Knowlege by Virtue
Jason Baehr (Oxford University Press: Sep. 5, 2011), 272 pages.
This book is the first systematic treatment of 'responsibilist' or character-based virtue epistemology, an approach to epistemology that focuses on intellectual character virtues like open-mindedness, fair-mindedness, inquisitiveness, and intellectual courage, rigor, and carefulness. Baehr distinguishes four main varieties of character-based virtue epistemology and develops a comprehensive assessment of each. For students and professional philosophers looking for an introduction to this exciting new field, the book offers a brief history of virtue epistemology, an overview of contemporary research in the field, and an introduction to intellectual virtues that distinguishes them from intellectual talents, temperaments, faculties, and skills. For specialists in epistemology, it provides most in depth examination to date of the role that the concept of intellectual virtue might play in a philosophical account of knowledge. Baehr also argues for expanding the borders of epistemology proper to include a more immediate concern with intellectual virtues and their role in a good intellectual life. For virtue theorists and moral psychologists, the book contains an in depth defense of a 'personal worth' account of the nature and structure of an intellectual virtue and situates this account vis-á-vis the views of several other virtue ethicists and virtue epistemologists. Baehr also provides chapter-length analyses of two individual character virtues (open-mindedness and intellectual courage) and an appendix on the relation between intellectual virtues and moral virtues. Overall, the book is a comprehensive and groundbreaking treatment of an important cutting-edge topic in philosophy.
Julia Annas (Oxford University Press: May 26, 2011), 200 pages.
Intelligent Virtue presents a distinctive new account of virtue and happiness as central ethical ideas. Annas argues that exercising a virtue involves practical reasoning of a kind which can illuminatingly be compared to the kind of reasoning we find in someone exercising a practical skill. Rather than asking at the start how virtues relate to rules, principles, maximizing, or a final end, we should look at the way in which the acquisition and exercise of virtue can be seen to be in many ways like the acquisition and exercise of more mundane activities, such as farming, building or playing the piano. This helps us to see virtue as part of an agent's happiness or flourishing, and as constituting (wholly, or in part) that happiness. We are offered a better understanding of the relation between virtue as an ideal and virtue in everyday life, and the relation between being virtuous and doing the right thing.
John Greco (Cambridge University Press: April 2010), 216 pages.
When we affirm (or deny) that someone knows something, we are making a value judgment of sorts — we are claiming that there is something superior (or inferior) about that person's opinion, or their evidence, or perhaps about them. A central task of the theory of knowledge is to investigate the sort of evaluation at issue. This is the first book to make 'epistemic normativity,' or the normative dimension of knowledge and knowledge ascriptions, its central focus. John Greco argues that knowledge is a kind of achievement, as opposed to mere lucky success. This locates knowledge within a broader, familiar normative domain. By reflecting on our thinking and practices in this domain, it is argued, we gain insight into what knowledge is and what kind of value it has for us.
Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood (Oxford University Press: January 2010), 352 pages.
Out of the ferment of recent debates about the intellectual virtues, Roberts and Wood have developed an approach they call "regulative epistemology." This is partly a return to classical and medieval traditions, partly in the spirit of Locke's and Descartes's concern for intellectual formation, partly an exploration of connections between epistemology and ethics, and partly an approach that has never been tried before. Standing on the shoulders of recent epistemologists — including William Alston, Alvin Plantinga, Ernest Sosa, and Linda Zagzebski — Roberts and Wood pursue epistemological questions by looking closely and deeply at particular traits of intellectual character such as love of knowledge, intellectual autonomy, intellectual generosity, and intellectual humility. Central to their vision is an account of intellectual goods that includes not just knowledge as properly grounded belief, but understanding and personal acquaintance, acquired and shared through the many social practices of actual intellectual life. This approach to intellectual virtue infuses the discipline of epistemology with new life, and makes it interesting to people outside the circle of professional epistemologists. It is epistemology for the whole intellectual community, as Roberts and Wood carefully sketch the ways in which virtues that would have been categorized earlier as moral make for agents who can better acquire, refine, and communicate important kinds of knowledge. ~ Product Description
Tragic Sense of Life, trans. J.E. Crawford Flitch (Dover: 1954), orig. 1921, pp. 260-3.
