Virtue epistemology

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P057-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2018, from

Article Summary

‘Virtue epistemology’ is the name of a class of theories that analyse fundamental epistemic concepts such as justification or knowledge in terms of properties of persons rather than properties of beliefs. Some of these theories make the basic concept constitutive of justification or knowledge that of a reliable belief-forming process, or a reliable belief-forming faculty or, alternatively, a properly functioning faculty. Others make the fundamental concept that of an epistemic or intellectual virtue in the sense of virtue used in ethics. In all these theories, epistemic evaluation rests on some virtuous quality of the person that enables them to act in a cognitively effective and commendable way, although not all use the term ‘virtue’. The early, simple forms of process reliabilism are best treated as precursors to virtue epistemology since the latter arose out of the former and has added requirements for knowledge intended to capture the idea of epistemic behaviour that is subjectively responsible as well as objectively reliable.

Proponents of virtue epistemology claim a number of advantages. It is said to bypass disputes between foundationalists and coherentists on proper cognitive structure, to avoid sceptical worries, to avoid the impasse between internalism and externalism, and to broaden the range of epistemological inquiry in a way that permits the recovering of such neglected epistemic values as understanding and wisdom.

    Citing this article:
    Zagzebski, Linda. Virtue epistemology, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P057-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2018 Routledge.

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