Virtue Epistemology Strikes Back Abrol Fairweather & Carlos Montemayor 1. and epistemic situationism

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22 Οκτ 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 5 μήνες)

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Virtue Epistemology Strikes Back

Abrol Fairweather & Carlos Montemayor


1.
Anscombe’s exhortation

and
epistemic situationism


In “Modern Moral Philosophy”
,
G.E.
M

Anscombe famously exhorted
moral
philosophers to avoid speculation
regarding

ethical norms

until
they could

be

grounded

in an

adequate moral psychology

(Anscombe, 1958)
.


Anscombe
’s claim

that
moral philosophy is

“not profitable”
without
“an adequate philosophy of
psychology”

places somet
hing like the following
empirical constraint on
a
moral
theory:

An
adequate moral theory must
be
empirically adequate
,

and
empirical
adequacy
will be
achieved through
an empirically adequate moral psychology
.


W
e
see
this as app
licable to normative theories

general
ly
,

including epistemology.
Call
this

broad
d
emand

for empirical adequacy

in normative theory

Anscombe’s
e
xhortation
.
Anscombe argued that Natural Law theory a
nd

Kantian ethics fail to
meet the

empi
rical demand
, and looked instead to
an

ethi
cs of virtues

and vices.
V
irtue theory

app
ears
an
attractive
way to heed Anscombe’s exhortation
in ethics
because it is
capable of grounding

norms about proper functioning

in facts about

h
uman nature and

human flourishing
1
. T
his

appealing
moral
psychology
became a
sign
ificant reason for the

resurge
nce
of

virtue ethics
in mid to late twentieth century
moral theory.



If

virtue ethics

has an empirically adequate psychology
,
there is reason to think
that

the prospects for
virtue e
pistemology are good as well.

However, a

wide range of
psychological
research

on trait attribution and rationality
has chippe
d away at what
appeared to be a solid

empirical

footing
,
thereby challenging the adequacy of virtue
ethics on the very point that appe
ared to be a primary strength
2
. P
hilosophers such
as Gilbert Harman

(2000)

have been led
to
question

the
very existence
of character
traits
, and others like John Doris
(2003)
have denied
their
robustn
ess and
explanatory value
.

Character trait attributions enjoin

pre
dic
tive and explanatory
commit
ments that s
imply fail

too often

to meet norms that require
virtue
manifestation

for success
.

Situationist’s argue that Anscombe’s turn to virtue ethics
fails precisely because it does not meet her own demand for empirical adequacy.
Multiple forms of t
he situationist challenge

have
now
been de
veloped

in virtue
ethics
, as well as numerous
virt
ue theoretic responses, and the
debate in

moral
psychology
continues to be a live one.


O
nly recently has
the situationist

challenge

been applied

to virtue epistemology
.
In
two recent papers,
M
ark
Alfano

(2011, 2012)
presents
a thorough critic
i
sm of virtue
epistemology from a diverse range of empirical results ab
out rationality
, inferential
abilities

and trait attribution.

Alfano nicely frames
the

challenge

as
an inconsistent



1

Annas

(2005) rightly notes that virtue theories in ethics do not need to be

naturalistic in this way as seen in Stoic and religious accounts of the virtues.

2

The literature on relevant research is enormous, for some comprehensive
treatments see Doris (2002), M
iller (2008), Alfano (2011, 2012, and forthcoming)

triad:

a) non
-
skep
ticism: most people know quite a bit
; b)

Virtue epistemology
:
knowledge is true belief acquired a
nd retained through
intellectual virtue
;

and c)
cognitive situationism:
people acquire and retain most of their beliefs through
heuristics rather than
intellectual virtues.


The dilemma for the virtue
e
pistemologist is

that empirical adequacy will require accommodating the empirical
work presented by situationists and thus
will
accept (c) to heed Anscombe’s
exhortation. But the research shows that all t
oo rarely will an agent meet virtue
theoretic standards for epistemic success, and will thus be unable to account for (a).
Failing to meet the non
-
skepticism desiderata would be a normative inadequacy in
virtue epistemology because any such theory will be

unable to assign positive
epistemic standings in a way that keeps pace with the frequency of human
knowledge
.

Call this the challenge of
epistemic situationism
.
We agree with Alfano
that this normative requirement is a necessary desid
erata for a theory
of
knowledge, but will argue that the right understanding of (b) can be made
consistent with (a) and (c).


While we are confident that

Alfano
’s challenge can be met, it

raises
a p
ressing
concern

and
ext
ends

Anscomb
e’s de
mand
to
virtue epistemology
3
. T
he examination
of current research in psychol
ogy

required

for
a
virtue
theoretic response
should be
profitable in further
understanding the empirical basis
of epistemic virtues, and is
thus a valuable
contribution to the literature on virtue epistemology

as a whole
.


However,
Alfano’s argument must meet certain constraints to cons
t
ititute a
refutation of virtue epistemology.
Focusing on (b) in Al
fano’s triad,
we say that
a
ny

virtue epistemology wi
ll de
fine knowledge as a form

of “success from ability” (see
Pritchard, Greco, Sosa)
4
.
This involves at least the following three commitments

as
necessary conditions for knowledge from epistemic virtue: (1) Epistemic Success


an a
gent must be reliably success
ful

(2) Cognitive

Ability


an agent must possess
the relevant
abi
lity
, competence or character trait (3
) Etiological Epistemic Value


an agent’s

epistemic success
must
be ‘from’ or

due to


their cognitive

ability
,
competence or character
.


The last cond
ition requires that e
pistemic
success must
be related to the agent’s abiliti
es in the right way for that success to constitute
knowledge.


This is required for any success to be sufficiently
from

ability.

These
conditions ar
e intended to capture

uncon
troversial constitutive commitments for a
virtue epistemology.
Situationists like Alfano
must undermine
either
the condition
for
epistemic success, epistemic ability or the etiological

condition to claim any
victory
against virtue epistemology.
If situ
atio
nism cannot
falsify any of the three
, it
has failed to under
mine
virtue epistemology.


The most
obvious situationist target
is the success condition.

The r
esearch
on
rationality used by Alfano
appears to show

that agents
often fail
to achieve

the



3

Guy Axtel (2009) has developed a response to situationism in virtue epistemology
which differs from the approach taken here.

4

There are forms of virtue epistemology that do not aim to define knowledge,

for
example the ‘regulative’ virtue epistemology of Roberts & Wood (2007). We here
pursue what Greco calls the classical project (2009)

outcom
es expected

of

rational agents
.
Human beings are not successful enough
according to virtue theoretic norms to support the frequency of knowledge
attributions as captured in his (a) above
5
.
However,
we

should not

assume

that
epistemic success is
rightly
defined in terms of
the
models of

ideal

ratio
nality
employed in the research Alfano relies on
. We argue that, p
roperly understood,
psychological research on rationality does not undermine a virtue theoretic account
of epistemic success.
With an improved
t
heory of epistemic success in hand,
we
argue that
Alfano’s triad is consistent.


Central t
o our argument will be
an account of frugal virtues. T
his will be a
reliabil
ist account, so i
t remains to be seen
if responsibilist virtue epistemology
can
be defe
nded in a similar way
.

