The epistemic virtues, as identified by virtue epistemologists, reflect their contention that belief is an ethical process, and thus susceptible to intellectual virtue or vice. Some epistemic virtues have been identified by W. Jay Wood, based on research into the medieval tradition. Epistemic virtues are sometimes also called intellectual virtues.[1]

Foundations of epistemology

The foundation for epistemic virtues is epistemology, the theory of what we know to be true according to our own perception in relation to reality. Philosophers are interested in how the mind relates to reality and the overall nature of knowledge.[2] Epistemology battles with skepticism by trying to come up with a base from which all knowledge and science can be built up. Skepticism promotes an impasse to this because we must doubt what we know in order to know if what we know is indeed true.[3]

Epistemic virtues and well-being

Virtues in general are characteristic habits or ways of relating to the world that exhibit or promote human flourishing.[4] Epistemic virtues are those characteristic habits that promote the acquisition of and utilization of true knowledge.

There is potential tension between these two concepts because learning the truth can sometimes make a person worse off,[1] and so remaining ignorant can arguably be the better option. An example of this would be a person being better off not knowing that their significant other is being unfaithful; some people would prefer to live in the lie because it would affect them less.


Being an epistemically virtuous person is often equated with being a critical thinker and focuses on the human agent and the kind of practices that make it possible to arrive at the best accessible approximation of the truth.[5][6]

Epistemic virtues include conscientiousness[7] as well as the following:[6]

These can be contrasted to the epistemic vices such as:

Note that, in the vice context, curiosity bears the medieval connotation of attraction to unwholesome things, in contrast to the positive studious (or perhaps inquisitive).

See also


  1. ^ a b Baril, Anne (2016). "The Role of Epistemic Virtue in the Realization of Basic Goods". Episteme. 13 (4): 379–395. doi:10.1017/epi.2016.19. ISSN 1742-3600. S2CID 151879106.
  2. ^ Ichikawa, Jonathan Jenkins (2018). "Faith and Epistemology". Episteme. 17 (1): 121–140. doi:10.1017/epi.2018.30. ISSN 1742-3600. S2CID 171824124.
  3. ^ Fairweather, Abrol. Zagzebski, Linda Trinkaus (2001). Virtue epistemology: essays on epistemic virtue and responsibility. Oxford University Press. ISBN 1-4237-6215-0. OCLC 65188782.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Aristotle. Andronicus (ed.). Nicomachean Ethics.
  5. ^ Bishop, M.; Trout, J.D. (2004). Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  6. ^ a b Pigliucci, Massimo (2017). "The Virtuous Skeptic". Skeptical Inquirer. 41 (2): 54–57. Archived from the original on 2018-11-09. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  7. ^ Greco, John (2011). "Virtue Epistemology". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy..

Further reading