Manual Virtuous Thoughts: The Philosophy of Ernest Sosa

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N2 - Much work in epistemology in the aftermath of Gettier's counterexample to the justified true belief account of knowledge was concerned with the possible existence of modal conditions on knowledge, conditions which related the proposition believed with the fact that made it true. AB - Much work in epistemology in the aftermath of Gettier's counterexample to the justified true belief account of knowledge was concerned with the possible existence of modal conditions on knowledge, conditions which related the proposition believed with the fact that made it true.

Abstract Much work in epistemology in the aftermath of Gettier's counterexample to the justified true belief account of knowledge was concerned with the possible existence of modal conditions on knowledge, conditions which related the proposition believed with the fact that made it true.

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Springer Netherlands. Springer Netherlands, Comesana, JM , Safety and epistemic Frankfurt cases. Springer Netherlands, pp. Comesana JM. Comesana, Juan M. But he insists that more than metacognition is needed in order to reach the level of reflective knowledge; the relevant epistemic agency requires that we be able to take a first- person perspective. This perspective allows us the ability to take calculated epistemic risks; the "daring to believe" of this chapter's title. It is only by possessing the ability to understand and take such risks that we achieve the higher degree of control required to become responsible and praiseworthy for our true beliefs.

In contrast, Carlos Montemayor argues that knowledge does not require reflection; in fact, reflection may be incompatible with knowledge.


  1. Lecture Notes, UC Davis Philosophy , Theory of Knowledge: Virtue Epistemology.
  2. Phenomenology and Existentialism in the Twentieth Century: Book 3: Heralding the New Enlightenment (Analecta Husserliana, Volume 105).
  3. Safety and epistemic Frankfurt cases — University of Arizona.
  4. Focusing on the example of Diana the Huntress used by Sosa, Montemayor uses terminology from perception research to claim that her arrow shooting requires "motor-control skills" while her choice of targets requires "action-selection skills. In addition, he points to recent empirical work that seems to show that the systems underlying these two types of skills are independent from each other. This is taken to show that motor-skills are a good candidate to serve the role of the stable dispositions needed for the epistemic virtues, which generate knowledge. Montemayor reserves a place for action-selection skills in other epistemic pursuits like understanding, but holds that they are not relevant to the production of knowledge.

    While this conclusion is certainly shocking, the overall argument makes clear use of empirical findings to support it. Berit Brogaard argues against both virtue responsibilist and virtue reliabilist accounts of knowledge, while still reserving a place for a eudemonistic virtue epistemology focused on intellectual flourishing. She follows others in arguing that even those who demonstrate no responsibilist intellectual virtues can still have basic sensory knowledge. She points to the psychological study of sleepwalking and savants to supplement these arguments.

    Savants, while possessing extreme mathematical ability, often lack any responsibilist intellectual virtues; yet they know their mathematical conclusions. Sleepwalking depends primarily on dorsal stream processing which may not be accompanied by any conscious awareness. On the assumption that responsibilist virtues require conscious effort, Brogaard concludes that the sleepwalker has knowledge that does not plausibly depend on exercising virtue.

    Reliabilist virtues might adequately capture the cases above, but she argues that they run into difficulties explaining knowledge when our cognitive successes are the result of joint effort. Rather than rejecting virtues, however, Brogaard recommends moving from a knowledge-focused virtue epistemology to one that takes intellectual flourishing as its target. The virtues endorsed by such a eudaemonist view may be quite different from the intellectual virtues currently endorsed by either the responsibilist or the reliabilist; they will only include those traits that contribute to one's overall intellectual flourishing.

    Though it may not be a full defense of responsibilist virtue epistemology from Brogaard's objections, it is important to recognize that there are versions of this view that do not require the possession of intellectual virtues for knowledge. Linda Zagzebski's account of knowledge Virtues of the Mind , Cambridge University Press, only requires that the agent act in the way that that virtuous person might and from the correct motivation. The various savants considered here fit into Zagzebski's definition of knowledge in an interesting way.

    At least some of these people clearly lack intellectual virtues; but they also seem to be uniquely motivated by the truth. This could be classified as a love of truth, the correct motivation, but one that is focused on an extremely limited range of topics. We might question whether savants act as the virtuous person would, since they have extraordinary abilities that exemplars of intellectual virtues might not.

    But it does seem that they reason as the intellectually virtuous person would, if the virtuous person had all their calculative and recall abilities. The case of savants offered here shows why a definition of knowledge that does not require intellectual virtue might be more plausible in its attributions of knowledge.

    Mark Alfano questions reliabilist virtue epistemology from a different angle, extending the situationist challenge he has raised for responsibilism to reliabilism. His focus is beliefs based on inference. A troubling point is that we make persistent errors in reasoning about likelihood when we use the heuristics of availability and representativeness.