We proceed as follows: Section 2
raise
s

a
normativity
objection to Alfano in defending the success

condition for epistemic virtue;

Section
3 examines a challenge to the etiological condition

available to situationists based
on epi
stemic luck which

is no
t fully explored by Alfano
, but
which may provide a
different
kind of
threat from situationism
; t
he concluding se
ctions
(4
-
7)

defend an
account of

frugal virtues

that adequately responds to
epistemic situationism

on
empirical grounds.

This
account will be a reliabilist virtue epistemology with
support from Gerd Gigerenzer’s research in the th
eory of bounded ration
ality,
alternative interpretations of psychological findings from Daniel Kahneman

and
research on kno
wledge of syntax.

We consider this a form of naturalized virtue
epistemology and argue that it can withstand the challenge from situationism.
To
begin
, we consider some connections between
normative epistemology and
empirical epistemolog
y of the sort Alf
ano presses

to
frame an argument against the
account of episte
mic success needed for his
argument

that

is independent of any
commitment to virtue epistemology
.




2.
T
he empirical turn
, epistemic success,

and normative adequacy


Recent epistemology has
witnessed an explosion in
value driven epistemology
,
leading some philosophers to declare a ‘value turn’ in the last decade of epistemic
theory

(Riggs 2003)
. The considerable literature on the value problem has improved
epistemic axiology and value driven
epistemology has been a catalyst for work on
epistemically valuable states other than knowledge, such as unde
rstanding and
wisdom
6
.
For this very reason
,
it may be

that
virtue epistemology calls for a
compensating
empirical turn
7
. With continuing developments in psychology and



5

Flanagan (2007) responds to situationism in virtue ethics by arguing that the
demonstrated correlation coefficient f
or traits is generally .3 to .4,
which

is actually
quite high compared to chance and
that behavioral
predicti
ons
based on traits
will
substantially increase accuracy.

6

For recent work on epistemic value see Pritchard (2007) and Haddock et. al.
(2009)

7

s
ee Henderson and Horgan’s
The Epistemological
Spectrum

for a fine example of
empirically driven epistemology, as well as Beebe (2010)

other relevant empirical work, epistemologists will regularly have to re
-
consider the
empirical adequacy of their currently favored normative the
ories
. Responding to
epistemic situationism will require virt
ue epistemologists to do just this

in light of
the recent value turn
, and we support Alfano’s project to this extent. However,
the
concern
s of

norm
ative epistemology
cannot be ignored in the process. W
e argue
that Alfano’s position falls prey to an

incon
s
istent quadrad , with the result

that his
position

is normatively inadequate and his
account
of
epistemic success
must be
rejected
.
Alfano does not over
tly endorse any specific principle

of epistemic success,
but his argument clearly r
elies on
norms of ra
tionality from

research
programs
in
social psychology and behavioral economics. This use of rationality theory to set

norms for epistemic success will be
problematic

for Alfano
,

irrespective of any
further commitments
to virtue theory
in subsequent sectio
ns of this essay
.
We begin
with some considera
tions on epistemic
normativity that apply to any attempt at an
empiricall
y adequate virtue epistemology and the
n present an inconsisten
t quadrad
for Alfano.


Suppose we have
an
epistemic theory that meets
Alfano’s demand for empirical
adequacy

in hand
. This
empirical epistemology will
still
face
normativity

challenges

and these have

traditionally been troubling
for natu
ralistic theories. The
classic
challenge to naturalism in ethics
took shape around GE M
oore’s Open Questio
n
Argument (1903). Moore
demanded

that
a

naturalistic account

of moral properties
satisfy a
stringent te
st for an adequate
meaning analysis of
the target
normative
properties such that for any natural property manifested by an agent or a
ction, if it
remains intelligible to ask whether the agent or act is
nonetheless good or right,
the

account is
normatively

inadequate.
Failing to meet Moore’s semantic demand is a
worry because the prospects for constructing an adequate normative theory a
re dim
without the necessary semantics for normative judgements. While developments in
philosophy of language

since Moore show some mistakes in hi
s formulation of the
argument,
the general d
emand that a naturalistic
theory must show itself to be
normative
ly

adequate
continues to be significant in meta
-
ethics and the moral
realism debate
8
.



In “Natural Facts and Epistemic Norms,” Carrie
Jenkins exam
ines how Moorean
open question arguments

extend to naturalis
tic accounts of epistemic norms.

Any
epistemic
theo
r
y must
account for a range of intuitively

true normative claims such
as “
we
ought
to fit our beliefs to our evidence, justified beliefs are
in good standing,
blind trust in unreliable informants is
wrong,
it is
irrational
to believe an explicit
contra
diction, and so on
.”

(Jenkins, 2007)

A naturalized epist
emology will have to
provide
natural properties that allow for the derivation of
these

or related

normative standings.
Any theory that fails here cannot be said to provide a theory



8

For example, Brink’s (2001) ‘synthetic moral realism’ makes use of contingent a
priori propositions to semantically

ground normative properties in natural
properties. See also Zagzebski’s (2010) use of natural kinds semantics in her recent
‘exemplarist’ virtue theory.


of knowledge.
The

Moorean worry in epistemology is that no set of natural
properties can semantically ground the normative judgements e
ssential to
epistemic appraisal
.

Jenkins
rightly weakens Moore’s demand for
conceptual reduction, but

argues that,
while
neither a bicon
ditional proposal
n
or

a

supervenience proposal
will
provide
sufficient
natural grounds
,

s
ameness of truth makers
will
.


For Jenkins, i
f the fact
that makes a normative epistemic claim true is the same fact as that which makes a
natural claim true, an epistemologist has met Moore’s worry.
In epistemology,
she
argues that natural facts about ‘probabilifying’ relations and facts such that
contradictions are not true will be
the
very
facts that make
true
many normative
epistemic claims
about what we ought to believe, when a belief is irrational or when
a belief is in good standing
.

T
here
appears to be a range of
natural facts
that
provide
s
ome
hope for meeting open question arguments in epistemology and
thus
g
rounding some form of realism about epistemic norms
9
.

While there are questions raised by
Jenkins’
list of natural facts

and her claim that
identity of truth makers suffices to meet t
he Moorean worry
, her
proposal

may
cons
titute the beg
in
n
ing of

a normatively adeq
uate naturalistic epistemology.
However,
the kinds of natural facts s
he identifies do not appear to ground

the full
range of normative standings necessary for a theory of knowledge
. Specifically, she
disc
usses no natural fact to

account for the credit

an agent receives for
an epistemic
success that
is properly from ability. This

would be required for meeting

Epistemic
Open Question Arguments in the present context
, and thus Jenkins’ proposal will not
enable the derivation of all necessary normative epistemic standings
.
Even meeting
her
broad demand for sameness of fact,

an epistemic theory will also need to
distribute

a wide
range of normative standings to

a wide range of cognitive activities

and will require a more complete semantic structure for deriving normative
standings from natural facts
. There is hope that f
urther inquiry into the empirical
underpinn
ings of cognitive abilities and ep
istemic success will

provide

further

insight into th
e

natur
al facts that make attributions of
credit
for
epistemic success

come out true
,

though

Alfano will presumably
take a less optimistic view of the
se

prospects
10
.

