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Intellectual virtue

DOI: 10.4324/0123456789-P072-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2018
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

Intellectual virtues are qualities that make one an excellent thinker. The contemporary literature offers two different analyses of intellectual virtues: virtue reliabilism and virtue responsibilism. Virtue reliabilism argues that intellectual virtues are stable dispositions that reliably produce true beliefs. For reliabilists, any stable reliable disposition will do. Hard-wired faculties like reliable vision, acquired skills like the ability to identify bird species, and acquired character traits like open-mindedness all count as intellectual virtues. In contrast, responsibilists restrict intellectual virtues to acquired character traits, like open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and intellectual courage, over which the agent has some control and for which she is to some degree responsible.

What can these analyses of intellectual virtue do for us? Reliabilists and responsibilists have used their respective analyses of intellectual virtue to ground new accounts of knowledge. Though the details of their accounts differ, both camps define knowledge in terms of intellectual virtues. They take intellectual virtues, which are evaluations of agents, to be more theoretically fundamental than knowledge and justification, which are evaluations of beliefs. It is an open question as to whether their accounts of knowledge succeed. But even if they fail, their virtue theoretic approach to knowledge has already had a significant impact on analytic epistemology – it has put active knowledge back on the map. Responsibilists have also begun to apply their analysis of intellectual virtue to classroom education and curricula. They argue that virtues like intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, and open-mindedness are developed over time, via practice and the imitation of role models. There are several educational projects underway that aim to facilitate the development of these virtues in students.

Citing this article:
Battaly, Heather. Intellectual virtue, 2018, doi:10.4324/0123456789-P072-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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