Bringing virtue epistemology down to earth
Virtue responsibilist epistemology (hereafter, virtue epistemology) is a philosophical thesis: it claims epistemic virtues and epistemic vices play essential roles in understanding the normative dimension of inquirers and inquiries, and help solve epistemological problems. The theory has developed over the past few decades, yet the approach suffers from some difficulties. My thesis addresses problems virtue epistemology faces and responds to each issue. In the first chapter, I would discuss the situationist critique. Epistemic situationists are skeptical about the explanatory and predictive power of our epistemic character traits. I address self-determination theory and argue that our motivation is causally efficacious: self-determined motivation predicts desirable behaviors contributing to our good life in a way that favors the position of the virtue epistemology. In the second chapter, I criticize the newly developed personalist virtue epistemology. Personalism relies on attributability responsibility, and dismisses the acquisition condition of virtue: i.e., the moral responsibility is defined by what we care and value synchronically. I defend the traditional responsibilist view of virtue on the ground of the narrative self-constitution view. The third chapter considers the impact of the epistemic partiality of friendship. I argue that friendship is dynamic: it is true that epistemic partiality is important for our care-relationship. Nevertheless, there is a sense in which our friendship is compatible with evidences, i.e., via epistemic partisan affiliation with our friends. I show that the value of friendship competes with other values such as epistemic justice in the exact same way as friendship competes with evidences. Thus, the argument given by the proponents of epistemic partiality of friendship is shown to be not as convincing as it first appears. In the fourth chapter, I introduce the value of receptivity (the value against control and perfection) into virtue epistemology. The value of intellectual autonomy is often highly regarded among virtue epistemologists, but I argue that the value of intellectual receptivity will help explain what is wrong with the agent with excessive desire for knowledge first hand, and will help explain some key intellectual virtues like humility and open-mindedness. The fifth chapter is devoted to the problem of subjectivity in virtue epistemology. Oppressive social structures shape our standpoints: the oppressed are privileged in knowing about their oppressed life. I argue that virtue epistemologists should take this insight from standpoint epistemology into thinking about how some of our intellectual vices are socially formed, and institutionally remedied. In the sixth chapter, I propose some revisions to exemplar-based virtue education. Our imitative and learning behaviors are influenced by our perceived social distances between the self and the model, according to construal level theory. It is argued that the promotion of diverse intellectual exemplars in society would help us emulate exemplars and cultivate intellectual virtues more effectively. In this way, virtue epistemologists have often failed to take human psychology and the social nature of our inquiry into account. They also have not addressed how other aspects of human flourishing are intertwined with epistemic goods. My thesis aims at providing a down-to-earth account of how we should pursue epistemic virtues and avoid epistemic vices.