Ano
ther instructive example of a normativity

challenge to an empirical
epistemology
is found in

Kim’s

(1998)

objection to

Quine’s naturalized
epistemology. In
his
famous
paper “Epistemology Naturalized,

Quine rejected



9

Cuneo argues for epistemic realism and that this implies a form of moral realism in
his “parity
argument” in
The Normative Web
. Heathwood (2009) argues against
Cuneo, but still accepts epistemic realism.

10

Normative standings for agent credit might be grounded in natural facts about
proper functioning or desire satisfaction

This sets up an interes
ting challenge the
situationist might make that cannot be pursued in detail here, namely whether
situationism blocks any adequate resolution to answering epistemic open question
arguments vis
-
à
-
vis facts about normal functioning.

epistemology grounded in conc
eptual ana
lysis, and exhorted epistemologists to
provide
a robust
, ground
-
level

role for em
pirical psychology in
framing
and
answering
issues

in epistemology
. One influential criticism of Quine’s account comes
from
J
agewon Kim’s (198
8) well known objection that Quin
e’s epistemology is non
-
normative. Since epistemology is essentially a normative discipline,
Kim argues that
Quine has changed the subject by going empirical. Kim’s objection is of a piece with
Moore’s worry about

the possibility of a

normatively adequat
e naturalism in ethics.

According to Kim, Quine’s

na
turalistic epistemology would be
woefully inadequate
because it

does not enable one to derive

any

normative
epistemic
standings.


Kim might ultimately be right that Quinian naturalized epistemology is no
rmatively
ina
dequate, but his argument has an answer from Quine
. Quine’s
full
naturalized
epistemology will be

constituted by h
is favored empirical psychology and
a
semantics

for epistemic norms
. “Ep
istemology Naturalized” did not

develop
a
theory of
epistemic norms
, but
his
su
bsequent work did
, perhaps largely due to
Kim’s objection
. It is
now
clear
tha
t epistemic normativity
for Quine
is
seen as
the
“tech
nology of truth seeking”
11
.
His
view is
that an empirical explanation of
cognition achieves posi
tive epistemic standing if it is “good technology” for the
pursuit of truth and other epistemic endeavors.

The norms of epistemology then
become the norms of a certain kind of engineering
,
and this becomes

an empirical
inquiry

through
psychology, statisti
cs and

heuristics generally

.
While this
account
has been criticized and
leaves much

to be explained, it
shows how
the derivation of
normative standings from empirical conditions

can respond to

Kim’s objection

and
aspire to normative adequacy
.

More would have to be shown to demon
strate
normative adequacy for
Quine’s
account
,
but it is

one way to pursue

an
epistemology that is both
empi
rical and normative
.


Heeding both Anscombe’s exhortation and Moore’s worry, an adequate virtue
epistemology
w
ill have to be empirically adequate
(
for Anscom
b
e
)

and normatively
adequate
(
for Moore
)
.
The constraints for a theory meeting (b) in Alfano’s triad will
thus include maintaining the three constititutive commitements of virtue
epistemology and the demands

f
or both empirical and normative adequacy
.
Meeting the full set of de
mands will require
an empir
ically adequate psychology that
also allows for an adequate derivation of normative epistemic standings
12
. T
he
normative standings derived
must
also
cohere wit
h uncontroversial

epistemic
judgements

such as the non
-
skepticism principle in Alfano’s triad,

and
must
perform well enough in answering a range of ‘standard cases’ in epistemology. A
complete account of normative adequacy is beyond the scope of the pres
ent paper,
but this will not be necessary for the arguments made here.

T
his semantic demand
does not, of course, require that normative standings can be derived from empirical



11

See Kornblith (1993),
Hylton (2007), Houkes (2002), Fairweather (2011) for
discussion of Quine’s “technology of truth seeking” norm.

12

By ‘deriving’ we mean only that some semantic function will assign normative
standings to empirically adequate descriptions of the cognitive s
tates assessed in an
epistemic theory.

explanations alone. That is most likely an impossible task, and for roughly th
e kinds
of reasons given by Moore. But, it is also the wrong kind of demand. An
empirical
psychology requires a
semantics to determine normative standings for a broad
range of cognitive activities in order to do any epistemic work
13
.

We argue that the c
ommitments needed for Alfano’s argument fall prey to a form
normative

in
adequacy
.

While
Alfano
does not explicitly define or commit to a
normative epistemic semantics, he clearly
assumes that models of ideal rationality
are the semantic devices that allow
for
the derivation of normative standings from
empirical conditions. He
then
argues that the
distribution of positive epistemic
standings in

virtue epistemology
violate the non
-
skepticism principle because
our
actual co
gnitive endeavors
will

all too

rarely meet virtue theoretic
standards of
success.

Since non
-
skepticism is off

the table, virtue epistemology must be rejected.
However,
it is Alfano that falls victim to this line of argument. C
onjoining ideal
rationality
semantics and situationist empirical psychology entails that
no epistemic
theory can
adequately
assign positive normative status to actual human cognition.

R
eliable inference is
n
ecessary for human knowledge in

evidentialist, internalist,
coherentist, fou
ndationalist, and standard reliabilist accounts of knowledge,
as well
as virtue epistemology. But this means that the
following quadrad is inconsistent:

(a) situationist psychology (b) ideal rationality semantics
(c) ANY

theory
of
knowledge
and
(d)
non
-
s
kepticism
. Since Alfano appears to accept (a
-
d), he must
work his way out of
this to have a coherent
argument against virtue epistemology
.
But this will be a challenging attempt.
If he
abandon
s (c),

he is

no l
onger doing
epistemology. If he

abandon
s
(a), h
e presumably no longer has

an empirically

adequate epistemic psychology and the situationist is defeated.

We agree with
Alfano that (d) is off the table.
Thus, (b) appears to be the clear choice

for
elimination,
Alfano’s epistemic semantics must be
rejected.
The problem arises
primarily from his understanding of epistemic success.
We defend

an improved
account of epistemic success in sections 4
-
6 that will solidify the success condition
for virtue epistemology on empirical grounds.




3
.

T
he
abilit
y condition, environmental luck

and situationism


Defending the success condition will not be enough to save virtue epistemology
from situationism.
A defining commitment of virtue epistemology is

that cognitive
success
must
be explained by a cognitive
ability in the knower
.

This
will require
that agents
possess

abilities
, and these will

be some form of stable disposition to



13

The concern for normative adequacy can be seen in the debate over Goldman’s
“value T
-
monism” and challenges from Pritchard, Kvanvig

and others who argue for
some form of epistemic value pluralism. An empirical virtue epistemology faces
these questions in a unique way because the axiology will be constrained by a
commitment to a specific empirical psychology.


reliably bring about a certain outcome when the a
gent endeavors

to
.


This is
an issue
in the metaphysics of dispositions
,
epistemi
c
taxonomy

as well as empirical
p
sy
chology
. A

second
requirement is that abilities must be

sufficiently explanatory
in
an agent’s epistemic
success.
This
is primarily an issue in the theory of
epistemic
agency and action.

Bringing all of this to the tabl
e, the ability condition will be
a
nuanced and perhaps fragile
commitment

for virtue epistemology
.
It is also a high
value target because, in conju
n
ction with an
etiological condition, it

is resp
onsible
for carrying much of virtue epistemology’s

success i
n
responding to Ge
ttier cases
and other instances of epistemic luck, as well as providing an attractive sol
ution to
the value problem (
Greco

2009
).