Several times in the devious course of these essays I have defined, in spite of my horror of definitions, my own position with regard to the problem that I have been examining; but I know there will always be some dissatisfied reader, educated in some dogmatism or other, who will say: "This man comes to no conclusion, he vacillates — now he seems to affirm one thing and then its contrary — he is full of contradictions — I can't label him. What is he?" Just this — one who affirms contraries, a man of contradiction and strife, as Jeremiah said of himself; one who says one thing with his heart and the contrary with his head, and for whom this conflict is the very stuff of life. And that is as clear as the water that flows from the melted snow upon the mountain tops.
Ernest Sosa (Oxford University Press: February 2009), 240 pages.
Reflective Knowledge argues for a reflective virtue epistemology based on a kind of virtuous circularity that may be found explicitly or just below the surface in the epistemological writings of Descartes, Moore, and now Davidson, who on Sosa's reading also relies crucially on an assumption of virtuous circularity. Along the way various lines of objection are explored. In Part One Sosa considers historical alternatives to the view developed in Part II. He begins with G.E. Moore's legendary proof, and the epistemology that lies behind it. That leads to classical foundationalism, a more general position encompassing the indirect realism advocated by Moore. Next he turns to the quietist naturalism found in David Hume, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and P.F. Strawson. After that comes Thomas Reid's commonsense alternative. A quite different option is the subtle and complex epistemology developed by Wilfrid Sellars over the course of a long career. Finally, Part I concludes with a study of Donald Davidson's distinctive form of epistemology naturalized (as Sosa argues). The second part of the book presents an alternative beyond the historical positions of Part I, one that defends a virtue epistemology combined with epistemic circularity. This alternative retains elements of the earlier approaches, while discarding what was found wanting in them.
Michael DePaul and Linda Zagzebski, eds. (Oxford University Press: August 2007), 300 pages.
Virtue ethics has attracted a lot of attention over the past few decades, and more recently there has been considerable interest in virtue epistemology as an alternative to traditional approaches in that field. Ironically, although virtue epistemology got its inspiration from virtue ethics, this is the first book that brings virtue epistemologists and virtue ethicists together to contribute their particular expertise, and the first that is devoted to the topic of intellectual virtue. All new and right up to date, the papers collected here by Zagzebski and DePaul demonstrate the benefit of each branch of philosophy to the other. Intellectual Virtue will be required reading for anyone working in either field. ~ Synopsis
Jef Raskin, one of the originators of the Macintosh, writes an interesting lament at what often passes for the history of its development. "Holes in the Histories" is instructive for its catalogue of how the telling of history can be corrupted by the use of secondary sources, by oversimplification, by misrepresentation, by an affection for celebrity, by relying on appearances, and by a general lack of interest in the truth of the matter. Every day, each of us hears countless reports, studies, and comments about the way of things and Raskin's article is a welcome reminder to be wary of taking such claims at face value. It is also a call to avoid such carelessness about truth in our own words. We are especially vulnerable to being taken in by fictions when we are inclined to agree with their source for other reasons. David C. Wise's Creation/Evolution page (link expired) is a sobering account of ways in which the "Creation Science" movement has been incorrigibly guilty of many of the sins of scholarship that Raskin describes. For example, see his article "Moon Dust" (link expired).
Duncan Pritchard and Michael Brady, eds. (Wiley-Blackwell: February 23, 2004), 288 pages.
Whilst virtue ethics has long been a focus for discussion in moral philosophy, it is only recently that an analogue virtue-based theory has come to the fore in the field of epistemology. This volume brings together papers by some of the leading figures working on virtue-theoretic accounts in both ethics and epistemology, including Guy Axtell, Julia Driver, Antony Duff, Miranda Fricker, John Greco, Christopher Hookway, Michael Slote, Lawrence Solum and Linda Zagzebski. It is the first volume to combine papers on virtue ethics and virtue epistemology. This volume brings together papers by some of the leading figures working on virtue-theoretic accounts in both ethics and epistemology. A collection of cutting edge articles by leading figures in the field of virtue theory including Guy Axtell, Julia Driver, Antony Duff and Miranda Fricker. The first book to combine papers on both virtue ethics and virtue epistemology. Deals with key topics in recent epistemological and ethical debate. ~ Product Description
Jonathan L. Kvanvig (Cambridge University Press: August 2003), 232 pages.
