Introduction: Naturalized virtue epistemology


Book Section

© Cambridge University Press 2014. This volume aims to launch a powerful and largely unexplored position in epistemology: naturalized virtue epistemology. Most debates in virtue epistemology have been decidedly axiological and aim to clarify the goals, values, and ends constitutive of epistemic evaluation. Value-driven inquiry has now become quite complex in the large literature on the value problem (and the related Meno problem), which examines whether the value of knowledge can be reduced to the value of any proper subset of its parts (Zagzebski 1996; Kvanvig 2003; Pritchard 2007). Normative epistemic inquiry has also been useful in meeting more traditional problems in epistemology, such as Gettier problems (Turri 2011) and problems of epistemic luck more generally, as well as the structure of knowledge (as etiological rather than foundational or coherentist), and Chisholm’s “problem of the criterion” (Riggs 2007). Virtue epistemology has opened many new areas of inquiry in contemporary epistemology including: epistemic agency (Greco 1999; Zagzebski 2001; Sosa 2007), the role of motivations and emotions in epistemology (Fairweather 2001; Hookway 2003), the nature of abilities (Millar 2008; Greco 2010; Pritchard 2012), skills (Greco 1993; Bloomfield 2000), and competences (Sosa 2007), the value of understanding (Kvanvig 2003; Grimm 2006; Riggs 2009), wisdom (Ryan 1999; Zagzebski 2013), curiosity (Whitcomb 2010; Inan 2012) and even education policy and practice (Baehr 2011). The virtue turn in epistemology that started with the early work of Sosa (1991) and Zagzebski (1996) has now produced a large and mature literature in normative epistemology. While the growth and impact of virtue epistemology has been impressive and important, it has come with insufficient attention to the empirical grounding of these normative theories, and thus runs the risk of endorsing free-floating epistemic norms cut loose from the real-world phenomenon they must evaluate. To this end, virtue epistemologists should heed the exhortation given by Anscombe in “Modern Moral Philosophy” (1958) to constrain normative theorizing in ethics with an empirically adequate moral psychology, and might even do so optimistically since Anscombe (and Foot, later Geach, and still later MacIntyre) was led to endorse virtue theory precisely because it appeared more psychologically plausible than deontology or consequentialism. The same cautionary (and perhaps optimistic) point holds for epistemic psychology and normative epistemology.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Fairweather, A

Published Date

  • January 1, 2012

Book Title

  • Naturalizing Epistemic Virtue

Start / End Page

  • 1 - 14

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781107028579

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/CBO9781139236348.001

Citation Source

  • Scopus