A
ny situationist seeking to undermine virtue epistemology

should certainly take aim
at the ability condit
ion
. Alfano hints at h
ow this might be done
, but we expand this
argument for the situationist below
. The situationist might claim (a) that there are
no cognitive abilities as conceived by virtue epistemology
, or (b) cognitive abilities
do not sufficiently explain cognitive success. John Doris
(2003)
has argued that
agents only possess very narrow abilities, traits and dispositions


work place
honesty, or honesty with family, rather than honesty simpliciter.

This seems to
undermine the attributability of broad ab
ilities
across wide ranging circum
stances.
If
the
abilities
relevant to virtue epistemology
only come in this
very broad sort,
then virtue epistemology may run into trouble in the reification of abi
lities.
However, w
hile virtue ethics inherits

a historical
commitment to a canonical set of
classic traits
,
virtue epistemology is not so constrained.
Epistemic virtues can be
defined
with a greater latitude

than moral virtues
, despite being

tightly
cons
trained
by
the value of truth

and
giving
a prominent role to dispositions of the agent
.
Since
virtues are most plausibly seen as clusters of abilities and dispositions by virtue
epistemologists, t
here is
no reason why an epistemic virtue cannot be defined
as a
set or cluster of narrowly defined
Doris
-
abilities
.

T
he challenge to
an ontology of
abilities in
virtue
epistemology does not appear as strong as the challenge to
classically defined character traits in ethics.

Furthermore, the recent work on the
me
taphysics of abilities will continue to provide semantic and empirical support for
a theory of cognitive ability that meets the needs of epistemologists.


However, the claim

that abilities

are non
-
explanatory may
be harder to dismiss.

Alfano notes that
when agent
s are successful

outside of perception and
other
basic
cognitive processes
, it appears that
success is
often
due to epistemically irrelevant
but fortunate
environmental conditions such as finding a quarter
, truth maximizing
ambient noise or receiving a compliment.
While these results in social psychology
initially applied to pro
-
social traits like helpfulness, Alfano can extend these worries
to epistemology by challe
nging the etiological condition of virtu
e epistemology.

If
similar

environmental factors make the difference between true and false belief,
the
agent’s abilities

do not appear to be sufficiently explanatory of their success
. If
Alfano can use empirical psychology to show that too many cases of
virtuous
outcomes are due to luck rather than th
e agent, virtue epistemology will

not be able
to connect an agent to their epistemic success as needed to satisfy the etiological
condition
.


This move has certain a
dvantages for the situationist
because th
ey do not need to
show

wide ranging epistemic failure

to undermine virtue epistemology.
If
situationism shows that
cognitive success is

all too often

due to environmental
factors rather than ability, th
ese successes will not be knowledge. Neither will the
se
successes be cr
editable to the agent, and
the solution to the value problem has been
lost as well.
Even if we succeed in defending the success condition here, this
challenge to the explanato
ry salience of cognitive abilities

will be an additional
burde
n on our argument
.



As a first line of defense,

virtue epistemologist
s
can
draw upon the well
-
dev
eloped
literature on
epistemic luck

(See Pritchard (2011), Sosa (2007), Axtell (2001).

Since
v
irtue epistemology arose around concerns to give the agent a s
tronger role in
maki
ng
knowledge attributions true,
one would expect

that
existing
work on
epistemic luck has anticipated or will at any rate suffice to respond

to the
situationist challenge on this score
.

T
he situationist might
here
appeal to

Pritchard
’s arguments
that virtue epistemology cannot adequately address cases
of
epistemic luck. A situationist can

ex
ploit Pritchard’s
general strategy

but rely on
empirical research rather than thought experiments
. This objection would then
claim that empirica
l
findings about the influence of epistemically
irrelevant features
of a situation create a form of
knowledge undermining
environmental luck.

We
present
just
the crux of Pritchard’s argument below and consider how an analogous
argument
based on Alfano’s r
esearch
could be constructed

to challenge the
etiological condition
14
.


One

crucial case for virtue epistemology

is the familiar Barney case. Barney is in a
field of masterfully crafted barn facades
, with
but one
real barn. By chance, Barney
looks
directly at the one real barn and acquires a true belief about it. Most intui
tions
are that Barney’s belief
is not knowledge because his belief s
o easily could have
been false. Pritchard argues that
we would nonetheless attribute a success from
ability t
o Barney
15
. B
ecause virtue epistemology

will fall
prey

to this kind of
knowledge undermining bad luck too often, he argues that
a separate safety
condition must be conjoined with the ability condition,
A different case for the
situationist is
TrueTemp, who

always gets the right answer because of
environmental
help.
Again in this case
intuitions are

that
Temp’s true beliefs are
not
sufficiently from ability beca
use the environment

is guaranteeing his success. In
this case too much environmental good luck s
eems to undermine knowledge
attribution.
In both cases it appe
ars that
influence of
go
od or bad luck in the

environment an

agent

happens to be in

will undermine their achievement of either

a
success from ab
ility (True Temp) or

knowledge (Barney).





14

An interesting ques
tion for Pritchard is whether the situationist would also
challenge his safety condition for knowledge.

15

Sosa argues that we should attribute success from ability and knowledge in such
cases as the agent’s abilities are the direct causal explanation of t
he success.

Alfano

can point to
the
actual psychological findings

of Khaneman and Tversky and
many others

to raise

actual world
luck
objectio
ns
to

the safety of epistemic succ
es
s
(as per Barney cases) and the explanatory sufficiency of ability in success
(as per
True Temp
cases)
.
In
the
empirical research
the environment rather than the agent
plays a

substantial explanatory

role and this

militate
s

against attributing a success
that is properly from ability.
Many modal requirements on knowledge require actual
world indexing

to satisfy
safety
and normal functioning
conditions. T
he situationist
can argue that
any such indexing must account for
the
fact that the
actual world is
beset by problematic forms of epistemic luck
, but this can be incorporated into the
antecedent and c
onsequent conditions o
f the relevant dispositions or theories of
proper functioning
.


Sosa argues
that the actual world is a
fortuitious
place for

faculties of perception and memory

as well as basic inferential capacities

but this
accounts for the fragility of success and stability in a virtue.


This is a disagreement
about how
lucky

actual world

cogn
it
ive

success

is and in what ways
.


If

empirical psychology

shows that our actual cognitive lives are
regularly
susceptible
to either kind of luck in unforeseen ways, this would seem

to force at
least a revision o
f the etiological condition in

a number of virtue theoretic accounts
of knowledge.
This would
also
support Pritchard’s con
tention that
cases of
epistemic luck show th
e need for a requirement on knowledge outside of virtue
epistemology.

With the right account of real world luck in hand, an epistemic
situationist

might then

claim victory over virtue epistemology
without needing to
provide the

additional principle

necessary for knowledge
.



We discuss this

challenge

further in the final section of this essay, but

an initial
response is that the issue

is really about the
stability

of an ability in the agent and
this is the b
urden of the ability condition. This wou
ld require further work from
virtue epistemologists

on the nature of abilities
and dispositions
to show sufficient
stability in the agent. The etiological condition has been a difficult area for virtue
epistemology and situationism puts a new pressure on

this commitment.



