A forum for VE lucubration

Monday, June 12, 2006


Welcome! My intention is that this site be a forum for dicussion that focuses on issues that concern virtue epistemology - so if this suits you, then by all means, give your thoughts!

In the next few weeks, I'll get things going by tossing out some thoughts I've been having while trying (simultaneously... maybe a bad decision?) to give a careful parsing to (1) Zagzebski and Fairweather's "Virtue Epistemology, (2) Pritchard and Brady's "Moral and Epistemic Virtues" and (3) Pritchard's "Epistemic Luck."

My first post of content will (if I can manage to be adequately high-tech) include a link to a protopaper I've been hashing out on Simon Blackburn's essay "Reason, Virtue and Knowledge."

Also, on deck (and I suspect will be finished in the next week or so) is a very rough paper I've tentatively titled "Lorraine Code and a 'Prisoner's Dilemma' of Epistemic Responsibility."

Until then, though, I should mention something that has been bothering me lately, and that is this: Virtue Reliabilists and Virtue Responsibilists make some incompatible claims about what sorts of excellences should qualify as proper epistemic virtues. What is at particular issue here seems to be that virtue reliabilists (Sosa, in particular) have argued that an Aristotelian account of intellectual virtue allows for such faculties as good eyesight and good memory to "count" as virtues. Folks on the virtue-responsibilist side of the line (i.e. Zagzebski) flat-out deny this.

Because each side is making claims which appear contradictory (i.e. x counts as an intellectual virtue for Aristotle; x does not count as an intellectual virtue for Aristotle), my suspicion is that a careful read of Aristotle should be able to resolve the matter. Unfortunately, two afternoons in a row, and a few pots of coffee into it, I didn't find myself much more clear on the matter. The only conclusion I've drawn is that appealing to Aristotle as the textual arbitor doesn't promise to make the outcome of the reliabilist-responsibilist dispute immediately obvious. (i.e. Yes, Zagzebski is right, Aristotle describes virtues as character traits... which are "hexis" or states of the soul. This seems fundamentally different from a reliable faculty such as eyesight. However... yes, reliabilists are right in pointing out that Aristotle mentions excellences as virtues, and reliable, non-character-based faculties appear to be excellences; reliabilists can also point out that it isn't clear (at least to me!) on Aristotle's view that intellectual virtues are a subset of the moral virtues.. (even though Z (1996) makes a strong case for it).

I hope, as the summer progresses (as well as my understanding of moral and epistemic virtues) to determining which warring tribe stands on Aristotle's side of the line on this score... I am about 5-pages into a paper that I unwarrantedly thought I could finish in 10 or 15, which would shed some light on the issue.. but given my frustration thus far, my feeling is that that early attempt needs to go back to the drawing board until the smoke around the matter clears up. (Maybe this blog will engender some fog clearing on that score??)

Also, as an aside: I'll be posting some chapter summaries I've been writing on Pritchard's "Epistemic Luck" which I hope will be of some use (either to you, or to me, if I've gotten some of it wrong). And... yes, epistemic luck doesn't obviously appear to be related (at least fundamentally) to virtue epistemology to an extent that would justify its inclusion on a blog of the latter's namesake... It's too late (Missouri time) for a lengthy defense of this.. but I'll say that I think that virtue epistemology offers interesting (even if maybe futile) attempts to resolve Gettier problems, to which an analysis of epistemic luck is central. Anyhow, time for bed. I'll look to post a bit more tomorrow.


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