The Epistemological Role of the Intellectual Virtues

Dissertation, University of Washington (2002)


My concern is with the epistemological role of traits like inquisitiveness, attentiveness, fair-mindedness, open-mindedness, intellectual carefulness, thoroughness, tenacity, and caution. I argue for two main claims, one negative and the other positive. ;Negatively, I argue that considerations of intellectual virtue do not have an important role to play in connection with any of the more traditional epistemological problems. I show that if considerations of intellectual virtue were to play such a role, it would have to be in connection with the analysis of knowledge, but that any view which makes an exercise of intellectual virtue a necessary condition for knowledge is bound to fail. ;Positively, I argue that there nevertheless remain a number of interesting and important philosophical questions and issues concerning the nature and value of virtuous intellectual character which are of considerable importance to epistemology. I defend this claim in two steps. First, I argue that virtuous intellectual character is both a constituent of and a highly important means to intellectual flourishing. It follows from this that since epistemology is concerned broadly with the more important or valuable philosophical dimensions of the intellectual life, insofar as there are philosophical questions and issues to be pursued in connection with the intellectual virtues, these have an important role to play in epistemology. Second, I go on to elucidate and discuss a number of these questions and issues, most of which are concerned with the nature and value of virtuous intellectual character as such. ;I conclude, then, that considerations of intellectual virtue do have an important role to play in epistemology, even if not in connection with any of the more traditional epistemological projects

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Jason Baehr
Loyola Marymount University

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