4
.
Bounded Rationality

and epistemic virtue


In this section we defend an empirically adequate virtue epistemology for (b) in
Alfano’s triad. Normative adequacy will be addressed in section
5
.
In s
ection 2 we
argued that Alfano

re
lies on norms of ideal rationality in ways that appear to lead to
skepticism. Here we rai
se a different objection to this commitment.
Classical
models of deci
sion making in economics and

behavioral sciences assume that
rational agents follow or conform to formal models of decision making such as
expected utility theory or Bayesian probability theorems. These approaches
to
rationality
assume that agents have
highly idealized

cognitive capa
cities. Utility
maximization models require that agents know the prior and conditional
probabilities of all relevant propositions, have preferences for all outcomes and
update probabilities with changes in the
ir evidence.
Call this the assumption of
full
rationality or unbounded rationality
.



The research of G
e
rd Gigerenzer and others shows that consistent failure to
manifest optimizing outcomes does not entail irrationality because real human
decisions exhibit ‘bounded rationality.’ R
eal rational agen
ts are limited
in all sorts
of ways which make

optimizing ra
tionality impossible because optimizing strategies
are
computationally intractable

for bounded cognitive agents
16
. Gigerenzer argues
that w
e are
often
more successful cognitive agents when we use
fast and frugal
heuristics tha
n
computational methods of reasoning
. While bounded rational
strategies are fast and frugal,
they also include
b
ackground information and
context
s

are taken into account in decision
-
mak
ing in ways that manifest
epistemi
c
virt
ues
, rather than

by allowing
irrelevant
information
to impede
successful

reasoning
.

Frugal strategies of reasoning are also informationally rich in this way.
Gigerenzer (2008) argues that human beings

have an adaptive toolbox for specific
kinds of infere
ntial tasks that include fast and frugal heuristics, evolutionarily
designed to cope with a variety of epi
stemic challenges.


Evidence analyzed by Gigerenzer (which includes his own research and covers a
range of experiments that goes back to the influe
ntial work of Piaget) reveals a rich
variety of ways in which, for example, explicitly using the language of set inclusion,
rather than probability, yields the rational response.

He

claims that the mistake was
on the part of the theorists, not the subjects. Humans are rational. The problem is
that psychologist
s, using
the highly abstract and idealized scenarios that yielded
probability theory (e.g., Dutch book arguments, abstract rul
es on conditionalization
and total evidence, etc.)
thought
that
these scenarios
fully
captured
human
rationality. The worry
was that if human beings do not follow the rules of logic and
probability, they would contradict themselves and systematically choos
e the wrong
answer.

It is now uncontroversial that human beings do not obey these rules
systematically

and yet manage to be fairly successful epistemically
. Since the

norms
of ideal rationality

are neither necessary nor sufficient for achieving the vast
array
of epistemic endeavors that should qualify

as forms of human knowledge
, virtue
epistemologists can agree with Alfano that epistemic success is rarely due to
tha
t
kind of ability



The research on bounded
rationality is important

for any theory of kn
owledge to
consider.
This is not just a question of whether to take a skeptical or optimistic
stance

toward the research
. Human rationality is sophisticated, varied, and
cannot
be explained solely through the
general and highly abstract constraints of logi
c and
probability. Crucially,
human beings
depend on concrete epistemic environments,
and have specific epistemic goals that require a range of cognitive abilities. Coping
with uncertainty was never, in the evolution of the human species, an abstract
exerc
ise in logic and probability. This is the core idea behind bounded rationality
.





16

Adam Morton develops this approach to epistemic virtue in
Bounded Thinking

(forthcoming, OUP)

Taking on a theory of bounded rationality might be a controversial move for a
theory of epistemic virtue because of the

frugality

of the virtues. While h
euristics
are less d
emanding on an agent’s overall cognitive resources
and
are

often

more
effective than
the costlier Bayesian calculations in achieving the agent’s

epistemic
and practical aims
, they also appear to be slothful and less than conscientious.
The
degree of sloth

will
of course
vary depending on the kind of heuristic involved
,
and
some epistemic virtues like conscientiousness might yet turn out to be cognitively
diligent endeavors

even on a frugal account of the virtues
. H
owever
,

this is really a

worry for
responisiblist accounts of epistemic virtue
rather
than

the reliabilist
account we defend here.

We appeal to the bounded rationality research to meet the
empirical adequacy demand on virtue epistemology and this will be accomplished
here with a reliablis
t theory of frugal virtues.


One clear implication of Gigerenzer’s research is that u
n
bounded

rationality

and
epistemic success

are two different things.
Alfano appears to use unbounded
epistemic norms in claiming that vir
tue epistemology cannot satisfy
the non
-
skepticism
principle in his triad.
We
understand epistemic virtues in terms of
epistemic
success rather than (full) rationality
.
Once this distinction
is made, there is
no ea
sy move from the
evidence
counting against ideal rationality
to any conc
lusion
abou
t failures of epistemic virtue.


Thi
s is a promising response for an empiricall
y
adequate virtue
-
reliabilism
.


Further support comes from

Gigerenzer’s interpretation of

the ‘Linda the Bank
Teller’ case. Infamously, when asked whether, given a c
haracter description of
Linda, it is more probable that she is (a) a bank teller or (b) a bank teller and active
in the feminist movement, 85% of the subjects
answered

(b), clearly committing the
“conjunction fallacy” and violating basic theorems of probab
ility calculus.
Gige
renzer notes that

subjects
are required to use syntactic,
content blind rules of
reasoning where the
values of the
variables are not relevant to getting the answer
right, and we typically do poorly in conte
nt blind reasoning
.


When the question is

reformulate
d, we

get

very different results. If one

ask
s

‘how man
y
’ instead of ‘how
probable’, research shows

better, more rational results.
When

asked, out of 100
people that satisfy Linda’s description,
how many

would be bank telle
rs and
how
many

would be bank tellers and active in the feminist movement
,

subjects’
performance significantly improves, producing the right answer
. This shows that
different framing of logically equivalent information will get very different results in
a
ssessments of rationality, and the framing is thus playing a big role here. Relativ
e
to certain frames, people
answer quite rationally.

The failures of rationality in the
psychological research are thus very local and do not support the claim of
widespre
ad failure that situationists use to push virtue epistemologists to
skepticism.


The philosophi
cal implications of bounded rationality

research
for our argument
can be made in

two ways. Bounded rationality research
might show
the need

for a
revised and improved understanding of human rationality,

but

we can still use
rationality as a central norm for epistemology. This reading insists that

rationality
should be defined as bounded rather than full or optimizing. We suggest a different

way of expressing essentially the same point,
put in terms of epistemic success

rather than ration
ality.
Grant Alfano that rationality
will mean full

rationality, but
insist t
hat epistemic virtue theory
can
grant

epistemic success
even when agents
regula
rly
fail to manifest (full
) rationality
.

Satisfying
norms for epis
temic success

simply does not require satisfying norms of (full) rationality, and Gigerenzer’s
research shows exactly why.


We defend frugal rather than optimizing virtues as the norm for

knowledge.


