2): 251–270. Miščević, N. (2007) “Virtue-Based Epistemology and the Centrality of Truth (Towards a Strong Virtue Epistemology),” Acta Analytica 22: 239–266. Pritchard, D. (2013) “Epistemic Virtue and the Epistemology of Education,” Journal of Philosophy of Education 47(2): 236–247. Riggs, W. (2010) “Open-Mindedness,” Metaphilosophy 41(1-2): 172–188. Roberts, R. and W.J. Wood. (2007) Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Sosa, E. (2004) “Replies,” in J. Greco (ed.) Ernest Sosa and His Critics, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Watson, L. (2015) “What Is Inquisitiveness?” American Philosophical Quarterly 52(3): 273–288. Watson, L. (2016) “Why Should We Educate for Inquisitiveness?” in J. Baehr (ed.) Intellectual Virtues and Education: Essays in Applied Virtue Epistemology, New York: Routledge, 38–53. Watson, L. (forthcoming) “Questioning and Democratic Education,” in P. Graham and N. Pedersen (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology. Whitcomb, D. (2010) “Curiosity Was Framed,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81(3): 664–687. Whitcomb, D., H. Battaly, J. Baehr and D. Howard-Snyder. (2017) “Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94(3): 509–539. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

14 Creativity as an Epistemic Virtue Matthew Kieran


What is it for an action to be creative? The standard thought is that it must issue in something new and valuable (Gaut and Livingston 2003: 8; Gaut 2009: 1039–1041; Kieran 2014a: 126; Paul and Kaufman 2014: 6). This is often motivated by Kant’s thought (2000: 5, 308, 186) that original nonsense is insufficient for creativity. I may produce an essay which is novel because it is so trivial and incoherent. To count as creative an essay must be novel in a way that realizes something valuable, such as insight or explanatory power. This is the dominant view, though there are dissenters (Hills and Bird 2018). It is also common to advert to Boden’s distinction between psychological and historical creativity (2004: 2, 40–53). According to Boden, an act is psychologically creative if and only if someone produces something valuable, surprising, and new to herself (note the added surprise condition). An act is historically creative if and only if it is psychologically creative and it is the first time this has been done in human history. However, not every act that generates a new and valuable output is creative. Creativity requires some degree of skill and understanding (Gaut 2003: 150–151, 2009: 1040; Kieran 2014a: 126–128). Imagine someone rigidly, mechanically follows IKEA instructions with no exercise of imagination, skill, or judgment. Even if this was the first time the person constructed flat-pack furniture, it does not follow that she was psychologically creative. Notice too that historical originality need not arise from psychological creativity. Charles Goodyear’s discovery of vulcanized rubber allegedly resulted from accidentally dropping rubber and sulfur onto a hot stove or via a mechanical trial and error procedure (Novitz 1999: 75). In principle, originality— whether psychological or historical—can come apart from creativity. Nonetheless, if we want to do something original, then it is best to strive to be creative. Attributing creativity to a particular action presupposes something about how the action came about. What might this something be? Minimally a creative action must involve capacities, abilities and processes, such as imagination, skill, knowledge, and good judgment, being deployed in ways that non-accidentally realize something new and valuable (Gaut 2003: 149–151; Stokes 2008; Gaut 2009; Kieran 2014a). We should further qualify this in recognition of the fact that there can be output failures while nonetheless honoring 167


Matthew Kieran

the value condition. It is not just that the kind of thing produced can be valuable without being an unqualified success, but the process may tend toward producing something new and valuable even though this particular output is valueless. Hence, for example, Heston Blumenthal’s first cookery experiments may have failed to produce anything of value yet could still have been creative in virtue of the kind of process involved. What is it to be a creative person then? One thought might be that a creative person is someone capable of using her skills and judgment in processes that tend to produce new, valuable outputs. Yet it is one thing to have creative potential, and be capable of doing something that is creative; it is quite another to actually be creative. Furthermore, people might possess the relevant capabilities, and have performed the odd creative action, yet we would not think of them as creative people. Why not? Their creative actions may be entirely out of character. They don’t seek out opportunities to be creative, they pass on being creative when opportunity presents itself, and take no interest in being creative even on the odd occasion when they are. Hence, we distinguish someone who has creative potential, someone who does something creative as a one-off, and someone who is a genuinely creative person. Genuinely creative people are disposed to deploy their abilities, expertise, and judgment in seeking out and tending to produce new, valuable outputs across different times and situations. While some hold that this is the only sense in which creativity is a virtue (Gaut 2014), others have argued that there is a more full-blooded sense in which creativity can be a virtue (Kieran 2014a). The further thought is that certain motivations are constitutive of exemplary creative people, which, in turn, explains why they are more admirable and more creative than less exemplary creative folk. For example, we admire Cézanne’s artistic motivations in the face of indifference, criticism, and outrage (Danchev 2012). His work was consistently rejected by the official Paris Salon jury and commonly ridiculed by critics, including Rochefort (1903) who described (approvingly) spectators’ laughing fits at Cézanne’s paintings. If Cézanne had been extrinsically motivated to pursue mainstream recognition or social status, he could have adapted his work to meet more conventional standards. But Cézanne refused to do so, which partly explains why he went on to produce some of the greatest painting in modern art. Cézanne’s motivations were not just admirable, but help to explain how he came to be so radically creative. By contrast, a purely extrinsically motivated artist chasing, say, commercial success or praise would have tended to be far more conventional and far less creative (Kieran 2014a, 2018). The world is littered with the histories of people who lived up to their creative interests at the expense of more extrinsic goods, as well as those who ended up pursuing extrinsic goods at the expense of their creativity. In summary, a creative action involves abilities, skill, and judgment in a way that tends toward producing something new and valuable. A creative person is someone disposed to seek out and perform creative acts. An exemplary (or fully virtuous) creative person is someone who is disposed to do so for the right kinds of reasons. 1 4 .2 E PI STEM I C C R EATI VI TY, VIRT U E , A N D KE Y QU E S T ION S

Creativity may involve epistemic states and abilities but not all creativity is epistemic creativity. Creative artists might aim to produce something beautiful, coaches to make their sport more dynamic, and entrepreneurs to make money or solve social problems. In realizing those ends creatively, people draw on their beliefs, imagination, expertise, and abilities. Epistemic creativity, however, is not just a matter of drawing on epistemic states and know-how. It is a matter of aiming at and realizing epistemic goals. Traditionally, for an ability, process, or trait to constitute an epistemic virtue, it must aim at knowledge or, more weakly, truth via

Creativity as an Epistemic Virtue


justification. Below, I address whether epistemic creativity might aim at a broader, or different, range of epistemic goals. The key point for now is that we can distinguish epistemic creativity from the broader category of general creativity by focusing on epistemic goals. Is epistemic creativity an epistemic virtue? The literature in virtue epistemology has addressed two main kinds of epistemic virtue (Baehr 2004; Battaly 2008; Turri, Alfano, and Greco 2017). According to virtue reliabilists what matters for epistemic virtue is just that a faculty, ability or disposition reliably gives rise to knowledge or justified belief. So, for example, normal perception or a disposition to reason inferentially—at or above some minimal baseline of competence—count as epistemic virtues. Although virtue reliabilists often conflate skills and dispositions, notice that there must be some level of skill or competence possessed by the agent combined with a disposition to deploy them in appropriate circumstances. According to virtue responsibilists, by contrast, epistemic virtue requires an additional motivational requirement. The idea is not that any motivation will do but, rather, that virtue is partly individuated and constituted by specific motivations. To illustrate, open-mindedness is partly constituted by a motivation to consider seriously alternative views (Baehr 2011: 140–162, chapter 12). But, fundamentally, responsibilism holds that all epistemic virtues have a common ulterior motivation. That motivation is typically taken to be something like valuing truth or knowledge for its own sake (Zagzebski 1996: 165–197). This motivation for truth is partly constitutive of the virtue and explains the disposition to seek out and reliably attain knowledge. Against this background we can ask under what conditions epistemic creativity is a virtue or, perhaps more accurately, when, where, and why epistemic creativity constitutes an epistemic virtue. Key questions include: (i) What goal(s) does epistemic creativity aim at? (ii) How so? (iii) Under what conditions is epistemic creativity a reliabilist virtue? (iv) Under what conditions if any does epistemic creativity constitute a responsibilist virtue? and (v) What objections are there to our answers? 14. 3 EPI STEM I C AI M S A N D RE LIA BILIT Y

What goals does epistemic creativity aim at and how so? A thought common to many reliabilists and responsibilists is that the goal is to acquire—reliably—truths or knowledge (Sosa 2008: 225; Zagzebski 1996: 176–181). Hence, epistemic creativity might be thought to involve a reliable ability to discover new (novelty condition) truths or knowledge (value condition). However, this thought is misguided for several reasons. Epistemic creativity does sometimes involve aiming directly at new truths or knowledge. The detective strives to be creative because he wants to discover ‘whodunnit’ or a scientist’s research focuses on discovering a new drug. Still, as Zagzebski recognizes (1996: 182), if the aim is to acquire reliably ever more new truths or knowledge, the return from epistemic creativity looks pretty meager. One reason is that epistemic creativity often involves working at the edge of what we know or how things are presently conceptualized. The very point of being epistemically creative much of the time is that—in light of our present epistemic assumptions—we cannot make sense of phenomena, anomalies, explanatory gaps, or the object of our inquiries. Epistemic creativity is often required most where knowledge gives out. So it should be unsurprising that epistemic creativity is not reliably truth conducive. Because epistemic creativity operates at the boundaries of discovery, it may get things wrong far more often than it gets things right. One way of handling this is to hold that epistemic creativity may not reliably lead to a high percentage of true beliefs, but the kind of truths or knowledge yielded are of the most valuable


Matthew Kieran

kind (Zagzebski 1996: 182). Epistemic creativity may often fail to realize truth or knowledge, but when it does, the results are epistemically rich. Once the inquiries of Franklin, Wilkins, Crick, and Watson gave rise to the discovery of DNA’s double-helix structure, something many other creative scientists missed, biology exponentially boomed in the discoveries of genetic science (the Human Genome project) and of biotechnology. More fundamentally, however, epistemic creativity often does not aim directly at truth or knowledge at all. Much of the time what is being aimed at is new, epistemically promising ways of inquiring into and conceiving of the world. The range of epistemic goods this incorporates is much broader than—though includes—truth and knowledge. To take a case in point, consider what goes on in much philosophy and what you are aiming at when writing a philosophy paper. Philosophy by its nature is an epistemic endeavor. People strive to work out possible ways of conceiving of a particular problem, potential positions in the conceptual space, different ways of framing conceptualizations, the commitments and implications of some theory, what might look like important challenges, what kind of method or approach looks promising, what kind of analysis might be called for, and so on. Much of the time, it is a further question as to whether this yields truth or knowledge. This is often true in our epistemic inquiries more generally. We often seek out and pursue inquiries into what look like potentially interesting ways things might be conceived or investigated. Hence the relation between epistemic creativity and truths or knowledge about the world is often indirect. Thus much epistemic creativity can be valuable yet speculative or turn out to be profoundly mistaken. Two further points are worth emphasizing. First, reliability does not entail completion of creative projects, since those projects may be highly ambitious. Rather, reliability requires performing creative acts along the way. Second, reliability admits of a distinction between quantity of output and depth. A person may reliably produce many creative works which are minor variations on what has gone before, and yet be less reliable in producing much deeper, more exploratory, or transformational work. Yet reliability in the second sense can lead someone to be more ambitious in producing something transformational. Such a person may even come to be less reliable in terms of the quantity of creative work she produces, yet be producing more creative ideas, in the sense that what is produced is deeper and more worthwhile. 14. 4 EPI STEM I C C R EATI VIT Y A S A D IS P OS IT ION

Epistemic creativity aims at generating new, worthwhile ways of inquiring about or conceiving of the object of inquiry. The question then arises, how so? Boden (2004: 3–6) distinguishes three types of creativity involving, respectively, recombining ideas, exploring conceptual space, and transforming conceptual space. James Dyson is a paragon of creatively recombining ideas. Dyson combined the mechanism of industrial cyclone separators with the vacuum to form the basis for his bagless vacuum cleaner. Note that his aim was epistemic and practical. In addition to wanting to make a better vacuum cleaner, he wanted to figure out how to do so. He conducted an inquiry. Exploratory creativity involves working through conceptual possibilities and commitments within some conceptual space. B.F. Skinner, for example, working from the idea that behavior is a function of causes and consequences, developed key notions in psychology, such as operant conditioning, by showing how a few basic principles might explain many apparently complex behaviors. The most radical kind of creativity involves transforming the generative rules taken to govern conceptual spaces in ways they could not have been transformed before. Darwin’s theory of evolution or Jane Goodall’s work in primatology, for example, transformed their respective fields in this way.

Creativity as an Epistemic Virtue


Epistemically creative people must be able to do these things non-accidentally. While there is much that is domain-specific, some faculties or capacities may be domain general. The imagination, for example, enables us to entertain apparent possibilities or impossibilities (Gendler 2016), and is often identified as crucial for our creative abilities (Beaney 2005; Stokes 2014; Audi 2018). However, the involvement of the imagination is insufficient for someone to count as creative, given people must also exercise their discrimination and judgment (Gaut 2003; Kieran 2014a; Baehr 2018). Consider two cases (for variations see Gaut 2012: 267; Kieran 2014a: 126–128). First, suppose that certain people sometimes imagine things that are beamed directly into their heads by the world-renowned hypnotist Derren Brown. When their minds are under his control, Brown dictates and prescribes everything that they imagine, think, and write down. Furthermore, suppose that these people are only ever ‘creative’ when Brown takes over their minds in this way. Left to their own devices, these people never imagine anything interesting or come up with any new, worthwhile ideas. We learn from Plato’s Ion that creativity should be attributed to the source of the ideas. Brown is the source of the ideas and imaginings. And, so, even if the people who have been hypnotized are imagining—and it seems that functionally they are—imagination isn’t enough for creativity. A person’s epistemic agency must be involved in generating and evaluating imaginings for that person to count as creative. Now consider a second case. Imagine people whose imaginations consistently go into overdrive. Their imagination becomes so powerful that they keep generating ever more novel associations and thoughts. Unfortunately these people lack any judgment or editing faculty. Hence they have no idea whether or not anything they are coming up with is interesting or worthwhile. While they may possess an element that is constitutive of epistemic creativity—namely the ability to generate novel thoughts and ideas about the world—without the exercise of discrimination and judgment, there is nothing to guide their processes toward what is or might be epistemically interesting. Hence, they do not count as genuinely creative. It follows from the above that epistemically creative people, then, must have the ability to generate for themselves new, worthwhile ways of inquiring about or conceiving of the object of inquiry. We might now ask: is it enough to possess this ability to count as a creative person? No. Why not? It is one thing to possess an ability; it is quite another to be disposed to exercise it. You have to be disposed to be creative in order to qualify as a creative person. This is important since creativity is often mistakenly treated as if it is just an ability or set of skills (Boden 2004: 1; Ward, Smith, and Finke 1996). To bring this out, consider the fact that capabilities, abilities, and even expertise are not tendencies to do anything. A person might have the expertise to collect wine, the capability for athletic performance, and the ability to play the piano. Yet she might have no interest in and disposition to do any of these things. Hence she is not a wine collector, an athlete, or a piano-player. Similarly, the disposition cannot be so weak that it could never be realized in anything like normal circumstances. Imagine someone who has the talent yet possesses only an extremely weak disposition toward literary writing. This might be the kind of person who goes on and on about wanting to be a writer and yet never bothers to try. In fact, the disposition is so weak that he is always much more strongly disposed to do something else (even if that is just lazing around). He does have the disposition to be creative; it is just that the disposition is so utterly feeble that there are no circumstances where he will ever act on it. Hence the disposition lacks the strength required to be a virtue. The same, by analogy, is true in the epistemic case. If someone loves the idea of being a philosopher yet never acts on any disposition to think critically or work out arguments for themselves, then, no matter how talented, she is not (yet) a philosopher. We might ask how she came by these qualities. We normally gain


Matthew Kieran

expertise and skills by practicing them. But this is a distinct point. Imagine that some mysterious event suddenly brought it about that you now have new athletic abilities. It would be a further question whether you are now disposed to be an athlete. No matter how able, you may just be indifferent to sports. Hence you might never bother. If this is the case then you could be, but are not, an athlete. The thought here is that the same is true with respect to the ability of epistemic creativity. A person who has the ability but not the disposition of epistemic creativity could be epistemically creative but is not yet so. In order to be epistemically creative someone must be disposed to seek out opportunities to do something epistemically new and worthwhile, to strive to do so when opportunities arise, and to do so via the exercise of her expertise, abilities, and judgment. Now what is required for epistemic creativity to be a dispositional virtue? In my view, the disposition must be relatively general and reliable. Imagine someone who is disposed to be epistemically creative under an extremely narrow set of circumstances. She might have the disposition to be epistemically creative by thinking philosophically only when someone points a gun at her head and says ‘theorize or I shoot’, or by writing short stories when it is 3 p.m. on a February leap day and the person to her left is wearing red. The dispositions here are insufficiently general for them to qualify as virtues, given that virtues are supposed to be strengths or good-making qualities exercised in appropriate situations across a range of circumstances. Furthermore, to be an epistemic virtue, epistemic creativity must be reliable, broadly construed. Exercising the disposition must have some kind of non-accidental, systematic relation toward doing something epistemically new and valuable. As we saw at the end of section 14.3, if epistemic reliability is narrowly construed, in terms of consistently yielding new true beliefs and knowledge, then epistemic creativity looks badly placed to be a virtue. But if we think in broader terms, encompassing goods such as epistemic promise, possibility, complexity, depth, and understanding, then epistemic creativity looks well placed to meet the reliabilist’s criteria. If the disposition consistently fails to do this or tends to pull away from such goods, yielding only uninteresting flights of fancy, then the disposition cannot be an epistemic virtue. If the disposition systematically tends toward realizing the broader range of epistemic goods, then the disposition meets one of the criteria for being a virtue. Where the disposition does this with some degree of reliability across relevant circumstances in the face of pressures to do otherwise, this seems enough to qualify as an excellence. This means that my analysis of the virtue of epistemic creativity has something in common with virtue reliabilism. We both claim that reliability (in some sense) is required for epistemic virtue. 1 4 .5 T H E M O TI VATI O N O F C UR I O S IT Y A N D E P IS T E MIC CRE A T IVIT Y

It is one thing to think of the virtue of epistemic creativity as requiring reliability, broadly construed, but should we further think of it in responsibilist terms? Virtue responsibilists hold that: a) virtue requires a motivational component; and b) that motivation must be the love of knowledge for its own sake. While the two issues are commonly run together, they need not be. In this section, I will argue that epistemic creativity requires the particular motivational component of curiosity. Thus, the view has certain affinities with responsibilism over reliabilism (which typically disavows any particular motivational requirement). But, as will become clearer in the section that follows, I will argue that the motivation need not incorporate love of knowledge for its own sake as the fundamental motive. Hence, the view is distinct from epistemic responsibilism.

Creativity as an Epistemic Virtue


Is the disposition of epistemic creativity partly constituted by a motivation of a particular sort? Answering this question may help us answer the question above: whether the virtuous disposition of epistemic creativity is partly constituted by a motivation of a particular sort. There is good reason to think that the motive of curiosity must be partly constitutive of being epistemically creative. Arguably, to be creative, you must be motivated to learn something new, to find something out or to ask why things are as they appear to be. In order to be epistemically inventive, someone must be intrigued by something or ask and address questions in need of an answer. To think to yourself ‘now what would this be like?’ or ‘why is that?’ just is to be curious about something. Consider what you have to do to write a philosophy essay. You have to ask yourself: just what is meant by certain claims, what the argument is or might be, why anyone should agree with the inferences made, how someone might object, and so on. You could write an essay by just repeating back exactly what the lecturer or the literature said. Yet this is not creative in the slightest. To be creative you have to ask yourself questions like: how and why does someone conceive of things a certain way, how might they be alternatively conceived, and what relations are there to other structurally similar arguments? Then in addressing those questions, you must strive to bring your ideas together and explore the conceptual or explanatory commitments. Even if an agent works hard and possesses a range of other epistemic virtues, if she is totally incurious then she cannot be epistemically creative—and this is so even if she happens to reproduce a decent argument from elsewhere. Why not? She has not entertained any genuinely new, interesting, or worthwhile thoughts. It is worth emphasizing that curiosity can come in degrees. People can be mildly curious about something or extremely, obsessively curious. The thought here is that a wholly incurious agent constitutively cannot be epistemically creative. But an agent who is curious to some degree can be. Furthermore, how curious someone is will typically impact the extent to which she experiments with particular arguments, tries to think about what might be wrong with how the relevant phenomena are conceptualized, what constitutes a good or bad epistemic analogy in the case at hand, and so on. Thus, how curious someone is will impact just how epistemically creative someone is in a position to be. To the degree that someone lacks curiosity, she will not be motivated to question or challenge assumptions, explore uncharted territory, or try things out. People who are not very curious tend not to question, experiment, or explore the possibilities for very long. The incurious look for epistemic closure more quickly and tend to be more easily epistemically satisfied. By contrast, people who are extremely curious look for puzzles, problems, and explanatory gaps, explore possibilities, experiment, try working things out, and are far less easily epistemically satisfied, hence the extremely curious tend to be more epistemically creative. It is worth noting that curiosity has a generative aspect (though see Watson 2016; chapter 13). Curiosity is not just a matter of merely wondering about something or asking questions in the manner of a playful child who asks ‘why?’ to every response. In general, to be curious is to seek out experiences or answers and consider the extent to which they might or do satisfy what one is curious about (see, for example, Inan 2012, 2016). In epistemic inquiry, then, curiosity not only involves seeking out phenomena, questions, or issues to be addressed, but trying to work out how they are or what might be solvable. Hence acting from curiosity involves taking the epistemic initiative. Again it is difficult to see how people could be curious if they do not show initiative in approaching or addressing issues. For these reasons, then, it looks like being motivated by curiosity is partly constitutive of what it is to be epistemically creative. In summary, an epistemically creative person is motivated by curiosity to seek out and take on inquiries which explore new, worthwhile ways of inquiring about or conceiving of the object of inquiry. In doing so, the person is disposed to deploy her abilities, expertise, and


Matthew Kieran

judgment in ways that tend to generate new, epistemically valuable outputs (where epistemic value is to be construed in terms of a broad range of epistemic goods). 1 4 .6 E XEM PLAR Y EPI STEM I C C RE A T IVIT Y



If the above is right, the disposition of epistemic creativity has a constitutive motivational component. Given responsibilists, contra reliabilism, hold that every epistemic virtue has a distinctive motivation, then in this respect my analysis is in agreement with responsibilism. I have identified a motivation, namely curiosity, that is distinctive of epistemic creativity. However, responsibilism further holds that all epistemic virtues require an ultimate motivation to pursue knowledge for its own sake. As will become clear in this section, I think this is false. Thus my analysis of epistemic creativity as a virtue does not amount to responsibilism. Must epistemic creativity be fundamentally motivated by knowledge for its own sake to be virtuous? This is far from obvious so it is worth starting off with a healthy degree of skepticism. This is not to deny that many epistemically virtuous creative people are fundamentally motivated by the love of knowledge. Marie Curie’s studies of mysterious uranium rays, using electrometers designed by Pierre Curie, prompted the radical thought that radiation did not depend on the arrangements of atoms but the atom itself. Marie Curie’s diaries from the period talk of the difficult conditions, the exhausting nature of the work, and the epistemic excitement of their research (Pasachoff 1996). The Curies were driven by the desire for epistemic achievement for its own sake. But consider the case of Donald Hopkins. As a Morehouse College chemistry undergraduate he visited Egypt and was struck by how severe widespread eye infections were (Oakes 2000: 347). Hopkins decided “then and there that I wanted to work on tropical diseases” to alleviate human suffering (PBS 1998). He returned home, worked hard, transferred to the University of Chicago to study medicine, became the only black person to graduate in his cohort (Yeoman 2017), and devoted his life to eradicating diseases such as Smallpox and the now near extinct Guinea Worm disease. If Hopkins had been solely motivated by the desire to alleviate suffering, would we think he thereby lacked epistemic creativity? No. Would his epistemic creativity be epistemically non-virtuous? No. Contra responsibilism, virtuous epistemic creativity does not require that someone be motivated by knowledge for its own sake. This kind of case may further be taken to show that someone can be purely extrinsically motivated (i.e., for some further non-epistemic end or reason) and yet possess the virtue of epistemic creativity, provided that the extrinsic motivation makes them curious. Or, to put the point a different way, epistemic creativity as a virtue is not a full-blown responsibilist virtue since motivation for the sake of knowledge is not required for the virtue. There is, however, an alternative possibility. We might see this as a slight weakening of the responsibilist criteria on virtue. It seems constitutive of exemplary epistemically creative people that they are motivated by epistemic values and respect inquiry relevant epistemic techniques, norms, and goals. Even where the motivating significance of epistemic ambition is dependent on some further non-epistemic end, the inquiry must be pursued in a particular non-wholly instrumentalized way. Exemplary epistemic creative people are motivated to realize—and honor—epistemic goals and norms. This need not be the most fundamental motivation but the motivation must be there for them to be exemplary (Kieran 2014a; Baehr 2018). Consider a basic contrast. Suppose that a scientist’s inquiry is pursued for the sake of making people’s lives better in some way, and she sincerely, justifiably believes that there are decent grounds for pursuing the line of inquiry. Yet in conducting her inquiry, she fails to do justice to the standards and values of decent epistemic investigation. This might be manifest

Creativity as an Epistemic Virtue


in a whole host of ways such as being culpably careless in not running certain tests, in failing to ensure proper experimental conditions, cherry picking data, dismissing negative results, filing away inconclusive data, or even in extremis faking experimental data. By contrast, the fully epistemically virtuous are strongly motivated to do justice to strictly epistemic constraints and abide by epistemic norms even when the value of what they are doing depends on realizing a non-epistemic goal. Perhaps this explains why exemplary epistemically creative people—or the fully virtuous— are not just more admirable, in being well motivated, but tend to be more reliable in being epistemically creative in more interesting, worthwhile ways than the purely extrinsically, instrumentally motivated. Hence, for example, Diederik Stapel, a renowned psychologist who faked experimental data (Tilburg University 2012), was creative in thinking up hypotheses and experimental designs but his epistemic creativity was clearly not exemplary or fully virtuous. If Stapel had been less arrogant or less concerned with chasing recognition, and more properly motivated by epistemic values, then, instead of producing flawed papers, he would have been both more exemplary and produced better, more worthwhile work. To summarize, reliabilism is mistaken given that epistemic creativity constitutively involves the motivation of curiosity. Responsibilism is mistaken given that virtuous epistemic creativity does not require the ultimate motivation to be love of truth or knowledge for its own sake. Epistemically creative people are motivated by curiosity to seek out and take on inquiries that engage their epistemic agency in ways that tend to generate something new and epistemically valuable. This is what it is to possess the disposition of epistemic creativity. What is it for the disposition to be virtuous? It must be motivated to respond to and respect relevant epistemic features, constraints, duties, and norms in a non-instrumentalized way (even where the value of being epistemically creative is taken to depend more fundamentally on some further non-epistemic end or value). Exemplary or fully virtuous epistemically creative people are this way to a high degree even in the face of strong pressures to do otherwise. Hence, exemplary epistemically creative people are both highly admirable and tend to generate new, more interesting, and more worthwhile instantiations of epistemic goods. 14. 7 O B JE CT ION S

One worry is that people sometimes just stop being creative (Gaut 2014: 192–193). Virtues are exercised in appropriate circumstances when opportunity presents itself. Yet sometimes people stop being epistemically creative. A few things can be said here. First, creative people often don’t stop being creative but, rather, find new outlets. People may give up scientific careers to set up a business, teach, start a family, or retire and are creative in the ways they do so. Second, exemplary epistemically creative people just are those fundamentally driven by curiosity and the valuing of epistemic norms so they tend not to stop. Third, possessing a virtue does not rule out the possibility of losing it. I can lose much of my epistemically creative drive through lack of opportunity, deterioration in ability (think of Alzheimer’s), or diminished curiosity due to other things becoming more important in my life. A different kind of objection focuses on the twin aspects of admirability and reliability. Consider a young scientist, Emily, who is passionate about and loves her work. She may be somewhat unreliable on particular projects she cares little about or procrastinate on those she cares too much about. By contrast, Ella works in the lab for extrinsic rewards such as income and social status (for artistic analogues see Kieran 2014a and Gaut 2014: 191-194). Ella’s experimental research may turn out to be more reliably creative even though she is not motivated by the pursuit of knowledge. Emily may be more admirably motivated, yet Ella may be more creative.


Matthew Kieran

Now extrinsic motivation is often empirically accompanied by intrinsic motivation. It is important to many academics, scientists, and artists that they are paid and recognized for their work, yet the main motivation is the love of what they do, and this helps them to keep producing more articles, experimental designs, and works. Exemplary epistemic creativity does not require that the admirable motivation must be the sole motivation. It is also true that the intrinsically motivated clearly can care too much in various ways. But if this is caring too much, then this is disproportionate and so lacking true epistemic virtue. Exemplary creative people are not disproportionate in their feelings and possess the ability to regulate and control them. Consider a further empirical question: how do intrinsic as opposed to purely extrinsic motivations tend to pan out diachronically? If over time someone no longer feels the pull of intrinsic epistemic values and becomes purely extrinsically motivated, then she may tend to become alienated from her epistemically creative activity. This means it will increasingly become harder to perform the relevant epistemically creative tasks. In other words, such a state of affairs extending over time tends to lead to phoning the work in, lower epistemic creative performance, unreliability, and uncreative work. What about cases where people are creative in the service of bad moral ends (Gaut 2009: 1039–1040)? Psychologists might be epistemically creative in coming up with ingenious ways for the CIA to torture suspects (assume this is immoral). One argument claims that where the upshot lacks positive value, there is no genuine creativity (Novitz 2003: 185–187), while another holds that creativity relative to some kind, torture techniques, say, cannot be valuable if the kind is a bad one (Gaut 2018). A different strategy holds that the scientists show epistemically virtuous creativity but not morally virtuous creativity. Hence, we may admire epistemically virtuous creativity in the service of bad moral ends (Kieran 2014b: 228–229). It is just that our positive attitude toward epistemically virtuous creativity is severely qualified by the recognition that the ends are morally bad. Alternatively, the virtue theorist could distinguish between the disposition constituting epistemic creativity and the virtue of epistemic creativity. The scientists show genuine creativity, but the creativity shown is not fully virtuous. Exemplary epistemically creative people will only pursue inquiries or epistemic goals that are morally permitted or good (Kieran 2014b: 229). Acknowledgments

I am very grateful to Heather Battaly for extremely helpful comments as well as some enjoyable exchanges in the process of writing this chapter. (Related Chapters: 2, 4, 12, 13, 29.) REFERE N C E S Audi, R. (2018) “Creativity, Imagination and Intellectual Virtue,” in B. Gaut and M. Kieran (eds.) Creativity and Philosophy, London: Routledge. Baehr, J. (2004) “Virtue Epistemology,” in J. Fieser and B. Dowden (eds.) The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Baehr, J. (2018) “Intellectual Creativity,” in B. Gaut and M. Kieran (eds.) Creativity and Philosophy, London: Routledge. Battaly, H. (2008) “Virtue Epistemology,” Philosophy Compass 3: 639–663. Battaly, H. (2014) Virtue, Oxford: Polity. Beaney, M. (2005) Imagination and Creativity, Milton Keynes: Open University.

Creativity as an Epistemic Virtue


Boden, M. (2004) The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms, second ed., London: Routledge. Danchev, A. (2012) Cezanne: A Life, London: Profile Books. Gaut, B. (2003) “Creativity and Imagination,” in B. Gaut and P. Livingston (eds.) The Creation of Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gaut, B. (2009) “Creativity and Skill,” in M. Krausz, D. Dutton, and K. Bardsley (eds.) The Idea of Creativity, Leiden: Brill. Gaut, B. (2012) “Creativity and Rationality,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70: 259–270. Gaut, B. (2014) “Mixed Motivations: Creativity as a Virtue,” in G. Currie, M. Kieran, A. Meskin, and M. Moore (eds.) Philosophical Aesthetics and the Sciences of Art, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 75: 183–202. Gaut, B. and P. Livingston. (2003) The Creation of Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gaut, B. and M. Kieran (2018) Creativity and Philosophy, London: Routledge. Gendler, T. (2016) “Imagination,” in E.N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://plato.stanford. edu/archives/win2016/entries/imagination. Hills, A. and A. Bird. (2018) “Creativity Without Value,” in B. Gaut and M. Kieran (eds.) Creativity and Philosophy, London: Routledge. Inan, I. (2012) The Philosophy of Curiosity, London: Routledge. Inan, I. (2016) “Curiosity and Ignorance,” Croatian Journal of Philosophy XVI: 285–305. Kant, I. (1790/2000) Critique of the Power of Judgment, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kieran, M. (2014a) “Creativity as a Virtue of Character,” in E.S. Paul and S.B. Kaufman (eds.) The Philosophy of Creativity, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kieran, M. (2014b) “Creativity, Virtue and the Challenges from Natural Talent, Ill-Being and Immorality,” in G. Currie, M. Kieran, A. Meskin, and M. Moore (eds.) Philosophical Aesthetics and the Sciences of Art, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 75: 203–230. Kieran, M. (2018) “Creativity, Vanity and Narcissism,” in B. Gaut and M. Kieran (eds.) Creativity and Philosophy, London: Routledge. Novitz, D. (1999) “Creativity and Constraint,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 77: 67–82. Novitz, D. (2003) “Explanations of Creativity,” in B. Gaut and P. Livingston (eds.) The Creation of Art: New Essays in Philosophical Aesthetics, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Oakes, E.H. (2000) Encyclopedia of World Scientists, New York: Infobase Publishing. Pasachoff, N. (1996) Marie Curie and the Science of Radioactivity, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Paul, E.S. and S.B. Kaufman. (2014) The Philosophy of Creativity, Oxford: Oxford University Press. PBS. (1998) “Donald Hopkins,” in A Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries, entries/bmhopk.html. Plato. (2014/380 bc) Ion, Rochefort, H. (1903) “L’Amour du laid,” L’Intransigeant 8272, 9 March: 1. Sosa, E. (2008) “Knowledge and Intellectual Virtue,” in Knowledge in Perspective: Selected Essays in Epistemology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stokes, D. (2008) “A Metaphysics of Creativity,” in K. Stock and K. Thomson-Jones (eds.) New Waves in Aesthetics, London: Palgrave Macmillan. Stokes, D. (2014) “The Role of Creativity in Imagination,” in E.S. Paul and S.B. Kaufman (eds.) The Philosophy of Creativity, New York: Oxford University Press. Tilburg University. (2012) Flawed Science: The Fraudulent Research Practices of Social Psychologist Diederik Stapel, Tilburg: University of Tilburg. Turri, J., M. Alfano, and J. Greco. (2017) “Virtue Epistemology,” in E.N. Zalta (ed.) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Ward, T.B., S.M. Smith, and R.A. Finke. (1996) Creative Cognition: Theory, Research and Applications, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Watson, L. (2016) “Why Should We Educate for Inquisitiveness?” in J. Baehr (ed.) Intellectual Virtues and Education, London: Routledge. Yeoman, B. (2017) “Dr. Donald Hopkins Helped Wipe Smallpox From the Planet. He Won’t Rest Until He’s Done the Same for Guinea Worm Disease,” Atlanta Magazine, dr-donald-hopkins-helped-wipe-smallpox-from-the-planet-now-hes-after-guinea-worm-disease. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

15 Intellectual Humility Nancy E. Snow


The study of intellectual humility (IH) is of recent vintage. It has become a topic of interest with the rise of responsibilist virtue epistemology, which holds that epistemic value is attained through the possession and exercise of epistemic character traits. IH is one such trait, along with others such as open-mindedness, intellectual perseverance, and curiosity. Zagzebski (1996: 114) mentions IH as an intellectual virtue, but most explanations and defenses date from the 2000s.1 Here I review eight conceptions of IH, some of which take inspiration from conceptions of moral humility. IH has also been used in applied areas.2 15.1.1 Eight Conceptions of Humility

Whitcomb et al. (2017: 514) identify and critique three conceptions of IH: Proper Beliefs. IH [Intellectual humility] consists in a disposition to form proper beliefs about the epistemic statuses of one’s beliefs. Underestimation of Strengths. IH consists in a disposition to underestimate one’s intellectual strengths, accomplishments, social status, and entitlements. Low Concern. IH consists in a disposition to an unusually low concern for one’s own intellectual status and entitlements. Whitcomb et al. (2017: 520) then introduce their own view: Limitations-Owning. IH consists in proper attentiveness to, and owning of, one’s intellectual limitations.


