On Intellectualism in Epistemology

Mind 120 (479):705-733 (2011)
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According to ‘orthodox’ epistemology, it has recently been said, whether or not a true belief amounts to knowledge depends exclusively on truth-related factors: for example, on whether the true belief was formed in a reliable way, or was supported by good evidence, and so on. Jason Stanley refers to this as the ‘intellectualist’ component of orthodox epistemology, and Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath describe it as orthodox epistemology’s commitment to a ‘purely epistemic’ account of knowledge — that is, an account of knowledge where only truth-related factors figure in whether or not a person knows. In the first part of this paper I try to clarify the intellectualist thesis and to distinguish what I take to be its two main strains. In the remainder of the paper I then take a more critical turn and argue that even if, as a matter of fact, traditional epistemology has endorsed intellectualism in both of its strains, this is a mistake on the part of the tradition. At least one way of understanding intellectualism should be rejected and its practicalist counterpart should be accepted instead.

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Stephen Grimm
Fordham University


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