This is
a turn away from epistemic rules

in each of two senses: explanation and
regulation
17
. Cognitive activity that manifests epistemic virtues do
es

not have to be
guided by, based on or explained by formal rules of rationality. We take thi
s to be
fairly uncontroversial as any such requirement will be subject to psychological
plausibility worries and will have trouble ac
counting for ordinary cases of
knowledge from p
erception or testimony
.

Or, one might grant that optimizing rules
do not d
escribe the process through which success is actually achieved,

but still
insist that they are normative because they prescribe the standards
for measuring
epistemic success.

We argued above that optimizing rationality does not set right
standard
s

for

meas
uring epistemic success.





5
.

K
nowledge of syntax

and frugal virtues


An important example of a frugal virtue can be taken from research on knowledge of
syntax. This is a paradigm of formally constrained knowledge, which is considered
to be one of the
clearest cases of exclusively human epistemic capacities.
Knowledge of syntax requires the manipulation of information according to strictly
formal rules. Children have epistemic skills that allow them to learn any language
based on these rules. The modal

robustness of these skills is extraordinary. A vast
amount of research in psychology, neuroscience and linguistics aims at explaining
this robustness.
18

Specifically, scientists have tried to understand how it is possible
for infants to learn a language gi
ven the incredibly diverse contexts they are in, the
impoverished stimuli they are exposed to, etc.


The abilities that produce knowledge of syntax are, like perceptual skills involved in
perceptual knowledge, remarkably stable dispositions. Although know
ledge of
syntax is highly formal (in the same sense in which Bayesian rationality is formal,
e.g., it depends on formal rules that specify
correct

and incorrect

linguistic
structures), humans manifest such knowledge at a very early age, and they do so



17

See Greco (2009) for an extensive discussion of rule following. An extreme case of
non
-
rule governed perceptual knowledge is imagined by Reid,
who considers a
being that moves right from sensory stimulation to perceptual belief without any
intervening sense data or sensory representation.

18

See
Jackendoff (2003),
Chomsky (
1986 and 1987
)

and Hornstein (
1984
).

reli
ably and without conscious effort or monitoring. Infants do not need classes of
universal grammar and the rules of syntax in order to distinguish the syntactic
components of (in many cases poorly constructed) utterances of a language. They
are certainly no
t introspecting on these rules, or accessing evidence that could
justify them to parse an utterance in terms of subject and predicate. What the infant
is doing is highly complex and the whole discipline of linguistics is devoted to
uncover the intricate ru
les that underlie the structure of language. But the infant
performs this incredible epistemic task in a
perception
-
like fashion
.



This is a case of a formal, uniquely human capacity that our account can
accommodate perfectly well. The epistemic abilities

involved in knowledge of syntax
are as good an example of our view as are perceptual skills. Infants use fast, reliable,
modally robust epistemic skills to achieve knowledge of syntax, and succeed in
learning
any

language. These skills are not susceptible

to introspection, but this may
actually
explain
their modal robustness across a vast amount of epistemic scenarios,
and should not be used as an objection against their status as stable epistemic
dispositions.


The situationist may insist that even the mo
st robust epistemic dispositions can be
easily disturbed by very easy manipulations of the stimuli, and this might threaten
the anti
-
luck and safety intuitions needed for virtue epistemology. In response, we
would like to provide an illustration of why al
though information processing may
always be disturbed under laboratory settings, this by no means threatens the
stability of
epistemic
dispositions.


For instance, some information interferes with the speed and accuracy of behavioral
responses, but this b
y itself does not entail that the abilities involved are unreliable.
In the Stroop task, the interference between inclinations (the automatic inclination
to read a word vs. identifying a color) does not entail that the capacities involved are
unreliable be
cause of alleged context sensitivity. The capacities to read and detect
color are
incredibly reliable

across subjects in many conditions. Interference only
shows that having two inclinations affects processing. As mentioned, any virtue
conceived as a stabl
e disposition will be disturbed or “masked” under some
conditions. But being disturbed in non
-
standard situations is just part and parcel of
being a disposition
.


This point is crucial to understand why virtue epistemology is unscathed by the
situationist
challenge. The situationist generally grants that perceptual knowledge is
unchallenged by their evidence (thus their challenge has a limited scope, and affects
only inferential reasoning). We are construing virtues as perception
-
like
dispositions to form t
rue belief. This, we claim, is not an ad hoc way of
characterizing dispositions tailored specifically to respond the situationist objection.
Rather, this characterization is the most natural way of understanding epistemic
dispositions in the light of the m
ost recent evidence in psychology.


Knowledge of syntax is not, therefore, an isolated case that happens to comply with
our characterization of virtues as stable epistemic dispositions. All forms of
inferential and formal reasoning can be so characterized.

Consider knowledge of
logic. We have the capacity to reason according to modus ponens and this capacity is
part of a set of stable dispositions to draw deductive inferences that are truth
-
preserving. One may actually say that these dispositions constitute

what we
mean

by deductive inference.
19

If this is the case, then one could not know the meaning of
what a deductive inference is without having such stable epistemic dispositions. It is
a truism that basic deductive reasoning (for example an application of

modus
ponens) can be achieved without explicit understanding of such rule and that these
dispositions, like those underlying knowledge of syntax, are remarkably stable.
Demanding an explicit
understanding

of the rules for deductive reasoning increases
cog
nitive demands, and although we can be trained to have such explicit
understanding, this is not a necessary condition to have the stable dispositions that
are implicit in our capacity to identify these rules. More importantly, requiring such
explicit under
standing is open to traditional objections against accessibilism and
deontological accounts. Thus, it seems that the best strategy is to characterize these
fundamental rules for deductive reasoning in accordance with our perception
-
like
model.
20


T
he
situationist seems to face a
new
dilemma. Either we posses stable epistemic
dispositions that allow us to identify valid rules for deductive inference or we don’t.
If we do, then situationism is false. If we don’t, it is not clear how we are able to
unders
tand what we
mean

when we talk about, for instance, modus ponens. For it is
not clear that highly unstable and easily disturbed capacities would help us succeed
in specifying what we mean
in every situation

by the fundamental rules (modus
ponens, modus tol
lens, etc.). Thus, it would not be entirely clear that we mean the
same

fundamental rules when we characterize a piece of deductive reasoning as
modus ponens or something else. The situationist needs to explain why the
psychological evidence would have suc
h a dramatic result and this strongly suggests
that situationism is in trouble. Obviously, the easy way out of this dilemma is to
affirm that situationism is false, which is what we propose.
21


Regardless of this dilemma, the foregoing discussion shows that

stable dispositions
are the right conceptual tool to characterize epistemic virtues, and once this
characterization is in place, one can demonstrate that the empirical evidence is not
only fully compatible with virtue epistemology, but actually supports i
t. Just as
every human being has the capacity to achieve knowledge of syntax and her success



19

See Boghossian, 2000.

20

Notice tha
t this is quite different from having a conscious
-
intellectual “seeming,”
which is one way of defining intuitions.

21

This is a concrete way of making a point suggested to us by Lauren Olin in
conversation, which is that relativism is much more
troubling

in

the epistemic case,
as compared to the moral case. If we are right, situationism is also a lot more
implausible

in the epistemic case.

depends on stable epistemic dispositions (which are attributable to her), knowledge
of logic is also achievable for any human being, independently of the explicit
understanding of the rules of basic logic. The empirical evidence confirms the
stability of these capacities, and the skeptical interpretation of the evidence
concerns cases that show
exclusively
how one can manipulate them.


