Volume 82, 2008
Josef Thomas Simpson
Cognition and the Whole Person
Bridging the Gap in Virtue Epistemology
Contemporary epistemology seems almost exclusively focused on questions concerning knowledge and justification. Such a focus has had two broad consequences. First, epistemologists have neglected other equally important concepts. Specifically, the concept of understanding is absent in most discussions. Secondly, discussions have avoided the role of the will in the agents to whom we attribute knowledge and justification. Surprisingly, virtue epistemology also suffers from this narrow view. Specifically, virtue epistemologists of all kinds have neglected these two important aspects of our epistemic lives. I examine the spectrum of virtue theories in epistemology, and locate a gap between the two sides—responsibilism and reliabilism. This gap, I suggest, might be bridged if we take seriously (i) the idea that there are other epistemic goals apart from knowledge and justification (e.g., understanding), and (ii) that cognition requires the whole person—intellect and will—and not simply the intellect in isolation from other faculties.