Mark Alfano and Abrol Fairweather

Mark Alfano (left) and Abrol Fairweather (right) on virtue epistemology.

A long line of virtue ethicists believe that we need to understand the moral virtues—courage, benevolence, temperance, etc.—in order to address core questions in moral philosophy. Lately, there has been a surge of interest in virtue epistmeology, which holds that core questions in epistemology should be addressed in terms of epistemic virtues. In this conversation, Alfano and Fairweather discuss the advantages and challenges of virtue epistemology, with a special focus on issues arising from results in empirical psychology.

Related works

by Alfano:
Extending the Situationist Challenge to Responsibilist Virtue Epistemology” (forthcoming)
Explaining Away Intuitions About Traits: Why Virtue Ethics Seems Plausible (Even if it Isn’t)” (2010)

by Fairweather:
Duhem-Quine Virtue Epistemology” (forthcoming)
The Epistemic Value of Good Sense” (forthcoming)
“Epistemic Motivation” in Fairweather and Zagzebski (eds.), Virtue Epistemology: Essays in Epistemic Virtue and Responsibility (2001)

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1 comment to Mark Alfano and Abrol Fairweather

  • It seemed to me that the distinction between a virtuous action and an act of virtue wasn’t made clear. Zagzebski, for example, relies on this distinction when she defined knowledge as involving “acts of intellectual virtue” (this is from her chapter in the 1999 Blackwell Guide to Epistemology). She goes on to explain that such an act is the kind of act an intellectually virtuous person would do in the circumstances, even if the person actually doing it is not virtuous. This may allow at least her theory and others like it to escape some of the criticisms presented here, since it rules that people can have knowledge even when they aren’t, strictly speaking, virtuous. In fact, Mark Alfano’s comments right at the end are suggestive of this. He says that telling people that they have a virtue may be a way to get them to act like it. Since “acting like it” is all that is required by (at least some) virtue theories in order to get knowledge in some situation, perhaps they escape the “people don’t actually have these virtues” objection.