Virtue, reason and wisdom

Authored by: Lorraine Code

The Handbook of Virtue Ethics

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9781844656394
eBook ISBN: 9781315729053
Adobe ISBN: 9781317544777


 Download Chapter



In this chapter I shall propose that the pivotal and overriding intellectual virtue is epistemic responsibility. This is at once a large and a minimal claim: large in suggesting that epistemic responsibility might encompass all other epistemic virtues; minimal in proposing that all putative cognitive-intellectual virtues can reduce to one. It is a difficult claim to advance and substantiate because, on the face of it, there seem to be no universally valid criteria for judging that an act of knowing qualifies as “epistemically responsible”, and few if any universally established exemplary cases against which to measure candidates for the designation. Nonetheless, working from a conviction that ethical and epistemological issues are reciprocally constitutive and informative, it is my view that epistemic responsibility occupies a central place in virtue epistemology, and that virtue epistemology is simultaneously an ethical and an epistemological position and practice, even though these claims are often better established and supported by example than by formal argument. Succinctly put, the guiding thought is that knowing well is a fundamental social, individual and political obligation for people who would live well both for themselves and with others, in most if not all circumstances. With Anglo-American epistemology’s “empirical simples” (i.e. basic propositional knowledge claims such as “Sue knows the cup is on the table”), fulfilling such obligations is usually so matter-of-course, and so trivial, as to require no argument, especially in materially replete societies where anyone – leaving the extension of the term intentionally vague – can know whether the cup is on the table. But there are circumstances in which even such knowledge cannot and indeed should not be taken for granted; and with just slightly more complex empirical examples it is an open possibility that assumptions about the ubiquitous accessibility of the stuff of which knowledge is made will be more presumptuous than realistic.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.