Knowledge, Virtue, and the Intellect

baehr_headAre humans the cause of global warming? How should I raise my children? Who should I vote for? Did a higher power create the universe? Each of us seems to be responsible to possess knowledge about myriad subjects that affect not only our lives but the lives of those around us (and perhaps those on the other side of the globe). As the world gets smaller and more complex, our “knowledge burden” seems to increase with each passing day. Pundits, politicians, and talking heads try to simplify these complex questions but many philosophers know better. Knowing how to know is a hard business.

Philosophers have been working on the knowledge problem since before Plato and while progress has been made, it has come slowly and has been an arduous journey. Professor Jason Baehr has just released a new book with Oxford University Press that adds a fresh perspective to this challenge. Instead of focusing on the standard topics of justification, truth, and belief, Jason focuses on the person holding belief and argues that understanding the role virtue plays—intellectual virtue—may contribute to unlocking the mystery of knowledge. Possessing intellectual virtues like open mindedness or curiosity may be just important as having well functioning belief-forming mechanisms like eyesight and reasoning capacities.

In this podcast, Jason and I discuss the contents of his new book The Inquiring Mind in which he lays out a framework for the nascent field of virtue epistemology. We talk about the work of Linda Zagzebski who has done pioneering work in this field, how Jason’s book contributes to the growing discipline, practical aspects of the work, and where epistemology might be going in the future.

Listen:

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Excerpt:

“On my view, whether an ID theorist or the person who doubts that humans are the cause of global warming and who, on the basis of this conviction, chooses not to investigate the matter further ... counts as intellectually vicious depends on whether these people have good reason to accept the beliefs that are guiding their intellectual conduct. So on my view, intellectual virtues are traits that involve, among other things, dispositions to inquire and think in ways that one has reason to believe will be useful for reaching or securing the truth.”

Other Resources:

Get the book!

The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology
Oxford University Press has made the first chapter of the book available as a sample. You can download that here.
The OUP website for the book.

Select papers by Dr. Baehr:

"The Structure of Open-Mindedness"

"Character, Reliability, and Virtue Epistemology"

"The Cognitive Demands of Intellectual Virtue"

"Epistemic Malevolence"

"Two Kinds of Wisdom"

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