Intellectual Humility


And, IH is an intellectual virtue just when one is appropriately attentive to, and owns, one’s intellectual limitations because one is appropriately motivated to pursue epistemic goods, e.g., truth, knowledge, and understanding. (2017: 520) Other work has yielded three more conceptions: Semantic Clusters. The trait of IH involves three semantic clusters: the sensible self, the discreet self, and the inquisitive self (Christen, Alfano, and Robinson 2014: 1).3 Cluster of Attitudes. IH is a cluster of strong attitudes toward one’s cognitive make-up and its components. It is the complex virtue comprising modesty and self-acceptance (Tanesini 2016: 1). Confidence Management. IH is a virtue for the management of confidence consisting of two pairs of components. The first is the disposition to recognize the relevant confidence conditions for an assertion, belief, or conviction, and the extent of their fulfillment. The second is the disposition to regulate one’s intellectual conduct accordingly (Kidd 2016: 59). Though seven conceptions of humility are listed, Whitcomb et al. (2017: 512, 514) discuss two versions of the proper beliefs account. I address all eight accounts in what follows. 15. 2 UNDER ESTI M ATION OF S T RE N G T H S AND SEM ANTIC CLU S T E RS

Two of these views can be briefly considered. The first is the Underestimation of Strengths view. Whitcomb et al. (2017: 512–513) adapt this view of IH from the conception of moral humility advanced by Taylor (1985) and Driver (2001), according to which moral humility is having a lowly opinion of oneself. Describing this view, Whitcomb et al. (2017: 513) write, “IH consists in a disposition to underestimate one’s intellectual strengths and the like, contrary to the available evidence.” They then argue that underestimating one’s intellectual strengths is neither necessary nor sufficient for IH (Whitcomb et al. 2017: 514–515). To see that underestimation is not necessary for IH, they ask us to consider a person who is motivated to pursue epistemic goods, is aware of her limitations, and has an appropriate attitude toward them; for example, the willingness to correct or change them, because of her motivation. This person, they contend, has IH even if she also accurately estimates her intellectual strengths. To see that it is not sufficient, they pose the case of a person who is disposed to underestimate his intellectual strengths, but is unaware of his limitations or inappropriately disposed toward them; for example, not caring about them, being hostile or defensive when criticized, and so on. This person, they claim, does not possess IH. In short, the problem with the underestimation view is that it fails to consider the implications for IH of how one treats one’s intellectual limitations. The second conception is the Semantic Cluster view. Christen, Alfano, and Robinson (2014: 1, 2) used an innovative psycholexical method to study IH, apparently motivated by the desire to avoid the methodological pitfalls of what they call the “paradox of self-attribution,”


Nancy E. Snow

namely the suspicion that subjects answering a research questionnaire by checking the statement, “I am humble,” are probably not humble. The authors variously refer to IH as a “disposition” (e.g., p. 1), a “trait” (e.g., p. 3), and a “concept” (e.g., p. 4). In describing their project, they write: “we propose to investigate the trait of intellectual humility by comparing ‘intellectual humility’ with both its antonyms and synonyms.” Thus, it seems that they are undertaking an empirical analysis of the meaning of the term, “intellectual humility,” which they assume refers to a disposition or trait. The authors used a sophisticated method of gathering and mapping clusters of synonyms and antonyms of IH to map the “semantic space” of IH and its opposites. The original data space was composed of a set of potential synonyms and antonyms from three sources: (1) twenty-four papers or related texts, such as abstracts and calls for proposals, from philosophy and psychology journals; (2) twenty entries from internet searches of “intellectual humility” that dealt with it in a significant way; and (3) scales used in psychology for constructs with some similarity to IH, for example the H factor (Honesty-Humility) of the Big Six personality inventory. Collecting these data was step one of their seven-step method (Christen, Alfano, and Robinson 2014: 3–5). As the authors put it, “Four raters with experience of the philosophical topic of intellectual humility assessed all terms collected in step 1 to determine whether they could be used to express the concept of intellectual humility or a related vice” (Christen, Alfano, and Robinson 2014: 3–4). Since all of the sources were academic, the authors are homing in on a technical concept of IH, and not a “folk” concept. Mappings of synonym terms fell into three clusters. The “sensible self” is represented by the clustering of terms such as “comprehension,” “responsiveness,” and “mindfulness”; the “inquisitive self,” by the clustering of terms such as “curiosity,” “exploration,” and “learning”; and the “discreet self,” by terms such as “humility,” “decency,” and “unpretentiousness” (Christen, Alfano, and Robinson 2014: 5). The antonym terms fell into three clusters of the “overrated self” (for example, “vanity,” “pride,” and “arrogance”); the “underrated other” (for example, “bias,” “prejudice,” and “unfairness”); and the “underrated self” (for example, “diffidence,” “timidity,” and “acquiescence”). The authors note that the last cluster suggests there is such a thing as being too humble (Christen, Alfano, and Robinson 2014: 6). Mapping all synonyms and antonyms together preserved the distinction between the overrated self and underrated other, but showed the underrated self to be in the same semantic region as the discreet self. It also showed that the sensible self and the inquisitive self merged. The authors claim this last finding shows that the differences between the sensible self and the inquisitive self are large enough to be significant when compared with the discreet self, but small enough not to be significant when compared with the antonyms of IH (Christen, Alfano, and Robinson 2014: 7–8). These results present challenges, some of which the authors acknowledge (Christen, Alfano, and Robinson 2014: 9–10). One challenge is this. The authors claim that, on the antonyms map, each cluster represents a distinct vice, a different way in which one can fail to be intellectually humble. Yet on the synonyms map, they are not clear whether each cluster—the discreet self, the inquisitive self, and the sensible self—represents an aspect of a single trait called “intellectual humility” or three distinct traits, each of which go by the name “intellectual humility” (Christen, Alfano, and Robinson 2014: 8). A second challenge, not noted by the authors, is that it is difficult to know whether or how philosophers should use the results. For one thing, the study could indicate that our current concept of IH is too broad and in need of refinement. Certainly, the study should be replicated before the findings are put into general discussion among philosophers. (I take it the authors would not disagree.) A third issue is that the identification of clustered synonyms in no way provides an integrated conception of IH that coherently links the terms. A fourth

Intellectual Humility


issue is that some of the clustered synonym terms seem not to apply to IH as it has been studied, and thus seem not to be bona fide synonyms. For example, those having to do with the inquisitive self seem more related to other intellectual virtues, such as curiosity or the love of learning. This is puzzling, given that the original database from which the authors drew their terms was three sources of academic work on IH (Christen, Alfano, and Robinson 2014: 2). If replicated, how useful is this conceptual map? Very roughly, the three clusters give us a combination of (1) general humility (the discreet self), (2) epistemic motivations (the inquisitive self), and (3) conscientiousness (the sensible self). Aside from indicating that more work should be done homing in on the concept of IH and distinguishing it from other concepts, the map could tell us that academics tend to assume that IH involves humility, good epistemic motivations, and conscientiousness. Thus, the map seems to suggest that academics tend to assume that IH is an intellectual virtue, involving a love of epistemic goods. In contrast with the results about the synonym terms, the antonym terms pertaining to the “overrated self” and “underrated other” (though not those relating to the “underrated self”) seem consistent with widely held intuitions about the opposite of IH—that those lacking it are arrogant and prejudiced, for example. One of the strengths of this work could be that it maps the underrated self, thus underscoring a respect in which technical uses of IH improve upon the folk concept.4 Folk concepts of humility as a general virtue focus on arrogance while neglecting servility. The results of this study of IH, by contrast, show that philosophers and psychologists tend to be aware of the underrated self or intellectual servility as contrasting with IH. 15. 3 TWO PR O PER BE LIE F A CCOU N T S

Whitcomb et al. (2017) critique two proper belief accounts, one by Peter Samuelson and his colleagues and the other by Allan Hazlett. Samuelson et al. (2015) offer a summary of the state of the science of intellectual humility. Whitcomb et al. (2017: 512) quote Samuelson et al. (2015: 65) as stating that IH is “(roughly) believing as one ought, believing with the firmness the given belief merits.” Whitcomb et al. (2017: 512) dismiss this view, stating: “The disposition to believe as one ought is either the disposition to believe virtuously or the disposition to believe responsibly; but nothing as general as these dispositions is identical with anything as specific as IH.” Whitcomb et  al. (2017: 514) consider Hazlett’s proper belief account of intellectual humility, and construe his view as claiming that “IH consists in a disposition to form proper beliefs about the epistemic statuses of one’s beliefs.” They then identify deeper problems with Hazlett’s view, which can also apply to Samuelson et al. (2013). For one thing, proper belief accounts leave open the possibility that one might be disposed to form proper beliefs about the epistemic statuses of her beliefs even though the latter beliefs are routinely formed and maintained due to an acute lack of awareness of her intellectual errors, vulnerabilities, deficits, and the like. (Whitcomb et al. 2017: 514) This, the authors claim, is inconsistent with IH. They also argue that the disposition to form proper beliefs about the epistemic statuses of one’s beliefs need not constrain how one reacts when the disposition is activated. So, for example, one might properly believe that one’s beliefs about foreign affairs are unjustified, yet react negatively when questioned or challenged, thereby signaling a lack of IH.


Nancy E. Snow

Samuelson and Church (2015) provide an expansion of the proper belief account that could deflect complaints about generality and flaws in belief formation and maintenance.5 They appeal to dual systems theory in psychology, arguing that IH consists of both Type 1 (nonconscious) and Type 2 (conscious) mental processes. They use the virtue epistemological framework of reliabilism and responsibilism to frame their discussion. They define IH as “holding a belief as firmly as it is warranted, whether such warrant is derived from the proper functioning of our cognitive systems or whether such warrant is brought about by the exercise of a particular way of knowing (a trait)” (Samuelson and Church 2015: 1109). In essence, the authors argue that IH is a trait (consistently with responsibilism) that can function as a corrective to some Type 1 and Type 2 cognitive processes. There are two kinds of case in which failures of IH can occur. IH is a trait that functions as a corrective in these kinds of case. First, though many Type 1 cognitive processes function well in helping us to hold our beliefs with the firmness that is warranted (in which cases believers have IH), there are cases in which our cognitive processes fail. These are cases in which cognitive biases and heuristics of which we are unaware shape our thinking in ways the authors think are self-centered or self-enhancing. Examples include confirmation bias, according to which we more readily accept information that confirms our beliefs, and the “better-than-average” effect,” according to which we think of ourselves as better than average (Samuelson and Church 2015: 1101–1102, 1106–1107). The authors write (2015: 1106): In a limited sense we might say that [such] heuristics and biases exhibit the vice of “intellectual arrogance,” because, they result, in part, from an inability to “decouple” from Type 1 representations and the thinker remains unable to leave his or her own perspective.6 Leaving one’s own perspective is needed to hold one’s beliefs with the firmness that is warranted. Invoking Type 1 processing, the authors believe, is consistent with reliabilist approaches to epistemic virtues. Explaining their position, they write: Type 1 processing can be and is quite reliable, and often hits on the truth. The epistemic vice is found in the breakdown of the relationship between the two types of processing [Types 1 and 2] and virtue is attained when each plays its appropriate function in the pursuit of epistemic goods such as truth, accurate representation of reality, etc. (Samuelson and Church 2015: 1101) The role of IH in these kinds of case is to “de-center” the perspective of the knower so that he or she can break free of Type 1 biases and examine her beliefs from a less self-focused perspective. This affords her the cognitive flexibility to hold her beliefs with the firmness that is warranted. There is a second kind of case in which IH functions as a corrective to flawed cognitive processing, and this is by correcting Type 2 processes that are too “other focused,” as the authors put it (Samuelson and Church 2015: 1107). They write (Samuelson and Church 2015: 1107): Type 2 processing, however, is also prone to bias because of the sequential nature of its processing, taking up one mental model at a time until a sufficient one is found . . . Some biases, like those that occur from framing effects, can be the result

Intellectual Humility


of a Type 2 processing that has decoupled [from a self-focused perspective], but is focused on a singular model from a source outside the self that stimulates all other subsequent thought (serial associative cognition with a focal error). By contrast with the Type 1 processes that miss the truth because they are too self-focused, these Type 2 processes miss the truth because they are too narrowly focused on factors outside the self. The authors characterize this as intellectual diffidence—which they regard as “giving in too easily or not evaluating the other’s position rigorously” (Samuelson and Church 2015: 1107). Whereas intellectual arrogance consists of holding beliefs too firmly to be warranted, intellectual diffidence consists of holding them too loosely, or on the basis of inadequate examination. IH is the trait that intervenes in some Type 1 processes to correct intellectual arrogance, and in some Type 2 processes to correct intellectual diffidence. The authors allow that motivation is needed to engage in these corrections, and hold that this is compatible with neo-Aristotelian accounts of virtue responsibilism (Samuelson and Church 2015: 1107). By adding specificity to the account and explaining how IH can be a motivated and deliberately chosen corrective to flawed belief formation, this more detailed explanation of the proper belief account could deflect two of the criticisms made by Whitcomb et al. (2017); namely, that the view is too general, and that people are unaware of the flawed ways in which they form their lower-level beliefs. Yet there are routine cases in which our Type 1 processes produce beliefs that we hold with the proper firmness, and in those cases, we are intellectually humble without realizing it and by default. Samuelson and Church (2015) do not address Whitcomb et al.’s (2017) third complaint—that people can be aware that their beliefs are unjustified yet display a range of inappropriate reactions when challenged, and this is incompatible with IH. The sense in which the Type 1 biases and heuristics that the authors identify with intellectual arrogance and the Type 2 processes they identify with intellectual diffidence can be considered genuinely vicious is unclear. Given that Type 1 processes occur outside the level of conscious awareness, it is unclear how they can be considered “vices” in the robust sense in which that term implies the deliberate choice of bad instead of good. If I know that my beliefs are wrong but stubbornly hold them anyway, this is a paradigmatically vicious choice, since I knowingly choose against the good of knowledge.7 Type 1 biases and heuristics that do not lead to knowledge are not the products of deliberate choices to go against the good of knowledge. They seem, instead, to be flawed but not vicious parts of our cognitive apparatus. Similar remarks apply to the Type 2 processes the authors identify with intellectual diffidence. Since we tend to think in sequential terms, it is unclear how the sequential consideration of competing models could be considered a vice, instead of a natural constraint on human cognitive processing. Here again, we do not deliberately choose to engage in flawed cognition. These considerations raise interesting questions about the nature of vice. Vice is, paradigmatically, deliberately or willfully choosing the bad instead of the good. But there are other senses of “vice” for which deliberately choosing bad over good seems not required. Because of temperament or upbringing, for example, a person might naturally tend toward cowardice instead of courage or rashness. This tendency toward cowardice, at least for Aristotelians, is a form of vice. When someone is made aware that she has this tendency, she should seek to correct it. One might say, similarly, that Samuelson and Church (2015) are engaged in a naturalistic exploration of the kinds of cognitive processes that lead us, albeit nonconsciously, away from epistemic goods. Awareness of the effects of these processes puts a burden on the knower to correct them.


Nancy E. Snow

Clarifying their understanding of “intellectual arrogance,” the authors note, “Self-centered thinking is not, in-and-of-itself, intellectual arrogance. Indeed, it is only natural that our own experiences are going to be more readily available to us as evidence” (Samuelson and Church 2015: 1106). They continue: “It can only be characterized as arrogance if self-centered thinking is not sufficient to hold a belief in accordance with the evidence, if we count on what we know more than we ought” (1106). To this, they add a footnote: Since much of Type 1 processes are unconscious, we are not accusing the agent of being willfully arrogant. Instead arrogance means to preference the self as a source of information, when what the self knows, by itself, does not provide enough for believing in accordance with the facts, whether the agent is conscious of this preference or not. (Samuelson and Church 2015: 1110, n. 11) Since reliance on Type 1 (as well as Type 2) processes is the default position for cognitive processing, an implication of reasoning is that “arrogance” as well as “diffidence” in the authors’ senses denote relying on one’s cognitive capacities in cases in which correction is needed. This differs from the case of cowardice in that cowardice is not everyone’s natural default position, resulting from the normal operation of personality processes, though in this case, too, correction is needed. Let us turn to Hazlett’s view. Whitcomb et al. (2017: 512) write: Like Samuelson, et al., Allan Hazlett focuses on proper belief but, unlike them, his view is much more specific: “[IH] is a disposition not to adopt epistemically improper higher-order epistemic attitudes, and to adopt (in the right way, in the right situations) epistemically proper higher-order attitudes.”8 Hazlett’s account (2012: 205–206) is offered in the context of challenging Feldman’s (2006, 2007) argument for skepticism (suspending judgment) in peer disagreements about controversial matters in religion, politics, and philosophy. Feldman’s principle is: “If you suspend judgment about whether believing p is reasonable for you, then you ought to suspend judgment about p” (Hazlett 2012: 206). Hazlett (2012) argues that you can suspend judgment about whether believing p is reasonable for you, without thereby having to suspend judgment about p. Contending that Feldman’s principle could be motivated by virtue epistemology, Hazlett (2012: 219–220) cites Christensen (2010: 206) as claiming that it would be dogmatic to maintain one’s belief that p in the face of peer disagreement. But dogmatism is a vice that is opposed to intellectual humility. Hazlett (2012: 220–222) offers an account of IH on which he argues that it is reasonable and not viciously dogmatic to believe p while suspending judgment about the reasonableness of believing p. Hazlett’s (2012: 220) account is encapsulated in the passage quoted by Whitcomb et al. (2017: 512); namely, “[IH] is a disposition not to adopt epistemically improper higher-order epistemic attitudes, and to adopt (in the right way, in the right situations) epistemically proper higher-order attitudes.” On this view, IH is a mean between intellectual dogmatism, which is overestimating the epistemic status of one’s beliefs, and intellectual timidity, which is underestimating their epistemic status (Hazlett 2012: 220). In the case of peer disagreement about a controversial matter, such as the existence of God, IH requires you to suspend judgment about whether your belief in the existence of God is reasonable for you, without

Intellectual Humility


having to give up your belief in the existence of God (if Feldman’s principle were true, you would have to give up your belief in God in cases of peer disagreement). On Hazlett’s view, IH is a part or aspect of skepticism (suspending judgment). This is clear from his comments at the beginning of Hazlett (2012) and a later article (Hazlett 2016: 76–77, 85–86). Hazlett (2016: 76) argues that both IH and intellectual criticism are parts or aspects of intellectual skepticism, and that all three are civic virtues. Hazlett (2016: 76, emphasis his) claims: “Intellectual humility is excellence in attributing ignorance to yourself, withholding attributing knowledge to yourself, and questioning whether you know.” As part of intellectual skepticism, IH is paired with intellectual criticism, which is “excellence in attributing ignorance to other people, withholding attributing knowledge to other people, and questioning whether other people know” (Hazlett 2016: 76). Hazlett (2012: 222) limits his view to the claim that, in cases of peer disagreements about controversial topics, IH does not require you to change or modify your doxastic attitude toward p. He remains agnostic about whether IH in the face of peer disagreement requires more, such as rethinking your belief that p. He notes in Hazlett (2016: 77) that his accounts of intellectual skepticism, intellectual humility, and intellectual criticism focus on knowledge instead of other epistemic statuses, and that other views are broader. If IH is, at bottom, the disposition not to have epistemically improper higher-order epistemic attitudes and to have the epistemically proper higher-order epistemic attitudes in the right way and in the right situations, then it seems that the account is not vulnerable to Whitcomb et al.’s (2017: 514) first complaint. This is that the disposition to form proper beliefs about the epistemic statuses of your beliefs does not preclude the possibility that the formation and maintenance of the latter beliefs could be riddled with errors, deficits, and vulnerabilities of which you are unaware, and this is incompatible with having IH. Hazlett could reply that you would then not have IH, since your higher-order epistemic attitudes toward your beliefs would not be proper, given that you are unaware of the deficits in your belief formation and maintenance. You might think that your epistemic attitudes were proper, but you would be mistaken. Similarly, you might think you are intellectually humble in Hazlett’s sense, but you would be mistaken about that, too. Whitcomb et al.’s (2017: 514) other criticism is that Hazlett’s account does not preclude you from having negative reactions when your disposition to form higher-order epistemic attitudes about your beliefs is challenged. You can properly believe that your belief that p is unjustified, or be skeptical about your belief that p while still believing p, yet react negatively or defensively when p is questioned. This kind of reaction, they claim, is incompatible with IH. Given that Hazlett’s view is narrowly circumscribed, he might admit that this kind of case is possible, but be untroubled by it. Whitcomb et al. (2017: 514) draw on the intuition that IH is not only having the proper epistemic attitudes toward your beliefs, but also includes a cluster of dispositions pertaining to how we view others or ourselves. The next account recognizes this point.

15. 4 LO W CON CE RN

According to Whitcomb et al. (2017: 514), the Low Concern conception maintains that: “IH consists in a disposition to an unusually low concern for one’s own intellectual status and entitlements.” Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood have developed this view.9 They extrapolate from an analysis of moral humility to suggest that, like moral humility, IH is possessed by someone who lacks the vices of pride, such as arrogance, vanity, conceit, and so on. IH


Nancy E. Snow

is “essentially a family of lacks: the lack of arrogance, the lack of vanity, the lack of hyperautonomy, etc.” (Roberts 2016: 185). Roberts (2016: 186) claims that it is misleading to speak of IH as a single virtue, because different kinds of humility might be associated with lacking specific vices. He believes that these different forms of humility, as well as the vices of pride, tend to clump together. The Low Concern view addresses the point that IH includes dispositions bearing on how we view ourselves and others. It also insightfully extends commonly held views about moral humility into the epistemic realm. Yet Whitcomb et al. (2017: 515–516) argue that having a disposition to unusually low concern for one’s intellectual status and entitlements is neither necessary nor sufficient for IH. As for its insufficiency, they give the case of Professor P, who is extremely talented, knows it, and who loves epistemic goods so much that he has unusually low concern for status or entitlements. Yet when confronted with his errors, his typical response is to try to cover up, justify, or explain away. The authors argue that he lacks IH even though he has a disposition to have unusually low concern for status and entitlements. Roberts and Wood could argue that Professor P does not really have an unusually low concern for his status and entitlements, and, consequently, lacks IH. If he had such a concern, he would be more receptive to acknowledging and correcting his mistakes. Drawing on Alice Ambrose’s account of G.E. Moore as a teacher, Roberts and Wood portray a scholar of formidable intellectual ability who was willing to admit mistakes, even in front of his class, and who, responding to criticisms, would modify his views and continue with his lecture. They write: “His lack of concern with status is evinced by the fact that his criticisms ‘could as well have been directed to an anonymous philosopher whose mistakes called for correction’” (Roberts and Wood 2007: 241).10 Moore contrasts starkly with Professor P. Whitcomb et  al. (2017: 516) also argue that having an unusually low concern for intellectual status and entitlements is not necessary for IH. They give the example of a woman professor in a male-dominated field. She has all of the other requirements for IH—love of epistemic goods, awareness of her intellectual limitations, and appropriate dispositions to respond to them—yet does not have an unusually low concern for intellectual status and entitlements. She is concerned for status and entitlements because her field marginalizes those who lack them, and her family depends on her salary for support. She knows that neither she nor her family will flourish unless she is concerned with intellectual status and entitlements. Whitcomb et al. (2017: 516) conclude that she does indeed possess IH, even though she lacks an unusually low concern for intellectual status and entitlements. Roberts and Wood need not agree that the woman in the example has IH. They could contend that the woman lacks IH but maintain that this is excusable or understandable given her employment situation. To see how the analysis would go, consider a parallel case. Gays and lesbians living in Nazi Germany were often forced to lie in order to survive. Honesty is a virtue, and is required in order to be a virtuous person in reasonably just societies. In an unjust society in which neighbors were often Nazi informers and spies, and gays and lesbians were condemned and sent to camps, survival depended upon not being forthright about one’s sexual orientation. They had to forgo the virtue of honesty for the sake of survival. Similarly, the woman in the example has had to forgo a central aspect of IH in order to flourish in her field and support her family. Were she in a better profession, one that did not valorize status and entitlements, and were she not a minority in that profession, she might be able to have IH in the full sense or at least be able to challenge the status quo without undue risk to herself and her family. In such cases, people have to make hard choices: between being honest and surviving, or between having full IH and flourishing in one’s career and family life.

Intellectual Humility


Plausible responses counter Whitcomb et al.’s (2017) examples. Thus they have not made good their claim that having an unusually low concern for status and entitlements is neither necessary nor sufficient for IH. 15. 5 LI M I TATI ON S -OWN IN G

Whitcomb et al.’s (2017) own account is the limitations-owning conception. Just as proper pride is having the appropriate stance toward one’s strengths, and humility, toward one’s limitations, IH is having the correct stance toward one’s intellectual limitations (Whitcomb et al. 2017: 516). They write: “owning an intellectual limitation consists in a dispositional profile that includes cognitive, behavioral, motivational, and affective responses to an awareness of one’s limitations” (Whitcomb et al. 2017: 518).11 Consider each type of response (Whitcomb et al. 2017: 517–518). A cognitive disposition to owning one’s limitations consists in dispositions to believe and accept one’s limitations. Someone who lacks such a disposition tends to ignore her limitations, or to explain away failures by misattributing them to other factors. Behavioral responses include being disposed to admit when one has made a mistake, avoiding pretense, deferring to others, seeking more information, drawing inferences carefully, and considering counter-evidence judiciously. Motivational responses indicative of owning one’s limitations include acknowledging one’s weaknesses and working to overcome them. Someone who owns her limitations cares about becoming better. Finally, she acknowledges them and feels regret or dismay. Someone who does not own his limitations will laugh them off or become hostile or angry when they are pointed out. Whitcomb et al. (2017: 519; emphasis theirs) sum up: we can say that owning one’s intellectual limitations characteristically involves dispositions to: (1) believe that one has them; and to believe that their negative outcomes are due to them; (2) to admit or acknowledge them; (3) to care about them and take them seriously; and (4) to feel regret or dismay, but not hostility, about them. Whitcomb et al. (2017: 528–534) admit that their view says nothing about appropriate attitudes to intellectual strengths. It is possible, on their view, for someone to be intellectually humble about her limitations while also being intellectually arrogant about her strengths. They address this concern by mapping the conceptual space among proper pride, humility, arrogance, and servility (see Whitcomb et al. 2017: 530–532, esp. 531, fig. 1). Proper pride is appropriately owning one’s intellectual strengths. IH is properly owning one’s intellectual limitations. Arrogance, on their view, is both being excessively attentive to, or over-owning, strengths, and being deficiently attentive to, or under-owning, one’s limitations. Servility is both being deficiently attentive to, or under-owning, one’s strengths, and being excessively attentive to, or over-owning, one’s limitations. The authors argue that, for a fully internally rational person, IH is incompatible with intellectual arrogance, IA. If, as the authors argue, each weakness correlates with a strength, one cannot be fully rational and both under-own one’s limitations, which is consistent with IA, and appropriately own them, which is consistent with IH. The authors realize that most people are not fully internally rational. Though they conclude that it is rationally impossible for someone to be both intellectually arrogant and intellectually humble, they acknowledge that it is both metaphysically and humanly possible (Whitcomb et al. 2017: 533). The limitations-owning conception of IH raises large questions. A central question is why and how to conceive of owning one’s limitations. For example, the authors argue that,


Nancy E. Snow

on their view, owning one’s limitations characteristically involves feeling regret or dismay, but not hostility, about them (Whitcomb et al. 2017: 519; emphasis theirs). I take it that the emphasis the authors place on “characteristically” is meant to convey that the intellectually humble person need not always, in every instance, feel regret or dismay about her limitations, but should feel that way on a fairly regular basis, as part of her epistemic make-up, and on important occasions when her limitations come into play. I take it the authors are not claiming that we should feel regret or dismay simply because of the fact that we possess intellectual limitations. This would be unreasonable. We are, after all, finite, fallible creatures, and would not be human if we lacked limitations. So a global sense of regret or dismay at not being intellectually perfect is not what the authors require for someone to own their limitations and thus possess intellectual humility. It seems that simple acceptance of our human finitude without feeling regret or dismay would be required. What kind of limitations-owning, then, is in play? Answering this question is related to what it means to be a human knower, to how and why we should love epistemic goods, and to the various roles that having these goods play in individual, flourishing human lives. As human knowers, we have limited cognitive and motivational capacities, and time. Some intellectual limitations are more important to the conduct of specific lives than others. If I have a poor memory for train schedules but seldom need to take the train, it seems that I should own that limitation without regret or dismay, since having good memory skills for that kind of information is not important for my overall flourishing, and might not be the kind of knowledge that, for me, counts as an important epistemic good. In fact, if I feel regret or dismay, this could be indicative of hubris, as I might wish I had a better memory for this kind of information, not because I want to be a better knower in some unobjectionable sense, but because I want to sharpen my intellectual skills for purely egotistical reasons, for example to show off in front of friends. To illustrate further, I have always had poor math skills, and I own this intellectual limitation. I have owned it with regret and dismay on occasion, both for epistemically good reasons and epistemically poor ones. A love of knowledge has led me to regret my poor math skills, but I’ve also regretted them because having good math skills, I believe, would have allowed me to have better career prospects. My point is that why one feels regret or dismay upon owning one’s limitations makes a difference to one’s truly having IH. (Whitcomb et al. would likely agree.) To press the point, it could well be that feeling neither regret nor dismay, but, instead, simply accepting one’s intellectual limitations in some domains, is indicative of IH, as well as expressive of the value of certain kinds of epistemic goods in one’s life. In other words, it seems too strong a requirement to suggest that the intellectually humble should characteristically feel regret or dismay at not having the skills needed to obtain knowledge that isn’t useful or valuable for them, or has only a tangential relationship to their life. I do not know large swaths of knowledge that could be interesting and valuable for others or even in its own right, such as the structure of tribal governments in Yemen, the history of the Hudson Bay Trading Company, the strategies of the generals at Antietam, and the biochemical processes involved in cell division. Nor do I possess forms of similarly useful and valuable procedural knowledge, such as how to use a sextant, how to perform brain surgery, how to fix a broken carburetor, and so on. I own these limitations on my knowledge, yet I don’t feel regret or dismay because of having them. I recognize the objective value of these kinds of knowledge, the subjective value to persons who have it, and I admire those who have it. These examples also raise the deeper question of the equality of all kinds of epistemic goods (e.g., types of knowledge) and the skills needed to acquire it. Knowledge of mathematics and math skills have at least a prima facie claim to be considered useful and valuable epistemic goods in their own right, but it is unclear that knowledge of train schedules and

Intellectual Humility


the memory skills needed to recall them have such a claim, at least not in and of themselves. In other words, not all epistemic goods stand on an equal footing, either objectively or in terms of their subjective value in specific lives. If so, limitations in accessing those goods do not stand on equal footings, either, and this should affect why and how we own them. Whitcomb et  al. (2017: 528–534) explore similar ideas to some extent, especially in their discussion of the problem of arrogance. Yet their work raises a plethora of interesting questions. 15. 6 C LUSTER OF A T T IT U D E S

Tanesini (2016) is also concerned with how IH relates to limitations and strengths. She argues that IH is a cluster of strong attitudes (as these are understood in social psychology) directed toward one’s cognitive make-up and its components, together with the cognitive and affective states that constitute their contents or bases, which serve knowledge and value-expressive functions. (Tanesini 2016: 1) She also thinks that IH is a complex virtue composed of modesty with respect to one’s intellectual strengths and acceptance with respect to one’s intellectual limitations. Including modesty with respect to intellectual strengths is one way in which her view differs from the limitations-owning account. Tanesini (2016: 2) thinks modesty and acceptance are distinct, but are often found together because of a psychological need to reduce cognitive dissonance. She writes: “Humility is the complex virtue comprising modesty and self-acceptance” (Tanesini 2016: 1). What is an attitude? Tanesini argues that attitudes afford “a kind of affective evaluative stance rather than a purely cold cognitive one” (2016: 12). Attitudes are evaluations or cognitive shortcuts that summarize one’s overall evaluation, positive or negative, toward an object. The overall evaluation is formed over time and can serve a variety of functions, for example gaining knowledge, expressing values, defending the ego, advancing utility, appraising objects, and adjusting socially (Tanesini 2016: 12–13). The objects of IH can include beliefs and theories, cognitive capacities such as hearing and vision, cognitive habits and skills, or one’s cognitive agency as a whole (Tanesini 2016: 13–14). People have distinctive evaluative attitudes toward features of their cognition based on past experiences and evaluations. Tanesini (2016: 15) gives the example of having attitudes toward one’s problem-solving abilities. These would have been formed on the basis of past experiences and assessments of one’s ability. In the case of an intellectually humble person, they would serve the function of gaining knowledge and be value-expressive. Problemsolving strengths facilitate the pursuit of knowledge, and limitations hinder it. The humble person should like her strengths and dislike her weaknesses or limitations, thereby indicating the value-expressive function of her attitude. However, other attitudinal functions, such as ego-defensiveness, would result in her having different attitudes toward problem-solving strengths and limitations, for example, causing her to emphasize strengths while seeking to hide or ignore weaknesses. Tanesini (2016: 8–9, 15–16) admits that functions of attitudes other than the pursuit of knowledge can motivate behavior that seems to be intellectually humble. Her view is that such individuals do not truly possess the virtue of IH. Of the range of possible functions that


Nancy E. Snow

IH might have, only those of gaining knowledge and expressing value provide appropriate motivations for being virtuous. This unique view of IH challenges the notion that it is a disposition or trait. Tanesini also thinks that virtues need not lie in a mean. She (2016: 18–20) addresses the question of whether virtues can be clusters of attitudes, contending that considerations support the identification of at least some virtues with attitudes. IH consists of a cluster of attitudes a person has toward her intellectual strengths and limitations. IH consists not only of attitudes, however, but also of the content or informational base toward which the attitude is held (Tanesini 2016: 17). Conceptualizing IH in this way allows us to acknowledge the existence of varying attitudes toward different bodies of knowledge and skills that a person possesses. I might accept that I have strong problem-solving skills and be modest about them, in which case I’d have IH (at least to some degree) on Tanesini’s (2016) account. I might also accept that I have limited memory capacities for names, and regard that with dismay as an epistemic deficit. If the intellectually humble person should feel dismay at all of her epistemic deficits, however, we encounter the same kinds of questions raised in connection with Whitcomb et al. (2017). According to Tanesini (2016: 16), in the intellectually humble person, attitudes that have a knowledge function also express a commitment to epistemic goods such as truth, knowledge, or understanding and reflect the person’s deeply held commitment (Tanesini 2016: 16). Tanesini (2016: 16) writes: “In summary, the attitudes of the person who is intellectually humble are formed to express a commitment to epistemic goods and are formed as a result of past experiences driven by the need for knowledge and understanding.” If the intellectually humble person’s attitudes derive from this strong commitment to epistemic goods, it would seem she cannot but feel dismay at her epistemic deficits, just as she should feel proper pride at her epistemic successes. But this view, as with Whitcomb et al.’s (2017), fails to take into account the difference between the objective value of epistemic goods and the subjective value and roles they play in people’s lives. I might realize that I have an epistemic deficit with respect to some skill or body of knowledge, but also know that competency or proficiency in that area is not of much importance in my life. Why would a lack of dismay at my having this deficit bespeak a lack of IH, rather than the recognition of the relative unimportance of this knowledge or skill for me? The situation would be different were I to deny the objective epistemic value of a skill or knowledge simply because I don’t have them. In this case, a lack of dismay would indeed indicate a lack of IH. As with Whitcomb et al. (2017), Tanesini (2016) needs to take into account the finitude of human knowers, the differences between the objective and subjective value of epistemic goods, and the roles that epistemic goods play in individual lives. Her account faces another challenge. Perhaps unwittingly, Tanesini (2016: 16) takes a stand on how IH is developed: “In summary, the attitudes of the person who is intellectually humble are formed to express a commitment to epistemic goods and are formed as a result of past experiences driven by the need for knowledge and understanding.” Why think that IH is formed in this way—expressly indexed to the need for knowledge, understanding, and a commitment to epistemic goods? This could be one way in which IH is developed, but it is also plausible to think of IH as an application of the general virtue of humility. We can imagine (and might know) people who are humble about every aspect of their lives, including their intellectual lives. In such cases, IH is developed not as a specific commitment to epistemic goods, but, instead, as part of a broader virtue in which an individual has an appropriate and measured cognitive, motivational, and affective disposition toward all of her strengths and weaknesses.12 Raising this possibility leads to questions about the relations between intellectual and moral virtues, in particular

Intellectual Humility


whether intellectual virtues that have the same names as moral virtues, such as “humility” and “courage,” are separate virtues that are distinct from their moral counterparts, or stand in some other relation to them. 15. 7 C O NFI DENC E MA N A G E ME N T

Kidd (2016) offers a novel account of the virtue of IH as concerned with the regulation of confidence. To see the connections between IH and confidence management, Kidd (2016: 55) notes that we need to distinguish between having capacities and having confidence in them. Confidence itself, he claims, is a complex social and intellectual quality, consisting of agential confidence, collective confidence, and deep confidence (see Kidd 2016: 56–57). Citing Zagzebski (2012), Kidd (2016: 57) maintains that agential confidence is that which one has in one’s cognitive capacities and experiences, skills and training, and one’s general self-trust as an intellectual agent. Collective confidence is that which is invested in others—peers, teachers, and the social communities with which one engages. Deep confidence is invested either explicitly or implicitly in the “deeper social, intellectual, and historical conditions upon which individual collective activities and projects rest” and can include confidence in God’s ordained order, scientific reason, and so on (Kidd 2016: 57). Kidd (2016: 58–59) contends that IH begins with the recognition of the complex, conditional, and contingent status of our confidence, and the need to have attitudes and practices that enable us to manage it. He argues that the virtue of humility consists of two pairs of components: First, the humble person is disposed to recognize the relevant confidence conditions for a given assertion, belief, or conviction, and the extent of their fulfillment of them. Second, they then act on this recognition by using it to regulate their intellectual conduct accordingly. (Kidd 2016: 59) To flesh out the recognition-disposition, he outlines confidence-conditions for agential, collective, and deep confidence, and discusses roles for education in the cultivation of the disposition to recognize these conditions (Kidd 2016: 59–61). The notion of intellectual conduct refers to the manner in which one conducts intellectual activities, such as forming beliefs, articulating claims, and engaging with other persons, ideas, and traditions (Kidd 2016: 61). Kidd (2016: 63–64) discusses three forms of regulation of intellectual conduct that are distinguished by the kinds of intellectual conduct they manage: appraisal-regulation, which pertains to judgments of one’s own intellectual abilities, skills, knowledge, etc.; attitude-regulation, which concerns our attitudes toward other agents, our communities of engagement, intellectual traditions, and so on; and ambition-regulation, which has to do with appropriately organizing the scope or type of intellectual projects one takes on. Kidd (2016: 64) suggests that all three types of regulation should be considered aspects of a single global endeavor—that of conducting oneself well intellectually. He then considers how education can afford structured opportunities to cultivate students’ dispositions to regulate their intellectual conduct (Kidd 2016: 65). A first question about this account concerns the exact relation of IH and confidence. Kidd (2016: 56) claims to see an identity between the two: “A state of intellectual humility is identical to well-regulated or calibrated confidence that is integral to a broader structure of regulative activities that is constitutive of a good and flourishing life” (Kidd 2016: 56).


