Aristotle’s Virtue Epistemology

When:19 Mar 2019, 12:30pm - 2pm
Venue:Room G05, Goldstein, Kensington Campus, UNSW
Who:Associate Professor David Bronstein, Georgetown University
David Bronstein

Abstract: Contemporary virtue epistemologists such as John Greco and Ernest Sosa argue that cognitive acts have certain normative properties because of the capacities from which they issue: a true belief is justified, and counts as an instance of knowledge, because it issues from one or more of the intellectual virtues. In this paper, I argue that Aristotle is not a virtue epistemologist in the contemporary sense (just as others have recently argued that he is not a virtue ethicist in the contemporary sense). This is because he reverses the direction of analysis characteristic of contemporary virtue theories: it’s not that a cognitive act counts as an instance of knowledge because it issues from intellectual virtue; it’s rather that a capacity constitutes an intellectual virtue because it issues in cognitive acts that are instances knowledge. I examine Aristotle’s account of virtue across the three domains in which he applies it (craft production, moral action, and cognitive activity), focusing specifically on his account of scientific knowledge. I argue that he thinks a cognitive agent must possess certain intellectual virtues in order to perform an act of scientific knowledge. Nonetheless, I also argue that he denies that the agent’s cognitive act is an instance of scientific knowledge because it issues from such virtues. Aristotle’s act-based virtue epistemology provides a compelling alternative to contemporary agent-based accounts.

Bio: David Bronstein is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Georgetown University. He is the author of Aristotle on Knowledge and Learning: the Posterior Analytics (OUP, 2016) and several articles on Plato and Aristotle.

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