Jonathan Kvanvig argues that epistemology cannot ignore the question of the value of knowledge. He also questions one of the most fundamental assumptions in epistemology, namely that knowledge is always more valuable than the value of its subparts.Taking Platos' Meno as a starting point of his discussion, Kvanvig tackles the different arguments about the value of knowledge and comes to the conclusion that knowledge is less valuable than generally assumed. Clearly written and well argued, the book will appeal to students and professionals in epistemology.
R. Scott Smith (Ashgate Publishing, Limited: March 2003), 230 pages.
We live in a time of moral confusion: many believe there are no overarching moral norms and that we have lost an accepted body of moral knowledge. Alasdair MacIntyre addresses this problem in his restatement of Aristotelian and Thomistic virtue ethics; Stanley Hauerwas does so through his highly influential work in Christian ethics. Both recast virtue ethics in light of their interpretations of the later Wittgenstein's views of language. This book systematically assesses the underlying presuppositions of MacIntyre and Hauerwas, finding that their attempts to secure moral knowledge and restate virtue ethics, both philosophical and theological, fail. Scott Smith proposes alternative indications as to how we can secure moral knowledge, and how we should proceed in virtue ethics. ~ Product Description
Abrol Fairweather and Linda T. Zagzebski, eds. (Oxford University Press: May 2001), 272 pages.
Virtue epistemology is an exciting, new movement receiving an enormous amount of attention from top epistemologists and ethicists; this pioneering volume reflects the best work in that vein. Featuring superb writing from contemporary American philosophers, it includes thirteen never before published essays that focus on the place of the concept of virtue in epistemology. In recent years, philosophers have been debating how this concept functions in definitions of knowledge. They question the extent to which knowledge is both normative (i.e., with a moral component) and non-normative, and many of them dispute the focus on justification, which has proven to be too restrictive. Epistemologists are searching for a way to combine the traditional concepts of ethical theory with epistemic concepts; the result is a new approach called virtue epistemology — one that has established itself as a particularly favorable alternative. Containing the fruits of recent study on virtue epistemology, this volume offers a superb selection of contributors — including Robert Audi, Simon Blackburn, Richard Foley, Alvin Goldman, Hilary Kornblith, Keith Lehrer, Ernest Sosa, and Linda Zagzebski — whose work brings epistemology into dialogue with everyday issues. ~ Product Description
Matthias Steup, ed. (Oxford University Press: March 2001), 272 pages.
This volume gathers eleven new and three previously unpublished essays that take on questions of epistemic justification, responsibility, and virtue. It contains the best recent work in this area by major figures such as Ernest Sosa, Robert Audi, Alvin Goldman, and Susan Haak.Topics in this book include: 1. Whether we have voluntary control over what we believe. 2. Whether the issue of voluntary control is relevant to epistemic justification. 3. And the relationship between issues 1 and 2 to the analysis of knowledge. ~ Product Description
Guy Axtell, ed. (Rowman & Littlefield: January 2000), 256 pages.
There have been many books over the past decade, including outstanding collections of essays, on the topic of the ethical virtues and virtue-theoretic approaches in ethics. But the professional journals of philosophy have only recently seen a strong and growing interest in the "intellectual" virtues and in the development of virtue-theoretic approaches in "epistemology". There have been four single-authored book length treatments of issues of virtue epistemology over the last seven years, beginning with Ernest Sosa's Knowledge in Perspective ("Cambridge", 1991), and extending to Linda Zabzebski's Virtue of the Mind ("Cambridge", 1996). Weighing in with Jonathan Kvanvig's The Intellectual Virtues and the Life of the Mind (1992), and James Montmarquet's Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility (1993), Rowman & Littlefield has had a particularly strong interest in the direction and growth of the field. To date, there has been no collection of articles directly devoted to the growing debate over the possibility and potential of a virtue epistemology. This volume exists in the belief that there is now a timely opportunity to gather together the best contributions of the influential authors working in this growing area of epistemological research, and to create a collection of essays as a useful course text and research source. Several of the articles included in the volume are previously unpublished. Several essays discuss the range and general approach of "virtue theory" in comparison with other general accounts. What advantages are supposed to accrue from a virtue-based account in epistemology, in handling well-known problems such as "Gettier," and "Evil-Genie"-type problems? Can reliabilist virtue epistemology handle skeptical challenges more satisfactorily than non-virtue-centered forms of epistemic reliabilism? Others provide a needed discussion of relevant analogies and disanalogies between ethical and epistemic evaluation. The readings all contribute to our understanding of the relative importance, for a theory of justified belief, of the reliability of our cognitive faculties and of the individual's responsibility in gathering and weighing evidence. Highlights of the readings include direct exchanges between leading exponents of this approach and their critics. In addition, the volume includes contributions from feminist writers who offer a reassessment of the intellectual virtues from witin their own research paradigm. ~ Product Description
Christine McKinnon (Broadview Press: August 1999), 261 pages.