Nancy E. Snow

Immediately following this statement, however, he contends (2016: 57), “Concisely, then, humility is a virtue for the management of confidence,” which suggests that IH is distinct from and regulative of confidence. The latter position is more plausible, given the different forms of confidence that Kidd identifies and their potential impact on people as knowers. More seriously, we can question whether confidence management is all there is to IH or even, in some cases, the most important psychological factor that IH influences. Consider Professors A and B. Each has enjoyed considerable success in a field, and each has been honored with the highest award the discipline bestows. Each has rightly achieved the same high level of confidence in his or her abilities, communities of engagement, and intellectual traditions. Yet A is intellectually humble and B is not, in the sense that A is quiet, unassuming, ready to admit errors and limitations of knowledge, and considerate and collaborative in joint efforts with others, whereas B often boasts about his achievements, self-indulgently basks in glory, practices one-upmanship, assumes he knows all the answers, thinks he is always correct and insightful, and so on. Kidd (2016: 63) writes: “To be intellectually well-conducted is, therefore, in part to have well-managed confidence, and this is the particular contribution of the virtue of intellectual humility, alongside other virtues relevant to confidence-calibration and to other aspects of intellectual life.” About A and B, then, he would have to say that A is intellectually humble, and that his humility regulates and is in a deep sense bound up with his well-managed confidence, whereas B’s lack of IH is deeply related to poor confidence management. This misdiagnoses the case. In A’s case but not in B’s, attitude-regulation is at work, and is apparently being done by IH, but confidence is not what is being regulated. By hypothesis A and B have the same confidence levels. What is being managed by A’s intellectual humility, but not managed because of B’s lack of that virtue, is another attitude or cluster of attitudes about their intellectual abilities, career successes, intellectual honors, and so on. They are confident in just the right measure that their achievements call for; their confidence is appropriately calibrated. How they view their achievements and successes pulls apart from their confidence. B might think, for example, “I am finally getting the recognition that I deserve,” thereby expressing the belief that he is at last getting his just due; whereas A might think, “My peers are so kind to recognize my contributions,” thereby expressing gratitude. B’s expression of gratitude seems related to his IH, whereas A’s belief seems bound with the view that he is owed recognition by his profession for his achievements. The example shows that IH regulates attitudes other than and in addition to confidence and that sometimes those attitudes and not confidence are what distinguish the intellectually humble from the arrogant and those who deem themselves entitled to recognition for their intellectual successes. 15. 8 C O NCLU S ION

Philosophical work on IH is vigorous and ongoing. The same is true of work in psychology, and of collaborations among philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists.13 The work reviewed here suggests promising avenues for further exploration. For example, is it possible to offer an account of IH that unifies our intuitions about appropriate concern for our intellectual strengths and limitations? Tanesini (2016) does so by conceptualizing IH as a cluster of attitudes, not as a disposition. This raises the question of what IH is—a disposition, a cluster of attitudes, or some other construct. If a disposition, is it a disposition of belief, or does it involve dispositions of motivation, affect, and action? Is it self-oriented, other-oriented, or both? Is IH an intellectual virtue, and if so, is this because of its orientation toward epistemic

Intellectual Humility


goods? How do the objective and subjective value of epistemic goods and the actual role they play in people’s lives impact our understanding of IH and other intellectual virtues? How does IH relate to general humility? Is it a subset of general humility? How is IH cultivated— as part of general humility or as a separate and distinct orientation toward epistemic goods? How might naturalistic understandings of our cognitive processes influence conceptions of IH and other intellectual virtues? Is IH related to gratitude? Is there such a thing as intellectual gratitude—as being grateful for the knowledge and intellectual abilities one has, or for the richness of the epistemic goods in one’s life? Is the lack of IH always associated with vice, and if so, in what sense or senses are vices implicated in lacking IH? We have every reason to expect research into these topics to continue.14 (Related Chapters: 12, 18, 30, 31, 36.)

NOTE S 1 Though much work on IH has been done by unfunded philosophers, its study has been greatly facilitated by several projects, already completed, funded by the John Templeton Foundation: “The Science of Intellectual Humility,” managed by the Thrive Center at the Fuller Theological Seminary; “The Philosophy and Theology of Intellectual Humility,” directed by St. Louis University; and “The Development, Validation, and Dissemination of Measures of Intellectual Humility and Humility,” administered through Biola University. Another project on IH in public discourse, still underway, is “Humility and Conviction in Public Life,” directed by the Humanities Institute at the University of Connecticut. Where possible, I have tried to include publications from these projects, but I encourage readers to consult the respective websites for an overview of the range and vigor with which current work is being pursued. See research-projects/the-science-of-intellectual-humility;;; and 2 On IH in environmental ethics, see Stafford (2010); on medical practice, see Schwab (2012); on clinical practice, see Marcum (2009); on religious dialogue, see Grzegorcyk (1993); on history, see Kidd (2014); on the history and philosophy of science, see Kidd (2011). 3 This paper is downloadable as a pdf file at: It is also available under the title, “The Semantic Neighborhood of Intellectual Humility” at: pdf, as part of the Proceedings of the European Conference on Social Intelligence (2014). 4 See Church and Samuelson (2017: 15–20) for a report of their work on the folk concept of IH. 5 Church and Samuelson (2017) update their view and now endorse what they call “the doxastic account of intellectual humility,” according to which: “Intellectual humility is the view of accurately tracking what one could non-culpably take to be the positive epistemic status of one’s beliefs” (Church and Samuelson 2017: 25). Unfortunately, the authors deliberately remain agnostic on what they mean by “positive epistemic status” (Church and Samuelson 2017: 22–23). They address the worry of some virtue epistemologists, which I share, that the doxastic account is not really about IH by claiming that there is no consensus about what counts as IH among academics, and contend that they are staking a claim, as are other theorists (Church and Samuelson 2017: 29–30). In addition, they note that critics have not clearly identified the virtue or trait they think the authors are talking about. Some of the views expressed in Samuelson and Church (2015) are incorporated into Church and Samuelson (2017), chapter 5. 6 But see also Samuelson and Church (2015: 1101): “That the automatic Type 1 processing does not hit upon the truth is not epistemically vicious in and of itself, but would be if Type 2 processing, for whatever reason, fails to correct or amend the Type 1 representation when it is distorted. Both need to fail in their proper function for an epistemically vicious result.” 7 For more on epistemic vice, see Baehr (2010) and Battaly (2014). 8 Embedded quote from Hazlett (2012: 220). Whitcomb et  al. (2017: 512, n. 8) observe that Schwab holds a view similar to Hazlett’s: “Epistemic humility is a characteristic of claims that accurately portray the quality of evidence for believing the claim to be an accurate one” (Schwab 2012: 29). 9 See Roberts and Wood (2003: 271) and (2007: 250), and Roberts (2016: 187, 189). 10 Embedded quote from Ambrose (1989: 107–108).


Nancy E. Snow

11 Whitcomb et al. (2017: 10, n. 17) note that Spiegel (2003, 2012) also identifies IH with proper attentiveness to one’s intellectual limitations, as well as taking appropriate action in response. The authors note, too, that though Grenberg (2005) and Kidd (2016) include limitations in their conceptions, they do not go beyond attentiveness or attentiveness and appropriate action in response. 12 See Snow (1995) for this kind of account of humility as a moral virtue. 13 See note 1, as well as the work discussed in Hill and Sandage (2016). Whitcomb et al. (2017) provides an invaluable overview of many conceptions of intellectual humility. 14 I would like to thank Heather Battaly for thought-provoking comments on an earlier version of this chapter.

REFEREN CE S Ambrose, A. (1989) “Moore and Wittgenstein as Teachers,” Teaching Philosophy 12: 107–113. Baehr, J. (2010) “Epistemic Malevolence,” Metaphilosophy 41: 189–213. Battaly, H. (2014) “Varieties of Epistemic Vice,” in J. Matheson and R. Vitz (eds.) The Ethics of Belief, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 51–76. Christen, M., M. Alfano, and B. Robinson. (2014) “The Semantic Space of Intellectual Humility,” http://ceur-ws. org/Vol-1283/paper_8.pdf. Christensen, D. (2010) “Higher-Order Evidence,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81: 185–215. Church I. and P. Samuelson. (2017) Intellectual Humility: An Introduction to the Philosophy and Science, London: Bloomsbury. Driver, J. (2001) Uneasy Virtue, New York: Cambridge University Press. Feldman, R. (2006) “Epistemological Puzzles about Disagreement,” in S. Hetherington (ed.) Epistemology Futures, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 216–236. Feldman, R. (2007) “Reasonable Religious Disagreements,” in L. Antony (ed.) Philosophers Without Gods, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 194–214. Grenberg, J. (2005) Kant and the Ethics of Humility, New York: Cambridge University Press. Grzegorcyk, A. (1993) “God’s Action in the Human World: Our Intellectual Humility and Dialogue Between Religions,” Dialogue and Humanism: The Universalist Journal 3: 73–84. Hazlett, A. (2012) “Higher-Order Epistemic Attitudes and Intellectual Humility,” Episteme 9: 205–223. Hazlett, A. (2016) “The Civic Virtues of Skepticism, Intellectual Humility, and Intellectual Criticism,” in J. Baehr (ed.) Intellectual Virtues and Education: Essays in Applied Virtue Epistemology, New York: Routledge, 71–92. Hill, P. and S. Sandage. (2016) “The Promising but Challenging Case of Humility as a Positive Psychology Virtue,” Journal of Moral Education 45: 132–146. Kidd, I.J. (2011) “Pierre Duhem’s Epistemic Aims and the Intellectual Virtue of Humility: A Reply to Ivanova,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 42: 185–189. Kidd, I.J. (2014) “Humility and History,” Think: Philosophy for Everyone 13: 59–68. Kidd, I.J. (2016) “Educating for Intellectual Humility,” in J. Baehr (ed.) Intellectual Virtues and Education: Essays in Applied Virtue Epistemology, New York: Routledge, 54–70. Marcum, J. (2009) “The Epistemically Virtuous Clinician,” Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics: Philosophy of Medical Research and Practice 30: 249–265. Roberts, R. (2016) “Learning Intellectual Humility,” in J. Baehr (ed.) Intellectual Virtues and Education: Essays in Applied Virtue Epistemology, New York: Routledge, 184–201. Roberts, R. and W.J. Wood. (2003) “Humility and Epistemic Goods,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 257–279. Roberts, R. and W.J. Wood. (2007) Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Samuelson, P. and I. Church. (2015) “When Cognition Turns Vicious: Heuristics and Biases in Light of Virtue Epistemology,” Philosophical Psychology 28: 1095–1113. Samuelson, P., I. Church, M. Jarvinen, and T. Paulus. (2013) “The Science of Intellectual Humility White Paper,” 1–98. Samuelson, P., M. Jarvinen, T. Paulus, I. Church, S. Hardy, and J. Barrett. (2015) “Implicit Theories of Intellectual Virtues and Vices: A Focus on Intellectual Humility,” Journal of Positive Psychology 10: 389–406. Schwab, A. (2012) “Epistemic Humility and Medical Practice,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 37: 28–48. Snow, Nancy E. (1995) “Humility,” The Journal of Value Inquiry 29: 203–216. Spiegel, J. (2003) “The Moral Irony of Humility,” Logos 6: 131–150. Spiegel, J. (2012) “Open-Mindedness and Intellectual Humility,” Theory and Research in Education 10: 27–38.

Intellectual Humility


Stafford, S. (2010) “Intellectual Virtue in Environmental Virtue Ethics,” Environmental Ethics 32: 339–352. Tanesini, A. (2016) “Intellectual Humility as Attitude,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, https://doi. org/10.1111/phpr.12326. Taylor, G. (1985) Pride, Shame, and Guilt, New York: Oxford University Press. Whitcomb, D., H. Battaly, J. Baehr, and D. Howard-Snyder. (2017) “Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research XCIV(3): 509–539. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zagzebski, L. (2012) Epistemic Authority, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

16 Epistemic Autonomy in a Social World of Knowing Heidi Grasswick


For virtue epistemologists, who understand the traits and capacities of epistemic subjects as central to most epistemic questions, the idea of autonomy plays a significant role. Autonomy is especially important for responsibilists, who explicitly focus on those virtues that involve the exercise of epistemic agency. Understood in moral and political philosophy as “selfgovernance” or “self-determination,” epistemic autonomy, or intellectual autonomy as many phrase it (Coady 2002; Zagzebski 2012), is central to the idea of epistemic agency itself. The dominant interpretation of epistemic autonomy has been as epistemic self-reliance (Code 1991; Goldberg 2013; McMyler 2011; Zagzebski 2012). Under such an interpretation, autonomy might be understood as itself an epistemic virtue; it is a disposition that is epistemically valuable insofar as it can protect agents from an undue dependence on others for one’s beliefs. In depending on others in forming my beliefs, I make myself vulnerable to the possibility that they may be poor inquirers (perhaps simply not positioned well) or irresponsible inquirers (not employing the appropriate epistemic virtues). Even if they are engaged in robust practices of inquiry themselves, making it likely that their epistemic offerings to me are reliable, I will most often not be in a position to adequately assess my source’s reliability, and in that sense I am vulnerable. For those who consider vulnerability as antithetical to autonomy, epistemic autonomy understood as self-reliance carries some attraction.1 When one exercises their epistemic autonomy (understood as self-reliance), one engages one’s own reason, thereby obtaining an appropriate justification for one’s beliefs. Possessing a justification for oneself has commonly been taken to be a requirement of one’s possession of knowledge. Duncan Pritchard argues that “seeing for oneself” either perceptually or intellectually has epistemic value itself, because it demonstrates a “strong cognitive achievement” on the part of an individual (Pritchard 2016) in a way that relying on someone else’s testimony does not. Elizabeth Fricker holds that although self-reliance may be an impractical and unattainable ideal for humans, it is still a preferable state, noting that if I were to know things first hand rather than through testimony I would be “epistemically more secure, hence both practically more independent, and—in some abstract sense—more autonomous than I am” (E. Fricker 2006: 243). Epistemic autonomy has been closely aligned with the attribution of 196



epistemic merit, and self-reliance can appear to be an ideal way to ensure that the epistemic accomplishment is yours. Yet recent developments in social epistemology, including feminist epistemology, have called into question the viability of epistemic self-reliance, both as an epistemic ideal to strive for, and also in terms of any accurate description of how human beings go about knowing. Social epistemologists have articulated a multitude of ways in which knowing is a deeply social venture—from our dependence on the testimony of others, the cognitive division of labor, and the economies of credibility, to more general cultural trappings of our epistemic practices such as the establishment of standards of evidence and background assumptions that shape knowledge endeavors and the expectations placed on inquirers. They have also investigated the role of communities in shaping epistemic goals and modes of inquiry. Some of these theorists have been quite explicit in their critiques of the dominant place of autonomy in epistemology, seeing it as intertwined with a deeply problematic individualistic approach to knowledge (Code 1991). Strategies for those who take seriously the social nature of knowing include relinquishing any focus on individual agents as knowers, moving instead to conceptions of communities as primary epistemic agents (Nelson 1990), or putting forth analyses of knowledge production that altogether downplay the question of who the agents of knowing are (Rouse 1996). Yet there are also many social epistemologists who recognize the value of epistemic autonomy, its connection to important questions concerning epistemic agency, and its important role within a virtue epistemology. For them, what is needed is not a rejection of epistemic autonomy, but rather a reconceptualization of it that is compatible with their understandings of the deeply social nature of knowing and the possibilities for the robust participation of individuals within social practices of knowing. There are at least three distinct ways in which autonomy might remain an important concept within a social epistemology. The first is that an understanding of autonomy can help preserve and explain the role of individual epistemic agency within a social epistemology. Self-reliance may not be either possible or preferable in a social world of knowing, yet some forms of individual autonomy may be. The second is that for many social epistemologists, an important component of their theories involves the need for inquirers to recognize and respect the epistemic autonomy and agency of those other than oneself. For example, feminist epistemologists and others have argued that when social prejudices result in a speaker being denied the credibility they deserve, an epistemic injustice occurs insofar as that speaker’s capacity as a knower and contributor to inquiry is stymied (Dotson 2012; M. Fricker 2007; Medina 2013). Additionally, epistemic damage is done insofar as the circulation of knowledge between knowers is impaired. In such cases, what has gone wrong is an inappropriate denial or degradation of another’s epistemic autonomy. Respect for the autonomy of others is crucial for everyone’s ability to know well in a social world in which we rely on each other epistemically. Third, in spite of their criticisms of epistemic autonomy as self-reliance, socially minded virtue epistemologists may still find that some version of autonomy, closely connected to virtues such as “independent thinking,” is especially important to maintain in their social accounts, even as such autonomy-oriented virtues need to be balanced by more other-regarding virtues. This is especially true for those theorists working to understand how we can know well within social contexts of oppression, where at least some knowers must resist the pressures of the dominant in order to succeed epistemically. In what follows, I set out the classic sense of epistemic autonomy as self-reliance, and outline one of the deepest criticisms of this view, as developed by Lorraine Code. From here, I look to the resources of both feminists who have developed conceptions of “relational autonomy” and social epistemologists who have adapted the Kantian understanding of autonomy to find ways of understanding how individual epistemic autonomy can both


Heidi Grasswick

cohere with various social dimensions of knowing, and serve an important epistemological role. I then turn to considerations of the importance of autonomy-related virtues within the specific context of oppression. My discussion will be limited to the idea of individual epistemic autonomy within a social epistemology, although others have argued that epistemic autonomy also can be fruitfully applied to communities themselves (Zagzebski 2012). These feminist and social conceptions of epistemic autonomy are compatible with a variety of ways in which we are epistemically dependent on each other, and in that regard, we remain epistemically vulnerable to others. But they also account for the ways in which individuals can responsibly participate in and contribute to socially embedded epistemic endeavors, and at times exercise their autonomy and autonomy-related virtues in resistance to epistemically problematic social practices. 1 6 .2 S E L F-R ELI ANC E AND C R I TI C I S MS OF E P IS T E MIC A U T ON OMY

Much of modern epistemology has appealed to the ideal of self-reliance by committing to what Sanford Goldberg has called “Cartesian epistemic autonomy.” According to this view, an epistemically autonomous subject is one who judges and decides for herself, where her judgments and decisions are reached on the basis of reasons which she has in her possession, where she appreciates the significance of these reasons, and where (if queried) she could articulate the bearing of her reasons on the judgment or decision in question. (Goldberg 2013: 169) Goldberg is clear that this does not necessarily imply that the epistemically autonomous agent is never informationally dependent on others; I might rely on others’ testimony for access to true information, but as long as I rely on my own evidence and reasoning for the credibility of the testifier, I could still be understood as being epistemically independent in the way that the standard view of Cartesian epistemic autonomy would require (2013: 170).2 Even if this ideal of epistemic autonomy can be understood as allowing us to know through testimony (an important element of many social epistemologies), the view requires full individual reasoning to “get the epistemic goods,” and as such has come under fire by those who criticize what they take to be an undue commitment to individualism in the western tradition of epistemology and its accompanying ideal of epistemic autonomy. As Goldberg points out, the view of Cartesian epistemic autonomy does not permit the assessment of one’s epistemic work to depend on features of other people, such as their reasons for belief (Goldberg 2013: 178). Instead, one’s reasons must be fully autonomous, ensuring that rational cognitive agents are solely responsible for the justification of their beliefs (McMyler 2011: 6). This position is problematic for those who understand human epistemic lives to be deeply epistemically interdependent. Feminist epistemologist Lorraine Code, an early contributor to the recent wave of responsibilist virtue epistemologists, has been one of the most prominent and thorough critics of epistemic autonomy in both its descriptive and prescriptive senses. Code’s critique of epistemic autonomy involves, but is not centrally focused on, a rejection of self-reliance as an epistemic virtue. Rather, it targets the underlying view of subjectivity and the epistemic project upon which both the ideal and the virtue of epistemic autonomy as self-reliance depends. According to Code, in spite of their differences, traditional conceptions of moral autonomy and epistemic autonomy share a model of subjectivity in which self-sufficiency and



the possession and use of rationality are unduly privileged (1991: 110). She notes that the individual autonomous knowers who produce the kind of knowledge claims that epistemologists are fond of citing (such as the simple observational claim that “the cat is on the mat”) are “the same abstract individuals who are the heroes of mainstream moral discourse” (1991: 111). They are abstract in that they are removed from their social contexts, and whatever social differences there are between them that result from those social contexts are deemed irrelevant for epistemic purposes. Their epistemic autonomy lies precisely in their possession of and use of reason—their ability to govern their beliefs by way of reason. It is this shared feature of reason that permits epistemologists to consider epistemic agents “generic” or interchangeable—that is, epistemically undifferentiated. Code is quick to point out that there are significant variations in how this ideal of epistemic autonomy has been portrayed throughout the history of philosophy; however, she maintains that there is “a constant thread of belief in the importance of detachment, impartiality, neutrality, and cognitive self-reliance for knowers worthy of that name” (Code 1991: 112). Code’s criticism is one of epistemology having paid too much attention to self-reliance— giving it too much reverence3—as it conceptualizes individual knowers as both capable of and normatively bound to rely on their own reason in seeking knowledge well. Code is skeptical that this focus on individualism can give an accurate description of how inquirers seek knowledge within a social world, and she is deeply concerned about the effects of holding up an ideal of self-sufficiency and individualism in answer to normative questions regarding how we can know well. This “perversion of autonomy” (Code 2006) results in an epistemological focus that leaves out the possibility of any analysis of the social dynamics and politics of knowledge that she and many other feminist and social epistemologists believe inquirers must negotiate as they seek to know well. Social epistemologists such as Code find that the vision of Cartesian epistemic autonomy has been detrimental to understanding the “on-theground” challenges that inquirers face within socially embedded epistemic practices. To a certain extent, the ideal of Cartesian epistemic autonomy and the view of subjectivity supporting it have distracted epistemologists from such challenges, and offered few tools for evaluating them. 1 6 .3 THE NEED FO R A SO C I A L VIRT U E E P IS T E MOLOG Y

For the most part, Code’s target is contemporary analytic epistemologists, who define the field of epistemology by the primacy of questions concerning the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge; their focus is on the status of particular beliefs, not on how epistemic subjects engage in inquiry. As a responsibilist, Code is more interested in how well an epistemology can answer questions concerning not the conditions of knowledge per se, but how inquirers can “know well” in their lives. Yet the individualism that Code finds in contemporary analytic epistemology remains in much of responsibilist virtue theory, though it takes a slightly different form. Responsibilist virtue theorists who have turned away from a focus on the conditions of knowledge still tend to employ a vision of individuals as self-sufficient knowers. Responsibilism itself does not represent a renouncement of individualism. It is worth noting that when we look to the work of contemporary responsibilist virtue theorists, the character virtues often emphasized are certainly compatible with (if not indicative of) a very individualistic sense of epistemic agency: virtues such as intellectual courage, rigor, open-mindedness, responsiveness to evidence, and impartiality. These are virtues that individuals can have on their own, they are useful in serving their own epistemic goals (i.e., fostering true beliefs in themselves), and they do not require the cooperation of


Heidi Grasswick

other epistemic agents. In much of the literature, there is often surprisingly little attempt to situate these virtues in social contexts,4 or consider dispositions that might be important for healthy epistemic interactions and relations between inquirers. Jason Kawall, for example, has criticized virtue theorists (and many social epistemologists for that matter) for failing to give adequate attention to “other-regarding” virtues such as honesty, sincerity, integrity, and creativity—virtues that may assist others in gaining current knowledge, or assist others in generating knowledge that would be new to the community (Kawall 2002). Kawall notes that such other-regarding virtues are important both because they can be generative of knowledge in others, and generative of knowledge for oneself. They are still virtues of individual agents, but their epistemic good stems from what results they can evoke in others. Kawall’s attention to the possibility of including virtues of individuals that would contribute to knowledge in others is an important step in developing a virtue epistemology compatible with the insights of social and feminist epistemologies. Such epistemologies emphasize interactions with others as an important source of one’s own knowledge, and recognize that when one participates in practices of knowledge production, it is not always with the end goal of producing knowledge for oneself. One repercussion of relinquishing the legacy of an ideal of epistemic autonomy as self-reliance is that it helps open new possibilities for understanding a broader range of epistemic virtues, many of which may foster the accomplishment of shared epistemic goals within communities and groups of individuals. Importantly, though, it remains for us to consider the role that an alternative version of autonomy might hold in such a socially informed virtue epistemology. 1 6. 4 R ELATI O NAL AUTO NOMY: RE S OU RCE S FROM FEM I NI ST M O R A L T H E ORIS T S

As social epistemologists seek to develop alternative conceptions of epistemic autonomy that cohere with their social accounts of inquiry, a helpful resource can be found in the literature on “relational autonomy” first developed by feminist moral theorists. Early on, feminists both recognized the value of individual autonomy, and had concerns about it. They appealed to the value of personal and moral autonomy as a way of understanding some of the threats of oppression; conditions of oppression interfere with the ability of some to exercise autonomous choices, and the goals of emancipation include the laudable goal of creating conditions for all individuals to attain an autonomous or self-directed life, including a self-directed intellectual life. Yet, many of these theorists also shared Code’s skepticism of autonomy and its links to an unrealistic model of a highly individualistic subjectivity that often fails to account for the challenges of exercising agency (moral, personal, or epistemic) in a complex social world infused with power relations. In response, they developed what have come to be known as conceptions of “relational autonomy” (Mackenzie and Stoljar 2000). Here, I focus on two forms of relational autonomy that can be useful for social epistemologists seeking to reconcile the value of epistemic autonomy with social ways of knowing. 16.4.1 Developmental or Causal Relational Autonomy

One way in which feminists have argued that autonomy is relational is by pointing out the extent to which we require a history of certain kinds of social relations and interactions in order to develop our core capacities of autonomy. This has been referred to as a “developmental” or “causal” sense of relational autonomy. Annette Baier’s work on second persons has been instrumental in the development of this view and is cited often by those articulating



a developmental or causal account. As Baier famously holds: “A person, perhaps, is best seen as one who was long enough dependent upon other persons to acquire the essential arts of personhood. Persons essentially are second persons, who grow up with other persons” (Baier 1985: 84). She uses the term “second persons” in recognition of our dependence on others in order to acknowledge ourselves as reflective conscious beings: “Through participation in discourse, through being addressed and learning to address, the child moves from consciousness to self-consciousness, and full Cartesian consciousness” (1985: 89). Here, full Cartesian consciousness is reflective consciousness. Recognizing that autonomous beings do not just spring from nowhere, but in fact develop out of relations with other human beings who care for them and teach them the arts of personhood, has important epistemological ramifications. For example, if one is deprived of the right kinds of relations, the successful development of one’s autonomous capacities may be threatened. In the case of epistemic autonomy, fostering nurturing epistemic environments where we can safely trust others to gain baseline knowledge through testimony, as well as test out and develop skills of how to sort through evidence critically, will be very important, especially for our children. Family and community contexts will be important environments for this work, and educational contexts will also serve as an important source of epistemic skills for agents who need to learn how to sort through evidence and negotiate different points of view. Inadequate access to education could threaten the level of epistemic autonomy that some may be able to achieve. Goldberg (2013), for example, notes that one of the goals of education must be to increase the critical skills of students so that they may learn to handle information management challenges across a broad range of social contexts, some of which will be much more hostile than a protected school environment (where much can be taken on trust in one’s teachers). The developmental account serves to point out that certain social conditions are required in order to allow for intellectually autonomous individuals to form, identifying an important way in which individuals are epistemically dependent on their communities and vulnerable to them. But this developmental account is also (at least in theory) compatible with a view that once fully formed, epistemic agents will be able to be self-reliant and should strive to be so, exercising their epistemic capacities on their own as they travel along the road of a successful epistemic life. Among those who find this vision incompatible with the realities of a deeply social epistemic life, many have coupled the developmental account with a stronger constitutive account of relational autonomy, arguing that fundamentally, the exercise of epistemic autonomy involves our relations with others. 16.4.2 Constitutive Relational Autonomy

Beyond the developmental account, the second persons literature has also been used to support a “constitutive” sense of relational autonomy, according to which at least some (if not most) of one’s autonomous capacities involve engaging with others, and modeling one’s solitary thinking on engagements with others. On the constitutive model, our epistemic dependence on each other runs deep: much of what allows us to be successful as knowers, and many of the very activities of inquiry, involve being responsive to other knowers. Reasoned inquiry is dialogical. As Code puts it, “a knowledge claimant positions herself within a set of discursive possibilities which she may accept, criticize, or challenge; positions herself in relation to other people, to their responses, criticisms, agreements and contributions” (1991: 122). While much of this may occur in actual dialogue with others, Code’s point is that the second-person thinking developed in ourselves also follows this dialogical model, even when it is engaged in solitude. Reasoning itself requires other viewpoints and


Heidi Grasswick

possibilities to engage with and at times push against. In this manner, Code argues that when we employ a “second-person” conception of subjectivity, the production of knowledge comes to be represented as “a communal, often cooperative though sometimes competitive, activity” (Code 1991: 121). This constitutive reading of relational autonomy is a far cry from the Cartesian epistemic autonomy that we began with. No longer does autonomy refer to self-reliance in terms of having reasons of one’s own in isolation from others, and bearing full responsibility for one’s epistemic work. But nor does it erase individuals. It continues to capture a core feature of epistemic autonomy: the capacity to exercise one’s individual epistemic agency and contribute to inquiry, now described in a way that involves our relations with others. As Andrea Westlund notes, constitutive versions of relational autonomy “highlight the social dimensions of individual agency” (Westlund 2012: 61). We situate our reasons in relation to actual and potential responses or criticisms from others. The argument for this relational conception of autonomy does not simply depend on the empirical fact that we know through and with others, but also involves a certain social understanding of the very processes of reasoning and reflection. As Westlund puts the point, autonomy is constitutively relational not because it requires the agent to stand in particular kinds of relations to others, but because the kind of reflectiveness it requires of the agent is itself dialogical in form: the autonomous agent has a disposition to hold herself answerable, for elements of her motivational hierarchy, in the face of critical challenges posed by others. (Westlund 2012: 65–66) Returning specifically to the epistemic realm, Code’s gloss on the dialogical nature of inquiry and critical thought suggests a view whereby epistemic autonomy is relational insofar as one sees oneself as answerable to others, and the reasons one provides as responsive to those of others. One exercises epistemic autonomy by adopting this stance of accountability toward the reasons one employs for one’s beliefs, by being willing to answer to the criticisms and objections of others. This constitutive reading of relational autonomy offers hope for socially minded epistemologists to reconcile epistemic autonomy with the social nature of knowing. It explicitly connects the possibility of individual epistemic agency to interactions with and dependence on others, saving autonomy from the problems of a self-reliant model. On the constitutive model of relational autonomy, inquirers remain vulnerable to others for the epistemic quality of their inquiry, yet there remains a meaningful sense in which they can exercise their autonomy and take responsibility for their inquiries.


Several epistemologists have turned to the Kantian distinction between autonomy and heteronomy in an attempt to rescue epistemic autonomy from the engrained idea of selfreliance. Jesús Vega Encabo, for example, reminds us that there is a viable notion of epistemic autonomy for which its contrast is not dependency, but rather heteronomy (Encabo 2008: 55). On this conception, self-sufficiency is not what it means to be epistemically autonomous at all; epistemic dependency is very much compatible with epistemic autonomy, and self-sufficiency in some cases runs counter to epistemic autonomy.



An important contributor to this discussion is Linda Zagzebski, who takes up the specific challenge of reconciling epistemic autonomy with the epistemic authority we often grant to others (Zagzebski 2012). For Zagzebski, epistemic autonomy is linked to self-conscious reflection, as contrasted with the two Kantian forms of heteronomy by which one is either unduly influenced by external forces, or allows oneself to be governed by internal inclinations. Either way, in instances of heteronomy, one fails to be self-consciously reflective. Zagzebski understands the basic norm of autonomy to be conscientiousness, the property of exercising my faculties in the best way I can to make the outputs of those faculties fit their objects—to make my beliefs true, my desires of the desirable, my emotions appropriate to their intentional objects. (2012: 230) For Zagzebski, then, epistemic self-reliance is actually incompatible with autonomy, because in fulfilling conscientiousness and doing the best I can, I may need to defer to another epistemic authority (2012: 235). Zagzebski notes that from the outside, autonomy requires that others treat me as an autonomous being and do not encroach on me and my reflections (avoiding the first form of heteronomy); but from the inside perspective of the agent, autonomy often involves “the choice of interference, done intelligently” (2012: 236). I may choose to defer to the epistemic authority of another, relinquishing self-reliance in the moment. Yet when this choice is undertaken reflectively, it avoids both forms of heteronomy and remains autonomous. Zagzebski’s conception of autonomy as self-conscious reflection remains closely tied to the highly individualistic view of subjectivity that Code understood as connected to the problems of autonomy as self-reliance. Yet, Zagzebski’s work demonstrates that one can move away from the idea of autonomy as self-reliance and reconcile epistemic autonomy with at least our dependency on others’ testimony without having to rework epistemic subjectivity altogether. But, there are also theorists using the autonomy/heteronomy divide whose work appears to share some of the same concerns and strategies as found in the work on relational autonomy. Jesús Vega Encabo explicitly uses the autonomy/heteronomy distinction in order to show how we can be epistemically autonomous while being significantly dependent on others. Encabo does not explicitly commit to the Kantian idea of self-legislation, but rather conceptualizes an agent as autonomous when the agent “reveals certain aspects of his identity through his own acts” (2008: 55). For Encabo, this requires that autonomous agents have a “certain stability and appropriate integration of (their) . . . faculties and competences,” and that they be able to adopt a certain epistemic standing toward their achievements, understanding themselves as knowers who weight their “own abilities in each epistemic situation” (2008: 55). Encabo holds that a state of heteronomy may ensue if either of these conditions is interfered with. For example, returning to the developmental or causal view of relational autonomy set out above, if social conditions prevent one from developing either the necessary stability and integration of one’s faculties, or the ability to see oneself as a knower, then a state of heteronomy would result. Similarly, Encabo notes that when others treat us in ways that result in a loss of confidence in our faculties (by denying us the credibility we deserve or inculcating self-doubt in ourselves), heteronomy can result. In this way, our autonomy can be undermined by a systematic degrading of credibility; to a certain extent then, autonomy needs to be sustained by social relations in addition to being formed through social relations. Encabo argues that when epistemic autonomy is sustained by social relations, we are able to inquire autonomously while operating under conditions of strong epistemic dependence (2008: 56).


