A Defence of Robust Virtue Epistemology
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Virtue-theoretic approaches to the theory of knowledge aim to explain the nature and value of knowledge by appeal to the cognitive character of the agent. Robust virtue epistemology holds that knowledge is ‘true belief attained through cognitive ability’, and that no other conditions, such as an additional anti-luck condition, are needed to capture the nature and value of knowledge. In this thesis I defend robust virtue epistemology. In chapter one I outline criteria of adequacy for an account of knowledge. I explain how an account of knowledge should fit with natural language use and intuitive knowledge attributions and should make intelligible why we have the concept of knowledge that we do. I also explicate four guiding platitudes for a theory of knowledge: that knowledge has value, that knowledge is immune from luck, that knowledge is the product of ability, and that we have some knowledge. In chapter two I explain the emergence of robust virtue epistemology from two of its predecessor views, process reliabilism and agent reliabilism, and I explain why robust virtue epistemology holds great promise as an account of knowledge. I next present a central criticism of robust virtue epistemology that has been pressed separately by Lackey and by Pritchard. I explain how this criticism brings into focus the importance of the through relation in understanding robust virtue epistemology. In chapter three I survey three attempts to elucidate this through relation, and I explain why none are adequate. In chapter four I consider Pritchard’s alternative to robust virtue epistemology, which he calls anti-luck virtue epistemology; this view posits both a virtue- theoretic condition and a separate anti-luck condition on knowledge. I argue that this view has weaknesses which warrant a return to robust virtue epistemology. In the fifth and final chapter I suggest two refinements to orthodox understandings of robust virtue epistemology. Firstly I propose that we understand the through relation using Mackie’s so-called ‘inus’ account of causation. Secondly I suggest that we understand cognitive abilities as relative to environments. I thus propose a new version of robust virtue epistemology, one which answers Lackey’s and Pritchard’s criticisms and so holds great promise for explaining the nature and value of knowledge.