This book argues that the question posed by virtue theories, namely, "what kind of person should I be?" provides a more promising approach to moral questions than do either deontological or consequentialist moral theories where the concern is with what actions are morally required or permissible. It does so both by arguing that there are firmer theoretical foundations for virtue theories, and by persuasively suggesting the superiority of virtue theories over deontological and consquentialist theories on the question of explaining morally bad behavior. Virtue theories can give a richer account by appealing to the kinds of dispositions that make certain bad choices appear attractive. This richer account also exposes a further advantage of virtue theories: they provide the best kinds of motivations for agents to become better persons. ~ Product Description
Love God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), p. 109.
Humility and the associated traits of open-mindedness, self-criticality, and nondefensiveness [are] virtues relevant to the intellectual life. We must be willing to seek the truth in a spirit of humility with an admission of our own finitude; we must be willing to learn from our critics; and we need to learn to argue against our own positions in order to strengthen our understanding of them... The purpose of intellectual humility, open-mindedness , and so forth is not to create a skeptical mind that never lands on a position about anything, preferring to remain suspended in midair. Rather, the purpose is for you to do anything you can to remove your unhelpful biases and get at the truth in a reasoned way.
Linda Zagzebski (Cambridge University Press: September 1996), 365 pages.
Almost all theories of knowledge and justified belief employ moral concepts and forms of argument borrowed from moral theories, but none of them pay attention to the current renaissance in virtue ethics. This remarkable book is the first attempt to establish a theory of knowledge based on the model of virtue theory in ethics. The book develops the concept of an intellectual virtue, and then shows how the concept can be used to give an account of the major concepts in epistemology, including the concept of knowledge. "Zagzebski's book brims with acute observations and is written in such a way that even those not trained in analytic philosophy will find it an enjoyable read. Her focus on the virtues leads her to avoid a style of philosphy that endlessly generates counterexamples and engages in barren possible-worlds speculation. Zagzebski brings the resources of premodern philosophy to bear on contemporary issues and opens up a line of inquiry that could prove as fruitful for epistemology as it already has for ethics. Throughout the book, she notes that this is a large project and invites the assistance of others. It is an invitation Thomists would do well to accept." ~ Thomas S. Hibbs, The Thomist
"The Use and Abuse of Political Terms" in Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 1, ed. William Tait, Unattributed (W. Tait: 1832), p. 167.
We desiderate in it somewhat more of what becomes all men, but, most of all, a young man, to whom the struggles of life are only in their commencement, and whose spirt cannot yet have been wounded, or his temper embittered by hostile collision with the world, but which, in young men especially, is apt to be wanting — a slowness to condemn. A man must now learn, by experience, what once came almost by nature to those who had any faculty of seeing; to look upon all things with a benevolent, but upon great men and their works with a reverential spirit; rather to seek in them for what he may learn from them, than for opportunities of showing what they might have learned from him; to give such men the benefit of every possibility of their having spoken with a rational meaning; not easily or hastily to persuade himself that men like Plato, and Locke, and Rousseau, and Bentham, gave themselves a world of trouble in running after something which they thought was a reality, but which he Mr. A. B. can clearly see to be an unsubstantial phantom; to exhaust every other hypothesis, before supposing himself wiser than they; and even then to examine, with good will and without prejudice, if their error do not contain some germ of truth...
Émile, book iv., cited in Unamuno, Tragic Sense of Life (Courier Dover: 1954) p.53.
Even though philosophers should be in a position to discover the truth, which of them would take any interest in it? Each one knows well that his system is not better founded than the others, but he supports it because it is his. There is not a single one of them who, if he came to know the true and the false, would not prefer the falsehood that he had found to the truth discovered by another. Where is the philosopher who would not willingly deceive mankind for his own glory? Where is he who in the secret of his heart does not propose to himself any other object than to distinguish himself? Provided that he lifts himself above the vulgar, provided that he outshines the brilliance of his competitors, what does he demand more? The essential thing is to think differently from others. With believers he is an atheist; with atheists he would be a believer.