Virtue epistemology and the analysis of knowledge
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This thesis centers on two trends in epistemology: (i) the dissatisfaction with the reductive analysis of knowledge, the project of explicating knowledge in terms of necessary and jointly sufficient conditions, and (ii) the popularity of virtue-theoretic epistemologies. The goal of this thesis is to endorse non-reductive virtue epistemology. Given that prominent renditions of virtue epistemology assume the reductive model, however, such a move is not straightforward—work needs to be done to elucidate what is wrong with the reductive model, in general, and why reductive accounts of virtue epistemology, specifically, are lacking. The first part of this thesis involves diagnosing what is wrong with the reductive model and defending that diagnosis against objections. The problem with the reductive project is the Gettier Problem. In Chapter 1, I lend credence to Linda Zagzebski’s grim 1994 diagnosis of Gettier problems (and the abandonment of the reductive model) by examining the nature of luck, the key component of Gettier problems. In Chapter 2, I vindicate this diagnosis against a range of critiques from the contemporary literature. The second part involves applying this diagnosis to prominent versions of (reductive) virtue epistemology. In Chapter 3, we consider the virtue epistemology of Alvin Plantinga. In Chapter 4, we consider the virtue epistemology of Ernest Sosa. Both are seminal and iconic; nevertheless, I argue that, in accord with our diagnosis, neither is able to viably surmount the Gettier Problem. Having diagnosed what is wrong with the reductive project and applied this diagnosis to prominent versions of (reductive) virtue epistemology, the final part of this thesis explores the possibility of non-reductive virtue epistemology. In Chapter 5, I argue that there are three strategies that can be used to develop non-reductive virtue epistemologies, strategies that are compatible with seminal non-reductive accounts of knowledge and preserve our favorite virtue-theoretic concepts.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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