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Virtue epistemology

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P057-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2005
Retrieved July 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

‘Virtue epistemology’ is the name of a class of theories that focus epistemic evaluation on good epistemic properties of persons rather than on properties of beliefs. The former or some interesting subset of the former are called intellectual virtues. Some of these theories propose that the traditional concepts of justification or knowledge can be analysed in terms of intellectual virtue, whereas others maintain that these traditional concepts are defective or uninteresting and it is desirable to replace them with the notion of an intellectual virtue. In all these theories, epistemic evaluation rests on some virtuous quality of persons that enables them to act in a cognitively effective and commendable way. Simple reliabilism may be treated either as a precursor to virtue epistemology or as an early form of it. Later versions add requirements for virtue intended to capture the idea that it is a quality which makes an epistemic agent 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 enquiry to include such neglected epistemic values as understanding and wisdom. Some theorists argue that the real virtue of virtue epistemology is the way it permits us to redefine the central questions of epistemology. In addition, since virtue epistemology can be blended with virtue ethics, it holds out the promise of a unified theory of value.

Citing this article:
Zagzebski, Linda. Virtue epistemology, 2005, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P057-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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