A Virtue Epistemology

Ernest Sosa’s “A Virtue Epistemology” (Lecture 2) February 16, 2021 Handout- Schiff Summary of overall claims: We ought to understand knowledge not as a single theory but as coming in two varieties, namely, animal knowledge (apt belief, which hits truth through exercise of competence) and reflective knowledge (apt belief and subject aptly believes apt belief to be apt). Sosa provides a virtue epistemology that distinguishes between aptness and safety of performances generally, and of belief in particular. Such an account allows for a further solution (beyond that offered in Lecture 1) to problems of skepticism such as the dream problem.1. Explains AAA structure An archer’s shot, like any performance (with an aim), can be assessed in terms of an AAA structure // so too can a belief, which counts as a performance, albeit a long-sustained one: • Accuracy- (p) its reaching the aim // (b) its being true • Adroitness- (p) its manifesting the skill or competence // (b) its manifesting epistemicvirtue or competence • Aptness- (p) its reaching the aim through the adroitness manifest // (b) its being truebecause competent2. Details core ideas of his virtue epistemology (animal vs. reflective knowledge) a) affirm knowledge entails belief; b) understand animal knowledge (K) as requiring apt belief without requiring defensibly aptbelief; and c) understand reflective knowledge (K+) as requiring not only apt belief but also defensiblyapt belief (i.e. the subject aptly believes the apt belief to be apt).3. Analyzes safety and sensitivity of a belief (and of performances generally) • A performance is safe iff “not easily would it then have failed, not easily would it havefallen short of its aim” (25). o That not easily would a belief fail by being false or untrue is required for it to besafe. o A belief p is safe “provided it would have been held only if (most likely) p” (25).• Someone’s belief p is sensitive iff “were it not so that p, he would not (likely) believe that p” (25).• Since such conditionals do not contrapose: a belief can be safe without being sensitive o e.g. the belief that “one is not a brain in a vat fooled by misleading sensoryevidence into so believing” (25) • Using the pain vs. discomfort example, he qualifies his claim to state that knowledgerequires not outright safety but at most basis-relative safety (see 26). o A belief that p is basis-relative safe iff “it has a basis that it would (likely) have onlyif true” (26). o A belief that p is basis-relative sensitive iff “it is based on a basis such that if it werefalse that p, then not easily would the believer believe that p on that same basis” (26).4. Returns to the skeptic to outline a different line of defense • The skeptic restricts us to bases for belief that are purely internal and psychological,rather than external; Sosa seeks a virtue epistemology that is compatible with but not committed to content or basis externalism (see 27, a-d, for sketch of the argument steps). o The conclusion of the argument is that the skeptic does not refute common sense oreven locate a paradox within common sense.5. Confronts dream skepticism directly • Two ways for the archer’s shot to fail to be safe:Ernest Sosa’s “A Virtue Epistemology” (Lecture 2) February 16, 2021 Handout- Schiffa) due to archer’s level of competence (e.g. affected by drug) b) due to appropriateness of conditions (e.g. weather)• But such scenarios (where the shot is not safe) do not render the shot inapt. So, a performance can be unsafe and apt.• A performance can also be safe and inapt: o e.g. angel machine provides gust that compensates for natural gust that initiallydiverts the arrow (that shot is not ). • Thus, neither aptness nor safety entails the other. Aptness requires manifesting acompetence (a disposition with a basis resident in the competent agent) that would, in appropriately normal conditions ensure, or make very likely, the success of the relevant performance.• Applies reasoning to dream problem: dreams make agent vulnerable with respect to a), i.e. perceptual competence, and b), i.e. appropriate normalcy of conditions• Knower’s belief can remain apt even if unsafe through the proximity of the dream possibility.6. Investigates whether jokester kaleidoscope red surface example presents a problem (apt belief, but is it knowledge?)• Apt belief simpliciter vs. apt belief aptly noted o Use of animal vs. reflective knowledge to sort this out: individual has apt belief andanimal knowledge that the seen surface is red but lacks reflective knowledge (i.e. apt belief that he aptly believes the surface to be red)§ Belief that he has apt belief- is this apt? No, because it is not attributable to the relevant competence • So, the perceiver does not have animal knowledge that he has animalknowledge that the surface is red, and therefore lacks reflective knowledge of the color of the surface.7. Explores whether the dream problem is analogous to the kaleidoscope example • If so, we would have to accept perceptual beliefs as cases of animal knowledge but notreflective knowledge. • However, Sosa investigates further and concludes that the threats in question to the safetof our perceptual beliefs are not threats to their aptness. • He notes that, in response to the dream problem, he goes beyond that of requiring that abelief be safe in order to count as knowledge: it must be apt.8. Offers final remarks: • Knowledge is apt performance in the way of belief. • Knowledge does not require safety of the contained belief since the belief can be unsafe onaccount of the fragility of the believer’s competence or situation. • When we sleep and dream, assuming we have perceptual beliefs, these beliefs are not aptbeliefs. However, such does not affect the aptness of our perceptual beliefs in waking life. • Bonus- solution to Gettier problem: beliefs can be true and justified without being apt (andhence would not be knowledge on his account)Questions: 1) Is a belief analogous to a performance (e.g. as an archer’s shot) in the relevant ways? 2) What are the criteria for a performer to be granted “credit” for the performance? (see 29)Similarly, what are the criteria for an agent to be granted “credit” for knowledge?

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