Heidi Grasswick

One of the most interesting adaptations of the autonomy/heteronomy divide that opens up possibilities for reconciling autonomy with a thorough social reading of inquiry can be found in Catherine Elgin’s work. Elgin maintains the classic Kantian distinction between an autonomous agent who “makes the laws that bind her” and a heteronomous subject who “is bound by constraints that he neither makes nor endorses” (Elgin 2013: 140). In the case of the epistemic realm, she proposes an “epistemic imperative” (along the lines of the categorical imperative) according to which “an epistemic agent should believe only considerations that she could advocate and accept as a legislating member of a realm of epistemic ends” (Elgin 2013: 144). But importantly, Elgin stresses the plurality of these legislating members. That is to say, one exercises epistemic autonomy by committing to beliefs, reasons, and methods that one takes to be capable of furthering the epistemic goals of oneself and others, and understanding these commitments as holding weight for other legislating members as well. Like the constitutive view of relational autonomy, Elgin’s view connects autonomy with the need to be answerable to other inquiring agents as we commit together to the ways we think will best serve our epistemic goals. Additionally, Elgin differs from a strict Kantian in that she refers to specific and existing epistemic communities who share epistemic commitments that bind and guide their members in their epistemic pursuits, not an abstract community of all rational beings. Elgin’s view that one exercises one’s autonomy through “making and reflectively endorsing commitments” (2013: 144) allows that autonomous agents can responsibly use the methods and practices that they have inherited from their communities. We do not need to have created the epistemic tools to which we commit. It is enough to avoid heteronomy if we reflectively endorse those whose origin lies outside of us, finding them adequate at serving our and others’ epistemic goals and binding ourselves with our fellow inquirers in the process. An important repercussion of Elgin’s framework is that it also explains the importance of epistemic autonomy in resisting features of our social epistemic practices that fail to adequately serve one’s community’s epistemic goals. In spite of the social sources of many of the practices, reasons, and methods epistemic agents use, these agents can still exercise some autonomous control by either endorsing or refusing to endorse such epistemic tools. As such, Elgin’s is a view of epistemic autonomy that can be of use to a wide range of social epistemologists, including those who maintain that many features of our epistemic practices are deeply culturally and socially embedded in ways that may not always serve us well. It is particularly useful for feminist epistemologists who understand many of our epistemic practices to be corrupted by systems of oppression and thus in need of transformation. Individual agents acting autonomously can serve as one of the mechanisms through which epistemic practices can be disrupted. 1 6 .6 AUTO NO M Y-R ELATED VI RT U E S IN S OCIA L CON T E XT S : THE C ASE O F OP P RE S S ION

One of the effects of coming to terms with the many social dimensions of knowing is that an adequate analysis of epistemic virtues may need to take into account the particulars of an inquirer’s social context. I focus here on the work of feminist epistemologists and their specific attention to the social context of oppression, considering the implications of their work for autonomy-related virtues. I refer to a collection of autonomy-related virtues here in order to capture several related characteristics of inquirers that can be understood as expressing or supporting their autonomy.



Nancy Daukas notes that a responsibilist virtue epistemology might be very attractive to feminist epistemologists, since when developed in particular ways, it has the potential to cohere with their three core commitments. First, feminist epistemologists insist that the point of view of epistemic agency be taken up, recognizing that these agents are situated in their particularity. This focus on agency suggests an immediate kinship with responsibilists. Second, feminist epistemologists insist that epistemic questions be taken up with attention to the specific context of inquiry, especially with respect to the epistemic relevance of social structures. Third, feminist epistemologists expect their work to contribute to both descriptive analysis and guidance for the transformation of the epistemic aspects of oppression (Daukas 2011: 48). Applying these commitments to our discussion, it appears that the autonomy-related virtues may play a more or less important role depending on the particular social context and the inquirer’s social position within that context. For example, José Medina suggests that systems of oppression affect the dominant and the oppressed differently. He argues that particular virtues and vices are more or less likely to be developed in subjects depending on their social position relative to the forces of oppression. Most relevant to our concern with autonomy, he notes that the epistemic vice of “epistemic insecurity or lack of self-confidence on cognitive matters” is more likely to appear among oppressed subjects than privileged subjects (2013: 40). The oppressed can suffer repeated exposure to biases, stereotypes concerning their epistemic abilities, and epistemic injustices through which others refuse to attribute proper epistemic worth to them or consistently misunderstand their contributions. These experiences can work to undermine the epistemic confidence and self-trust of the subjugated, and potentially even their own sense of epistemic agency. At the same time, oppression has a tendency to over-inflate the confidence and self-trust of those who enjoy positions of privilege and who experience regular reinforcement of their views from others, leaving them fewer opportunities to learn of their limitations. This places the privileged in danger of developing the vice of epistemic arrogance (Medina 2013: 31). As Karen Jones notes, because self-trust is created and sustained in interactions with others, it is “porous to social power” (2012: 245). Those in privileged positions can end up having an inflated sense of their epistemic skills and reliability, while those in subjugated positions can lack security in the same. These observations suggest that in contexts of oppression, autonomy-related virtues such as independent thinking, confidence and security in one’s own thought, and self-trust will be especially important for those in subjugated positions to develop if they are to have the ability to resist many epistemic dimensions of oppression. Additional autonomy-related virtues may also be especially important for the oppressed to develop. Though his discussion does not explicitly concern specific social and epistemic contexts such as oppression, C.A.J. Coady argues that the traits of independence, intellectual self-creation, and intellectual integrity, while not identical to the idea of epistemic autonomy, are each fundamentally involved in its exercise within a social world of knowing (Coady 2002). Independence manifests itself by facing putative information with a degree of skepticism, ensuring that an agent is not dominated by the ideas of others. This will be an especially important virtue for the oppressed; the ideas of the oppressors tend to dominant social discourse. Intellectual self-creation involves the capacity to assess what is important and what intellectual priorities an agent ought to pursue. These priorities might be specific to an agent, making it important that she be able to identify these as her own, and not be pushed into following the epistemic priorities of others, especially those of the dominant. Finally, intellectual integrity captures a willingness to stand for truth in one’s epistemic activities, even when others pressure one in other directions. Each of these virtues takes on a new importance once we understand epistemic agents as constantly managing inputs from other knowers. In the context of oppression, such virtues are especially valuable for the subjugated.


Heidi Grasswick

Even the classic idea of autonomy as a virtue of self-reliance could be interpreted as having particular value for those subjugated within a context of oppression. Practicing self-reliance could help the oppressed guard against internalization of the toxic perspective of the dominant, particularly with respect to their own self-understanding. A plausible interpretation here is that such a virtue of self-reliance would have a limited domain, and more importantly would qualify only as a “burdened virtue” (Tessman 2005), virtuous only in allowing oneself to struggle and survive within a very hostile context of oppression, but failing as a virtue in more favorable contexts.5 In this regard, it is unlike the other autonomy-related virtues I outlined above, which, although I have argued are especially important for the oppressed, are also virtues that are conducive to a wide variety of epistemic contexts, and do not run counter to a deeply social world of knowing shot through with epistemic dependencies. These virtues are easier to balance with other virtues (open-mindedness, humility, curiosity) that are needed to ensure ample contributions from others in a social world of knowing. A challenge remains regarding how the oppressed would be able to develop any of these autonomy-related virtues under conditions of oppression. As we have seen, feminist work on relational autonomy would reject the idea that the oppressed could simply have these virtues naturally or “will” them into existence on their own. However, the work on relational autonomy is compatible with autonomy-related virtues being developed in smaller communities of resistance. Feminist methods of consciousness-raising, through which the subjugated share their experiences of oppression and come to understand the social forces that shape them, offer an example of tools through which oppressed agents can develop more confidence and security in their own thinking, and this can empower them as autonomous inquirers. 1 6. 7 THE PR O SPEC TS FO R E P IS T E MIC A U T ON OMY I N A SO C I AL VI R TUE E P IS T E MOLOG Y

Though the conception of epistemic autonomy as self-reliance and epistemic independence is quite unworkable for the vast majority of social epistemologies, feminist work on relational autonomy and the work of virtue epistemologists like Elgin and Encabo who focus on the autonomy/heteronomy distinction fare substantially better. These conceptions of epistemic autonomy serve as important tools in understanding the continued role of individual epistemic agency within a social world of knowing. Additionally, the conceptions of epistemic autonomy outlined here account for the important role of other autonomous individuals in our epistemic pursuits. They build in a recognition of others’ autonomy. My own autonomous reasoning is dependent on a recognition of others’ epistemic autonomy, insofar as I need to be accountable and answerable to others. Such conceptions provide further tools for social epistemologists who attempt to analyze the nature and scope of the damage that can result when a person is not appropriately acknowledged as an autonomous knower due to social prejudices or other social barriers to epistemic dialogue. Finally, my discussion of the context of oppression illustrates both the importance and the challenges of developing autonomy-related virtues such as independent thinking, confidence, and self-trust for those who occupy oppressed positions within society. Autonomyrelated epistemic virtues are crucial for resisting the epistemic pressures that come from the pervasiveness of the perspective of the dominant class. But those very same pressures make it challenging for the oppressed to develop these virtues. Much of my discussion has focused on showing how autonomy primarily operates in epistemology as a higher-level concept than that of a virtue, functioning to capture and



describe the epistemic contribution of agents. Elgin, for example, understands the epistemic imperative at the core of her conception of autonomy to underwrite the virtues; it justifies and explains why certain dispositions are virtuous (2013: 150). Yet Elgin notes that some of those virtues are especially closely connected to ideas of how we maintain our epistemic autonomy throughout our social lives. According to Elgin, some virtues fall directly out of the epistemic imperative and her idea of autonomy as reflective endorsement, while others fall out of an understanding of our epistemic situation. For example, open-mindedness is a virtue because of the need to reflective endorse only what others would also endorse, with reflective endorsement forming the core of her conception of autonomy. On the other hand, the source of a virtue such as fallibilism stems from coming to understand our epistemic situation as one in which we learn more and adapt our beliefs accordingly (2013: 145). At this level of underwriting the virtues, epistemic autonomy has an important place within social epistemology, explaining the role of individual agency in a social world of knowing. At the same time, we have seen how epistemic autonomy also plays a role at the level of the virtues themselves. As a virtue, autonomy is sometimes interpreted as “self-reliance,” and sometimes more along the lines of “independent thinking.” I have argued that on a social view of knowing, the prospects are very limited for the self-reliance interpretation. But this is not so for the “independent thinking” interpretation. Perhaps the best way to understand autonomy at the level of virtues is as a collection of autonomy-related virtues that capture the ways in which autonomy will be operationalized: through traits of independent thinking, confidence, self-trust, intellectual integrity, and self-creation. Taken together, these traits can help protect individual knowers from the domination of the ideas of others, as individual agents negotiate their way through a social world of knowing.6 (Related Chapters: 2, 17, 18, 27, 31.) NOTE S 1 Catriona Mackenzie notes the historical conceptual opposition of vulnerability and moral autonomy, though she herself rejects this opposition (2014: 34). 2 Goldberg himself is particularly interested in the irreconcilability of this view with the important ways that we must, as children, first be educated through a reliance on testimony without anywhere near the kind of independent reasons that this Cartesian epistemic autonomy would call for. But he acknowledges that many who have held up this strict ideal of autonomy have been willing to restrict its scope to cognitively healthy, mature humans. 3 Mackenzie and Stoljar also note that Code’s critique targets primarily the cultural place of this autonomous ideal of the self (Mackenzie and Stoljar 2000). 4 With the rise of the situationist concerns for virtue epistemology, attention to social context is increasing (Alfano 2012; Fairweather and Alfano 2017). 5 I thank Heather Battaly for this point. 6 I am immensely grateful for Heather Battaly’s insightful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft, as well as conversations on epistemic autonomy and social epistemology with members of the University of Waterloo Philosophy Department. REFERE N C E S Alfano, M. (2012) “Expanding the Situationist Challenge to Responsibilist Virtue Epistemology,” The Philosophical Quarterly 62(247): 223–249. Anderson, E. (2012) “Epistemic Justice as a Virtue of Social Institutions,” Social Epistemology 26(2): 163–173. Baier, A. (1985) Postures of the Mind: Essays on Mind and Morals, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.


Heidi Grasswick

Coady, C.A.J. (2002) “Testimony and Intellectual Autonomy,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33(2): 355–372. Code, L. (1991) What Can She Know?: Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Code, L. (2006) Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Location, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Daukas, N. (2011) “Altogether Now: A Virtue-Theoretic Approach to Pluralism in Feminist Epistemology,” in H.E. Grasswick (ed.) Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science: Power in Knowledge, Dordrecht: Springer, 45–67. Dotson, K. (2012) “A Cautionary Tale: On Limiting Epistemic Oppression,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 33(1): 24–47. Elgin, C.Z. (2013) “Epistemic Agency,” Theory and Research in Education 11(2): 135–152. Encabo, J. V. (2008) “Epistemic Merit, Autonomy, and Testimony,” Theoria: An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science 23(61): 45–56. Fairweather, A. and M. Alfano (eds.). (2017) Epistemic Situationism, New York: Oxford University Press. Fricker, E. (2006) “Testimony and Epistemic Autonomy,” in J. Lackey and E. Sosa (eds.) The Epistemology of Testimony, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 225–250. Fricker, M. (2007) Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Goldberg, S. (2013) “Epistemic Dependence in Testimonial Belief, in the Classroom and Beyond,” Journal of Philosophy of Education 47(2): 168–186. Jones, K. (2012) “The Politics of Intellectual Self-Trust,” Social Epistemology 26(2): 237–251. Kawall, J. (2002) “Other-Regarding Epistemic Virtues,” Ratio 15(3): 257–275. Mackenzie, C. (2014) “The Importance of Relational Autonomy and Capabilities for an Ethics of Vulnerability,” in C. Mackenzie, W. Rogers, and S. Dodds (eds.) Vulnerability, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mackenzie, C. and N. Stoljar (eds.). (2000) Relational Autonomy: Feminist Perspectives on Autonomy, Agency, and the Social Self, Oxford: Oxford University Press. McMyler, B. (2011) Testimony, Trust, and Authority, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Medina, J. (2013) The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Nelson, L.H. (1990) Who Knows: From Quine to a Feminist Empiricism, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Pritchard, D. (2016) “Seeing It for Oneself: Perceptual Knowledge, Understanding, and Intellectual Autonomy,” Episteme 13(1): 29–42. Rouse, J. (1996) Engaging Science: How to Understand Its Practices Philosophically, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Tessman, L. (2005) Burdened Virtues: Virtue Ethics for Liberatory Struggles, New York: Oxford University Press. Westlund, A.C. (2012) “Autonomy in Relation,” in S.L. Crasnow and A.M. Superson (eds.) Out From the Shadows: Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy, New York: Oxford University Press, 59–81. Zagzebski, L.T. (2012) Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief, New York: Oxford University Press.

17 The Epistemic Virtue of Deference Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij


The majority of virtue theorists have taken their cue from Aristotle. By contrast, I will be working with a consequentialist virtue theory, which defines virtues exclusively in terms of dispositions producing beneficial consequences. While consequentialist virtue theories are not altogether without proponents, they are also not the norm, which is why I will be outlining the relevant type of consequentialism, starting, in section 17.2, with David Hume’s virtue theory. I start with Hume not because he is right about the relationship between virtue and consequences, but because the manner in which he is wrong points us toward a more plausible theory. I’ll argue that we find a more plausible theory in John Stuart Mill and Julia Driver’s work—a theory I’ll use, in section 17.3, to outline a consequentialist account of epistemic virtue. That account will then be put to use in defining the virtue that will be our main object of study: the epistemic virtue of deference. We manifest an epistemic virtue of deference to the extent that we are disposed to defer to, and only to, people who speak the truth. In section 17.4, I’ll then look at what informed sources can do to bring about deference, and thereby instill virtues of deference, in light of social psychological evidence on deference and compliance. As it turns out, one way of doing this is by way of what I, in section 17.5, will refer to as a complementary epistemic virtue of lending an ear, that in turn will be related to philosophical work on open-mindedness. Finally, section 17.6 will respond to two concerns about the present account to the effect that it sanctions gullibility and is manipulative. 1 7 .2 V I R TUE AND C O NSEQ UENCE : H U ME , MILL, A N D D RIVE R

Hume (1975/1751: 270) defined virtue as “a quality of the mind agreeable or approved of by every one who considers or contemplates it” (261, fn. 1). There is something quite attractive about this characterization. Most of us want to be virtuous, and Hume can account for this fact easily. Indeed, he defines virtue as a quality of mind we find agreeable. What we find 209


Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij

agreeable about these qualities is, Hume proposes, often a matter of the utility that arises from their exercise. For example, in the case of justice, “reflections on the beneficial consequences of this virtue are the sole foundation of its merit” (183). In the case of benevolence, “a part, at least, of its merit arises from its tendency to promote the interests of our species, and bestow happiness on human society” (181). Why take some virtues to only partly be a function of utility? Hume holds this position because he thinks we can exhibit virtues in excess, as in the case where someone “carries his attention for others beyond the proper bounds” and we “cannot forbear applying the epithet of blame, when we discover a sentiment, which rises to a degree, that is hurtful” (258). At the same time, the character’s “noble elevation” (258) will prevent us from withdrawing our approval altogether, with the result that it doesn’t cease to be a virtue, despite not being useful. So, in the final analysis, what matters for whether something qualifies as a virtue is whether we approve of the underlying mental dispositions. In the case of some virtues, such as justice, beneficial consequences are the only relevant factor to our patterns of approval; in other cases, they’re not. And in all cases, virtue is to Hume a matter of what qualities of the mind we, as a matter of psychological fact, approve of (partly or wholly) on account of whether they take them to be useful, not what qualities actually are useful. In fact, only if we read Hume in this manner are we able to make sense of how he thinks we come to know what the virtues are. He claims the philosopher needs only enter into his own breast for a moment, and consider whether or not he should desire to have this or that quality ascribed to him, and whether such or such an imputation would proceed a friend or an enemy. (Hume 1975/1751: 174) Taking a method of looking inwards to be a reliable method of identifying the virtues only makes sense if virtue is to be defined psychologically, as opposed to with reference to external facts about what’s conducive to what. It’s all the more puzzling, then, that Hume also seems to believe that our judgments about virtue or vice can change in light of what we learn through experience about actual consequences: wherever disputes arise . . . concerning the bounds of duty, the question cannot, by any means, be decided with greater certainty, than by ascertaining, on any side, the true interests of mankind. If any false opinion, embraced from appearances, has been found to prevail; as soon as farther experience and sounder reasoning have given us juster notions of human affairs, we retract our first sentiment, and adjust anew the boundaries of good and evil. (Hume 1975/1751: 180) The only way to square this passage with Hume’s psychological account of virtue is by reading the final part of it literally, as involving an actual adjustment of the boundaries of good and evil. That is, when our sentiments change, so do the boundaries between virtue and vice. But that seems implausible. When we through “farther experience or sounder reasoning” realize that some disposition is not useful, contrary to what we thought before, what we’re dealing with is not a situation where the boundary between virtue and vice actually shifts as a result, but one on which it has turned out that we were mistaken about where that boundary lies in the first place. But if we go that route, then we’re in effect rejecting Hume’s account of

The Epistemic Virtue of Deference


virtue, in favor of one that takes virtue to be a matter not of what we may or may not approve of as a matter of psychological fact, but what’s worthy of approval—or what, as Hume puts it, is “entitled to the affection and regard of everyone” (1975/1751: 169–170; emphasis added)— on account of being useful. Along that route is, moreover, where we find consequentialists about virtue like John Stuart Mill and Julia Driver. Driver (2001) defines a virtue as “a character trait that systematically produces a preponderance of good” (xvii). Mill (2001/1861) suggests that “actions and dispositions are only virtuous because they promote another end than virtue” (36). For Mill, a hedonist, the end in question is happiness. Unlike in the case of Hume’s theory, consequentialist virtue theory is clearly compatible with people being mistaken about virtue in a variety of ways without that changing the boundary between virtue and vice. For example, Mill notes that many people value virtues for their own sake, independently of their consequences. But, he maintains, utilitarians can account for that because they not only place virtue at the very head of the things which are good as means to the ultimate end, but . . . also recognize as a psychological fact the possibility of its being, to the individual, a good in itself, without looking to any end beyond it. (2001/1861: 36; emphasis added) As such, Mill makes a distinction between valuing something for its own sake, and something being valuable for its own sake—and, on Mill’s utilitarianism, only happiness is valuable for its own sake. Two more things should be noted about consequentialist virtue theory, as it compares to Aristotelian theories, and to virtue ethical theories more generally. As for the latter, in order to qualify as a virtue ethicist, one typically has to define what makes an action right in terms of virtue. For example, a virtue ethicist might hold that I should refrain from lying simply because lying is dishonest (see, e.g., Crisp and Slote 1997), or because refraining from lying is what the virtuous person would do or recommend (e.g., Hursthouse 1999; see Johnson 2003 for a criticism). By contrast, in operating on the consequentialist model of the good being prior to the right, Mill reverses the order of definition, and defines virtue, and right action, in terms of good consequences. So, on Mill’s view, it’s right to refrain from lying if doing so has (maximally) good consequences, and honesty is a virtue to the extent that it has (maximally) good consequences—and similarly for other virtues. Furthermore, unlike Aristotelians, a consequentialist about moral virtue sees no necessary connection between virtue and motivation. For Aristotle, virtue requires doing the virtuous thing for the sake of the noble. More generally, Aristotelians would require that the virtuous thing be done as a result of motivations that are somehow commendable. So, to borrow an example from Heather Battaly (2015), a venture capitalist donating large sums of money to charitable causes, and bringing a lot of good into the world as a result, wouldn’t be virtuous on an Aristotelian conception if the only reason she did it was that she likes getting her name put on buildings. By contrast, a consequentialist about virtue doesn’t care about motivations as such. Of course, she does not need to deny that virtues are often accompanied by certain motivations. What she denies is simply that such motivations are necessary for possessing virtue. As Driver (2001) puts the point, “good intentions, good inclinations, and so on are conducive to good action . . . So, in looking at specific disposition clusters that make up a virtue, being disposed to have ‘good’ states of mind is helpful. It’s just not necessary” (61).


Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij


In what follows, I will be working with an epistemological analogue of the type of consequentialist virtue theory we find in Mill and Driver, by taking it that epistemic virtues are belief-forming dispositions conducive to the formation of true belief. This account of epistemic virtue, while not without defenders (e.g., Greco 2010; Sosa 2007, 2009, 2011), is controversial. For one thing, it is controversial that true belief is the sole, fundamental epistemic goal, although I have defended that view in Ahlstrom-Vij (2013). It is also controversial that truth-conduciveness is both necessary and sufficient for epistemic virtue, but see AhlstromVij (2017) for a defense. While I won’t be adding anything substantial to these defenses in the present chapter, a brief word on the arguments involved might be helpful, particularly as it relates to virtue and truth-conduciveness. The first thing to note here is that the received view in debates over the nature of epistemic virtue is that there is a type of virtue for which truth-conduciveness is necessary and sufficient—it’s just not the only type of virtue there is (e.g., Battaly 2012; Baehr 2011; Greco and Turri 2011). However, available attempts to describe the nature of some other type of virtue, for which truth-conduciveness is either unnecessary or insufficient, runs into what I’ve termed a problem of compensation (Ahlstrom-Vij 2017), on account of postulating some fundamental value in addition to true belief, and thereby having the counterintuitive implication that this value can compensate for any failure to attain true belief. For example, if a person’s being motivated to attain truth is of such value (Zagzebski 2003, 1996), someone could reasonably suggest that their motivation to attain true belief makes up for any lack of success in actually attaining true belief, including in cases where their lack of success can be traced back to their motivation.1 But such a suggestion would make little sense—and the same goes for other candidates for additional values, and counts against postulating any virtue in addition to the one offered by the consequentialist. Now, as already noted, I won’t be adding anything substantial to this line of argument in what follows. Instead, I will be focusing on what a consequentialist account of epistemic virtue can do if put to work. For that purpose, I will consider a particular epistemic virtue, spelled out in aforementioned, consequentialist terms: the epistemic virtue of deference. To defer to someone is to listen to them and believe what they’re saying because they’re saying it. We manifest an epistemic virtue of deference to the extent that we are disposed to defer to, and only to, people who speak the truth (Ahlstrom-Vij 2014). By way of example, consider Nancy and Burt. Nancy forms all of her beliefs about current events by reading the New York Times. Burt, by contrast, gets his news exclusively from Breitbart. As such, Nancy is a far better candidate for manifesting the virtue of deference than is Burt. And it’s important to note that this may be so more or less exclusively on account of the reliability of the relevant news outlets, as manifesting such virtue doesn’t require any voluntary action on the virtuous person’s part. For example, Nancy manifesting a virtue of deference in no way requires that her particular news diet be a result of a conscious choice on her part. Perhaps her partner simply leaves a copy on the kitchen table every morning, and Nancy’s efforts on the matter don’t extend beyond flipping the pages and reading whatever catches her eye. Along similar lines, and as in the case of Mill and Driver’s virtue theories, the motivations underlying the relevant dispositions aren’t directly relevant on a consequentialist picture. In particular, it doesn’t matter whether people defer on account of some inherent motivation—say, a strong desire to find out the truth about current events—or on account of being brought to defer by external factors. Again, the only reason Nancy has such a healthy news diet is that her partner leaves the paper out for her. And let’s assume

The Epistemic Virtue of Deference


that the only reason she defers to the New York Times—that is, not only pays attention to the relevant messages, but also takes them on board—is that doing so is easy and doesn’t require any effort on her part. These points about choices and motivations also highlight the fact that consequentialism doesn’t put any emphasis on agency in virtue. Moreover, it helps explain why some would follow Wayne Riggs (2010) in maintaining that “if hard-core reliabilism [i.e., roughly the type of consequentialism at work here] is correct, then the individual virtues are not particularly interesting in their own right” (176). A less partisan way to put the same point is to say that, on a consequentialist picture, individual virtues are only interesting objects of study in relation to the empirical factors that render the relevant dispositions truth-conducive. And on that picture, we don’t prejudge the extent to which those factors will pertain to the virtuous person’s own choices or motivations, or to contingent features of her surroundings. In that spirit, the following section will be concerned with what will turn out to be one important factor, pertaining to what informed sources can do to bring about deference, and thereby instill virtues of deference, in light of research in empirical psychology on compliance. 1 7. 4 DEFER ENC E AND THE S OCIA L P S YCH OLOG Y O F C O M P LIA N CE

Given the extent of our dependency on the word of others, we are going to want to know how we can go about deferring in virtuous ways. Since statements don’t wear their truthvalue on their sleeves, any attempt on the part of an individual hearer to decide to whom to defer will require reliance on heuristics, or rules of thumb. Such heuristics are good to the extent that they help us reliably identify those speaking the truth. But even if we assume that there are such reliable heuristics—consider, for example, Alvin Goldman’s (2001) suggestions for how to (reliably) identify experts—this doesn’t entail that people will be successful in deferring in virtuous ways. The reason is that success requires actually relying on reliable heuristics—if not, what good will it do to merely have reliable heuristics available? Unfortunately, there is ample psychological evidence to the effect that we tend not to rely on reliable heuristics. The bulk of the relevant evidence comes from studies on so-called statistical prediction rules, or simple algorithms for generating predictive output in a wide variety of domains on the basis of statistical data (see Bishop and Trout 2005 for a helpful overview). While the accuracy of such rules is well established in a wide variety of contexts, so is the tendency on the part of people not to use them and, on that account, perform worse than they otherwise would have (Dawes et al. 2002). So why do people not use them? Because people are overconfident about their abilities to outperform the relevant rules (Sieck and Arkes 2005). The fact that the failure to use the rules is the result of such a general tendency as overconfidence— indeed, depressed people aside (Taylor and Brown 1988), we tend to rate ourselves as above average on desirable traits (e.g., Alicke 1985; Brown 1986), including in our evaluations of how objective we are (Armor 1999), and how susceptible we are to cognitive bias (Pronin et al. 2002; Pronin 2007)—is crucial here, as it suggests that it applies to reliance on heuristics generally, and not just to statistical prediction rules. Hence, even if we assume that there are in fact reliable heuristics for identifying speakers telling us the truth, a significant challenge remains on account of how people can be expected not to rely on those heuristics. This, moreover, suggests that it is worthwhile to focus less on how individuals can go about identifying proper targets of deference, and more on what such targets can do for purposes of bringing about deference. So, consider what


Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij

speakers attempting to bring about deference are doing, namely offering a request to be listened to, together with some content that they wish to communicate. When a person heeds that request, they can be said to be complying. But, of course, since listening doesn’t imply believing, compliance doesn’t entail deference. Still, it seems a reasonable empirical assumption that listening to someone, as opposed to not listening, increases the chances of the relevant content being taken on board. If not, it would be hard to make sense of the variety of practices geared toward convincing us of things on the basis of getting our attention. And if so, promoting compliance would be part of what it takes to promote deference. The other aspect of promoting deference would be getting people to believe what the speaker is saying. Moreover, if that’s so, we can for present purposes re-describe part of the question of how to bring about deference as one about how to bring about compliance, specifically compliance with informed speakers’ requests to be listened to. As it happens, available social psychological evidence provides some helpful insights. Most relevant here is evidence regarding when people comply with the law. In a series of studies, Tom Tyler (2006a) found that, contrary to the traditional view on which compliance is brought about through fear of sanctions, the most effective way to increase compliance is for the law giver to be perceived as fair. At the heart of this notion is the idea that fairness involves a willingness to listen. As Tyler (2006a) notes, “[p]eople have a tremendous desire to present their side of the story and value the opportunity in and of itself” (147). More specifically, for someone to be considered fair in the relevant sense, that someone has to be perceived to be making an effort to provide an opportunity for input and consider that input in a manner sensitive only to the facts, not to prejudice or (irrelevant) personal preferences. Tyler’s results generalize beyond the case of law-following, and apply to rule-following generally, including compliance with policies in corporate (Tyler 2011; Tyler and Blader 2005) and non-corporate settings (Tyler et al. 2007). Moreover, perceived fairness not only has implications for people’s tendency to comply, but also for whether to consult and with whom to consult (Tyler 2006b). For example, students report being more likely to seek advice from their professors on academic as well as on personal matters when they take the professors to be such that they would treat them in a just manner. And, people report being more prone to consult professionals regarding retirement saving and investment strategies who they perceive to be just than professionals who they do not perceive to be just, even when aware that the cost of receiving a just treatment would be a decreased likelihood of financial gain. This suggests that the relevant notion of fairness can be invoked to promote compliance generally, and not merely in legal contexts. That, moreover, is exactly what I’m proposing here (and in Ahlstrom-Vij 2014): one thing that informed sources can do for purposes of promoting deference is to communicate their content in a context where they are making clear that they are willing to listen in turn, and as such are likely to be perceived as fair. 17. 5 THE EPI STEM I C VI R TU E OF LE N D IN G A N E A R

Let’s take stock. I started by outlining a consequentialist notion of epistemic virtue, on which epistemic virtues are dispositions conducive to epistemic goods, and to true belief in particular, and then defined an epistemic virtue of deference possessed to the extent that one is disposed to listen to and believe those, and only those, speaking the truth. A challenge was identified for any attempt on the part of individuals to rely on heuristics for purposes of deciding to whom to defer. More specifically, it was suggested that, whether or not there are reliable heuristics to rely on, what we know about our tendencies to defect, even from reliable

The Epistemic Virtue of Deference


heuristics, suggests that a more promising strategy for the inculcation of virtue focuses on what sources speaking the truth can do to help ensure that people will defer to them. In the previous section, it was suggested that one thing that such sources can do is communicate their content in a manner that makes clear that they are willing to listen in turn, and as such are likely to be perceived as fair. If that’s correct, we can moreover talk about two inter-locking virtues. We’ve already characterized one of them: the epistemic virtue of deference. The second virtue applies not to hearers, but to speakers who are disposed to listen in a way that promotes compliance and—under the empirical assumption that to promote compliance is to promote deference—thereby also deference. When they are not only so disposed, but also are speaking the truth, such speakers manifest the virtue of lending an ear, and in turn contribute to others manifesting the virtue of deference.2 This also makes for an interesting connection between the virtue of lending an ear and open-mindedness. In particular, consider Jason Baehr’s (2011) suggestion that, “where openmindedness involves assessing one or more competing views, it necessarily involves doing so with the aim of giving these views a ‘serious’ (i.e. fair, honest, objective) hearing or assessment” (151–152). To assess competing views in this manner, and to do so in a fair, honest, and objective manner, comes quite close to engaging in the type of listening outlined in the previous section. As such, the relevant trait of open-mindedness can be expected to promote compliance and thereby also deference. When manifested by agents speaking the truth, we have an instance of the virtue of lending an ear. In the above quote, Baehr is concerned with the trait of open-mindedness, not the virtue thereof. An important difference between Baehr’s account of the virtue of open-mindedness, and my account of the virtue of lending an ear, is that Baehr, who embraces an Aristotelian account of virtue, takes it that a necessary condition on all virtues is a certain motivation on the part of the agent, and specifically “a compelling or overriding desire to get to the truth” (2011: 143). As noted earlier, there’s no such condition on the present account of consequentialist virtue. What motivates the agent in question isn’t directly relevant to virtue possession; the only thing that matters is whether the disposition manifested is truth-conducive. So, someone might qualify as manifesting a virtue of lending an ear on account of having the trait of open-mindedness, without manifesting a virtue of open-mindedness, as understood by Baehr. Of course, we need to say something about that with respect to which the virtue of lending an ear is supposed to be truth-conducive. On a consequentialist account, epistemic virtues are dispositions conducive to true belief, but there is no need to restrict those beliefs to beliefs of the agent possessing the relevant virtue. After all, many non-epistemic virtues are virtues primarily, if not exclusively, on account of the good that they bring to others. Just think of generosity. Generosity arguably qualifies as virtue because it is beneficial to others, whether or not it is beneficial to the virtuous person herself. Unlike the virtue of deference—where the true beliefs involved are indeed held by the agent herself—the epistemic virtue of lending an ear would be more akin to the virtue generosity, where the bulk of the benefits resulting from the virtue’s exercise typically are realized in others, as opposed to in the virtuous person. This is, of course, not to suggest that manifesting a virtue of lending an ear cannot possibly be epistemically beneficial to the agent herself. We can see this point clearly by returning to the connection between listening and open-mindedness. According to Baehr (2011), where open-mindedness “involves a rational assessment or evaluation, it also necessarily involves adjusting one’s beliefs or confidence levels according to the outcome of this assessment” (154). Why? Because we acknowledge that we might be wrong. As noted by Riggs (2010), being open-minded involves being “aware of one’s fallibility as a believer, and to be willing to acknowledge the possibility that anytime one believes something, it is possible


Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij

that one is wrong” (180). Such an awareness might in many cases be epistemically beneficial, although on the present account only when one stands to gain epistemically from it. That said, we shouldn’t read too much into any belief-revision requirement on openmindedness. It’s helpful to consider an example here. When we teach introductory classes, we give students a serious hearing, by evaluating their questions and viewpoints in a fair and objective manner. And we do this because we want to understand where the students’ questions are coming from, for purposes of being able to respond in a manner that hopefully maximizes the chances that they’ll understand and incorporate the relevant material. In other words, we’re listening primarily to be listened to and, thereby, manifest the virtue of lending an ear, in so far as we’re disposed to do as much, and moreover speak the truth. Differently put, we listen in ways that will help students arrive at true beliefs. But are we thereby committed to adjusting our beliefs and confidence levels about the matters at hand as a result? To some degree, I take it, but not to any particularly great degree. And while Riggs (2010) is clearly right that “one can reject a challenge to one’s views open-mindedly” (186), the question is whether the degree involved is great enough to satisfy people like Baehr that we’re still manifesting a type of open-mindedness. If not, one can manifest a virtue of lending an ear without being open-minded, let alone manifesting a virtue of open-mindedness. To recapitulate, we introduced the virtue of lending an ear, manifested to the extent that we’re disposed not only to speak the truth but also to listen in a way that promotes compliance and thereby also deference. We also made a connection between that virtue and openmindedness, although we noted that, (a) since no particular motivation needs to accompany virtues of lending an ear, the relevant disposition might fail to qualify as a virtue of open-mindedness on some accounts of the latter; and, (b) if the requirement that an open-minded person needs to be prepared to change their views in their interactions with others is sufficiently demanding, then someone manifesting a virtue of lending an ear need not necessarily even be open-minded. So, while interesting connections can be drawn between agents manifesting the virtue of lending an ear and agents being open-minded, they should be kept conceptually distinct. 17. 6 O N B LI ND D E FE RE N CE

Previous sections introduced the epistemic virtue of deference, and discussed how to inculcate that virtue through an accompanying virtue of lending an ear, in turn related to philosophical work on open-mindedness. However, what has been argued so far is likely to raise a number of worries. To see why, return to our characterization of deference above, in terms of believing what someone is saying because they’re saying it. The relevant notion of “because” is purely causal, and doesn’t entail the presence of any reasons on the part of the hearer to take the speaker to be trustworthy. To start with, doesn’t that sanction gullibility? 17.6.1 Gullibility

According to Elizabeth Fricker (1994), “the hearer should always engage in some assessment of the speaker for trustworthiness.3 To believe without doing so is to believe blindly, uncritically. This is gullibility” (145). When pressed, Fricker (2006a) clarifies matters further by saying that someone is gullible “if she has a disposition or policy for doxastic response to testimony which fails to screen out false testimony” (620), and that this moreover corresponds to an interpretation suggested by Goldberg and Henderson (2006) on which someone is gullible if she, “in circumstances C, is disposed to acquire a good deal of unreliable (unsafe; insensitive; etc.) testimony-based belief” (602).

