Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • J. Adam Carter


Insight often strikes us blind; when we aren't expecting it, we suddenly see a connection that previously eluded us – a kind of Aha! experience. People with a propensity to such experiences are regarded as insightful, and insightfulness is a paradigmatic intellectual virtue. What's not clear, however, is just what it is in virtue of which being such that these experiences tend to happen to one renders one intellectually virtuous. This paper draws from both virtue epistemology as well as empirical work on the psychology of problem solving and creativity to make some inroads in accounting for insightfulness as an intellectual virtue. Important to the view advanced is that virtuously insightful individuals manifest certain skills which both cultivate insight experiences (even if not by directly bringing them about) and enable such individuals to move in an epistemically responsible way from insight experience to epistemic endorsement.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Alfano, M. 2012. ‘Expanding the Situationist Challenge to Responsibilist Virtue Epistemology.’ Philosophical Quarterly, 62: 223–49.
Baehr, J. 2011. The Inquiring Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Battaly, H. 2008. ‘Virtue Epistemology.’ Philosophy Compass, 3: 639–63.
Boghossian, P. 2006. Fear of Knowledge. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Brady, M. 2013. Emotional Insight: The Epistemic Role of Emotional Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Browne, B. A. and Cruse, D. F. 1988. ‘The Incubation Effect: Illusion or Illumination?Human Performance, 1: 177–85.
Carter, J. A. and Gordon, E. C. 2014. ‘Openmindedness and Truth.’ Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 44: 207–24.
Carter, J. A., Jarvis, B. and Rubin, K. 2015. ‘Varieties of Cognitive Achievement.’ Philosophical Studies, 172: 181–99.
Chronicle, E. P., Ormerod, T. C. and MacGregor, J. N. 2001. ‘When Insight Just Won't Come: The Failure of Visual Cues in the Nine-Dot Problem.’ Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: Section A, 54: 903–19.
Dodds, R. A., Ward, T. B. and Smith, S. M. 2003. ‘A Review of the Experimental Literature on Incubation in Problem Solving and Creativity.’ Creativity Research Handbook, 3: 285302.
Dretske, F. 1970. ‘Epistemic Operators.’ Journal of Philosophy, 67: 1007–23.
Elgin, C. Z. 1999. Considered Judgment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Gordon, E. C. 2016. ‘Understanding in Epistemology’. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Greco, J. 1999. ‘Agent Reliabilism’. Noûs, 33: 273–96.
Greco, J. 2003. ‘Knowledge as Credit for True Belief.’ In DePaul, M. and Zagzebski, L.. (eds), Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives From Ethics and Epistemology, pp. 111–34. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Greco, J. 2008. ‘What's Wrong With Contextualism?Philosophical Quarterly, 58: 416–36.
Greco, J. 2010a. ‘Achieving Knowledge.’ In A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Greco, J. 2010b. Achieving Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Greco, J. 2012. ‘A (Different) Virtue Epistemology.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 85: 126.
Grimm, S. 2010. ‘Understanding.’ In Bernecker, S. and Pritchard, D. (eds), Routledge Companion to Epistemology, pp. 8494. New York, NY: Routledge.
Grimm, S. 2012. ‘Understanding as Knowledge of Causes.Virtue Scientia: Essays in Philosophy of Science and Virtue Epistemology. New York, NY: Springer.
Hélie, S. and Sun, R. 2010. ‘Incubation, Insight, and Creative Problem Solving: A Unified Theory and a Connectionist Model.’ Psychological Review, 117: 9941024.
Hidi, S. and Baird, W. 1986. ‘Interestingness – A Neglected Variable in Discourse Processing.’ Cognitive Science, 10: 179–94.
Johnston, M. 2001. ‘The Authority of Affect*.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 63: 181214.
Jung-Beeman, M., Bowden, E. M., Haberman, J., Frymiare, J. L., Arambel-Liu, S., Greenblatt, R., Reber, P. J. and Kounios, J. 2004. ‘Neural Activity When People Solve Verbal Problems with Insight.’ PLoS Biology, 2: e97. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020097.
Kelly, D. R. 2011. Yuck!: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Kershaw, T. C. and Ohlsson, S. 2004. ‘Multiple Causes of Difficulty in Insight: The Case of the Nine-Dot Problem.’ Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30: 3.
Klauer, K. C., Musch, J. and Naumer, B. 2000. ‘On Belief Bias in Syllogistic Reasoning.’ Psychological Review, 107: 852.
Lewis, D. 1996. ‘Elusive Knowledge.’ Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 74: 549–67.
MacFarlane, J. 2014. Assessment Sensitivity: Relative Truth and Its Applications. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Metcalfe, J. and Wiebe, D. 1987. ‘Intuition in Insight and Noninsight Problem Solving.’ Memory and Cognition, 15: 238–46.
Montmarquet, J. 1993. Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield.
Olton, R. M. and Johnson, D. M. 1976. ‘Mechanisms of Incubation in Creative Problem Solving.’ American Journal of Psychology, 89: 617–30.
Prinz, J. J. 2004. Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pritchard, D. 2005. Epistemic Luck. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pritchard, D. 2009. ‘Knowledge, Understanding and Epistemic Value.’ Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 86: 1943.
Pritchard, D. 2010. ‘Relevant Alternatives, Perceptual Knowledge and Discrimination.’ Noûs, 44: 245–68.
Riggs, W. 2004. ‘Insight, Open-Mindedness and Understanding’. Manuscript.
Riggs, W. 2009. ‘Luck, Knowledge and Control’. In Haddock, A., Millar, A. and Pritchard, D. (eds), Epistemic Value, pp. 204–21. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Roberts, R. C. 1988. ‘Emotion.’ In The International Encyclopedia of Ethics.
Rota, G.-C. 1997. ‘The Phenomenology of Mathematical Beauty.’ Synthese, 111: 171–82.
Schaffer, J. 2001. ‘Knowledge, Relevant Alternatives and Missed Clues.’ Analysis, 61: 202–8.
Segal, E. 2004. ‘Incubation in Insight Problem Solving.’ Creativity Research Journal, 16: 141–8.
Silveira, J. M. 1972. ‘Incubation: The Effect of Interruption Timing and Length on Problem Solution and Quality of Problem Processing’. US: ProQuest Information & Learning.
Singh, S. 1997. Fermat's Last Theorem. London: Fourth Estate.
Sosa, E. 1991. Knowledge in Perspective: Selected Essays in Epistemology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sosa, E. 2009. A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge (Vol. 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sosa, E. 2011. Reflective Knowledge: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge (Vol. 2). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Stace, W. T. 1944. ‘Interestingness.’ Philosophy, 19: 233–41.
Sternberg, R. J. and Davidson, J. E. 1995. The Nature of Insight. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Wallas, G. 1926. ‘The Art of Thought.’
Zhang, Y. 2014. ‘Bounded Gaps between Primes’. Annals of Mathematics, 179: 1121–74.
Zimmerman, M. J. 1987. ‘Luck and Moral Responsibility.’ Ethics, 97: 374–86.


  • J. Adam Carter


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed