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  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: June 2012



The deepest disputes in epistemology focus on concepts that are quite obviously ethical and often are borrowed directly from theoretical moral discourse. We frequently find references to epistemic duty or epistemic responsibility, to the fact that we ought to form beliefs in one way rather than another, to the fact that one way of believing is good, or at least better than some other, and more recently to the idea of intellectual virtue. But these concepts are often used with little reflection, and rarely with any concern for the fact that they may be borrowed from a particular type of moral theory. Any problems in the theory may adversely affect the epistemological inquiry. On the other hand, the theory's advantages may be advantages for epistemology as well.

Almost all epistemological theories are modeled on act-based moral theories. When their model is deontological ethics, that is usually readily apparent. Less obvious is the fact that the popular theory of reliabilism is structurally parallel to consequentialism. To my knowledge, no epistemological theory is closely modeled on a pure virtue theory. The idea of intellectual virtue was introduced into the epistemological literature by Ernest Sosa, but Sosa does no more than mention an association with virtue ethics, and subsequently “virtue epistemology” has been used as another name for reliabilism. The works of Lorraine Code and James Montmarquet come closer to linking epistemology with virtue ethics, but neither one derives the concept of epistemic virtue from a background aretaic ethics or pushes the similarities between intellectual virtue and moral virtue very far.

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Virtues of the Mind
  • Online ISBN: 9781139174763
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