The Epistemic Virtue of Deference


But if that is so, then whether or not someone is gullible is only partly a function of whatever assessments the agent involved makes. Fundamentally, what matters is whether her beliefforming dispositions are unreliable (or unsafe or insensitive). Return to Nancy, our New York Times reader from earlier. She is not engaging in any assessment of the reliability of the paper’s claims, but she is no less reliable for failing to do so. In fact, it’s quite possible that performing such an assessment would make her less reliable, on account of having to make judgments on complex matters about which she—like most of us—might not know very much, and on that account mistaking informed sources for misinformed ones, and vice versa. Of course, it might be objected that Nancy simply has gotten lucky. Imagine that she would have been equally likely to defer had her partner taken to leaving Breitbart print-outs on the kitchen table. Assuming that there’s a relatively close possible world in which her partner does so, this counts against, not the reliability of the beliefs she forms in the actual world (where she reads the New York Times), but their safety. In short, if relying on the same belief-forming processes in nearby worlds, the beliefs formed could easily have been false. There are (at least) two responses we can make here. One is to say that modalities aren’t relevant to the epistemic merits of virtues, only reliability in the actual world is. As it happens, I find this response quite plausible. The second response involves taking virtue to require modally robust reliability, which entails not just reliability in the actual world, but in nearby possible worlds as well. Such a requirement would entail that Nancy is not epistemically virtuous after all. But note that this still isn’t so—or at least isn’t necessarily so—on account of some failure of Nancy. We might equally put the blame on an epistemic surrounding that lets her down, and in particular on a partner that would under circumstances only slightly different from those in the actual world contaminate her news diet with Breitbart. Indeed, it’s important to stress the underlying point here: if the name of the game is reliability—or perhaps modally robust reliability—then it doesn’t matter how that reliability comes about. In particular, it doesn’t matter if it comes about on account of some effort of the virtuous agent, or of those in her surroundings, or indeed as a result of the effort of no one. Circumstances of context determine whether it’s wiser to attempt to bring about reliability by focusing on individuals or on their surroundings. If we worry about people being deceived in testimonial interactions, we could encourage people to become better at detecting deception. But that might not be the wisest strategy. After all, as Timothy Levine and colleagues point out, “that deception detection accuracy rates are only slightly better than fifty-fifty is among the most well documented and commonly held conclusions in deception research” (1999: 126). In light of that, we could instead focus on people’s epistemic environments, and attempt to ensure that they won’t need to employ their less than impressive deception-detection skills. And this is, of course, something we often do. Consider education. Not only do we strive to ensure that teachers are competent and teaching material is accurate, but we also make sure that, were a teacher to get sick, the substitute teacher would be competent, too; and were the primary textbooks to go missing, the other books available in the school library would also be accurate and informative; and so forth. And when we do so, we are protecting the safety of the students’ beliefs, by making sure that they would be reliably formed, not only in this world, but also in nearby possible worlds. 17.6.2 Manipulation

The idea of taking steps to improve people’s epistemic environments, as opposed to boosting their individual epistemic capabilities, raises a separate worry from the one just considered. In particular, there might be something manipulative about so doing. What is the problem supposed to be? It can’t be that the people involved are being made epistemically worse off, in the specific sense of becoming less reliable (or safe). If they are, the problem isn’t that


Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij

they’re being “manipulated,” but that the relevant form of manipulation is badly executed and should be reconsidered on purely consequentialist grounds. So, that can’t be it. Perhaps the worry is that people being manipulated in the relevant ways will be prevented from becoming mature, epistemic subjects, by never learning on their own how to go about conducting successful inquiry. But if that is the worry, then there’s not really an objection here—again, the context determines whether it’s wiser to attempt to bring about reliability by focusing on individuals or on their surroundings. In some cases, it might very well be that, unless you let people make some mistakes now, they’ll never become competent enough not to make mistakes later on. This is relevant in cases where the best strategy for epistemic improvement is one that focuses on the individual as opposed to her environment. But as noted earlier, there are going to be plenty of cases where letting people make mistakes now will simply lead to further mistakes later on as well, simply because the prospects for individuals attaining the relevant competencies are too dim. But maybe the worry is that the relevant form of intervention infringes on people’s epistemic autonomy. Fricker (2006b) suggests that an epistemically autonomous person “takes no one else’s word for anything but accepts only what she has found out for herself, relying only on her own cognitive faculties and investigative inferential powers” (225). Along similar lines, Linda Zagzebski (2007) proposes that an epistemically autonomous person that finds out that someone else believes p “will demand proof of p that she can determine by the use of her own faculties, given her own previous beliefs, but she will never believe anything on testimony” (252). But as John Hardwig (1985) notes, “if I were to pursue epistemic autonomy across the board, I would succeed only in holding uninformed, unreliable, crude, untested, and therefore irrational beliefs” (340). In light of that, it’s not clear what is so bad about people being prevented from attempting to achieve epistemic autonomy.4 17. 7 C O NCLU S ION

We depend to a substantial degree on the word of others, and manifest a virtue of deference to the extent that we are disposed to defer to those, and only those, speaking the truth. In the preceding sections, I started out by demarcating the broader category of consequentialist virtue, of which the virtue of deference is an instance, through the theories of Hume, Mill, and Driver. I then turned to the question of what informed sources can do to promote deference, and thereby also instill virtues of deference, in light of social psychological research on compliance. What we found was that one way to promote deference was by having said sources manifest a virtue of their own: the virtue of lending an ear, which involves not only speaking the truth but also being disposed to offer the recipient a fair hearing in turn. Finally, I responded to two concerns about the present account to the effect that it sanctions gullibility and is manipulative. (Related Chapters: 3, 8, 12, 16, 18.) NOTE S 1 This makes for an epistemic analogue of Sidgwick’s (1981/1907) famous observation that happiness sometimes is more likely to be attained if not consciously pursued. 2 Understood in this manner, a con-man could be disposed to listen in a way that brings about compliance and also deference, but could not possess the virtue of lending an ear. 3 The following is a condensed version of an argument spelled out in greater detail in Ahlstrom-Vij (2015). 4 For more on epistemic autonomy, see Ahlstrom-Vij (2016).

The Epistemic Virtue of Deference


REFERE N C E S Ahlstrom-Vij, K. (2013) “In Defense of Veritistic Value Monism,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 94(1): 19–40. Ahlstrom-Vij, K. (2014) “Procedural Justice and the Problem of Intellectual Deference,” Episteme 11(4): 423–442. Ahlstrom-Vij, K. (2015) “The Social Virtue of Blind Deference,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91(3): 545–582. Ahlstrom-Vij, K. (2016) “Is There a Problem With Cognitive Outsourcing?” Philosophical Issues 26: 7–24. Ahlstrom-Vij, K. (2017) “Against the Bifurcation of Virtue,” Noûs 51(2): 291–301. Alicke, M. D. (1985) “Global Self-Evaluation as Determined by the Desirability and Controllability of Trait Adjectives,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 49: 1621–1630. Armor, D. (1999) “The Illusion of Objectivity: A Bias in the Perception of Freedom from Bias,” Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering 59: 5163. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Battaly, H. (2012) “Virtue Epistemology,” in J. Greco and J. Turri (eds.) Virtue Epistemology: Contemporary Readings. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 3–32. Battaly, H. (2015) Virtue, Cambridge: Polity. Bishop, M. and J. D. Trout. (2005) Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment, New York: Oxford University Press. Brown, J. D. (1986) “Evaluations of Self and Others: Self-Enhancement Biases in Social Judgments,” Social Cognition 4: 353–375. Crisp, R. and M. Slote (eds.). (1997) Virtue Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dawes, R., D. Faust, and P. Meehl. (2002) “Clinical Versus Actuarial Judgment,” in T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, and D. Kahneman (eds.) Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 716–729. Driver, J. (2001) Uneasy Virtue, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fricker, E. (1994) “Against Gullibility,” in B. Matilal and A. Chakrabarti (eds.) Knowing From Words, Dordrecht: Kluwer, 125–161. Fricker, E. (2006a) “Varieties of Anti-Reductionism About Testimony: A Reply to Goldberg and Henderson,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72: 618–628. Fricker, E. (2006b) “Testimony and Epistemic Autonomy,” in J. Lackey and E. Sosa (eds.) The Epistemology of Testimony, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 225–245. Goldberg, S. and D. Henderson. (2006) “Monitoring and Anti-Reductionism in the Epistemology of Testimony,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72: 600–617. Goldman, A. (2001) “Experts: Which Ones Should You Trust?” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63(1): 85–110. Greco, J. (2010) Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Greco, J. and J. Turri. (2011) “Virtue Epistemology,” in E. N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Hardwig, J. (1985) “Epistemic Dependence,” Journal of Philosophy 82: 335–349. Hume, D. (1975/1751) Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Moral, 3rd edn, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hursthouse, R. (1999) On Virtue Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Johnson, R. N. (2003) “Virtue and Right,” Ethics 113(4): 810–834. Levine, T., Park, H., and McCornack, S. (1999) “Accuracy in Detecting Truths and Lies: Documenting the ‘Veracity Effect’,” Communication Monographs 66: 125–144. Mill, J. S. (2001/1861) Utilitarianism, 2nd edn, Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. Pronin, E. (2007) “Perception and Misperception of Bias in Human Judgment,” Trends in Cognitive Science 11: 37–43. Pronin, E., D. Lin, and L. Ross. (2002) “The Bias Blind Spot: Perceptions of Bias in Self Versus Others,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28: 369–381. Riggs, W. (2010) “Open-Mindedness,” Metaphilosophy 41(1–2): 172–188. Sidgwick, H. (1981/1907) The Methods of Ethics, 7th edn., Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. Sieck, W. and H. Arkes. (2005) “The Recalcitrance of Overconfidence and its Contribution to Decision Aid Neglect,” Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 18: 29–53. Sosa, E. (2007) A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, volume I, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij

Sosa, E. (2009) Reflective Knowledge: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, volume II, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2011) Knowing Full Well, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Taylor, S. E. and J. D. Brown. (1988) “Illusion and Well-Being: A Social Psychological Perspective on Mental Health,” Psychological Bulletin 103: 193–210. Tyler, T. (2006a) Why People Obey the Law, 2nd edn, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Tyler, T. (2006b) “Psychological Perspectives on Legitimacy and Legitimation,” Annual Review of Psychology 57: 375–400. Tyler, T. (2011) Why People Cooperate: The Role of Social Motivations, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Tyler, T. and S. L. Blader. (2005) “Can Businesses Effectively Regulate Employee Conduct? The Antecedents of Rule Following in Work Settings,” Academy of Management Journal 48: 1143–1158. Tyler, T., P. Callahan, and J. Frost. (2007) “Armed and Dangerous (?): Motivating Rule Adherence Among Agents of Social Control,” Law and Society Review 41: 457–492. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zagzebski, L. (2003) “Intellectual Motivation and the Good of Truth,” in M. DePaul and L. Zagzebski (eds.) Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives From Ethics and Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 135–154. Zagzebski, L. (2007) “Ethical and Epistemic Egoism and the Ideal of Autonomy,” Episteme 4(3): 252–263.

18 Skepticism Allan Hazlett

According to Diogenes Laertius, Pyrrho of Elis adopted “a most noble philosophy . . . taking the form of agnosticism and suspension of judgement” (Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, IX.61). However, Diogenes offers an anecdote of Pyrrho related by Antigonus of Carystus that makes Pyrrho sound less than noble: He led a life consistent with this doctrine, going out of his way for nothing, taking no precaution, but facing all risks as they came, whether carts, precipices, dogs or what not, and, generally, leaving nothing to the arbitrament of the senses; but he was kept out of harm’s way by his friends who . . . used to follow close after him. (Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, IX.61) Of course, as Pyrrho would have reminded us, there are two sides to every story; a more sympathetic account, from the fellow skeptic Aenesidemus, has it that Pyrrho “did not lack foresight in his everyday acts” (ibid.). Setting aside the facts of Pyrrho’s life, the conception of the skeptic as practically foolish has proved a durable idea, constituting the principal objection to skepticism throughout most of its history. However, at least since Descartes made skeptical doubt the modus operandi of his philosophical meditations, we are familiar with the idea that skepticism may have something going for it, despite its conceded impracticality. Skepticism, in the Cartesian tradition, is something to be considered only when you have rid your mind of all worries and arranged for yourself a clear stretch of free time. The idea that our engagement with skepticism must be separated from practice is shared both by those contemporary philosophers who, following Descartes, treat skepticism as a foil—as essentially a problem whose solution yields insight, as essentially a tool for making philosophical progress (compare LeMorvan 2011: 88)—and by those contemporary philosophers who are sympathetic to some form of skepticism—who conclude that we do not know much of what we ordinarily take ourselves to know (Unger 1975; Frances 2005). The objection that a skeptic would end up walking off a cliff is not discussed in contemporary epistemology, for we imagine the skeptic granting the impracticality of their position, insisting that skepticism is the rational conclusion to draw from a “purely intellectual point of view.” 221


Allan Hazlett

Historically, however, self-described skeptics have not gone this route. They have defended the practical wisdom of skepticism. With this in mind, in this chapter I will consider the idea that skepticism is an epistemic virtue. I will consider three defenses of the value of skepticism (sections 18.1–18.3), and offer an account of the virtue of skepticism (section 18.4). The expression “epistemic virtue,” along with its cousin, “intellectual virtue,” is ambiguous. In one sense, an “epistemic virtue” is anything that is both “epistemic” (in some sense to be explained) and a virtue. Consider, for example, an Aristotelian definition of intellectual virtue, on which an intellectual virtue is any virtue of the mind, i.e. an excellence of the intellectual part of the soul. In a different sense, an “epistemic virtue” is anything that is a “virtue” in a distinctively “epistemic” (and to-be-explained) sense of “virtue.” Consider, for example, familiar contemporary definitions of epistemic virtue, on which an epistemic virtue is any personal quality that is conducive to the realization of knowledge, understanding, and other “epistemic goods.” Here I will employ the former disambiguation of “epistemic virtue.” (However, I will have something to say about connections between skepticism and “epistemic goods,” in section 18.3.) Skepticism is an epistemic virtue, therefore, if and only if is both “epistemic” and a virtue. I will assume that the epistemic includes all and only what has essentially to do with the generation and sharing of information. And I will assume the following definition of virtue: a virtue is any admirable character trait. Skepticism is an epistemic virtue, then, if and only if it is epistemic, a character trait, and admirable. It seems to me that any defense of skepticism as a virtue must defend the value of skepticism, by way of grounding or explaining why skepticism is admirable. So I will turn now to the question of the value of skepticism. I will consider three defenses of the value of skepticism: a Pyrrhonian defense (section 18.1), a Cartesian defense (section 18.2), and a liberal defense (section 18.3). 18. 1 THE PYR R HON IA N D E FE N S E

Sextus Empiricus, in his influential explication of Pyrrhonian skepticism, defines skepticism as: an ability to set out oppositions among things which appear and are thought of in any way at all, an ability by which, because of the equipollence in the opposed objects and accounts, we come first to suspension of judgment and afterwards to tranquility. (Outlines of Scepticism, I.8, trans. J. Annas and J. Barnes) Note, first, that skepticism is defined as an ability (cf. Mates 1996: 7, on skepticism as an “agôgê, or way of life”). It is neither a view or theory (contrast, e.g., so-called “Cartesian skepticism” in contemporary epistemology) nor a state or action (contrast, e.g., suspension of judgment). And note, second, that skepticism aims at tranquility. “The causal principle of skepticism . . . is the hope of becoming tranquil” (Outlines, I.12; see also I.26): this is the skeptic’s goal or purpose in being a skeptic. Their goal is neither the Cartesian goal of establishing something in the sciences that is stable and likely to last nor the goal of being rational, logical, tough-minded, or intellectually pure, come what may (cf. Annas 1993: 205, on the Academic skeptics). Let us grant the value of tranquility, i.e. (as Sextus explains it) “freedom from disturbance or calmness of soul” (Outlines, I.10); alternative translations of the word he uses (ataraxia) include “peace of mind,” “imperturbability,” and “untroubledness” (Mates 1996: 61; Striker



1990: 97; Annas 1993: 209).1 Given this assumption, if skepticism does lead to tranquility, we have a plausible explanation of the value of skepticism. But why think that skepticism leads to tranquility? Sextus offers two arguments. The first is based on the idea that suspension of judgment can alleviate the upset caused by philosophical curiosity about what is real and what is merely apparent (Outlines, I.12, I.25–26, I.30). Suspension of judgment is said here to solve a very specific kind of problem: anxiety resulting from puzzling over the philosophical problem of distinguishing between appearance and reality. So, for all Sextus has said so far, there will still be bills to pay, headaches to endure, tyranny to suffer, and countless such troubles; and for those who are not kept up at night worrying about the appearance-reality distinction, this argument has nothing to offer (cf. Mates 1996: 63). Sextus’ second argument is based on the idea that evaluative judgment is a source of anxiety: [T]hose who hold the opinion that things are good or bad by nature are perpetually troubled . . . But those who make no determination about what is good or bad by nature neither avoid nor pursue anything with intensity; and hence they are tranquil. (Outlines, I.27–28; see also I.29–30, III.237–238, and Against the Ethicists, 110–167) Even granting that pursuing things with intensity is problematic, this argument is unconvincing. We sometimes lack tranquility not because we are pursuing something with intensity, but simply because things are going badly for us. Explaining Sextus’ argument, Myles Burnyeat (1998: 45) says: If a tyrant sends a message that you and your family are to perish at dawn unless you commit some unspeakable deed, the true skeptic will be undisturbed . . . about whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing to comply with the command. Perhaps the skeptic will be undisturbed about that—they will suspend judgment about that, in any event—but that does not seem to mean that the skeptic will be undisturbed, full stop. What that would require is for the skeptic to stop caring about their family, to be indifferent to their fate. But I don’t think there is any reason to think that suspension of evaluative judgment would lead to such a state of cold indifference.2 Indeed, Sextus seems to concede this point: the skeptic is forced to suffer disturbances such as cold and thirst (Outlines, I.29–30); perhaps anxiety about the tyrant’s treat is just another such forced disturbance. Elsewhere, however, Sextus offers a more promising defense of suspension of evaluative judgment. Evaluative judgment, Sextus argues, always makes the aforementioned disturbances worse, adding to the original disturbance—the cold, the thirst, the anxiety—an additional disturbance, namely the judgment that the original disturbance, or its cause, is bad (Outlines, I.30; Ethicists, 150–167). Thus suspension of evaluative judgment may not yield complete tranquility, but the skeptic “will bear the harsh situation more easily compared with the dogmatist” (Ethicists, 166; see also 150) as “[t]he disturbance which happens to the sceptic . . . is moderate and not so fearful” (Ethicists, 155). Thus skepticism can yield “moderation of feeling in matters forced upon us” (Outlines, I.25, I.30).3 Although the thought that “nothing really matters” is often seen as a source of existential torment, the thought that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” can be, as Hamlet sarcastically reminds us, a source of comfort.


Allan Hazlett


Although Descartes is no skeptic, one of his lasting contributions to the history of philosophy is the use he makes of skeptical doubt in his Meditations on First Philosophy. For Descartes, by contrast with the Pyrrhonian skeptics, the aim of doubt is theoretical—to find “something in the sciences that [is] stable and likely to last” (Meditations, AT 17), i.e. scientia, which he identifies elsewhere as “certain and evident cognition” (Rules for the Direction of our Native Intelligence, AT 362)—and his evident interest in error-avoidance is instrumental vis-à-vis his ultimate aim of scientia. The idea I want to take away from Descartes here is the idea of the utility of suspension of judgment vis-à-vis so-called “epistemic goods,” perhaps including, but not limited to, scientia. Along similar lines, Pierre LeMorvan writes that “we will conceive of skepticism as playing the fundamental role of a doxastic immune system that protects the mind from false (or unjustified) beliefs” (2011: 91). The most straightforward thing that suspension of judgment is good for is avoiding erroneous judgment. Suspension of judgment might be instrumental vis-à-vis your acquisition of knowledge, but it might constitute your avoidance of error. And you might not value error-avoidance only as a means to knowledge; avoiding error might be something that you care about for its own sake. Error-avoidance thus deserves to be counted among the “epistemic goods.” “Cartesian skepticism” in contemporary epistemology is standardly identified not with suspension of judgment but with the view that knowledge of the external world is impossible. However, like suspension of judgment, knowing that knowledge in impossible in some domain can be useful vis-à-vis “epistemic goods.” Knowing that knowledge is impossible in some domain is conducive to intellectual caution, either in the form of a limitation of the scope of your inquiry (e.g., avoiding inquiry in the domain in which knowledge is impossible) or in the form of a moderation of the aims of your inquiry (e.g., setting your sights on reasonable opinion, rather than on knowledge).4 Although the impossibility of knowledge in some domain may speak against inquiry in that domain, the attribution of knowledge of some proposition seems to preclude inquiry about whether that proposition is true. In this sense, knowledge attributions serve to close inquiry, in the sense that it is irrational to genuinely inquire about whether p (as opposed to pretending to inquire, going through the motions, or doing pro forma checks) if you believe that you know that p or indeed that anyone knows that p (cf. Kvanvig 2009: 344–345; Kapel 2010; Kelp 2011; Millar 2011; Rysiew 2012; Hannon 2015: section 3; Hazlett 2016b: section 4.1).5 Refraining from attributing knowledge that p may thus serve to prevent premature closure of inquiry, including not only cases of inquiry that yields a false belief but also at least some cases of inquiry that yields a true belief that does not amount to knowledge.


In the final section of his Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, Hume sympathetically articulates what he calls “mitigated scepticism or academical philosophy,” which he claims “may be both durable and useful” (Enquiry, 129) by contrast with Pyrrhonian skepticism, from which no “durable good or benefit to society could ever be expected to result” (Enquiry, 128). Hume defends this claim by appeal to two problems, to both of which skepticism is the solution: our tendency to dogmatism and closed-mindedness, on the one hand, and our tendency to inquire about matters beyond the scope of human knowledge, on the other (Enquiry, 129; see also Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, I.I.7). These two



problems are (it seems to me) related: the confinement of inquiry within the scope of human knowledge is a means to the end of avoiding dogmatism and closed-mindedness, in as much as our speculations outside of the domain of “daily practice and experience” (ibid.) are those about which we are most likely to be dogmatic and closed-minded. What, exactly, is the value of avoiding dogmatism and closed-mindedness? To answer this question, I want to consider two virtues for participants in liberal political discourse: political moderation and intellectual independence. Consider, first, political moderation: “a willingness to see the limits of one’s own opinions and search for value in others,” as Miriam McCormick (2013: 91) describes it, and which Hume sympathetically contrasts with faction, party zeal, extremism, prejudice, and enthusiasm.6 Hume’s mitigated skeptic will hold no political position dogmatically and will be open-minded in their engagement with alternative positions, which makes them a poor candidate for membership of a political party. Political moderation is valuable vis-à-vis liberal political discourse in at least two ways. First, some degree of humility about your political views and some degree of respect for the political views of your potential interlocutors is required for you to be motivated to engage in conversation about political questions at all—think here, by way of contrast, of one cliché of American Thanksgiving dinners, the awkward silence when politics comes up. Second, humility about your political views and respect for the political views of others is conducive, other things being equal, to high-quality conversation about political questions, of the kind constitutive of what Rawls called a space of public reason—think here, by way of contrast, of another cliché of American Thanksgiving dinners, the vulgar and uncivil fight about politics. What makes conversation among moderates of a higher quality? Among other things, the positions adopted by moderates often represent a compromise between two extreme positions, each of which has some truth to it. As Mill points out in his argument against censorship, even a false opinion “may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth” (On Liberty, chapter 2). When this is true of two opposed extreme political positions, it is the centrists who, as Hume says, “are most likely to meet with truth and certainty.” In any event, given the value of political moderation, Hume’s idea, which seems right, is that mitigated skepticism is valuable, too, as a means to that end. Political immoderation can be caused by, among other things, two common psychological dispositions. First, consider our tendency to have a desire for certainty (Kruglanski et al. 1993; Webster and Kruglanski 1994). We are disposed to find uncertainty to be an uneasy state, as Hume puts it, from which we are impatient to escape. Second, consider our tendency for belief polarization (Kelly 2008). Exposure to disagreement, including arguments and evidence that we are wrong, tends to make us more confident that we are right. Political entrenchment is, in part, a symptom of this disposition.7 Whether they are innate, either part of our human nature or flowing from native individual differences, or acquired, on account of culture and experience, liberal political discourse requires tool to manage and mitigate these dispositions; Hume’s plausible suggestion is that mitigated skepticism is one such tool. The defense of political moderation suggests its proper limits. If there are political questions about which it is not worth engaging in conversation—positions which, perhaps, enjoy not even a portion of truth—then moderation vis-à-vis such questions will not be valuable in the way suggested. If there are political views that do not belong in the space of public reason, then moderation vis-à-vis such positions will not be valuable in the way suggested. My proposal here leaves open the possibility that certain people and ideas are not worthy of critical engagement; such a possibility represents the boundary of liberal political discourse, beyond which lies direct action and resistance, in both their nonviolent and violent forms.


Allan Hazlett

Consider, second, intellectual independence, understood as an aversion, at least an otherthings-being-equal aversion, but perhaps a stronger aversion, to deference.8 That there is a connection between intellectual independence and mitigated skepticism derives from the fact that deference can amount to a kind of politically problematic dogmatism and closed-mindedness. When a source of information is treated as providing decisive or conclusive evidence vis-à-vis whether some proposition is true, in the manner of an oracle or guru, the possibility of liberal political discourse—for which criticism, discussion, and debate are necessary—is precluded. But even when deference is not so extreme, when participants are too deferential to some source of information, the quality of liberal political discourse is diminished. How deferential is “too” deferential? We know excessive deference when we see it: Americans were too deferential, in 2003, when they believed Secretary of State Colin Powell and the New York Times that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I do not just mean that there turned out not to be any such weapons, but that Americans were not critical enough of the claim that there were and of the arguments for that claim. We were not, as we sometimes like to think, taken in by some grand deception concocted by corrupt politicians: the evidence was insufficient on its face, for anyone with a skeptical disposition. As this case illustrates, excessive deference to institutional sources of information—the state, the media—is politically dangerous.9 Deference is not an all-or-nothing affair; there can be differences in the both the quality and the quantity of your deference to a source of information. Consider the difference between believing what some source of information says (more deferential) and accepting what that source says for the purposes of practical reasoning in a particular situation or context (less deferential), believing everything some source of information says (more deferential) and believing some but not all of what that source says (less deferential), and believing what some source of information says (more deferential) and believing what some source of information says whilst requesting evidence, arguments, and explanations to back it up (less deferential). However, you might worry that there is a negative side to intellectual independence. As I write this, citizens in liberal democracies are thought to be increasingly skeptical of expert testimony. In the United Kingdom’s 2016 referendum on EU membership, for example, there was broad agreement among many Leave voters that professional economists, who predicted that Brexit would be economically bad for the UK, were not to be trusted. For many people, “expert” is now a kind of pejorative; populist politicians are supported because their policies are rejected by experts. However, this “skepticism about expertise” has crippled public discourse whenever it has arisen. Isn’t this intellectual independence run amok? Doesn’t this speak against the utility of mitigated skepticism? No, for “skepticism about expertise” is a manifestation neither of intellectual independence nor of mitigated skepticism, for two (related) reasons. First, “skepticism about expertise” is more charitably interpreted as simply dissent about who the experts are. US Senator Ben Sasse recently criticized the “monopolistic rule of experts” favored by his political opponents, saying: The way for conservatives to approach the public is to first ask people, “How do you think problems get solved? Is it by putting power in the hands of experts who have the answers or is it by putting resources in the hands of people who need solutions?” (quoted in Malone 2016) But it is clear that what Sasse thinks is that the experts do not really have the answers they purport to have—if they did, surely those answers would be useful vis-à-vis solutions to problems—in other words, that they are not really experts at all. Like the undergraduate who



“rejects morality,” meaning some conventional or traditional set of moral rules or values, the “skeptic about expertise” rejects the testimony of (those they take to be) so-called “experts,” not (those they take to be) genuine experts. But that, per se, is no manifestation of intellectual independence. Second, “skepticism about expertise” involves doubt about what experts say, but this doubt is typically coupled with a dogmatic acceptance of what some other source of information says. Brexit voters did not cautiously suspend judgment about the economic effects of leaving the EU, having found the arguments unconvincing; they slavishly believed what British Euroskeptic politicians told them to believe (which is not to say that Remain voters were not equally slavish in their beliefs). “Skepticism about expertise”—the thing that seems to be on the rise in recent years—manifests not intellectual independence, but a particular form of selective deference, namely deference to sources of information other than institutionally sanctioned authorities. This was a notable feature of the strain of illiberal populism that played a decisive role in the 2016 United States Presidential election: the rejection of the testimony of “establishment” politicians and “the mainstream media” was combined, by many voters, with a decidedly slavish deference to the testimony of “outsider” politicians and “alternative” sources of news and information. This second point applies, mutatis mutandis, to the would-be “skepticism” of conspiracy theorists (compare LeMorvan 2011: 94). The conspiracy theorist rejects various sources of information, namely those which agree with the “official narrative” about some event or state of affairs, on the grounds that those sources have been corrupted by the theorized conspiracy. But their deference to “alternative” sources of information, rather than to the “mainstream media,” makes them no less intellectually independent than anyone else. (Indeed, “skepticism about expertise” can perhaps best be understood as a species of conspiracy theory—it is hard to see how the institutionally sanctioned authorities could be so untrustworthy if there were not something like a conspiracy afoot. That is the argument of so-called “climate change skeptics” when it comes to the scientists who study climate change.) The appeal of conspiracy theories comes, in part, from their promise to free you from your intellectual dependence on other people—to have your eyes opened, to have the curtain pulled back, and to see the truth that lies behind all the lies. But, of course, you will not see the truth of the conspiracy theory—you will read about it on some website, you will have it described to you by someone at a bar, or your favorite politician will shout it to you at a rally. In any event, conspiracy theorists do not manifest intellectual independence. Finally, it is worth noting that conspiracy theorists also do not manifest political moderation. They are decidedly not willing to see the limits of their own opinions and to search for value in others—for it is essential to a conspiracy theory that it predicts and explains the existence of (misleading) evidence against it. Objections and alternative views are therefore seen as part of the conspiracy—indeed as evidence for its existence—and not suitable for critical engagement. Dogmatism and closed-mindedness are thus built into the logic of the conspiracy theory. (My critique here is effectively the same as Popper’s: that they are unfalsifiable makes conspiracy theories unsuitable as subjects of liberal political discourse.) As with intellectual independence, the appeal of conspiracy theories derives, in part, from the appeal of skepticism and open-mindedness, as opposed to dogmatism and closed-mindedness. But just as the orthodox are committed to their view, on which there is no conspiracy, conspiracy theorists are committed to their view, on which there is—on which Barack Obama is a Muslim, or on which Hillary Clinton neglected Benghazi, or on which the economy is “rigged.” And unlike the orthodox, who can coherently critically engage with objections and alternative views, conspiracy theorists have dogmatism and closed-mindedness built into their position. They therefore do not manifest political moderation.


Allan Hazlett


We have considered three defenses of the value of skepticism. This puts us in a position to articulate an account of skepticism as an epistemic virtue. Given our disambiguation of “epistemic virtue,” to defend the idea that skepticism is an epistemic virtue, we need to articulate an account of skepticism on which (i) skepticism is epistemic, (ii) skepticism is a character trait, and (iii) skepticism is admirable. I shall begin by assuming that virtues are excellences, such that the schematic form of a virtue is , which we can cash out with an Aristotelian formulation: excellence in ϕing is the character trait comprising the disposition to ϕ at the right time and in the right way.10 Thus every virtue (excellence in ϕing) is associated with a characteristic activity (ϕing). Other accounts of virtue are possible; I leave open whether they have the resources to understand skepticism as an epistemic virtue. With which characteristic activity should we associate the virtue of skepticism? I propose that attributing ignorance is skepticism’s characteristic activity. “Attribution” can be either mental (e.g., believing that someone does not know something) or linguistic (e.g., saying that someone does not know something), and “ignorance” comprises various species of lack, including, e.g., not knowing some proposition, not being knowledgeable about some field or area or topic, and not understanding some phenomenon. (On the present account, the “object” of skepticism is neither a person nor proposition, but a person-proposition pair.) Skepticism is therefore manifested both by what I have elsewhere called your “higher-order epistemic attitudes” (Hazlett 2012) and by what we can call your “higher-order epistemic assertions”; it is manifested not (in general) by what you believe or say, but (specifically) by what you believe or say about what is believed (either by you or by others). Contrast the account implied by LeMorvan (2011: 97; see also Kelly 2011), where skepticism is manifested by doubt about a claim, refusal to accept a theory, and refraining from judgment. Thus our definition: skepticism is excellence in attributing ignorance (cf. Hazlett 2016a). Recall our three tasks: we need to show (i) that skepticism is epistemic, (ii) that skepticism is a character trait, and (iii) that skepticism is admirable. First, that skepticism is epistemic. Recall the assumption (section 18.1) that the epistemic includes all and only what has essentially to do with the generation and sharing of information. Excellence in attributing ignorance clearly meets this condition. So skepticism is epistemic. You might object that epistemic virtues are essentially those qualities that are manifested in instances of knowing, and that knowledge never manifests skepticism, as defined here. I reply that that is simply a different concept of “epistemic virtue” than the concept I am employing in this chapter. Given that concept, open-mindedness and intellectual humility are not epistemic virtues, either. What we have are two concepts of “epistemic virtue,” one suited for a virtue-theoretic analysis of knowledge, on which knowledge is the manifestation of epistemic virtue, and another suited for a discussion, like the present discussion, of what is good and bad in the intellectual domain.11 Second, that skepticism is a character trait. Given our definition of an excellence (above), this follows trivially.12 But it is worth noting that “skeptic” has a characterological meaning in contemporary English; as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, “skeptic” may refer to “one who is habitually inclined rather to doubt than to believe any assertion or apparent fact that comes before him,” i.e. “a person of skeptical temper.” (We may be put off by the “ism” in “skepticism,” but character traits can have names that end in “ism,” like optimism and pessimism.) So we are within our rights to use “skepticism” as the name for a character trait.