    Since use of these heuristics appears to be widespread, Alfano argues that reliabilists face a dilemma: either admit that these heuristics are not reliabilist intellectual virtues and accept the resultant skepticism about inferential beliefs, or find a way to argue that, despite appearances, these heuristics are in fact reliabilist intellectual virtues. Exploring ways that one might embrace the second horn of this dilemma, Alfano considers and develops an evolutionary argument that our methods of reasoning have been selected over time, and so must work well enough.

    In response, he points out that adaptation does not guarantee reliability, and the environment we find ourselves in is significantly different from that of our evolutionary ancestors. Fairweather and Montemayor respond to Alfano's specific situationist challenge for virtue reliabilism about inference, while at the same time presenting suggestions for defending virtue responsibilism as well. One such defense is to shift attention to the wide array of inferential reasoning that is based on cognitive dispositions and may not be represented explicitly.

    An example they give is how we learn syntax as infants. Such learning seems relevantly inferential, yet it does not depend on occurrent reasoning, and most importantly in this context it is highly reliable. By including many reliable inference mechanisms in the evaluative pool, Fairweather and Montemayor are responding to the skeptical horn of Alfano's dilemma; a more limited and local skepticism about particular inferences does not fall afoul of our general anti-skeptical inclinations.

    Such a response admits that the highlighted inferential dispositions are not reliable; a more radical response would be to argue that, despite appearances, they are reliable. There are two suggestions offered to support his type of response. One would be to follow Sosa in evaluating the reliability of dispositions only under normal or expected conditions. The other would be to follow Gerd Gigerenzer in acknowledging our inferential heuristics as dispositions that are ecologically rational; they may be more reliable than would be any attempts by cognitively limited agents to follow ideal epistemic rules.

    An important methodological point about the application of empirical results to epistemology is made apparent here by the juxtaposition of the chapters in this section. When applying empirical results to theory, interpretation matters. Individual empirical results don't often challenge our theories of rationality directly.

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    However a body of empirical studies with a clear and completing interpretation can give us reason to change our epistemic theories to accommodate them. This issue is apparent in the response given by Fairweather and Montemeyor to Alfano. Both chapters address the same empirical findings, but those empirical findings are viewed through two very different interpretative lenses. The empirically robust result that people regularly make the conjunction fallacy when reasoning about the Linda case can be interpreted as a persistent and compelling problem that undermines the possibly of reliabilist virtues.

    However, when this result is grouped with a wide range of conclusions based on following a representativeness heuristic, it might instead appear as an isolated, if robust, foible in an otherwise reasonably affective strategy. Likewise, if we interpret metacognition as an essential element in keeping our ground-level capabilities in check, and thus as what provides the reliability to those processes, then metacognition seems to be required for knowledge.

    This is the interpretation of empirical findings addressed by Lepock and Broncano. However, if we follow Montemayor in conceiving of our ground-level processes as independent from metacognition, then ground and meta-level processes can be evaluated for their reliability separately. If the reliability of our ground-level processes is higher than that of the meta-level, then metacognition seems not to be required for knowledge. These two results follow from different interpretations of the empirical findings. We might be driven here to go back to the empirical level, not necessarily to require further experimental evidence, but rather to consider which interpretations and empirical theories are best supported by all the evidence available.

    Virtuous Thoughts: The Philosophy of Ernest Sosa

    Choices like these raise the problem of underdetermination of theory by evidence, to which the chapters making up Fairweather's second and third bridge are responses. Milena Ivanova considers the problem of underdetermination and examines attempts to solve this problem using two types of virtues: virtues of theories and virtues of theoreticians. While both might seem to move us towards resolving underdetermination, Ivanova argues that neither can provide us with a way to settle on a unique theory as best.

    Though theory virtues might help us to weed out clearly unsuitable candidates there is still much disagreement about the ranking of theory virtues, as well as when they are instantiated and to what degree. Is a theory simple if it has simple equations? Postulated fewer ontological types? Fewer ontological tokens? If virtues of theories are not enough for unique theory choice, we might look instead for scientific practitioners to make this choice for us.

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    Ivanova turns to Duhem's concept of bon sens and to recent interpretations of it as an epistemic virtue. But she finds this interpretation problematic, particularly because bon sens can only be judged by success of the theory in the long run. Since epistemic vices may succeed in this way, particular instances of bon sens may be vices instead of virtues. Furthermore, two scientists with bon sens may still disagree; even the putative virtue does not resolve the problem of underdetermination.

    Guy Axtell also addresses the problem of underdetermination, but comes to a very different conclusion from Ivanova. He argues for a "tiered" account of theory virtues and epistemic virtues on which it is not always possible to distinguish between them. But whether or not they can be distinguished from each other, they should be considered as working together and evaluated as a whole.