So what happens when we go wrong in the Linda case? As was suggested, these are
cases of cognitive interference, like the interference in the Stroop effect. The result
of the interference in cases like the Linda experiment, however, is not decreased
cognit
ive speed, but the rapid choice of one interpretation (which is pragmatically
informed) over another (a strictly logical and abstract one). As mentioned, this
interference does not entail lack of stable epistemic dispositions for inferential
reasoning, bec
ause such interference can easily be understood as a case of masking.
The reminder of the paper argues for the empirical plausibility of our proposal.



6
.
Reinterpreting the findings by Kahneman and Tversky?


Meeting Moorean worries about normative adequa
cy will require our theory to
adequately derive normative epistemic standings from o
ur empirical commitments.
In this section, we

examine different interpretations of relevant empirical research
to further secure normative adequacy.


The
standard interpretation of evidence from
Khaneman

and Tversky
would
seriously challenge
virtue epist
emology by showing
that human rationality is highly
unst
able and remarkably unreliable.
On this interpretation, h
uman rationality
produce
s false belief in
a vast amount of circumstances and is inordinately
susceptible to the presence of

irrelevant

stimuli.
The only plausible way to
demonstrate that the standard interpretation is compatible with virtue
epistemology is by showing that the standard interpretat
ion
still has room for stable
forms of reliably produced belief,
and that these are
based on abilities that are
impervious to trivial and irrelevant stimuli
.
One can actually find

remarks
encouraging this

project by Kahneman himself (2011)
. A
t the beginni
ng of his
recen
t book,

Kahneman (2011) argues that there are two systems for reasoning.
More accurately, he says that these two systems (systems 1 and 2) are useful
fictions that capture two broadly similar ways in which the brain engages with
problem
-
solv
ing and truth
-
evaluation in a variety of situations. Kahneman describes
experiments suggesting the existence of a fast, flexible and unreliable system that in
many cases trumps a slow, consciously demanding and reliable system. The fast
system evolved to r
espond quickly to
either
urge
nt or typical situations, and

is
responsible for

much

of our
success as a species. The slow system is more cautious
and
,

instead of responding quickly
,

considers evidence and exami
nes the nature of
problems slowly and
careful
ly
.


Kahneman says it is a mistake to
associate
human rationality
with
system

2 alone.
T
he truth is that system 1 calls the shots
very

frequently, and this is perfectly
compatible with properly functioning cognitive systems.
Th
is suggests the account
of ep
istemic virtues defended above. T
he use of fast and frugal belief forming
processes, including heuristics, is perfectly compatible with epistemic virtue read as
proper cognitive functioning

rather than ideal reasoning
.
Situations where
normatively
irrelevant stimuli trigger

fast and unreliable responses

appear

to
impugn the
stability

of system 2
.

While manifesting virtues, as traditionally
understood, requires situational stability, it appears that system 2 cognitive
processes
all
too easily fall
p
rey

to system shifting stimul
i
.

However, this does not
show that syst
em
2

is unreliable. This must be
determined by cases where system 2

is put to use, but Khaneman

explains our persistent errors as the result of s
hifting
systems.


T
he situationist
may
yet
claim that system 2 is not
stable
in the agent because of
t
he
prevalence of shifting. If
system 2 is not stable in the agent, the worry for the virtue
epistemologist will be that the agent might not be

reliable
overall and they will not
have
sufficien
tly stable d
ispositions to meet the etiological conditions and the
situationist’s worry about luck and safety
.

But
,

n
o serious account of v
irtues
claims
that they
must be so
stable
that they will manifest
irrespective

of circumstance
,
manifesting v
irtu
es
always
require
s

a certain level of cooperation from the
en
vironment
. System 2 can still be

read as stable when the
conditions for its proper
functioning obtain
, and in such cases it will

also
be
reliable
. The prevalence of
shifting in e
xtra
-
normal
conditions does not threaten

the relevant stability
or
reliability
of system 2.

These relevantly stable system 2 abilities could then be used
to ground a range of important normative standings in virtue epistemology.


However,
the findings on the
relat
ionship

between systems 1 and 2 speak against
this defense of epistemic virtue for the fo
llowing reasons. S
ystem 2 is extremely
energy consuming and, actually, lazy. These two aspects of system 2 are captured in
a variety of experiments in which the quick
and erroneous epistemic deliverances of
system 1 prevail over the more stable epistemic processing of system 2. This
overpowering of system 2 by system 1 is certainly not on
e that can be overcome by
virtuou
s training (the evidence seems to overwhelmingly s
uggest this is just how we
are “wired”). Kahneman h
imself acknowledges that w
e cannot ov
ercome some of
the troubling
biases that guide our decisions and actions. The prevalence of system
1 is, therefore, a crucial claim of the standard interpretation. What

occurs when
people make decisions and judgments based on system 1, when they
should

respond
based on system 2, is not a “battle among equals” between good and bad epistemic
reasoning. Rather, it is a rigged game in which system 2 is almost always willing
to
give up. This may be good for a lot of practi
cal reasons, but it is

bad for epistemic
virtue. So this response to situationism is inadequate. The only option is to reject the
standard interpretation
,

because it entails situationism. Instead, we
seek t
o clarify

how
the findings on systems 1 and 2 are no threat to virtue epistemology by
appealing to an alternative interpretation.


Since system 1 overpowers system 2 in many situations (situations that are not
really atypical), one must show that the fruga
lity and
seeming

unreliability

of system
1 does not preclude the existence and development of epistemic virtues. Is system 1
really so bad? As mentioned, Gigerenzer thinks not. If he is right, then a virtue
epistemology based on frugal responses is certain
ly possible. One needs to keep in
mind that Kahneman uses the word ‘system’ as a useful fiction. There are a variety
of epistemic processes that satisfy different epistemic goals, according to bounded
rationality. For example, the Linda case is one in whic
h virtues that work perfectly
well when information is given in clearly numerical expressions (such as set
inclusion) do not work well under circumstances where the language invokes
likelihood.


This can be explained by the fact that likelihood invokes pr
agmatic considerations.

Suppose that the frugal process interprets the information about the Linda case as
follows: Linda is a bank teller, but given that she participated in the feminist
movement, it is more likely that she is a bank teller that is
activ
e
in the feminist
movement, rather than one who is
not at all involved

in the feminist movement. This
frugal response is not irrational. One would be missing very important information
about Linda if one ignored that she may be currently involved in the fe
minist
movement. The frugal response insists on not
missing

this crucial information about
Linda.


The abstract system for mathematical calculations and probability works well when
no loss of information is guaranteed. But here it seems that one may loose

something important by giving the “right answer.” The right answer is actually too
unsophisticated to deal with the full range of epistemic interests Linda has given her
complex set of p
ractical interests. The “right”

answer may not be the epistemically
virtuous answer in such cases.