Third, that skepticism is admirable. There is again a sense in which this is trivial, given our definition—skepticism is an excellence; excellences are admirable; therefore, skepticism is admirable. But what we can do here is point to the defenses of skepticism articulated above. The Pyrrhonian, Cartesian, and liberal defenses of skepticism described what is good about skepticism, why it is admirable, or at least why those of us who admire it do admire it. I conclude that skepticism is a virtue, i.e. that there is a virtue of skepticism, which is excellence in attributing ignorance. The assumption that virtues are excellences allows us to follow Aristotle in thinking of virtues as means between two vicious extremes, one a vice of deficiency and the other a vice of excess (cf. LeMorvan 2011: 92). We can thus understand the virtue of skepticism as a mean between the vice of dogmatism—characterized by insufficient attribution of ignorance—and the vice of quietism—characterized by excessive attribution of ignorance. Moreover, the assumption that virtues are excellences means that we need not qualify our praise for skepticism by naming our virtue “proper skepticism” or “healthy skepticism” (LeMorvan 2011). Saying “the virtue of skepticism” is enough. In the same sense that there is improper or unhealthy skepticism, there is improper or unhealthy courage, e.g., rashly charging into a pointless and ignoble battle; but “courage” is the name of a virtue, not “proper courage” or “healthy courage.” You might object that rashly charging into a pointless and ignoble battle would not manifest the virtue of courage, but that is exactly the point: neither would instances of improper or unhealthy ignorance attribution manifest the virtue of skepticism. Why favor the present account, on which skepticism is manifested by your higher-order epistemic attitudes and assertions, to an account on which skepticism is manifested by your first-order attitudes and assertions—e.g., by your (first-order) beliefs and other (first-order) attitudes? The present account is, of course, consistent with the claim that there is a virtue comprising excellence in forming (first-order) beliefs, and it would be a mistake to argue about which of these virtues most deserves the name “skepticism.” There is no disagreement between the defender of the view that excellence in ϕing is a virtue and the defender of the view that excellence in ψing is a virtue; these are not competing accounts of some one thing, but compatible accounts of two different things. How is skepticism related to other seemingly similar virtues, such as intellectual humility and open-mindedness? It would be a mistake to assume that for each of these labels— “skepticism,” “intellectual humility,” “open-mindedness”—there is necessarily some distinct thing that a correct philosophical account would capture. Virtue epistemology should not be in the business of conceptual analysis. Elsewhere (2016a), I propose a conception of the virtue of skepticism on which intellectual humility is a proper part of skepticism: attributing ignorance to yourself manifests intellectual humility, but attributing ignorance to others does not. However, definitions of individual virtues are, at least typically and in paradigm cases, partly stipulative. We could have called the virtue of skepticism something else, and there are other virtues we could have called “skepticism.” Moreover, to the extent that intellectual humility and open-mindedness are distinct from the virtue of skepticism, these three (perhaps among others) are clearly consonant with each other: it would be natural to expect them to come together, to mutually support one another, and so on. 18. 5 C O NCLU S ION

I have sympathetically discussed the idea that skepticism is an epistemic virtue. The conception of skepticism as a useful character trait that emerges from this discussion contrasts with two familiar ideas, both of which we inherit from Descartes’ use of skepticism in the Meditations: that skepticism is essentially a problem to be solved and that skepticism is


Allan Hazlett

fundamentally impractical. The alternative sketched here is worth considering, in no small part because it jibes with the accounts of skepticism offered by self-described skeptics in the history of philosophy. (Related Chapters: 2, 12, 15, 16, 17.) NOTE S 1 This is no trivial assumption, for you might think that tranquility is, in some situations, inappropriate, irrational, or unfitting—and, therefore, not valuable. 2 For a related worry about this argument, see Mates (1996: 63). 3 Compare the story of Pyrrho’s relative calm during a violent storm at sea (Diogenes, Lives, IX.68). 4 Whether this is possible depends on whether reasonable belief that falls short of knowledge is possible; see Williamson (2000: 47, 255–256); Huemer (2011); Hazlett (2014: section 9.1, 2016: section 5.1). 5 Note that the claim is not that it is irrational to inquire about why p—or to engage in any other inquiry, other than inquiry about whether p—if you believe that you know that p. 6 See also Benjamin Franklin’s defense of intellectual humility in his Autobiography (Franklin 2008: 94), Bertrand Russell’s “The Need for Political Scepticism” (Russell 1996: Essay 11), and Pierre LeMorvan’s (2011: 94) description of the “Petit Pris Partisan.” 7 Compare a related but distinct kind of “polarization,” in which political partisans move “further apart” in their views, where the content of their positions is changing, not merely their confidence in their positions. 8 For example, a preference for non-deferential belief to deferential belief (Hazlett 2016a). 9 Recall a saying popularly attributed to Franklin: “Distrust and caution are the parents of security” (see Sunstein 2003). 10 Both excellence and individual excellences come in degrees. Given the present assumption, this entails that both virtue and individual virtues come in degrees, which seems right—people are more or less virtuous, more or less courageous, more or less open-minded, and so on. This, as yet, says nothing about the threshold for the attribution of virtue and for the attribution of individual virtues. 11 Compare the supposed disagreement between “reliabilists” and “responsibilists” in virtue epistemology (Code 1987: ch. 3). 12 LeMorvan defines skepticism as an “attitude” (2011: 91), but later (and more in line with his discussion) says that it is “an acquired disposition or trait” (2011: 93).

REFEREN CE S Annas, J. (1993) The Morality of Happiness, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Burnyeat, M. (1998) “Can the Sceptic Live His Scepticism?” in M. Burnyeat and M. Frede (eds.) The Original Sceptics: A Controversy, Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing. Code, L. (1987) Epistemic Responsibility, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. Descartes, R. (1988) Selected Philosophical Writings, trans. J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, and D. Murdoch, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Frances, B. (2005) Scepticism Comes Alive, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Franklin, B. (2008) Autobiography and Other Writings, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hannon, M.J. (2015) “The Importance of Knowledge Ascriptions,” Philosophy Compass 10(12): 856–866. Hazlett, A. (2012) “Higher-Order Epistemic Attitudes and Intellectual Humility,” Episteme 9(3): 205–223. Hazlett, A. (2014) A Critical Introduction to Skepticism, London: Bloomsbury Publishing. Hazlett, A. (2016a) “The Social Value of Non-Deferential Belief,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94(1): 131–151. Hazlett, A. (2016b) “The Civic Virtues of Skepticism, Intellectual Humility, and Intellectual Criticism,” in J. Baehr (ed.) Intellectual Virtue and Education: New Essays in Applied Virtue Epistemology, New York: Routledge. Huemer, M. (2011) “The Puzzle of Metacoherence,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82(1): 1–21. Hume, D. (1975) Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kapel, K. (2010) “On Saying Someone Knows: Themes From Craig,” in A. Haddock, A. Millar, and D. Pritchard (eds.) Social Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Kelly, T. (2008) “Disagreement, Dogmatism, and Belief Polarization,” Journal of Philosophy 105(10): 611–633. Kelly, T. (2011) “Following the Argument Where It Leads,” Philosophical Studies 154: 105–124. Kelp, C. (2011) “What’s the Point of ‘Knowledge’ Anyway?” Episteme 8(1): 53–66. Kruglanski, A.W., D.M. Webster, and A. Kem. (1993) “Motivated Resistance and Openness to Persuasion in the Presence or Absence of Prior Information,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65(5): 861–876. Kvanvig, J. (2009) “Responses to Critics,” in A. Haddock, A. Millar, and D. Pritchard (eds.) Epistemic Value, Oxford: Oxford University Press. LeMorvan, P. (2011) “Healthy Skepticism and Practical Wisdom,” Logos & Episteme 2(1): 87–102. Malone, C. (2016) “The End of a Republican Party,” FiveThirtyEight, 18 July, the-end-of-a-republican-party. Mates, B. (1996) The Skeptic Way, Oxford: Oxford University Press. McCormick, M.S. (2013) “Hume’s Skeptical Politics,” Hume Studies 39(1): 77–102. Mill, J.S. (1978) On Liberty, Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing. Millar, A. (2011) “Why Knowledge Matters,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplement 85: 63–81. Russell, B. (1996) Sceptical Essays, New York: Routledge. Rysiew, P. (2012) “Epistemic Scorekeeping,” in J. Brown and M. Gerken (eds.) Knowledge Ascriptions, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sextus Empiricus. (1997) Against the Ethicists (Adversus Mathematicos XI), trans. R. Bett, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sextus Empiricus. (2000) Outlines of Scepticism, trans. J. Annas and J. Barnes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Striker, G. (1990) “Ataraxia: Happiness as Tranquility,” The Monist 73(1): 97–110. Sunstein, C. (2003) Why Societies Need Dissent, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Unger, P. (1975) Ignorance: A Case for Scepticism, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Webster, D.M. and A.W. Kruglanski. (1994) “Individual Differences in Need for Cognitive Closure,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67(6): 1049–1062. Williamson, T. (2000) Knowledge and Its Limits, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

19 Epistemic Justice: Three Models of Virtue Laura Beeby


The virtue of epistemic justice has been characterized as both a trait of individual knowers and a trait of structures and institutions. As a trait of individual knowers, epistemic justice has been framed as a regulatory ideal or corrective virtue that helps the knower to avoid the pitfalls of epistemic injustice (Fricker 2007; Dotson 2011; Medina 2013). As a trait of structures and institutions, epistemic justice is again framed in a regulatory capacity. When practiced well, it ensures that institutions both avoid facilitating epistemically unjust ends and aid in the practice of related epistemic virtues like open-mindedness, intellectual perseverance, and the like (Anderson 2012; Fricker 2012). Epistemic justice, in this sense, is an important part of the proper functioning of both institutions and epistemic agents. Though both of these characterizations are helpful in developing an understanding of a distinctively epistemic justice, each presents the individual knower and the structured social space of knowing as discrete, or at least largely separable, realms of virtue. However, the individual knower is shaped by the norms, practices, and structures of her community. She does not do her knowing in a vacuum, isolated from fellow knowers and institutions in her epistemic community, and every act of her epistemic agency is touched by community-generated norms and standards. Social structures and institutions play a role in generating these standards. Similarly, structured social spaces and institutions cannot exist without their population of knowers, who reify, discard, and make more or less prominent certain strands of knowledge and legitimate certain epistemic practices at the expense of others. This kind of authoritative legitimation is part of the basic function of such structures and institutions. Seen in this light, structured social spaces emerge from a dynamic process of interaction and engagement with knowers, and vice versa. Additionally, each process of engagement is moderated and shaped by the dynamics of social power and social justice. This all adds up to produce a picture of complex epistemic agency carried out by complex and interdependent knowers and institutions. The complexity of this picture is not new; theorists like Fricker and Anderson fully acknowledge the complications inherent in giving an account of epistemic justice, and pursue an approach to the project that involves breaking down the larger picture into its 232



constituent parts. However, and in light of these complexities, a model of epistemic justice that accounts for this interplay while questioning what have been cast as mostly separate realms of virtue might prove useful for a number of reasons, not least of which is the desirability of an accurate picture of complex knowing in an increasingly complex social world. This kind of dynamic relationship between knowers and structures is a productive way of thinking about epistemic justice. In this chapter, I will describe the divided field of epistemic justice, setting out both personal and institutional models of the virtue. As I outline both models, I will note the increasing complexity of the virtue and the difficulty theorists have in keeping their accounts within strict personal or institutional borders. In light of this difficulty, I will go on to suggest a third option, which locates the virtue neither in individual agents nor in institutions. Instead, it locates the virtue in dynamic systems rather than the components (individuals and institutions) that make up these systems. I will present epistemic justice as a trait of character possessed by complex agents who engage in the social practice of knowing, and do so across structured social spaces like institutions. In providing this third option, I attempt to capture the character of epistemically just knowers in a way that facilitates thinking about such agents as both individual knowers and as complex epistemic agents distributed across communities and social structures. My task here is to outline two ways of thinking about epistemic justice that are currently prominent in the literature, and to suggest a third complementary option. At this early stage, the framing of epistemic justice as either an individual virtue, an institutional virtue, or some other kind of virtue may seem unhelpfully abstract. In order to focus on the virtue at hand, consider the following passage by Asian-American scholar and legal theorist Frank Wu (2010). Wu writes about being a knower whose epistemic agency is shaped and constrained by the stereotypes and biases present in structured social spaces in contemporary US society. In particular, note Wu’s thoughts on the relationship between individual and group agency and identity: In most instances, I am who others perceive me to be rather than how I perceive myself to be. Considered by the strong sense of individualism inherent to American society, the inability to define one’s self is the greatest loss of liberty possible. We Americans believe in a heroic myth from the nineteenth century, whereby moving to the frontier gives a person a new identity. Even if they do not find gold, silver, or oil, men who migrate to the West can remake their reputations. But moving to California works only for white men. Others cannot invent themselves by sheer will, because no matter how idiosyncratic one’s individual identity, one cannot overcome the stereotype of group identity. (Wu 2010: 389) Wu writes about his experiences with well-meaning colleagues and strangers who struggle to relate to him as an Asian-American person, and to understand his place in the social order. From general references to generic Asian culture that “remind” colleagues of Wu to children who karate chop at him on the bus, Wu’s experience is one of existing in various structured social spaces with the aid of stereotype-laden mediators that “help” people to understand his experiences and relate to him. In the passage above, Wu is inadvertently reflecting on a crucial problem for the notion of epistemic justice. What do we do when more or less well-intentioned knowers, who do their knowing under the influence of unjust or otherwise epistemically corrosive social structures and institutional frameworks, end up perpetuating such structures? Can we point to the


Laura Beeby

structure or the institution that influences the knowers as the locus of the problem? Can we suggest that the individuals who use problematic or limiting stereotypes to mediate and facilitate their understanding of Wu are to blame? Though there are interesting insights to be learned from each of these angles, I think Wu’s account suggests that a third option is available to us. However, before I set out this third option, let us first look at some work on epistemic justice conceived primarily as an individual virtue, and primarily as an institutional virtue. This will serve both to provide a contrast with the third option and to motivate supporting arguments. 19. 2 EPI STEM I C JUST ICE A S A T RA IT OF I NDI VI DUAL KN OWE RS

It is arguably easiest to understand epistemic justice as a trait of individual knowers. Miranda Fricker’s influential 2007 account of epistemic injustice introduces this kind of model, and its corresponding account of epistemic virtue as a corrective to individual bias and injustice. Though she makes later moves toward a more institutional framework, this early framework is worth noting, both for its own strengths and in service of the contrast I will develop between individual models and structural models. Fricker’s account is corrective; she starts with the problem and then works toward the virtue that provides a solution. In this case, the problem is two-fold: Fricker outlines two important sub-species of epistemic injustice: testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice. What is interesting about both of these sub-species is that, in each case, Fricker notes the importance and influence of the epistemic community on the knower’s epistemic practices, but when it comes to the practice of the actual virtue, the onus lies with the individual knower. Let’s look first at the virtue of testimonial justice. Testimonial injustice occurs “when prejudice cases a hearer to give a deflated level of credibility to a speaker’s word” (Fricker 2007: 1). In other words, when we fail to give someone’s testimony enough credibility and thereby devalue them as givers of knowledge simply because of their group identity or less privileged social position, we are testimonially unjust. One example of this might be when the police fail to believe your testimony just because you are black or belong to another social group located on the less powerful end of the social spectrum. The virtue of testimonial justice, then, will serve as a correction for these distorted credibility judgments (Fricker 2007: 98). Hearers develop this corrective virtue over time, through training and social education; eventually, we develop what Fricker calls “a welltrained testimonial sensibility” (Fricker 2007: 71). Fricker bases the development of testimonial sensibility on an analogous picture of ethical development: just as we develop a sense of what is morally right and wrong over time, slowly learning the practice of moral agency, so also do we grow into our sense of responsible epistemic agency. She is careful to note the importance of community and culture as well as individual life experience here. As in the moral case, we should think of the virtuous hearer’s sensibility as formed by way of participation in, and observation of, practices of testimonial exchange. There is, in the first instance, a passive social inheritance, and then a sometimes-passivesometimes-active individual input from the hearer’s own experience . . . As hearers, our perceptions of our interlocutors are judgements conditioned by a vast wealth of diverse testimony-related experiences, individual and collective. (Fricker 2007: 83)



Fricker sees the individual and social or collective streams of input as balanced, or at least as working in tandem to produce the required testimonial sensibility. However, she makes a distinction between the production of the sensibility, on the one hand, and the exercise of the virtue, on the other, that complicates this picture. But once light has dawned for the hearer, she will come to find that sometimes her experiences of testimonial exchange are in tension with the deliverances of the sensibility she has passively taken on, in which case responsibility requires that her sensibility adjust itself to the new experience . . . Such a process of self-critical maturation and adaptation is how one may increasingly approximate virtue as a hearer. (Fricker 2007: 83–84) A responsible knower, then, must recognize tensions between what Fricker calls our “passive social inheritance” and the “sometimes-passive-sometimes-active individual input” about the appropriate conduct of a virtuous knower (Fricker 2007: 83). And once she recognizes these tensions, it is then her task to cultivate epistemic justice in her own testimonial exchanges. The role of the epistemic community is a largely passive one; we knowers grow up in and are shaped by our communities and their traditions, but the cultivation and practice of virtue is an individual affair. The individual, then, is the locus of epistemic virtue. Further complicating this picture is a conceptual distinction Fricker makes between the agential and the structural. Briefly, the distinction here rests on the way that power is exercised. Agential power is “power as a capacity on the part of social agents (individuals, groups, or institutions) exercised in respect of other social agents.” Structural power is power exercised “when there is no particular agent exercising it” (Fricker 2007: 10–11). Consider the power exercised by a traffic warden who gives another driver a parking ticket, and contrast this use of power with the disenfranchisement of a community that is not actively excluded but tends not to vote in a democratic country. In the former case, power flows from agent to agent, but in the latter, social power influences a group’s actions, but this power is so diffuse and dispersed throughout a social system that it can seem to be exercised without agency. Returning to our discussion of the cultivation and practice of a just epistemic sensibility, Fricker leans decidedly on the side of agential power in her account of testimonial virtue. In a discussion of her excellent examples of classic testimonial injustice inflected by sexism or racism, she notes: This latter, purely structural description is appropriate if one wishes to highlight the fact that all parties are to some extent under the control of a gender or racial ideology. But since my aim is to highlight the injustice that is occurring, and the sense in which the hearers are preventing the speakers from conveying knowledge, it is the agential description that is most relevant here. On either construal, the hearer is represented as failing to correct for the counter-rational operation of identity power that is distorting their judgement of credibility. (Fricker 2007: 91) In other words, Fricker (2007) emphasizes the individual hearer and her failure to be part of a virtuous testimonial exchange, and not the social structures that support and perpetuate the racist and sexist ideologies. Moreover, this focus on the individual epistemic agent here is not simply a matter of choosing from competing models of agential power. Fricker’s account of testimonial virtue requires individual cultivation of a kind of critical self-awareness or


Laura Beeby

capacity for self-checking; a “corrective anti-prejudicial virtue that is distinctly reflexive in structure” (Fricker 2007: 91). Though she notes the structural dynamics, and the way the structures shape individual knowers, she is most interested in the individual as the site of virtue and vice. If we turn to hermeneutical injustice, Fricker’s other central case of epistemic injustice, we see a similar pattern emerging. Hermeneutical injustice is the injustice of having some significant area of one’s social experience obscured from collective understanding. Fricker uses the helpful example of Carmita Wood, a woman struggling to understand her experience of sexual harassment before we had the term or concept in our shared epistemic resources. Without this resource in place, Carmita Wood’s experience is extremely hard to understand as one of sexual harassment (Fricker 2007: 149–152). The virtue of hermeneutical justice is a corrective virtue designed to compensate for such difficulty. It takes the form of “a certain reflexive awareness on the part of the hearer”; that is, it is the development of a special kind of sensitivity to the fact that there might be a gap in our collective understandings, and that “the difficulty one’s interlocutor is having as she tries to render something communicatively intelligible is due not to its being nonsense or her being a fool, but rather to some sort of gap in the collective hermeneutical resources” (Fricker 2007: 169). Note that the individual hearer is, again, the locus of the virtue here. Fricker begins with a characterization of the phenomenon that includes both individual and structural or social elements. One way of taking the epistemological suggestion that social power has an unfair impact on collective forms of social understanding is to think of our shared understandings as reflecting the perspectives of different social groups, and to entertain the idea that relations of unequal power can skew shared hermeneutical resources so that the powerful tend to have appropriate understanding of their experiences, whereas the powerless are more likely to find themselves having some social experiences through a glass darkly, with at best ill-fitting meanings to draw on in the effort to render them intelligible. (Fricker 2007: 148) This passage introduces the idea of shared understandings, which seems like a move away from a simple individual-structural contrast. It also mentions the dynamics that emerge as shared understandings are shaped by the influence of powerful social groups, and as both powerful and powerless knowers engage with shared resources in order to understand both their own and other knower’s social experiences. Though this dynamic picture is present as part of Fricker’s diagnosis of the problem, it is not present in her characterization of the corrective virtue. On the path to this kind of epistemic injustice, we meet the concept of hermeneutical marginalization. Marginalization plays a crucial role in epistemic injustice. In this case, hermeneutical marginalization happens “when there is unequal hermeneutical participation with respect to some significant area(s) of social experience” (Fricker 2007: 153). It is a dynamic concept that serves as a go-between connecting the shared epistemic resource or repository of shared understandings and the attempts that various knowers across social space make to engage with and contribute to that resource. Marginalization is a process that happens when powerless knowers are excluded from full and equal participation in the practices through which shared meanings are generated; it happens when some knowers are not given equal opportunity to contribute to the shared epistemic resource. It also serves as a staging ground for epistemic injustice.



Fricker’s example of women struggling to understand their experiences of sexual harassment, at a point in time before society shared a broad understanding of the phenomenon, is a useful illustration here. Women did not share equal access to jobs and positions of power in the workplace, and so were excluded from full and equal participation in the practices through which shared meanings about workplace behavior were generated. Because of this marginalization and the knowledge gaps it caused, women (and men) were less able to understand experiences of sexual harassment, and victims were therefore more vulnerable to further injustice. On Fricker’s view, “[t]he hermeneutical inequality that exists, dormant, in a situation of hermeneutical marginalization erupts in injustice only when some actual attempt at intelligibility is handicapped by it” (Fricker 2007: 159). It is not until a member of the marginalized group reaches for the absent resource and struggles to understand an experience rendered invisible in that social space that the injustice occurs. Here again, note that the dynamic social nature of marginalization is significant for Fricker, but the injustice is to be found only when an individual knower struggles and fails to understand some element of her social experience. The virtue of hermeneutical justice is similarly individualistic. It shares much with its testimonial cousin in that it is a form of epistemic self-awareness or sensitivity. As I note above, even though this form of epistemic justice relies entirely on an epistemic community jointly participating in the development and exchange of shared understandings, the virtue here is still to be found in the individual knower’s reflexive sensitivity to the possibility of bias. The practice and cultivation of virtue is still staunchly an individual endeavor. There are several reasons for thinking that we might want to move beyond this individualized picture of epistemic justice. First, Fricker herself acknowledges the role that groups, structures, and institutions play in the development and cultivation of virtuous epistemic sensibility. There is clearly important work happening beyond the realm of the individual, and much of this work seems apt for assessment in terms of epistemic virtue and vice. While Fricker allows that groups and institutions can exercise agential power, and indeed goes on to develop an account of institutional virtue (or “plural virtue”) along these lines in later work (Fricker 2010, 2012), she conceives of group-based virtue as subject to constraints that do not permit the kind of diffuse structural agency I am interested in here. Guided by a Gilbert-style plural subject account (Gilbert 1989), Fricker sees institutions as having clear boundaries and a kind of intentionality stemming from a joint commitment to an action, belief, or goal under conditions of common knowledge (Fricker 2010: 240). Examples of this include committees or research teams that can enact rules and procedures that facilitate the cultivation of virtuous epistemic sensibility along the road to making judgments or acquiring knowledge (Fricker 2010: 241). In these accounts of group agency, groups are relatively structured. However, the groups and social traditions Fricker refers to as so important in the agent’s ethical and epistemic formation are not so structured. Yet it seems that they can exert influence on, and be influenced by, agents. At times, the agent herself and the groups and traditions that form her are not so distinct as to be easily separable. We are part of our traditions, and traditions continue because we practice them, or end because we challenge them, thereby making ourselves an essential part of both practice and structure. Second, the lines between Fricker’s notions of structural and agential power are indistinct. If the hallmark of structural power is that it is so diffuse as to be exercised by no particular agent, then it seems that we are looking for events and states of affairs that arise due to the actions of no-one in particular. Like the block of voters who simply tend not to vote, results of structural power just happen—because the structure is set up a certain way, because certain forces were at work generations ago and set certain events in motion. But


Laura Beeby

what of the masses of knowers who tend to be unconsciously biased, who have developed such biases through no active epistemic agency of their own? Here it seems that the phenomena must be captured by some degree of agential power, since individual knowers are taking actions and making judgments under the influence of biases that they themselves possess. Structures don’t provide the whole explanation. However, it seems false to say that these actions, perhaps resulting in discrimination against a less powerful member of the epistemic community, are the exercise of straightforward agential power.1 Structures and social forces must be a part of this picture. So Fricker’s heavy dependence on the agential framework and relative exclusion of the structural framework in the framing of epistemic justice seems to leave out important considerations. Finally, an individual-based picture like the one Fricker (2007) develops can result in a picture of epistemic communities as groups made up of individuals striving (or not striving) to be virtuous knowers. Under such a picture, a group of knowers can seem to be simply a sum of its parts.2 Each discrete knower simply happens to be in a collection of other individual knowers. This picture fails to do justice to the dynamic interactions and processes that take place among even very similar knowers who happen to do their knowing in proximity to one another. In Fricker (2007), there is no room for an account of the importance and influence of sub-groups of knowers, which Fricker herself wants to include in her picture of hermeneutical resources as structured by more and less powerful groups. There is no room for movement, no mechanism to explain the ebb and flow of power and understanding and how this affects virtue. Most important for my purposes here, there is no space for virtue to be anything other than an individual’s critical self-awareness. Virtue cannot be located in any of the interactive practices and processes that necessarily develop between knowers and the various people, groups, and institutions that exist across socio-epistemic spaces. If the individual-based model completely captured the phenomenon of epistemic justice, then Wu’s experience of being an Asian-American among other North American knowers would be moderated and corrected by a collection of knowers practicing critical self-awareness on a case-by-case basis. Epistemic justice would be a matter of colleagues catching themselves before applying damaging stereotypes to Wu, or strangers practicing open-mindedness when seeing a man who may seem to look similar to characters in films about martial arts. However, this view of epistemic justice as practiced by a collection of individuals fails to capture the bigger picture that Wu describes. He is not unable to understand and define himself because of one or two encounters with a series of discrete knowers. He struggles against stereotypes of Asian-Americans because these individual knowers, colleagues, and strangers on the bus join together and amplify each other in ways that are difficult to describe. They make up the institutions that reify Wu’s experience of struggle. They follow processes that further entrench Wu’s difficulties and make it hard for Wu’s colleagues and fellow knowers from privileged epistemic positions to recognize the problem. Their use of stereotypes is amplified by news and cinema, by cultural trends about which they are probably completely unaware. Wu’s account tells us that there is more to epistemic justice than individual virtue. 1 9 .3 EPI STEM I C JUSTI C E AS A T RA IT OF IN S T IT U T ION S O R STR UC TUR ED S OCIA L S P A CE S

Some recent work in virtue epistemology has begun to develop and prioritize the role played by institutions and other structured social spaces in the formation, practice, and general existence of epistemic justice. This work, often referred to as the structural prioritist account,



contributes to a more complete picture of epistemic justice. However, as we shall see, it faces several difficulties as an account that captures the full virtue. Anderson (2012) is a helpful critique of Fricker (2007), and of individual-based virtue epistemology in general. Anderson argues that a model of epistemic justice based on individual practices will inevitably fall short because individual knowers are simply not capable of handling systemic epistemic failings. The individual practice of virtue is not up to the task of coping with the problems generated by a system of rules that regulate only the local properties of transactions and not their global effects. It is hard for individuals to acquire knowledge of who is most disadvantaged by the system, and very difficult for them to coordinate their helping efforts to maximum effect. Help will therefore tend to be maldistributed, being heaped on salient, highly publicized cases of episodic catastrophe while neglecting more pervasive, persistent, and entrenched sources of disadvantage. It is also hard for individuals to keep up the constant vigilance needed for the practice of virtue to sustain its good effects over time. (Anderson 2012: 164) In other words, individual knowers are influenced by the local social spaces in which they do their knowing. They see prejudice and bias as it is made apparent to them in their own space and their own time, and fail to see problems that do not appear on their radars. Some spaces are structured in ways that produce a disproportionate burden on some groups; consider our current criminal justice system as an example of this. If you are a relatively privileged white person, you may be largely unaware of the marginalization, injustice, and violence experienced by people of color in the United States criminal justice system. Or if you are aware of this problem, you may see it as an issue for men of color, and fail to see the issue as one that affects women of color, or indeed an issue that affects us all. Leaving epistemic justice to the individual runs the risk that a privileged knower will remain satisfied with the institutions of law enforcement in her community because such institutions do not seem problematic to her. Anderson is careful to lower expectations about the virtuous knower here. She emphasizes the difficulty present in an individual’s lone struggle to be epistemically virtuous in the face of powerful institutions, which can both facilitate injustice and correct and prevent such problems. Institutions can be set up to do some of the work for individual knowers, and they can be designed to facilitate just outcomes. For these reasons, Anderson advocates for structural remedies in addition to Fricker’s individual-based model for epistemic justice. For Anderson: It is not wrong to promote practices of individual testimonial and hermeneutical justice in these contexts. Such individual virtues can help correct epistemic injustices. But in the face of massive structural injustice, individual epistemic virtue plays a comparable role to the practice of individual charity in the context of massive structural poverty. Just as it would be better and more effective to redesign economic institutions so as to prevent mass poverty in the first place, it would be better to reconfigure epistemic institutions so as to prevent epistemic injustice from arising. Structural injustices call for structural remedies. (Anderson 2012: 171) While it seems right that structural remedies are called for in these cases of structural injustice, Anderson’s charity example, and her dismissal of the role of individual charity in the face of massive structural poverty, is worth further thought.


Laura Beeby

If what we are looking for in an account of epistemic justice is a description of a state of affairs or a process that consistently produces just results, then an account focusing on structural remedies may, in some cases, suffice. In this case, this would be like looking for a model of charity that was focused on reducing or eliminating poverty. However, not all models of virtue focus on ends, and the structural prioritist risks much in placing such emphasis on one feature. For instance, the individual practice of virtuous action or the cultivation of appropriate motivations to act may also play an important role here.3 So rather than focusing on structuring society so as to produce a desired end (like the systematic elimination of poverty), an account of the virtue of charity might focus on the agent’s motivations to practice charity in various contexts, and to be charitable in spite of various challenges. What’s more, it seems plausible that there is an important connection between the institutional design and structure and the individual knower’s motivation and practice, which is left out of the structural prioritist’s picture. Indeed, I will go on to suggest that a full account of epistemic virtue requires attention to not only the institutions and individuals operating within them, but also to the processes of interaction between institution and individual. Anderson rightly points out that individual and structural remedies to injustice are compatible. We need not accept one at the expense of the other. Her point is that individual remedies are not sufficient in and of themselves, not that we should dismiss the role of individual virtue outright. She begins to hint at the ways in which individual and structural virtue can work together, saying that “[m]any structural remedies are put in place to enable individual virtue to work, by giving it favorable conditions” (Anderson 2012: 168). Here, she notes cases like employment contexts in which explicit organizational procedures help managers to avoid bias. The virtuous institution establishes and facilitates virtuous norms and standards, which are then more easily followed and implemented by the individual knowers. However, even in this process, the individual and institution are still more or less discrete; their virtues are separable, and can be understood and analyzed as such. There is no need to mention the virtue of the individual manager when giving an account of the institutional virtue. Further, even given the role played by individual virtue, Anderson clearly advocates for the importance of the “structural remedy” model over the individual model of epistemic virtue. Like Fricker, Anderson leans heavily on one facet of epistemic agency, and she does not look for a more encompassing model. To see how the structural priority model is insufficient, let us return to Frank Wu’s account of his struggle against group-based stereotypes. Recall Wu’s original worry that no effort on his part to forge a broadly understood identity or comprehensible set of experiences can overcome the mediating influence of group-based stereotypes. He and his experiences are seen through the lens of Asian-American stereotypes, no matter what he does. For Wu, it is his epistemic agency, his ability to understand himself and determine how he will be known and understood by others that is at stake. Now, it may be the case that structural remedies like improved education or improved housing policies that reduce segregation will sufficiently ameliorate the effects of harmful stereotypes, though this is a matter of some contention among philosophers and social scientists.4 However, even assuming some success with these goals, according to the structural priority model, these remedies can, at best, simply clear the social space in which Wu (and other epistemic agents) might act. Structural remedies do not directly engage with individual agency; by their very nature, they focus on the structural. This focus means that structural prioritists are not concerned with Wu’s desire to be an active participant in our epistemic systems, or with the intersectional challenges that epistemic agents like Wu might face on the ground. For Anderson, the value of the institutional model of epistemic virtue is that it creates a kind of universalized space; Wu is funneled through the virtuous institutional processes,



the karate-chopping kids are funneled, everyone is funneled in more or less the same consistently virtuous way. The goal is a situation in which everyone can “move to California,” as Wu’s metaphor has it, or at least have favorable conditions to do so. The specifics of those individual moves and the epistemic agency with which they are made are unimportant to the structural prioritist; the virtuous institution is of primary importance in securing favorable conditions to act, and nothing further need be said. 1 9 .4 CO NC LUSI O N: A THI R D WA Y FOR E P IS T E MIC J U S T ICE ?

In what follows, I will sketch the beginnings of a third way to think about the virtue of epistemic justice. I am calling this third way the social process account of epistemic justice, after Iris Young’s (2006, 2011) work on justice as a social process. I will do little here except gesture toward the account and outline some benefits it might afford; I aim only to suggest that there is room for a third approach to epistemic justice. We have two models for epistemic virtue before us. The first model, popularized by accounts like Fricker (2007), is a primarily individual account. An individual epistemic agent can cultivate the largely corrective virtues of testimonial and hermeneutical justice by developing a variety of self-reflexive critical sensibilities. These sensibilities enable the knower to avoid or move forward from epistemic vice. This model acknowledges the social role of character formation, but locates the virtue squarely in the individual agent’s epistemic practices. The second model, the structural prioritist model, is here represented by accounts like Anderson (2012). In this account, a virtuous institution is best suited to achieving prejudice reduction and the various other good ends that epistemic virtue may help us to achieve. Institutions can do this by placing priority on structural remedies for epistemic vices like bias and prejudice, aiming to correct or ameliorate our epistemic vice by enforcing virtuous practice in, e.g., education or housing and urban planning. I have suggested that both models are vulnerable to a set of related but separate issues. In the case of the individual model, the epistemic community and its role in shaping, directing, and taking part in individual epistemic practice is neglected. In the case of the structural priority model, the role of the individual agent and her engagement with and interaction with institutional spaces is neglected. What I will now suggest is that it may be fruitful to consider a model capable of encompassing both individual and structural priorities, while also paying attention to the engagement and interaction that inevitably takes place between the two. What might such a model look like? To begin, under the social process account, the virtue of epistemic justice: 1. gives priority to neither individual epistemic agents nor structures that facilitate agency, but rather seeks a picture of virtue that includes both; 2. emphasizes the role of all players (individuals, institutions, resources, groups) active in the creation and maintenance of virtuous epistemic communities, and pays particular attention to the interactions between players; 3. is located in those interactions and processes that will inevitably take place over a period of time; and 4. allows that individual agents and institutional structures will, at specific moments, be a part of the virtue of epistemic justice, and thereby characterized as virtuous (or vicious) and praiseworthy (or blameworthy). However, these pieces are only parts of epistemic justice and cannot provide a full account of the phenomenon.


Laura Beeby

According to the social process account, we might say that ameliorative programs and individual efforts are all a part of the bigger picture of epistemic justice, and that all of these players can perform vital roles in the practice of the virtue. What we cannot say, however, is that the virtue is just the efforts of Wu’s colleagues to avoid stereotypes, or just the educational programs designed to help broaden the karate-chopping kids’ minds. A full account of epistemic justice will require that we include both moves, as well as the way that the programs produce students with different perspectives, and the way that those students go on to demand and produce films that tell more diverse stories, and the ripple effects that move throughout the entire epistemic community. The key claim is that under the social process account, epistemic justice is a feature of dynamic systems, and not simply the components (like individuals or structures) that make up the systems. A social process account of the virtue of epistemic justice has several advantages over the individual and structural priority models. First, it emphasizes the role of all players that contribute to the formation or practice of epistemic justice, and therefore provides a more complete and integrated picture of the virtue. Second, it moves us toward a more collective picture of epistemic agency and responsibility, which presents us with a thorny and difficult, but increasingly inevitable, set of philosophical challenges. Third, assuming connections between epistemic virtue and knowledge, the social process model will move us further down the road toward a picture of knowledge as an inescapably social phenomenon. This is helpful because some current (and many former) schemas of knowledge and knowing tend to lean on a picture of knowing as a process that happens primarily inside of one’s head, and we ought to be continually taking steps to resist such models and embrace the more difficult and complex pictures and schemas afforded by accounts like the social process one. Finally, the social process model makes the social complexity of our epistemic practices more evident, and so may make it easier for us to identify difficulties, problems, and the inevitable presence of epistemic vice in our practices and institutions. Though this third way of thinking about the virtue of epistemic justice is perhaps frustratingly schematic at this early stage, further work in this area promises to be both fruitful and rewarding. (Related Chapters: 16, 22, 31, 33, 34.) NOTE S 1 See Holroyd (2012). 2 Fricker rejects a summative account in later work; see her (2010). 3 I take no position on ends-focused versus motive-focused accounts of virtue here. I am open to the suggestion from Fricker (2010) that different accounts may be more productive for different kinds of virtues—some virtues, like kindness, are motivation-focused, while others are more results-focused. Note that Fricker includes justice in the latter group, while I am carving out space for a different position here. 4 For arguments in support of Anderson, see Ayala (2015) and Haslanger (2015); for arguments against structural priority, see Madva (2016) and Alexander (2012), especially regarding affirmative action and the problem of counter-stereotypical exemplars. In general, it seems that the psychological mechanisms at work in cases like Anderson’s are complex, and de-emphasizing the importance of actively virtuous individuals seems at best hasty and at worst a misunderstanding of how social forces might work.

REFERE N C E S Alexander, M. (2012) The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness, New York: The New Press. Anderson, E. (2012) “Epistemic Justice and a Virtue of Social Institutions,” Social Epistemology 26(2): 163–173. Ayala, S. and N. Vasilyeva. (2015) “Explaining Speech Injustice: Individualistic vs. Structural Explanation,” in R. Dale et al. (eds.) Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Cognitive Science Society, 130–135.



