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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 54, Issue 3, September 2014

P. A. McGavin, T. A. Hunter
Pages 279-296

The We Believe of Philosophers
Implicit Epistemologies and Unexamined Psychologies

The ethical theory espoused by a philosopher is often dominated by certain implicit epistemological assumptions. These “ways of knowing” may in turn be dominated by personality preferences that give rise to certain preferred worldviews that undergird various philosophies. Such preferred worldviews are seen in We believe positions, stated or unstated. The meaning of these claims about the interconnections of unexamined assumptions and their philosophical implications may be seen through an example. This paper will examine certain crucial aspects of the thought of John Doris, who promotes a form of situationist ethics. This example is intended to be suggestive rather than conclusive. It points to the need for an openness to other epistemological assumptions that might permit a more comprehensive appreciation of what moral agency involves, beyond what arises from the restricted methods of analytical philosophy and a positivist worldview. There have been other efforts to meet the situationist challenge to classical Aristotelian ethics, yet surprisingly little attention has been given to the role of implicit epistemologies and unexamined psychologies. This paper offers a critical examination of these prior We believe positions.

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