Volume 88, 2014
Dispositions, Habits, and Virtues
Credulity and Circumspection
Epistemological Character and the Ethics of Belief
The purpose of this paper is, first, to get clear about what credulity is, and why it’s an epistemological vice (§ 1); then, to explore the various forms this vice takes, including its perhaps surprising manifestation as a form of scientism (§ 2); next, to suggest why credulity poses dangers not only to individuals, but also to society at large—including, specifically, the legal system and the academy (§ 3); and, finally, to sketch some ways to curb credulity and foster circumspection in ourselves and others, especially our students (§ 4). In the process it will take up issues about the nature of belief, the determinants of the quality of evidence, synechism, science, scientism, testimony, expertise, and evidence-sharing as well as questions about the ethics of belief and the demands of education.