Dotson, K. (2011) “Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing,” Hypatia 26(2): 236–257. Fricker, M. (2007) Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing, New York: Oxford University Press. Fricker, M. (2010) “Can There Be Institutional Virtues?” in T. S. Gendler and J. Hawthorne (eds.) Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fricker, M. (2012) “Silence and Institutional Prejudice,” in S. Crasnow and A. Superson (eds.) Out From The Shadows: Analytic Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gilbert, M. (1989) On Social Facts, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Haslanger, S. (2015) “Social Structure, Narrative, and Explanation,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45(1): 1–15. Holroyd, J. (2012) “Responsibility for Implicit Bias,” Journal of Social Philosophy 43(3): 274–306. Madva, A. (2016) “A Plea for Anti-Individualism: How Oversimple Psychology Misleads Social Policy,” Ergo 3(27): 701–728. Medina, J. (2013) The Epistemology of Resistance, New York: Oxford University Press. Saul, J. (forthcoming) “Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat and Women in Philosophy,” in Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change? Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wu, F. (2010) “Yellow,” in P. S. Rothenberg (ed.) Race, Class, and Gender in the United States, New York: Worth Publishers. Young, I. (2006) “Responsibility and Global Justice: A Social Connection Model,” Social Philosophy and Policy 23(1): 102–130. Young, I. (2011) Responsibility for Justice, New York: Oxford University Press.

20 Epistemic Courage and the Harms of Epistemic Life Ian James Kidd

Courage is a virtue of the mind because the life of the mind—inquiring, criticizing, investigating—exposes us to a variety of harms: infringements on one’s interests. An important modern example is the distinguished climate scientist, Michael Mann, the originator of the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph, depicting temperature changes over the last thousand years. Since the graph proved a powerful symbol, Mann was soon under active, concerted attack from well-funded organizations that are hostile, on economic or ideological grounds, to acceptance of anthropogenic climate change. The Wall Street Journal and Fox News castigated his work and questioned his character, the Commonwealth Foundation tried to pressure his employer, Penn State University, to fire him, an envelope containing white powder was posted to his house, and Joe Barton, the climate-denialist chair of the House Energy Committee, tried to subpoena the personal records of Mann and his co-authors. To his enormous credit, Mann remain committed to his research, which is not in doubt by any epistemically serious person or group, and, moreover, worked to expose the insidious machinations of organized climate denialists. Mann explains why he continued with his research, and his advocacy for climate science: In this poisonous environment, we are each faced with a choice. Should we avoid the fray? . . . Arguably, I could have tried to ignore the attacks in the hope they would eventually go away. But retreating into my lab and simply focusing on my work did not feel like a responsible option. For one, it would . . . encourage similar behavior against other climate scientists. It would set a poor example for younger scientists just entering the field, showing them that it is unsafe to participate in public outreach about the implications of their scientific research. (Mann 2012: 39–40) Given these motivations, Mann now devotes time to outreach and science education through public lecturing, science journalism, and campaigning, especially through his blog, Real­ Climate (—alongside his teaching, research, and graduate supervisions. 244



Mann is an exemplar of virtuous epistemic courage—a disposition to respond appropriately to the harms that arise in the course of an agent’s activities in the epistemic domain, due to a motivating commitment to epistemic goods, such as truths or, in Mann’s case, informed understanding of climate change by the public and policymakers. Such harms may be epistemic or not; what matters is that the harms arise in the course of one’s epistemic activities (such as arguing, investigating, explaining) and that one’s motivation is primarily epistemic (such as a concern for truth, knowledge, or understanding). Mann, for instance, says his concerns were primarily epistemic—“nothing [is] more noble than striving to communicate . . . the implications of our scientific knowledge” (Mann 2012: 40)— but also moral and practical, such as promoting science as a career and enabling proper environmental policy. If epistemic courage is often close to moral courage, then that is what one ought to expect, given the pervasiveness of epistemic concerns in life. In what follows, my focus is solely on epistemic courage. Although epistemic courage may be more vivid in high-stakes cases like climate change research and its denialist enemies, it is also pertinent to a wider array of more everyday epistemic activities and concerns. Virtue epistemologists tend to characterize courage as an ‘opposition’ or ‘threat’ to, or ‘rebellion’ against, one’s epistemic and other interests, where these threats can be isolated acts or sustained conditions of oppression.1 Acting courageously, on these accounts, is an epistemic virtue because it manifests an admirable commitment to epistemic goods, in the face of one’s actual or anticipated subjection to harms. Since subjection to harm is an intrinsic feature of our social and epistemic lives, there is a perpetual need for individual and collective agents with the virtue of epistemic courage. In this chapter, I survey some of the main issues germane to this virtue, such as the nature of courage and of harm, the range of epistemic activities that can manifest courage, and the status of epistemic courage as a collective and professional virtue.


A first task is to locate courage among other epistemic virtues, most obviously the closed related virtue of perseverance, with which it might be conflated. José Medina proposes that epistemic courage often requires “persevering in epistemic journeys despite all obstacles” (Medina 2013: 229), while James Montmarquet remarks that a courageous agent “perseveres in the face of opposition from others” (Montmarquet 1993: 23). Such actions may require engagement with obstacles, but not all of these will take the form of harms. Dullness, difficulty, and complexity are obstacles to our epistemic activities and projects, but are not, at least as they stand, harms—it is odd to describe the tediousness of my logic exercises as a harm, although it is certainly an obstacle to their completion. A harm must be an infringement of some interest. Since we have interests in maintaining bodily integrity, advancing professional interests, maintaining certain beliefs and certainties, and so on, we can be harmed if and when these interests are either violated or subjected to challenge—through subjection to physical violence, reputational damage, or disturbing epistemic critique (by learning facts that disrupt our vision of the world and our place within it, say). Central to Nietzsche’s claim that epistemic courage is a virtue is his conviction that many of the things we will learn about are, in fact, deeply disturbing, morally and existentially, not least deep truths about ourselves (Alfano 2012). We might need courage to cope with the harms done to us when and if we come to know and understand certain things about ourselves, other people, or the world.


Ian James Kidd

Reflecting on such cases, Jason Baehr proposes that “a willingness to persist or persevere” does not always require courage, although it might require other virtues, such as “determination, patience, diligence, or tenacity” (Baehr 2011: 21). Determination combats difficulty, patience combats slowness, diligence combats tedium, and courage combats harms. Crucially, though, the harms must be genuine, rather than imagined or merely apparent. Some things might seem harmful, when in fact they are quite harmless. Sometimes, knowing this might require experience or understanding, of a sort typically unavailable to the novice or the naïve. Although an agent might genuinely struggle to persist with an activity they mistakenly regard as harmful, this is not an act of virtuous epistemic courage, since the virtue requires an excellent perceptual and evaluative component: a capacity to accurately perceive and judge what is or might be, and is not or is unlikely to be, harmful. The status of harms as a sub-type of obstacle is captured by Heather Battaly’s argument that courage is a sub-set of the virtue of epistemic perseverance. She conceives of the latter as a disposition to make good judgments about one’s intellectual goals, to reliably perceive obstacles to those goals, to respond to those obstacles with the appropriate degree of confidence and calmness, to overcome those obstacles or otherwise act as the context demands, and to do all of this because one cares appropriately about epistemic goods (Battaly 2017: 20). Since only some of the obstacles to our epistemic goals involve subjection to harms, courage is a sub-virtue of perseverance, focusing on responses to harms. It would be interesting to identify and describe the other sub-virtues of perseverance.2 The status of courage as a sub-virtue does not entail that it has a second-class status among virtues of the mind. Quite the contrary, the centrality of courage as a virtue of the mind is partly reflective of the pervasiveness of subjection to harms in epistemic life. Some accounts of courage tend to occlude that centrality, by focusing on a narrow range of epistemic activities. Zagzebski (1996: 17–18) and Montmarquet (1993: 23) both characterize courage in terms of, roughly, dispositions to care about epistemic goods and to defend one’s putatively justified beliefs in the face of opposition, until one becomes reasonably persuaded of their falsity. But such accounts are too narrow for two reasons. First, they focus on doxastic commitments and practices, when in fact courage can be invited by or manifested in many other dimensions of epistemic life. Second, even within doxastic practice, courage is not confined to defending one’s beliefs, since it might involve abandoning or critically reflecting on them, too. Compare, for instance, Roberts and Wood’s broader conception of courage as “a power to resist or overcome fears that tend to disrupt one’s intellectual functioning” (Roberts and Wood 2007: 234). A distinction should be made, here, between a feeling of fear and the object of the fear. Mice may evoke a feeling of fear that disrupts a person’s functioning, by causing them to stop moving around in spaces containing mice, but of course mice are not legitimate objects of fear, unlike lions and tigers. To be virtuously epistemically courageous, a person will be excellent at perceiving and evaluating things that are legitimate sources of harm. Staying with a broad conception of courage as an epistemic virtue manifested in responses to harms, as a specific type of obstacle, three further qualifying points are needed. First, what counts as a harm must be, to borrow a term from Nathan King (2014: 3975), personrelative. Although there are generic harms, the salience of a given harm will often depend on particular features of an agent’s material, social, and epistemic circumstances and identity. Reputational damage is a generic type of harm, but a senior professor, regarded and esteemed for her diligence and integrity, can be harmed reputationally in ways that a more junior researcher, fresh out of graduate school, cannot. The range and severity of harms to which an agent will be vulnerable is shaped by their social positionality, epistemic identity, and professional status. And, so, a situation may generate harms for, and thus demand courage from, some people and not others.



Second, subjection to harm may be a general feature of epistemic life, but some agents are particularly vulnerable to harm because they occupy situations of social and epistemic oppression. They will be subjected to more intensive and extensive harms. Courage will thus have a special significance for the oppressed, for two reasons noted by Medina. First, oppressed agents are, by definition, more likely to be subjected to harms, insofar as their ‘epistemic journeys’ are subject to active aggression by other, privileged agents. Second, courage may have a particular significance for members of oppressed groups, as “a crucial epistemic and political virtue” (Medina 2013: 229). Medina’s thought is that although epistemic courage has some role in all lives, it has a specific role for oppressed persons—if they can act with epistemic courage, their capacity for coping with or resisting oppression is enhanced. Such courage might be a feat of what he calls an epistemic hero, a person capable of outstanding epistemic acts and attainments, who “initiates and facilitates epistemic transformations for us all,” often through acts of profound epistemic courage (see Medina 2013: 233). But it can equally be a collective accomplishment, if and when individual acts of epistemic courage are “echoed by others . . . reverberating in a social chain” (Medina 2013: 231)—a form of collective epistemic courage I return to in section 20.4. Ideally, of course, these forms of courage particular to the oppressed would cease to be necessary, since the subjections to harm implicated in systems of oppression would cease to be a feature of our societies. But that is an ideal, for sure. A third qualifier to the association of courage with harms concerns the ways that fear might feature in the psychology of courage. Intuitively, courage manifests in response to fear. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that these are fears of actual or potential harms. But Baehr (2011: 169) urges caution, proposing that experiencing fear is not a precondition for an exercise of courage. Some epistemic agents, like the grizzled investigative reporter or long-term detective, may no longer experience fear. Nor need fear play a role in the etiology of an agent’s courage. Although some earn their courage through acts of confronting threats and harms, others seem naturally to possess it. We ought to distinguish, then, between forms of courage achieved through the efforts of agents, and what Aristotle called the natural forms of the virtues, acquired from one’s environment (Nicomachean Ethics VI.13). To sum up, courage as an epistemic virtue is a sub-virtue of perseverance, a specific way of persevering in the face of actual or anticipated subjection to harms. Second, there is a generic range of harms—surveyed in the next section—but the types, range, and intensity of harms to which agents are vulnerable will be socially textured. Third, courage can manifest across the whole range of our epistemic activities, not just defensive doxastic practices. Having the courage of our convictions is not the only way this virtue can be manifested. Fourth, courage does not require fear in either its etiology or its exercise. 20. 2 HAR M S AND VU LN E RA BILIT Y

Let’s start with harms and whether they must be epistemic. A harm is an actual or potential threat to one’s interests, perceived by an agent, and courage is a virtue that enables an agent to respond positively to those harms. (Section 20.3 examines a range of such responses.) Harms can be thought about in terms of their nature, type, and distribution, each of which are relevant to courage. Starting with the nature of harm, an obvious point is that many things are or could become harmful. Some necessarily (since we all have some of the same interests?), some inadvertently; some intentionally (deliberately), some accidentally; some able to be anticipated, others unpredictably; some intrinsically, others only contingently. The physically violent


Ian James Kidd

actions of a criminal gang are necessarily, intentionally, and predictably harmful. Roberts and Wood (2007: 230) give the example of a criminal psychologist becoming “empathically acquainted” with the mind of a sadistic serial killer, an intrinsically emotionally harmful experience. By contrast, studying the social behavior of ducklings isn’t at all harmful, at least as far as I know. For courage to be virtuous, one must be aware of the pertinent harms and be able to properly evaluate them. If not, the agent cannot make clear judgments about the appropriateness of the action relative to the harms, and thus risks the vice of recklessness: a failure to recognize, know, or understand the nature of the harms posed by an act, experience, or situation (see Roberts and Wood 2007: 223f.). A virtuously courageous inquirer asks: are the harms necessary or only contingent features of the act or commitment? Are they accidental or intentional aspects—are they harms that other agents deliberately create? Alongside the anticipated harms, which one can prepare for, might there also be other, unexpected harms for which one cannot? By the type of harm, I refer to different ways that a person might be harmed, across the various domains of a human life. Practical harms include bodily injury, subjection to violence, destruction of property, or erosion of one’s material or financial resources. Social harms include loss of reputation, respect, trust, and other social goods, through one’s being slurred, embarrassed, insulted, ridiculed, accused of some misdemeanor, or otherwise impugned in ways that impair one’s capacity to act and flourish as a social being. Professional harms are infringements on one’s professional interests and capacities, such as loss of credibility, censure, decertification, or being demoted or fired. Psychological harms include damage to one’s self-esteem, mental health, or psychological wellbeing, while epistemic harms include radical doxastic disorientation, loss of epistemic self-trust and self-confidence, or erosion of one’s epistemic virtues. These types of harm obviously interpenetrate, since the forms of interests and domains of life to which they refer are not sharply demarcated. Think of the attacks on Michael Mann’s research and reputation, which were tightly bound up with his personal and professional identity, and integrity. In the case of scientists, the professional and the epistemic cannot be teased apart, or separated from one’s social and psychological security. Given the range of types of harm, Baehr (2011: 190) asks if epistemic courage is confined to responses to epistemic harms. Asking questions, criticizing claims, and so on can subject an agent to harms of a physical, social, professional, psychological, or epistemic sort. My suggestion is that what matters, to make an act one of epistemic courage, is that that the action be motivated by a concern for epistemic goods—asking questions to get to the truth, criticizing claims to advance understanding, and so on. Given these definitively epistemic motivations, the harms that one is or may be subjected to may be of some or all of the types just listed. Some acts of courage may have both epistemic and practical motivations—to gain knowledge in order to defeat the enemy. (An interesting question is that of whether, in those cases, a person is exercising two virtues—those of practical courage and epistemic courage— or exercising a distinctively rich form of the virtue of courage.) The complex ways that interests and harms of epistemic subjects converge are an important reason why reflection on epistemic courage must be sensitive to social positionality. Several generations of work by epistemologists in the fields of feminism and philosophy of race have taught us to beware of vague references to ‘the epistemic agent’, and instead to attend to the plurality of standpoints of situated agents with complexly textured identities. Social and positional identity affects the interests one does and can have, the harms to which one may be subjected, and one’s capacity to respond positively to them. As Medina puts it, though “everyone needs epistemic courage, there is a special kind of courage that the pursuit of knowledge requires for epistemically marginalised subjects” (Medina 2013: 231). Such contingent



patternings of vulnerability to harms mean that the virtue of epistemic courage takes different forms, depending on who one is and where one is located within the social world. 20. 3 AC TS O F COU RA G E

Most virtue epistemologists characterize epistemic courage with reference to a wide range of epistemic activities and commitments. Baehr refers to it as “a disposition to persist in or with a state or course of action aimed at an epistemic good end despite the fact that doing so involves an apparent threat to one’s own well-being” (Baehr 2011: 177). Medina locates courage in acts where an agent is “pursuing participation in epistemic practices . . . despite all obstacles” (Medina 2013: 229). Such references to ‘states’, ‘courses of action’, practices, and ‘journeys’ indicate that epistemic courage might manifest across the whole range of activities constitutive of an epistemic life. Baehr (2011: 173) offers, as examples, observing threatening states of affairs, conceiving of undesirable possibilities, and starting or continuing inquiries—each of which can, at least under certain conditions, increase one’s subjection to harms. Imagine a lifelong theist who gradually comes to suspect that their faith isn’t as warranted as they supposed, a suspicion that threatens to destroy their entire sense of their life and worth. Listening to articulate atheist podcasts, conceiving of the possibility that their beliefs are false, and initiating critical reflection into their faith might all be acts of courage. Each, after all, can subject that theist to a complex array of psychological, social, and existential harms. Crucially, epistemic courage is not confined to practices of inquiry, since not all of our epistemic activity and interest is directed to the acquisition of new epistemic goods. Epistemic courage might be manifested in critically reflecting on, or maintaining a belief—think of a North Korean maintaining the belief that Kim Jong-un is a poor leader—or it might mean suspending judgment or refraining from judging at all (see Baehr 2011: 175). It is a mistake to think of courage only in terms of positive actions—taking a stand, defending a belief. Consider the following illustrative list of epistemic actions, each of which can, for certain agents, under certain conditions, manifest the virtue of epistemic courage: • initiating (or terminating) inquiry • adopting (or abandoning) a belief • challenging (or conforming to) an established understanding of an issue • voicing interest (or disinterest) in a topic • being open (or closed) to certain epistemic possibilities • directing one’s imagination toward (or away) from certain possibilities • sharing (or not sharing) certain results or findings • engaging in (or disengaging from) practices of self-scrutiny • placing (or withholding) epistemic trust in others • asking (or not asking) certain questions. Since this list is non-exhaustive and includes both positive and negative actions, two important consequences follow. First, we ought to resist Baehr’s (2011: 21) classification of courage solely as a virtue that corresponds to ‘demands of endurance’, one of six types of inquiry-relevant demand which virtues enable an agent to meet. The others are the demands of initial motivation, proper focusing, consistent evaluation, and epistemic integrity and flexibility. Courage can play a


Ian James Kidd

role in enabling an agent to meet all six of these demands. Consider the distressing case of investigations of child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church: courage played a role in motivating the inquiries, in focusing the investigations, in evaluating the evidence, in acting with integrity and flexibility. Each of these activities can, and indeed did, subject those involved to a set of harms, including horrible emotional harms (see The Investigative Globe 2016). Classifying courage as a virtue of endurance occludes its broader roles across the whole range of epistemic activity. Second, the range of activities that can manifest epistemic courage entails that many exercises of this virtue will often be invisible. Epistemic courage can be bold and dramatic, in an epistemically high-stakes situation, as with the journalist Edward Murrow’s campaign against the epistemically and politically insidious nefariousness of Senator Joseph McCarthy (see Baehr 2011: §9.2). But epistemic courage can also be found in smaller acts: imagine an agoraphobic student with chronically low self-esteem whose love of philosophy drives them to attend and participate in class every week—an act of true courage, pursuing epistemic goods despite a tangible risk of harm, in this case harm to one’s psychological wellbeing, but likely invisible to those without knowledge of the student’s circumstances. Such acts of courage may not be vivid, dramatic, or fire the imagination, but they still exemplify virtuous epistemic courage. Considering the plurality of interests, the person-relativity of harms, and the complexity of context, the richness of virtuous epistemic courage should be clear. It is captured in Baehr’s account of the virtue: [A]n intellectually courageous person is one who engages in a certain sort of activity despite the appearance of a threat or harm, and more specifically, despite a judgment or belief to the effect that the activity in question is dangerous or threatening. This judgment amounts to a precondition for an exercise of intellectual courage—it comprises the background against which the positive “substance” of intellectual courage is manifested. (Baehr 2011: 170–171) Such a person has a disposition integral to epistemic courage, but full possession of that virtue requires something further, namely, “a certain motivational . . . structure wherein a desire for epistemic goods is dominant vis-à-vis other motivations” (Baehr 2011: 178–179). Two comments on Baehr’s remark. First, the relevant activity can be positive or negative, e.g., so adopting or abandoning a belief. Second, the harms may be actual or anticipated, since it won’t always be clear, in advance, whether an activity will be harmful. Indeed, the uncertainty of harms is one reason that courage has cooperative or sub-virtues, required for its effective exercise. Roberts and Wood nominate epistemic caution, a disposition to “cultivate, refine, and listen to one’s fears” by reflectively adapting to the harms of one’s environment (Roberts and Wood 2007: 217–220). We might also consider what Battaly (2017: 22) calls epistemic self-control, a capacity to resist the desire to forsake epistemically valuable projects for ones less valuable but more pleasurable. Study of the cluster of virtues related to epistemic courage should start with caution and self-control, alongside the relation of these to other virtues. 20. 4 C O LLEC TI VE EP IS T E MIC COU RA G E

Many of the preceding examples of the virtue of epistemic courage have pertained to individual agents. Typical images of courage feature outstanding individuals, such as those Medina (2013: 225) calls epistemic heroes, persons characterized by a profound capacity for



epistemic achievement. Such heroes speak out, stand up, fight back, ask the hard questions, and defend the truth, in the process often risking increasingly intense and acute subjection to a variety of harms. Although this might paint epistemic courage as a quality of outstanding individual agents, Medina emphasizes that such epistemic heroism is a “complex cultural artefact,” an accomplishment that is “possible and effective only within specific social contexts and thanks to the support of social networks and social movements” (Medina 2013: 225). Accordingly, one might ask if epistemic courage can be a virtue of collectives as well as of individual agents. The literature on collective epistemic virtues is fairly modest, since most work in virtue epistemology focuses on the virtues of individual agents. Certainly the usual understanding of virtues as excellent traits of character, as virtues of the mind, leads naturally enough to a focus on those individuals, bearers of character and virtue. But several writers, including Miranda Fricker (2010) and Reza Lahroodi (2007), propose that collectives can also be bearers of virtues, ones not reducible to the virtues of their constituent individual members. They think that a collective can have a virtue that is possessed by few or none of its constituent members. Imagine a hiring committee composed of deeply prejudiced individuals, whose prejudices get canceled out at the group level, such that the committee itself is impartial. Second, they think that a collective can lack a virtue that is possessed by many or all of its members. Imagine a church committee whose members are individually openminded about LGBTQ issues, but who as a collective act closed-mindedly, perhaps out of a shared concern to be seen to conform to church teachings. When considering the possibility of collective forms of the virtue of epistemic courage, we have two options. First, a collective could be courageous if it acts in ways that subject it to actual or anticipated harms, out of a sense of commitment to some set of epistemic goods, even if some or all of its members lack such courage. There is good reason to think this form of collective epistemic courage occurs. For one thing, certain harms are easier to respond to when one is a member of a group, since groups often have greater capacities and resources than individuals. After all, we often form and join collectives because doing so enhances our strength and security. Medina captures this when referring to the “chained actions” of multiple agents, who act courageously in ways that are then “echoed by others,” “reverberating in a social chain,” within which “a multiplicity of individuals, groups, and publics are implicated” (Medina 2013: 225, 229, 248). For another thing, epistemic courage might show itself in certain actions that can only be performed by collectives—for instance, acts too large, complex, or temporally extended for any individual agent to perform, no matter how energetic or skilled they may be. In such cases, collectives can legitimately be said to possess the virtue of epistemic courage, since certain forms of positive response to harms are only possible at the collective level. A second option for thinking about collective epistemic courage is to consider the idea that only collectives can be subjected to certain types of harm. Individuals and collectives can be fired or assassinated or psychologically oppressed. By contrast, only collectives can be disbanded or defunded, since those sorts of harms only apply to collectives, such as institutions. If so, the existence of specifically collective forms of harm suggests that there could be distinctively collective forms of courage. Obviously a courageous collective cannot have all of the features of courageous individuals, such as virtuous perceptual habits, but nor need they. A collective need only possess and manifest those fundamental components of the virtue of epistemic courage, namely dispositions to act in ways intended to secure some set of epistemic goods, despite a judgment or belief that doing so will increase subjection to actual or anticipated harms, where a concern for epistemic goods is a primary motivation. Since


Ian James Kidd

collectives can arguably act, make judgments, have motivations, share beliefs, and suffer harms, there are good reasons to take seriously the idea of virtuously epistemically courageous collectives. The study of courageous collectives needs at least two things. The first is case studies, ideally ones that detail the collectives’ actions and motives, the harms to which they were subjected, and their ways of responding positively to them. Luckily, many such cases exist, such as the Boston Globe investigation into child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, as depicted in the 2015 film Spotlight. It is a sad fact of the world that there are powerful groups opposed to various forms of inquiry—for economic, practical, ideological, or other reasons—which are willing and able to subject those who pursue such epistemic goods to harms. By providing detailed case studies, virtue epistemologists may be able to identify conditions conducive to the cultivation and exercise of epistemic courage by collectives. Second, studying collective courage will require close contact with wider bodies of work on collective intentionality and group agency (see, e.g., Schweikard and Schmid 2013). 20. 5 PR O FESSI O NAL E P IS T E MIC COU RA G E

Some epistemic virtues have a special significance for the members of particular professions: these are professional epistemic virtues. Over the last decade or so, the idea of professional virtues, ones whose cultivation and exercise is especially incumbent on the members of certain professions, has undergone a minor renaissance (see Oakley and Cocking 2001; Walker and Ivanhoe 2009). Embracing the idea does not entail abandonment of a sense that there are generic excellences of character, but rather marks a sense that the salience of certain virtues is informed significantly by our professional roles, identities, and activities. There is only a modest literature on professional epistemic virtues, although a growing number of studies explore the role of epistemic virtues in scientific inquiry (see Stump 2007; Ivanova 2010; Kidd 2011). Granted, the specific claim that these are professional virtues isn’t always made, but it is latent in the claim that such virtues have integral roles in professions with a special relation to epistemic goods. Teaching and archaeology, for instance, both involve authoritative transmission of epistemic goods, making truthfulness a distinctive virtue of those professions (see Cooper 2006, 2008). Interestingly, the examples of epistemic courage in virtue epistemological literature often concern professional epistemic agents— an investigative journalist, a Supreme Court Justice, and a pair of astrophysicists for Baehr (2011: §9.2) and a scientist and psychical researcher for Kidd (2014). Could epistemic courage be a professional epistemic virtue for the members of certain professions? If so, which ones, and why? Should professional communities and institutions explicitly recognize and facilitate the exercise of epistemic courage? How might the cultivation of epistemic courage be incorporated into professional training? Since it is early days in the study of professional epistemic virtues, the most one can do, for now, is to sketch some future lines of inquiry. What might make epistemic courage a distinctive virtue of some profession? I focus on professions with a special relationship to, or concern with, epistemic goods, such as scientific inquiry, education, and the media. One line of thought is that the activities constitutive of a profession inevitably subject its practitioners to harms, so that a courageous willingness to perform those activities, in pursuit of those goods, despite those harms is required. (Compare how courage is a professional virtue of soldiers, because the activities definitive of soldiering—such as combat—are intrinsically harmful.) Obvious examples of professions whose practices can be harmful include investigative journalism and forensic psychology—recall Roberts and Wood’s example of the emotional harms



of an ‘empathetic acquaintance’ with the mind of a serial killer. The International Women’s Media Foundation awards an annual ‘Courage in Journalism Award’, for women journalists worldwide who “[o]vercom[e] threats, oppression, and a stubborn glass ceiling” to “persevere in their pursuit of the truth” ( Another line of thought is that the epistemic goods with which a profession is concerned may subject its practitioners to harms, even if the relevant activities are not, themselves, likely to be harmful. The practices of an academic historian, such as studying archival documents, are not particularly harmful, but the topics that a historian elects to produce and share knowledge of can certainly lead them to be subjected to harms. Here, epistemic courage is needed, not because of what one is doing, but because of what could or should be done with what one discovers, explains, or understands. Consider, for instance, the recent experiences of the US historian of science and medicine, Robert Proctor, whose 2012 book, Golden Holocaust, offers an extensive study of the history of cigarette design, rhetoric, and science. Among other things, it documents the strategies developed by tobacco companies to create and deploy ignorance about the deleterious health and environmental effects of their products. Beyond his exposure of their strategies, Proctor also ‘names names’, by listing medical researchers, historians, statisticians, and others, who work—often non-transparently, by failing to disclose funding sources—for tobacco companies (Proctor 2011: part III). Proctor also often testifies against the industry, and so was already on their radar as a threat. Consequently it was unsurprising that, once they learned of his book project, they subjected him to a campaign of intimidation. They tried to subpoena his manuscript, private emails, and research notes, costing him fifty thousand dollars in legal fees, not to mention months of stress, and he was tailed at conferences (see Mechanic 2012; Monaghan 2012). As a candidate case study of epistemic courage, we have much to go on here. Proctor was motivated by epistemic goods, namely to share knowledge and truth about the tobacco industry, including its corruption of academia, which he judges to be “one of the most deadly abuses of scholarly integrity in modern history” (Proctor 2011: 458). Moreover, he persisted with this research despite the fact that doing so subjected him to a variety of social and professional harms, though he was fortunate to have the institutional support of his employer, Stanford University. The harms here are not intrinsic to the practice of academic history of science, but are imposed on it from an external set of agents—the tobacco industry—whose interests are put in jeopardy by the epistemic goods that Proctor sought, successfully, to provide. Unfortunately, contemporary science offers other, less encouraging studies for our exploration of epistemic courage. Climate scientists are also subjected to strategies of intimidation designed to deter investigations that would enhance public and political understanding of the reality, extent, and consequences of anthropogenic climate change (see Oreskes and Conway 2010; Mann 2012). The main culprits here are groups and organizations with economic, political, or ideological investment in carbon intensive economies that have considerable power and resources. Many climate scientists report that the reasonable fear of being ‘attacked’ by climate contrarians leads them to understate their conclusions, abandon climate change for ‘safer’ topics, or even to leave the discipline and encourage graduate students to consider other fields—all of which reflects a justified epistemic timidity (see Biddle, Kidd, and Leuschner 2017). It is important to study such cases, not to engage in blaming those under attack, but to identify the sorts of conditions that enable individuals and collectives to cultivate and exercise epistemic courage. Equally important are studies of the set of vices associated with epistemic courage, including those of excess, such as recklessness, and those of deficiency, such as scrupulosity and cowardice (see Roberts and Wood 2007: 221–234) and servility and


Ian James Kidd

timidity (Tanesini 2018). Clearly there is scope for further study of the virtue of epistemic courage, and, alas, ample material and motivation for such work.3 (Related Chapters: 21, 31, 32, 33, 41.) NOTE S 1 See Baehr (2011: 17); Fricker (2007: 168); Medina (2013: 229); Montmarquet (1993: 23). 2 Starting with Baehr’s list, one should start with determination, patience, diligence, and tenacity, perhaps by coupling these to specific types of obstacle. 3 I am grateful to Heather Battaly for comments on this chapter, and the invitation to contribute it.

REFERE N C E S Alfano, M. (2012) ‘The Most Agreeable of All Vices: Nietzsche as Virtue Epistemologist,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21(4): 767–790. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology, New York: Oxford University Press. Battaly, H. (2015) “Epistemic Virtue and Vice: Reliabilism, Responsibilism, and Personalism,” in C. Mi, M. Slote, and E. Sosa (eds.) Moral and Intellectual Virtues in Western and Chinese Philosophy, New York: Routledge. Battaly, H. (2017) “Intellectual Perseverance,” Journal of Moral Philosophy 14(6): 669–697. Biddle, J., I.J. Kidd, and A. Leuschner. (2017) “Epistemic Corruption and Manufactured Doubt: The Case of Climate Science,” Public Affairs Quarterly 31(3): 165–187. Cooper, D.E. (2006) “Truthfulness and ‘Inclusion’ in Archaeology,” in C. Scarre and G. Scarre (eds.) The Ethics of Archaeology: Philosophical Perspectives on Archaeological Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 131–145. Cooper, D.E. (2008) “Teaching and Truthfulness,” Studies in Philosophy and Education 27: 79–87. Fricker, M. (2007) Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fricker, M. (2010) “Can There Be Institutional Virtues?” in T.S. Gendler and J. Hawthorne (eds.) Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ivanova, M. (2010) “Pierre Duhem’s Good Sense as a Guide to Theory Choice,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 41: 58–64. Kidd, I.J. (2011) “Pierre Duhem’s Epistemic Aims and the Intellectual Virtue of Humility,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 42: 185–189. Kidd, I.J. (2014) “Was Sir William Crookes Epistemically Virtuous?” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences 48: 67–74. King, N. (2014) “Erratum to: Perseverance as an Intellectual Virtue,” Synthese 191: 3779–3801. Lahroodi, R. (2007) “Collective Epistemic Virtue,” Social Epistemology 21(3): 281–297. Mann, M. (2012) The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, New York: Columbia University Press. Mechanic, M. (2012) “The Book Big Tobacco Doesn’t Want You to Read,” Mother Jones, politics/2012/05/tobacco-book-golden-holocaust-robert-proctor. Medina, J. (2013) The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Monaghan, P. (2012) “Smoking Out Tobacco,” Chronicle of Higher Education, March 22, blogs/pageview/smoking-out-tobacco/30192. Montmarquet, J. (1993) Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Oakley, J. and D. Cocking. (2001) Virtue Ethics and Professional Roles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Oreskes, N. and E.M. Conway. (2010) Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, New York: Bloomsbury. Proctor, R.N. (2011) Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Roberts, R.C. and W.J. Wood. (2007) Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Schweikard, D.P. and H.B. Schmid. (2013) “Collective Intentionality,” in E.N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stump, D. (2007) “Pierre Duhem’s Virtue Epistemology,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 38: 149–159. Tanesini, A. (2018) “Intellectual Timidity and Servility,” Journal of Philosophical Research. The Investigative Globe. (2016) Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church: The Findings of the Investigation That Inspired the Major Motion Picture Spotlight, London: Profile. Walker, R.L. and P.J. Ivanhoe. (2009) Working Virtue: Virtue Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

21 Intellectual Perseverance Nathan King

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” “Nothing worth having ever comes easy.” “The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep running.” Visit any website devoted to inspirational quotations, and you are bound to find dozens of similar slogans. The chorus of those who attribute their success to perseverance includes voices from all ages and walks of life, ranging from Lucretius to Steve Jobs, and from Albert Einstein to Julie Andrews. Judging by this refrain, it seems obvious that perseverance is an important key to success in many human endeavors. But is this ode to perseverance any more than a cliché? Judging by another measure—the relative inattention philosophers have paid to the trait—one could be forgiven for answering in the negative. However, this answer is mistaken. Those willing to dig beneath the slogans will be rewarded with rich insights into the nature of the trait, into its centrality to a range of human activities, and into the relationships between perseverance and other important traits (e.g., courage). This essay explores the nature and value of intellectual perseverance, specifically intellectually virtuous perseverance (IVP). At a first approximation, this character trait is a disposition to continue in one’s intellectual projects for an appropriate amount of time, with serious effort, with appropriate thought and emotion, in the face of obstacles to the success of one’s projects, and with a motivation for epistemic goods. This trait lies in an Aristotelian mean between the deficiency of irresolution and the excess of intransigence.1 In section 21.1, I set out several vignettes that display IVP in action. In sections 21.2–21.7, I unpack the definition of the trait just sketched. I conclude by suggesting future lines of research. 21. 1 EXEMP LA RS

It will help to begin our study of IVP by considering narratives of individuals whose actions exhibit the trait. As these cases illustrate, IVP manifests itself in a wide range of intellectual activities.


