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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 45, 2020

Andrei Ionuţ Mărăşoiu
Pages 97-113

Intellectual Virtues and Biased Understanding

Biases affect much of our epistemic lives. Do they affect how we understand things? For Linda Zagzebski, we only understand something when we manifest intellectual virtues or skills. Relying on how widespread biases are, J. Adam Carter and Duncan Pritchard raise a skeptical objection to understanding so conceived. It runs as follows: most of us seem to understand many things. We genuinely understand only when we manifest intellectual virtues or skills, and are cognitively responsible for so doing. Yet much of what we seem to understand consists in conceptions whose formation could have easily been due to biases instead, and the work of biases is opaque to reflection. If conceptions constituting how we understand things could have easily been due to biases, then we are not cognitively responsible for them because we cannot reflectively appraise what we understand. So, we are mistaken in thinking we genuinely understand most of the time. I will defend the grounding of understanding in intellectual virtues and skills from Carter and Pritchard’s objection. We are cognitively responsible for understanding when we manifest our expertise. We can do so, I will argue, without being required to reflectively appraise what we understand.

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