The contexts in which epistemic goals are satisfied always include standards for
evaluating the appropriate response. It is very likely that, given the type of epistemic
environments one generally encounters, practical int
erests will frame not only the
standards for satisfactory response (see Greco

2009)
) but also the criteria for
adequate knowledge attribution (see Stanley

2005
). In any case, it seems that a
virtue epistemology built on frugal (as well as “slower”) epistem
ic virtues,
understood in this way, fits nicely with recent theories of epistemic virtue and
knowledge attribution, even if not with formal accounts of full rationality. Moreover,
one can provide a conceptual characterization of these virtues in terms of s
table and
successful dispositions, thereby satisfying the basic theoretical and empirical
considerations for a theory of epistemic virtue.



7
. Epistemic virtue, stability and frugality



We have argued for
virtue
-
theoretic accounts of epistemi
c success, empirical
adequacy,
and the ability condition. This leaves the etiological condition

and
normative adequacy
.
It is necessary for our account to
meet the eti
ological
condition
in order to constitute
a v
irtue epistemology and to achieve full

no
rmative
adequacy
.
I
f we can defend the etiological condition here
, we

have a
n empirically
and normatively adequate

virtue epistemology

that
is consistent with n
on
-
skepticism and situationism.
The challenge
to the etiological condition
from
environmental

luck was discussed in section 3. Here we extend that discussion to
secure the etiological condition and full normative adequacy.

Pritchard’s case
against robust virtue epistemology requires showing that Barney’s true belief
from
ability is neither
safe

n
or sufficiently from ability
. In order for
Alfano to have an
analogous argument
, he will have to show that

situationism demonstrates that

virtue
-
theoretic epistemic success
can
still
be unsafe

or not sufficiently from ability.
W
e argue below that situati
o
nism undermines neither.



Suppose we have an agent (Alice) that happens to be in an ideal epistemic
environment.


Suppose that Alice is in a room that has been constructed to be
epistemically ideal, she is alone in her room thinking about bank tellers

and
feminists, and her environment lacks all of the ‘epistemically irrelevant features’
Alfano notes that lead us astray


no mood depressors, problematic ambient noise,
information framed in misleading ways, etc.


Let’s say that when Alice sits down to
t
hink about bank tellers she correctly applies basic principles of Bayesian
probability calculus, correctly applies modus tollendo ponens, etc. Moreover,
assume that when Alice is in ideal epistemic environments, these inferential
methods are reliable for h
er.


Suppose that lurking outside of Alice’s room are all
and only environments replete with just the problematic ‘epistemically irrelevant’
variables that lead to false beliefs
-


mood depressors, pay phones without dimes, no
one that will compliment her,

etc.


If Alice were to go outside her room to do the
same thinking she would arrive at false beliefs because of these environmental
variables. Assume that Alice randomly decided to go think in her room rather than
outside, but all too easily could have de
cided to go outside to do her thinking.



When Alice arrives at true beliefs in her room, the virtue reliabilist will be inclined
to attribute the manifestation of an intellectual virtue to Alice, and, given that she
gets it right, to attribute knowledge.

Alfano can
say that Alice’s success in her room
is due to
environmental
good luck rathe
r than her reliable abilities, and her true
belief
also
appears to be unsafe.
The worries about Alice’s
true belief will be two
-
fold. W
e might attribute her success
to good environmental lu
ck (as in True Temp
cases), or w
e might

say her success

is unsafe (as in Barney cases).

In either case,
Alfano can argue that virtue epitemology

fail
s

to satisfy intuitive

requirements for
knowledge
.



This argument overlooks the role of ‘normal conditions’ for the manifestation of an
ability

or competence

in both cases. Sosa is careful to distinguish the role of normal

conditions for
assessing any performance

(2
007
, pg. 103) . Evaluations of the
succ
ess and explanatory salience of an
ability are restricted to the conditions that
are normal or better for its manifestation. Sosa’s requirement for knowledge is that
an
”Acceptance of a deliverance constitutes knowledge only if the source is reliable,
and
operates in its appropriate conditions, so that the deliverance is safe, while the
correctness of one’s acceptance is attributable to one’s epistemic competence.”
(ibid.)

This leads him to say that the Kalediescope believer that is deceived by a
jokester
in the wings is
yet
truly manifesting a success from ability when the
jokester

does
not to intervene. There is
a direct causal connection

between the
agent

s abilities and their true bel
ief, even though the
success

was
environmentally
lucky
. For Sosa, the

belief is still sufficiently from ability when
the jokester does not
intervene.
According to Sosa,
the competence was operating in its normal
conditions, even though it might easily have been in non
-
normal conditions and
given an unsuccessful deliverance
. The same commitment to normal conditions
leads Sosa to claim that the kaledieiscope believer’s belief is also safe, again parting
company with Pritchard. The reason is again that in normal conditions for the
exercise of the relevant competence, the bel
ief would not too easily have been false.
The

failure
of an a
bility when not in conditions that are “normal or better” does not
count against the relevant reliability, stability or explanatory salience of the ability.

Sosa’s reading of the etiological c
ondition would block Alfano’s attempt to exploit
Pr
itchard’s rejection of robust virtue epistemology.

Situationist cases do not
undermine the explanatory saliency of abilities or the safety of epistemic successes
because they take cognitive agents outsid
e of normal conditions for evaluating the
abilities in question.
Kahneman shows that
the stimulus in situationist

cases

appears to shift the psychological states of the subjects in important ways, so we are
not testing the reliability

or stability
of the

same
rational
metho
ds or abilities when
we introduce situationist environmental variables.

Utilizing Pritichard’s argument
against robust virtue epistemology
thus
comes further under fire because t
he
situationist cannot show
that
the same method

would be in use inside th
e room and
outside the room
, or
that
Alice’s

psychological processes are

held constant.



The situationist might respond by arguing that when the method (or relevant
psychological states) shift so easily, this shows that the metho
d is not

stable in the
agent,
and that this is still enough to undermine knowledge attributions.

If an ability
so easily becomes
unavailable

to an agent, this would appear to
militate
against
explaining reliable success in terms of such
a
fragile
ability
.

The question of what to
count as ‘normal conditions’ for the exercise of Alice’s abilities is central here. If
‘Alice
-
outside
-
the
-
room’ is still Alice in normal conditions for the exercise of the
relevant abilities, the situationist may have shown that
she could all too easily have
believed falsely.


However, i
f we place ‘Alice
-
outside
-
the
-
room’ outside of normal
conditions, we are then inclined to see the experimental conditions in the
situationist literature as too distant to undermine safety

or stabil
ity
.

I
f an ability is not available to an agent in environments known to make that ability
unavailable (as in situationist cases), this does not count against the rele
vant
stability of the ability.
S
ituationists may simply be illuminating
characteristic m
asks

of our cognitive abilities.


If ambient noise and the like lead to bad epistemic
outcomes as regularly as Alfano suggests, this may simply show that we need to
define ‘normal conditions’ for the exercise of an ability or t
rait in a way that
excludes t
heir characteristic mask.


A
ll abilities and dispositions have characteristics
masks, and we typically see
these
failures to produc
e virtue relevant outcomes as
non
-
culpable

failures
.



The situationist’s experimental conditions are then
analogous to
cases

like the tornado, or the lights going out, or being under water,
and we can still at
t
ribute
overall proper func
tioning

to the agent despite that kind of
failure
.


The situationist literature may indeed provide useful information about
normal conditions fo
r cognitive abilities and characteristic masks, but virtue
epistemologists can build these results into the requirements for knowledge
without any fundamental change in their position.






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