Intellectual Perseverance


For instance, some agents persevere in inquiry, an activity aimed at the discovery of truth. knowledge, or understanding. Scientific inquiry is a paradigm case, and there are numerous examples of IVP throughout the history of science. For instance, Isaac Newton labored tirelessly to develop the calculus needed to build his theory of physics. (Students must exercise perseverance just to learn calculus. Imagine inventing it!) Thus, the title of Richard Westfall’s (1980) prominent biography—Never at Rest—isn’t just a pithy reference to Newton’s First Law. It aptly describes the man himself. Of course, science has no monopoly on virtuous perseverance in inquiry. Those fountainheads of early analytic philosophy, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, displayed remarkable IVP, each in his own way. During the summers of 1903 and 1904, Russell awoke to a blank page, rethinking the foundations of set theory in order to solve a puzzle (Russell’s Paradox) that he himself had posed (Battaly 2017). Wittgenstein composed his Tractatus as a prisoner of war during WWI (Monk 1991). Cases of IVP exercised in the midst of inquiry come readily to mind. Indeed, they are so widely available that they can obscure other manifestations of IVP. The trait also appears: (1) in the accumulation of knowledge and skills prior to and for the sake of some specific inquiry, (2) in the retention of epistemic goods, and (3) in the dissemination of epistemic goods. Intellectually virtuous perseverance is often needed for an epistemic agent to acquire the prerequisites for some specific inquiry. As with other acts and exercises of IVP, cases of type(1) can involve different kinds of obstacles. Some obstacles are external to the agent. For example, Frederick Douglass overcame slavery, poverty, and racism—externally imposed obstacles which made formal education hard to attain for blacks of his time. Douglass, whose master forbade him to be educated, sought to overcome this through self-education, conducting his studies in secret and marshalling his own resources. On several occasions, he went so far as to trade bread to neighborhood children in exchange for reading lessons (Douglass 1982: 82). By these means, he quickly educated himself, reading increasingly difficult books until at last he found himself fully stocked with the intellectual supplies needed to construct the case for abolition. In other cases, IVP is exercised as an agent overcomes internal obstacles to cognitive goods. Such obstacles include self-doubt, confusion, distraction, discouragement, and some disabilities.2 Helen Keller famously overcame blindness and deafness in order to learn how to communicate and receive communication. Deprived of faculties that most of us take for granted, Keller fought tenaciously to develop abilities (principally her sense of touch) that could serve as proxies for sight and hearing. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, attests to the young Helen’s resolve: “She was unwilling to leave a lesson if she did not understand it all, and even at the age of seven she would never drop a task until she had mastered it completely” (Brooks 1956: 17). As is well known, this tenacity ultimately resulted in Keller’s earning a bachelor’s degree and becoming an internationally renowned advocate for the disabled, and for women’s suffrage. Suppose that one manages, whether through sheer grace or hard work, to acquire intellectual goods. Such success does not render IVP unnecessary. In many cases, IVP is needed to retain true belief, knowledge, or understanding after it has been gained. Such acts of perseverance fall under type-(2) above. In the early Middle Ages, ascetic Christians founded a number of monasteries as they retreated from the pressures of the workaday world and from a wave of invasions. In these monasteries, the descendants of an illiterate people took to reading and copying books, from the Bible to the great works of the Greeks and Romans. Consider their task: to transcribe books by hand. Once they made their own copies, they


Nathan King

began making copies for others. To protect the books from invaders, the monks sometimes buried them in haste, or sent them to more secure monasteries. Many works and much knowledge might have been lost forever, if not for such efforts. It was a noble calling, but the work was arduous, as the monks’ marginal notes attest: “I am very cold”; “Oh, my hand”; “Now I’ve written the whole thing: For Christ’s sake, give me a drink” (Dickey 2012). In addition to challenging working conditions, the monasteries were sometimes attacked, despite their remote locations. The monastery at Skellig Michael—a rock island eight miles off the Irish coast—was regularly accosted by Viking raiders (Cahill 1995). In the face of danger and drudgery, the monks displayed an admirable love of knowledge—a love that expressed itself as intellectually virtuous perseverance. The dissemination of intellectual goods already possessed, no less than the retention thereof, often requires IVP. These are cases of type-(3). Recall the example of Helen Keller. It is beyond question that her efforts bespeak virtuous perseverance. For now, though, focus not on the pupil, but on her teacher. Once visually impaired herself, Anne Sullivan displayed staggering perseverance in fostering Keller’s education. In addition to her physical disabilities, the young Keller was prone to fits of rage, often injuring members of her own family. Sullivan worked with relentless genius in finding and developing methods for instructing Keller, eventually calming the child and teaching her everything from basic vocabulary to arithmetic to Greek literature. All the while, Sullivan insisted that Keller could learn as much as a seeing, hearing child (Brooks 1956: ch. 1). Her care for Keller is expressed in no small part by her concern that Keller acquire such epistemic goods as her condition permitted—an accumulation of goods that far exceeded what many thought possible. 21. 2 A DEFI NI TI O N OF T H E VIRT U E

The examples above provide a kind of acquaintance with the concept of intellectually virtuous perseverance. We now move to analyze the concept. Better: we move to analyze a concept of IVP—namely, a responsibilist concept that centers on the agent’s motives, beliefs, emotions, and consequent behavior. We do not hereby dismiss the possibility of a complementary reliabilist concept of IVP, on which the trait is a virtue because it consistently produces epistemically good results. But the analysis of the latter must be left for another paper. The remaining sections will unpack the following definition of IVP as an excellence of intellectual character: An agent A possesses the trait of intellectually virtuous perseverance if and only if A is disposed to continue in A’s intellectual endeavors for an appropriate amount of time, with serious effort, with appropriate thought and emotion, with motivation for intellectual goods, and despite being aware of obstacles to A’s acquiring, maintaining, or disseminating these goods. Only agents who possess this trait may exercise it. However, agents who do not possess the trait may still act in a manner characteristic of it, as when they are seeking to acquire the virtue. Agents who possess the trait will not exercise it at all times, but rather as the occasion demands. 21. 3 VI RT U E S

IVP is one among many character virtues, where these include moral virtues, theological virtues, and intellectual virtues. The boundaries between these categories are disputed. But

Intellectual Perseverance


for present purposes we can note the distinctive feature of intellectual character virtues: a motivation for true belief, knowledge, and understanding, along with an aversion to their opposites: false belief, ignorance, and confusion. We can better understand the distinctive features of IVP first by distinguishing intellectual virtues from other properties of persons, and then by attending to the behavioral and psychological features of IVP that distinguish it from other intellectual virtues. The remainder of this section concerns the first of these tasks. Character traits, including virtues, differ from other properties of agents:3 • An agent’s faculties (e.g., her eyesight and reasoning capacities) are clearly features of the agent. But unlike having a character trait, having these faculties requires no specific set of beliefs, motivations, emotions, or action-dispositions. Further, an agent’s faculties are innate, whereas her character traits are, in normal cases, acquired. • Likewise, skills and talents are not character traits. For example, Jones may be highly skilled at some particular aspect of golf—say, hitting a lob shot over a bunker—but this alone does not speak to her character. Smith may have a special musical talent (e.g., perfect pitch). However, knowing this provides little information about the sort of person Smith is. • By contrast, character traits are dispositions of thinking and/or feeling and/or motivation and/or action that ground normative evaluations of persons as such. An agent’s character traits express her central beliefs or desires or emotions or motives (inclusive disjunction), and serve to predict and explain how she will act in a given situation. For example, someone with the character trait of honesty will tend to believe that telling the truth is important, will tend to revere the truth, and will tend to tell the truth across a range of situations because of her honesty-relevant beliefs and motives. Character traits reveal the agent’s values, and thereby serve as a basis for normative (e.g., moral or intellectual) evaluation of the agent herself. In the case of the honest agent just mentioned, such an evaluation will be positive. In other cases—say, that of a Nazi who hates Jewish people, harbors false beliefs about them, and is disposed to harm them—it will be negative. Some theorists add that character traits are subject to normative evaluation because agents are, to some extent, responsible for the character traits they have (see Miller 2014: ch. 1). Though virtues are included in the class of character traits, they are not alone. There are numerous vices, for instance; and there are arguably traits that lie between virtue and vice, e.g., continence, akrasia, and so-called “mixed traits,” which are roughly traits involving both good and bad dispositions of thought, or feeling, motivation, or behavior (inclusive disjunction). • A proper subset of character traits, virtues of character are distinguished by way of displaying excellence of action and/or thought and/or emotion and/or motivation in a given sphere of activity. They are often found in a mean between extremes (those being vices) of excess and deficiency. For example, courage lies in a mean between rashness and cowardice. Finding the mean is commonly taken to require the exercise of phronesis, or practical wisdom. The mean itself often differs from person to person within wide, but not limitless boundaries. It should be clear that intellectual perseverance is not a faculty, skill, or talent. Rather, it is a trait of intellectual character. Moreover, intellectually virtuous perseverance is an excellent trait of intellectual character. This it has in common with traits like intellectual humility, intellectual carefulness, and intellectual fairness. To see what distinguishes IVP from other intellectual character virtues, it will help to consider both the vices it opposes and its specific psychological profile.


Nathan King

21. 4 I VP’ S VI C E COU N T E RP A RT S

Intellectually virtuous perseverance stands between the deficiency of intellectual irresolution and the excess of intellectual intransigence. The irresolute agent quits too early on his projects, as when the college freshman drops out two weeks into the Fall semester after having received his first C+; or when the high school student opts out of a basic math assignment, instead taking to the internet to discuss the latest Hollywood fashion failure. By contrast, the intransigent agent quits too late, or not at all. Here we might think of misguided searchers looking for El Dorado, or of those Modern thinkers who clung tenaciously to the project of squaring the circle. Agents who display IVP avoid the vices of irresolution and intransigence. We can readily identify examples of each trait, which suffices to show that there are clear distinctions among them. But what exactly distinguishes IVP from these vices, and from other traits (including other intellectual virtues)? What constitutes an appropriate amount of time pursuing an intellectual project in the face of obstacles? To answer, it will help to consider the distinctive excellences of behavior, thought, motivation, and emotion displayed by agents with IVP. Looking for differences along these dimensions will enable us to distinguish between cases of irresolution, intransigence, and virtuous perseverance, and to distinguish IVP from other intellectual virtues. 2 1. 5 M O TI VATI O N, B EHA VIOR, A N D OBS T A CLE S

We can start by considering the motivation behind IVP. Whereas dispositions of behavior, thought, and/or emotion distinguish intellectual virtues from one another, dispositions of motivation unify such virtues. The intellectually virtuous agent—including the agent with IVP—will want to acquire, and/or maintain, and/or disseminate true beliefs, rational beliefs, instances of knowledge, and understanding. The virtuous thinker will also want to avoid such epistemic pitfalls as false belief, irrational belief, confusion, and ignorance. Moreover, such an agent will not be ill-motivated. For example, she will not desire epistemic goods merely or primarily as a means to an end like wealth, fame, or a good grade. To individuate intellectual character virtues, we must consider the voluntary behavior that each virtue embodies. For instance, the intellectually courageous person seeks intellectual goods despite fears or threats to her well-being (Baehr 2011: ch. 9). The humble person admits his limitations and accounts for them (Whitcomb et al. 2017). With respect to IVP, the characteristic behavior is continuing one’s intellectual projects for an appropriate amount of time, in the face of obstacles to one’s gaining, retaining, or disseminating epistemic goods. For such perseverance to be virtuous, the relevant obstacles must make it difficult for the agent to reach her intellectual goal. There is no canonical list of difficult obstacles. Indeed, obstacles are as varied as cognitive agents and their circumstances. However, the examples cited in section 21.1 alone suggest an abundant menagerie: the sheer challenge of the project itself, the distraction of war, poverty, slavery, racism, obstinacy on the part of interlocutors, mental or physical disability, social ostracism, a lack of resources, poor working conditions, depression, and discouragement. Resistance to difficulty, in part, explains why virtuous intellectual perseverance is an excellence. We admire agents who persist despite difficulty, and other things being equal, we admire them in proportion to the degree of that difficulty. We do not admire agents who merely continue in their tasks without difficulty. One can persist slothfully, or one

Intellectual Perseverance


can persist in a task that is very easy. Such cases embody perseverance of a sort, but don’t thereby embody IVP because such efforts are not excellent. The student who takes days to complete math homework that could be completed in minutes does not deserve a trophy for his perseverance—not even a participation trophy. Thus, “intellectual perseverance” and “intellectually virtuous perseverance” are not synonymous—the set of virtuously persevering acts (or agents) is a proper subset of persevering acts (or agents). What is difficult for one agent may not be difficult for another. Solving a calculus equation may be difficult for a student but not difficult for his professor; composing a letter in Greek may be hard for the typical New Yorker, but not for a citizen of Athens. And so on. This implies that what counts as an obstacle to intellectual success—and thus what counts as virtuous perseverance—will vary from person to person. This variance may be narrow for the maximal degree of IVP, but is arguably broader for meeting the minimal qualifications for the virtue. In all cases, however, IVP requires resistance to obstacles that make it difficult for the agent to achieve her aim. Virtuous resistance to difficulty does not require success in achieving one’s intellectual goals. Success may depend on luck, or on the actions and attitudes of others. Where these others prevent the success a project, this need not undermine our judgment that an agent virtuously perseveres. Consider figures like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who fought side-by-side for the cause of women’s suffrage during the second half of the nineteenth century. Because of resistance from their opponents, Stanton and Anthony did not succeed in convincing the nation of the importance of women’s rights, at least not in their own lifetimes (Gornick 2007). However, this does not keep their perseverance from counting as virtuous. Rather, it speaks to the extreme difficulty of the task that the suffragists undertook—a difficulty that supports the attribution of virtuous perseverance in light of their efforts. If the above remarks are on target, then the characteristic behavior of intellectual perseverance is continuing in one’s intellectual tasks despite obstacles. We have already seen that not all such behavior is virtuous—some of it is intransigent. Thus, W.C. Fields purportedly quipped, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again. And then quit. There’s no sense being a damn fool about it.” Phronesis, or practical wisdom, is the virtue needed to avoid such folly. The practically wise person will employ this virtue in making rational judgments about which projects are worth continuing—and thereby which acts of perseverance are intransigent and which are virtuous. Thus, we can further tighten our grasp of IVP by attending to the patterns of thought that characterize practically wise—and thereby virtuous—perseverance.4 21. 6 B E LIE FS

The beliefs of the virtuously persevering agent distinguish her from agents who lack IVP. Such beliefs concern the likelihood that the agent’s intellectual projects will succeed, the obstacles that the agent must overcome, and the value of the agent’s projects. Let’s consider these in turn. Beliefs about Prospects for Success. Some beliefs are incompatible with an agent’s displaying virtuous perseverance. IVP seems to rule out irrational belief that a project will succeed. For instance, Hobbes and friends had strong reasons for thinking that their circle-squaring project could not succeed long before they ceased the project. That they persisted despite having this evidence explains why we judge them to be intransigent. Similar remarks apply to those who continue to search for the Fountain of Youth, or who continue to seek a proof that the Earth is flat.


Nathan King

IVP rules out irrational belief in a project’s prospects for success. It does not follow that IVP requires a rational belief that one’s project will succeed. Consider an analogy from the literature on epistemic justification. Epistemologists agree that if a belief, B, is justified, it must not be defeated—the person who holds B must not have evidence showing that is B false, or showing that the grounds on which B is based are inadequate to justify it. It does not follow that in order to be justified, B must be based on positive evidence. Nor does it follow that, for B to be justified, the person who holds it must believe that B is justified. Rather, such additional requirements must be supported with arguments that are independent from the “no-defeater condition” on justification (Bergmann 1997). Similarly, it does not follow from the claim that IVP rules out irrational belief in a project’s success that it therefore requires a rational belief that a project will succeed. Beyond ruling out irrational belief in a project’s success, what might IVP require by way of belief on the agent’s part? Below are several natural but mistaken suggestions. Suggestion 1: IVP requires that the agent, A, rationally believes that A will succeed in drawing the project to completion. To see that this suggestion is too strong, consider an agent who is part of a large team of researchers devoted to curing a dreaded disease. Success will require a sustained collaborative effort on the part of many individuals. Aware of this, our agent does not believe that she herself will complete the project. She need not thereby fail to exhibit IVP. Here is a weaker claim: Suggestion 2: IVP requires that the agent, A, rationally believes that A’s efforts will contribute to meaningful progress on the project. This suggestion is still too strong. Consider, again, an agent working with a team to cure a terrible disease. Suppose she does not rationally believe that she is contributing to meaningful progress on the project. Suppose it’s not yet clear that the disease is curable, and thus not clear whether meaningful progress toward a cure can be made (suppose she suspends judgment about this). So long as there is still some reason to think that progress is possible—this is a “live option”—our agent may still have IVP, despite lacking the belief identified in Suggestion 2. Next, consider: Suggestion 3: IVP requires that the agent, A, rationally believes that A’s project will succeed, whether through A’s efforts or through those of others. The case discussed in connection with Suggestion 2 also makes trouble here. More generally, not all worthwhile intellectual projects are such that, from beginning to end, the relevant evidence renders their success more likely than not. Provided a project is sufficiently important, a more modest rational belief—e.g., that the project can succeed, or that success is not prohibitively improbable—may suffice to keep the agent from intransigence. Here is another try: Suggestion 4: IVP requires that the agent, A, rationally believes that A’s project is likely to succeed. This suggestion is also too strong. Especially at the outset of an inquiry, there may be no way to tell whether a project is likely to succeed. Imagine a physicist starting research on a “theory

Intellectual Perseverance


of everything.” If any intellectual project is valuable, she reasonably thinks, then this one is. The inquiry is worth a serious, sustained attempt. But, we may suppose, whether the project will succeed depends on the development of new techniques and technologies—and it may be a toss-up whether these are forthcoming. It seems hasty to say that our physicist lacks IVP if, acknowledging all this, she begins the project and continues for a sustained period. For if we say that about her, we’ll have to say it about any number of important scientific inquiries that succeeded despite their success appearing rather unlikely at various moments. By way of belief regarding a project’s prospects for success, then, the following seems plausible: Suggestion 5: IVP requires that the agent, A, rationally believes that the success of A’s project is a live possibility (is not prohibitively improbable). This is not the place for a full defense of the claim. But the suggestion is more plausible than its predecessors on account of its relative modesty. Moreover, it does not seem too modest. Arguably, a belief to the effect that a project can succeed is needed to explain why an agent would proceed with the project. Without some such belief, it is hard to see what would guide the agent into the inquiry in the first place. And if an appeal to some such belief is necessary, then it seems that the belief must be rational—for otherwise it is difficult to see how the agent’s persevering could be virtuous. We need not suppose that such a belief is conscious or regularly occurrent—only that the agent has it, and that it can thereby play a role in explaining why she perseveres. (Those who find Suggestion 5 too strong are free to substitute something weaker. Perhaps an agent could possess IVP if she met all the other conditions for trait, but merely had a disposition to believe in the possibility of her project’s success. For present purposes, we leave this to the side.) Let us consider one final suggestion, drawn from recent work on the psychology of academic tenacity: Suggestion 6: IVP requires a growth mindset; that is, it requires that the agent, A, believes that A’s abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Carol Dweck and colleagues suggest that intellectual perseverance (“academic tenacity”) requires a growth mindset—a view that in turn implies that intellectually virtuous perseverance requires a growth mindset (Dweck, Walton, and Cohen 2014: 4). Dweck has amassed a wealth of research demonstrating strong correlations between a growth mindset and intellectual perseverance. This work is of paramount importance for anyone who studies IVP. However, note two points (see Battaly 2017 for discussion of both). First, if IVP requires a growth mindset as a conceptual necessity, it becomes inexplicable why one would conduct expensive empirical studies in order to show that a growth mindset is positively correlated with IVP. Such a procedure would be like interviewing bachelors in order to find out if a high percentage of bachelors are unmarried. Second, it seems we can imagine cases of IVP in which an agent does not have a growth mindset. Suppose, for example, that an agent has never even considered whether her abilities are fixed or malleable. She rationally believes, however, that her project can succeed, and she meets all of the other requirements for IVP. Does the lack of a growth mindset disqualify her from having IVP? It is hard to see why. Beliefs about Obstacles. Consider next what IVP requires with respect to an agent’s beliefs about the obstacles he is encountering. Heather Battaly (2017) suggests that virtuous perseverance requires reliable perception of the relevant obstacles. That is, it requires that the agent reliably believe that obstacles to intellectual success are present when they are present,


Nathan King

and not believe such obstacles are present when they are absent. On this account, an agent who persists in inquiry in the face of danger without even recognizing the danger will not count as possessing IVP. Going the other direction, Battaly’s account requires that agents not “perceive” obstacles to intellectual success when these are absent. So, e.g., a beginning graduate student who believes that a middling grade on his first paper spells the end of his or her academic career will not, in so thinking, display IVP. Any complete account of IVP must consider what the virtue requires by way of belief (or non-belief) in obstacles to intellectual success. In this respect, Battaly’s view is an improvement on earlier accounts (e.g., King 2014a) that neglect this point. Battaly’s view explicates reliability in tracking obstacles in terms of belief: agents with IVP believe that obstacles are present (when they are) and do not believe obstacles are present when they are not. Here is one sort of case that may apply pressure to this account. Consider an agent who persists in the face of obstacles, but who is so consumed with his intellectual task that he doesn’t form the belief that obstacles are present. Intellectual goods have his undivided attention, so he doesn’t “look up from his work” to consider whether obstacles are present. However, if prompted, he would form the true belief that obstacles are present. Can such an agent display IVP? If so, then a requirement slightly weaker than Battaly’s may be accurate: agents with IVP must have a disposition to believe that obstacles to success are present, when they are. Beliefs about the Project’s Value. As noted above, phronesis is needed to discern whether a project is worth continuing, and thereby whether continuing is virtuous. This sort of practical wisdom must consider the prospects for a project’s success. It must also consider the importance of the project itself—for not all projects that are likely to succeed ought to be pursued. The virtuously persevering agent must rationally judge that the project is valuable to some significant extent, and judge that it is more valuable than other projects she might undertake instead. In the absence of strict criteria for determining just how valuable a project must be, or how much more valuable it must be than its competitors, we can at least say the following. Other things being equal: • projects involving a large number of intellectual goods will tend to be more valuable than those involving just a few such goods; • projects involving intellectual goods that foster understanding of human flourishing will tend to be more valuable than those that do not; and • projects that are conducive to secure intellectual goods (e.g., knowledge) will tend to be more valuable than projects that deliver risky ones (say, minimally rational beliefs). These all-too-brief remarks fall short of providing a decision procedure for distinguishing between practically wise (and thereby virtuous) perseverance from non-virtuous perseverance. Each point listed above deserves further exploration in its own right; as they stand, these points are mere placeholders. They nevertheless signal the kinds of considerations that are relevant. 21. 7 EM OT ION S

In many cases, agents who display IVP have specific emotions that correspond to the difficulty of their projects. They may be discouraged, daunted, afraid, frustrated, despairing, angry, and the like. It is plausible that in most cases in which an agent virtuously perseveres, he or she registers the relevant obstacle emotionally. It is also plausible that such emotional

Intellectual Perseverance


states are conceptually connected to IVP. Certainly this holds for some species of IVP. For example, intellectually-courageous-perseverance-despite-fear is impossible without the fear that partly constitutes it. But do all instances of IVP require some such specific emotional response? Battaly (2017) argues that a proper emotional response to intellectual obstacles may be necessary for IVP. As a general point, this is correct: virtuous perseverance does seem to rule out emotional responses that are long-standing, irrational, or extreme.5 (This is not to say that IVP is incompatible with an agent’s having, say, irrational fears during some part of an intellectual project. See King (2014a); compare Battaly (2017).) Battaly’s account is stronger than this, however, as it suggests that perseverance requires an agent to be to some significant extent “daunted” by obstacles to intellectual goods. By contrast, King (2014a) does not embrace this as a requirement on virtuous perseverance— opting instead for an account that allows for virtuous perseverance in some cases where the expected emotional response is absent, and even where the agent does not have a negative emotional response to the relevant obstacles. Battaly argues that the lack of an emotion requirement renders King’s account too weak. She cites inquirers—including Col. John Paul Stapp, Roger Bannister, and David Pritchard—who conducted experiments on themselves while apparently remaining undaunted by the pain and danger they thereby courted. Stapp regularly put his life on the line while conducting high-speed tests aimed to help researchers better understand the mechanics of airplane ejection seats and safety harnesses. In order to understand the physiological effects of inhaling oxygen-enriched air, Bannister subjected himself to painful pinpricks while breathing through a mask and climbing to exhaustion on a steeply inclined treadmill. Pritchard infected himself with hookworms in order to test the worms’ effect on autoimmune reactions. Battaly argues that these inquirers satisfy King’s requirements on IVP, but do not exhibit virtuous perseverance: “arguably, a person with the character virtue of IP would be perturbed and daunted by the prospect of conducting such experiments on herself” (2017: 19). In light of this, Battaly suggests that “the character virtue of intellectual perseverance may require a disposition to respond to obstacles with an appropriate degree of confidence or trepidation” (2017: 23). That is, “the virtue of intellectual perseverance may also require a disposition to be appropriately daunted by (and confident with respect to) obstacles, as the context demands” (n. 55). In Battaly’s estimation, Stapp, Bannister, and Pritchard do not meet this requirement. How might we advance this discussion? First, we might delve more deeply into the psychological facts about Stapp, Bannister, and Pritchard. If these figures were daunted in the face of their experiments, then by Battaly’s lights, they would count as displaying IVP, and not merely perseverance.6 However, even if things break this way, it remains open whether there are other possible cases in which agents satisfy all of King’s requirements on IVP, and yet fail to be virtuous for want of the appropriate emotional reaction. So the strategy is of limited value for illuminating the nature of IVP. Second, we might test Battaly’s suggested requirement. To set the stage for this, note that while character traits are typically understood as dispositions of behavior, thought, motivation, and emotion, not all character traits seem to require all of these components. As Miller (2013: 7) notes, traits like foresight and closed-mindedness may only involve belief states without desire states; traits like being analytical and logical seem not to require dispositions toward bodily behavior. Such examples should leave us open to the possibility that intellectually virtuous perseverance—or at least some species of it—does not require a specific emotional response.


Nathan King

A more direct approach is to consider cases like the following: Jones is working to prove a difficult mathematical conjecture. The truth or falsehood of the conjecture is very important to Jones’s intellectual community. Further, Jones is one of the only people within the community likely to have the ability to prove (or disprove) the conjecture. It is unclear whether the conjecture can be proven, but there is no strong evidence that it cannot. For years, Jones works from 8–5 daily, apparently making mild progress, but without a clear breakthrough. During this time, Jones skillfully balances her research with her other obligations, including intellectual obligations. She regularly considers whether she should continue the project, carefully weighing the benefits of continuing against those of adopting other projects instead. She is fully aware that the problem is difficult, and on an intellectual level, she registers the obstacles to success. However, she does not register these obstacles emotionally. She is not daunted, afraid, discouraged, or frustrated (though many of us would be, were we to encounter similar obstacles). Instead, Jones simply continues to work at the problem, keeping squarely in mind the intellectual goods she seeks. Where negative emotions might otherwise arise, Jones finds herself excited about the possibility of new knowledge, and cautiously optimistic that further work will yield a breakthrough. Is Jones’s perseverance virtuous, despite her lack of negative emotion? King’s account suggests that it is; Battaly’s account may suggest otherwise, especially if it is read to require that appropriate emotional responses to obstacles be negative. One reason for caution about a negative emotional requirement is that it seems desirable to ensure the distinction between a variety of IVP—perseverance proper—and varieties of IVP like intellectually-virtuous-courage-in-the-face-of-fear (King 2014a: section 3). Traits of the latter sort require a specific, negative emotional response to obstacles, especially fears and threats. But it seems that there are possible cases of IVP, like that of Jones above, in which a virtuously persevering agent has no negative emotional response to obstacles, and where the lack of such a response is appropriate. So on the one hand, one might worry that a negative emotional requirement will rule out such cases, thus making an account of IVP too strong. On the other hand, there is Battaly’s concern that the lack of an emotional requirement will make an account too weak. Here is a suggested rapprochement, which involves a strengthening of King’s account and a mild clarification of Battaly’s: IVP requires a disposition to respond to obstacles in an emotionally appropriate way, but does not require in all cases that this response be negative. This suggestion helps ensure the possibility of IVP proper (King’s concern) while keeping the account suitably strong (Battaly’s concern). 21. 8 R EM AI NI N G QU E S T ION S

Substantive inquiry into the nature, benefits, and cultivation of IVP is just beginning—at least among virtue epistemologists. Let us therefore close by noting several questions that further inquiry might address. First: How is IVP related to other intellectual character virtues? Clearly, the trait is closely linked to intellectual courage, at least in cases where threats and fears serve as obstacles to

Intellectual Perseverance


intellectual success (King 2014a; Battaly 2017). But how might intellectual perseverance relate to such traits as open-mindedness, fair-mindedness, and intellectual charity? After all, many of us find it difficult to sustain open-minded, fair, charitable views, especially in the face of disagreement. On the face of it, IVP is highly relevant to overcoming such obstacles to the virtuous pursuit of epistemic goods—but the details of these relations have not yet been explored. (But see Battaly 2017 for discussion of the relationship between IVP and self-control.) Second: What, if anything, lies between the virtue of IVP and its corresponding vices? Suppose an agent lacks IVP. It does not follow that she is therefore vicious. She may lack IVP for any number of reasons, and not all of these need indicate vice. Suppose she is motivated to pursue epistemic goods, but the right behavioral dispositions have not yet taken hold. She may in that case suffer from akrasia rather than irresolution. Or suppose she has and exercises the right behavioral dispositions, but does so despite a strong desire to skip her homework and watch Netflix. We need not regard her as vicious—perhaps she is continent, but not fully virtuous. These and other possibilities deserve further exploration. Third: How is IVP related to traits often studied by psychologists (e.g., grit)? As Battaly notes, there is significant overlap between well-known psychological work on grit and philosophical treatments of IVP. Psychologist Angela Duckworth (2005, 2007, 2016) defines grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. She and her colleagues have argued that this trait is highly correlated with academic achievement. Grit, for instance, seems to outdo IQ as a predictor of student grades. However, thus far, virtue epistemologists have defined IVP so as to render the trait broader than grit, because IVP, but not grit, may concern relatively short-term goals (Battaly 2017). Further, IVP as thus far defined by virtue epistemologists is also narrower than the psychological notion of grit, because IVP conceptually requires that the relevant goals include epistemic goods, and because it requires practical wisdom in judging the worthiness of continuing a project in light of its prospects and importance. Strictly speaking, grit is not restricted in these ways. Finally: How many of us have IVP? And, how might we foster IVP in ourselves and in our communities? Philosophers dispute the extent to which intellectual virtues are distributed across the population. Some have cited empirical research in support of the claim that such virtues are rare (e.g., Alfano 2012). Others have questioned whether the empirical research suffices to establish this claim (e.g., King 2014b, 2015). However this debate turns out, philosophers in both camps should take a keen interest in methods for cultivating meaningful growth in IVP—for surely many thinkers would benefit from having more of the trait than they currently have. In learning how to develop IVP in ourselves and others, philosophers will want to move beyond simple advice to practice the virtues, seek exemplars, and pay attention to direct instruction. Such approaches are a good start. But empirically informed approaches are readily available, many of which appear to increase perseverance behavior (Duckworth 2016). Of course, these approaches, as approaches to fostering perseverance behavior, may not suffice to foster IVP. For that, it will also be necessary to foster intrinsic motivation for epistemic goods (on this see Dweck et al. 2014), and to foster practical wisdom— otherwise, attempts to foster IVP may instead yield mere continence, or a mixed trait, or even the vice of intransigence. We have merely dug our first spoonful. The depths of intellectually virtuous perseverance have yet to be mined. However, even our modest exploration should make it clear that further digging is worthwhile, and is likely to yield further insights. For virtue epistemologists, it would be irresolute to quit now.7 (Related Chapters: 4, 20, 36, 38, 39.)


Nathan King

NOTE S 1 As Battaly (2017) points out, inasmuch as exercises of intellectually virtuous perseverance may reliably enable agents to achieve knowledge and true belief, IVP may not only be an intellectual character virtue, but also a “faculty virtue” of the sort featured in reliabilist virtue epistemologies, on which see (e.g.) Sosa (1991, 2007, 2009). 2 Of course, this does not imply that those who suffer from disability only ever lack strengths that the rest of us possess. In many cases, the opposite is true. For instance, Anne Sullivan noted that Helen Keller’s disabilities forced Keller to develop intellectual volition and concentration rarely found in “normal” individuals (Brooks 1956: 28). 3 For help with the distinctions drawn in this section, I am indebted to Heather Battaly (2010a, 2015, and discussion) and Christian Miller (2013, 2014, and discussion). Miller discusses mixed traits with respect to morality, but the notion of a mixed trait may arguably be applied to responsibilist-style traits of intellectual character. 4 Battaly (2017) treats judgment and perception separately, while I combine these under the category of thought. I distinguish between thoughts about prospects for success (Battaly’s “judgment”) and thoughts about obstacles (Battaly’s “perception”). As far as I can tell, nothing substantive depends on how the territory is divided. Both Battaly and I are considering subjects’ beliefs about their projects, and their reasons for holding these beliefs. 5 King (2014a) is inadequately explicit on this point; Battaly (2017) helpfully suggests the improvement noted here. 6 On this see Ryan (2015), who reports that Stapp was often in a bad mood prior to experiments (p. 1), relieved when experiments weren’t as painful as expected (p. 104), and was sometimes depressed after the experiments (p. 113), perhaps due to the physical rigors of the experiments themselves. 7 Thanks to Heather Battaly for generous and helpful comments on a previous draft of this chapter, and to Christian Miller for helpful discussion.

REFERE N C E S Alfano, M. (2012) “Expanding the Situationist Challenge to Responsibilist Virtue Epistemology,” The Philosophical Quarterly 62: 223–249. Aristotle. (1984) Nicomachean Ethics, in J. Barnes (ed.) The Complete Works of Aristotle, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Baehr, J. (2011) The Inquiring Mind, New York: Oxford University Press. Battaly, H. (2010a) “Epistemic Self-Indulgence,” in H. Battaly (ed.) Virtue and Vice: Moral and Epistemic, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 215–236. Battaly, H. (ed.) (2010b) Virtue and Vice: Moral and Epistemic, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Battaly, H. (2015) Virtue, Malden, MA: Polity Press. Battaly, H. (2017) “Intellectual Perseverance,” Journal of Moral Philosophy 14(6): 669–697. Bergmann, M. (1997) “Internalism, Externalism, and the No-Defeater Condition,” Synthese 110: 399–417. Brooks, V.W. (1956) Helen Keller: Sketch for a Portrait, New York: E.P. Dutton. Cahill, T. (1995) How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, New York: Anchor Books. Dickey, C. (2012) “Living in the Margins: The Odd and Amusing World of Medieval Marginalia.” Lapham’s Quarterly, 5.2, Douglass, F. (1982) Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, New York: Penguin Books. DuBois, E.C. and R.C. Smith (eds.) (2007) Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Feminist as Thinker, New York: New York University Press. Duckworth, A.L. (2016) Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, New York: Scribner. Duckworth, A.L. and M.E.P. Seligman. (2005) “Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents,” Psychological Science 16(12): 939–944. Duckworth, A.L., C. Peterson, M.D. Matthews, and D.R. Kelly. (2007) “Grit: Perseverance and Passion for LongTerm Goals,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92(6): 1087–1101. Dweck, C., G.M. Walton, and G.L. Cohen. (2014) “Academic Tenacity: Mindsets and Skills that Promote LongTerm Learning,” Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gornick, V. (2007) “Elizabeth Cady Stanton, The Long View,” in E.C. DuBois and R.C. Smith (eds.) Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Feminist as Thinker, New York: New York University Press, 17–31. Greco, J. and J. Turri. (2011) “Virtue Epistemology,” in E.N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

Intellectual Perseverance


Harter, A., D.M. Tice, and H.M. Wallace. (2004) “Persistence,” in C. Peterson and M.E.P. Seligman (eds.) Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, New York: Oxford University Press, 229–247. King, N. (2014a) “Erratum to: Perseverance as an Intellectual Virtue,” Synthese 191(15): 3779–3801. King, N. (2014b) “Responsibilist Virtue Epistemology: A Reply to the Situationist Challenge,” Philosophical Quarterly 64(255): 243–253. King, N. (2015) “‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’: Reflections on Empirical Psychology and Virtue Epistemology,” in C. Miller, R. Michael Furr, A. Knobel, and W. Fleeson (eds.) Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology, New York: Oxford University Press, 288–314. Miller, C. (2013) Moral Character: An Empirical Theory, New York: Oxford University Press. Miller, C. (2014) Character and Moral Psychology, New York: Oxford University Press. Miller, C., R.M. Furr, A. Knobel, and W. Fleeson (eds.) (2015) Character: New Directions From Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology, New York: Oxford University Press. Monk, R. (1991) Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, New York: Penguin Books. Pannekoek, A. (1961) A History of Astronomy, New York: Interscience Publishers. Peterson, C. and M.E.P. Seligman. (2004) Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, New York: Oxford University Press. Roberts, R.C. and W.J. Wood. (2007) Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology, New York: Oxford University Press. Ryan, C. (2015) Sonic Wind: The Story of John Paul Stapp and How a Renegade Doctor Became the Fastest Man on Earth, New York: W.W. Norton & Company. Sosa, E. (1991) Knowledge in Perspective, New York: Cambridge University Press. Sosa, E. (2007) A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, volume 1, New York: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. (2009) Reflective Knowledge: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, volume 2, New York: Oxford University Press. Westfall, R. (1980) Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton, New York: Cambridge University Press. Whitcomb, D., H. Battaly, J. Baehr, and D. Howard-Snyder. (2017) “Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94(3): 509–539. Zagzebski, L. (1996) Virtues of the Mind, New York: Cambridge University Press.

CZ\ Taylor & Francis �

Taylor & Francis Group

III Epistemic Virtues, Knowledge, and Understanding

CZ\ Taylor & Francis �

Taylor & Francis Group

22 Virtue, Knowledge, and Achievement John Greco

A number of philosophers have defended the claim that knowledge is a kind of achievement. The central idea is that, in cases of knowledge, the knower’s getting things right can be attributed to her own doing. More exactly, her getting things right can be attributed to her own competent doing. Another way to put the general idea, then, is that knowledge is a kind of success from competence, or success from ability. Suppose that we think that intellectual virtues are a kind of intellectual excellence, ability or competence. Then another way to put the general idea is that knowledge is a kind