Educating for Intellectual Virtue: a critique from action guidance

Episteme (2019)
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Abstract
Virtue epistemology is among the dominant influences in mainstream epistemology today. An important commitment of one strand of virtue epistemology – responsibilist virtue epistemology (e.g., Montmarquet 1993; Zagzebski 1996; Battaly 2006; Baehr 2011) – is that it must provide regulative normative guidance for good thinking. Recently, a number of virtue epistemologists (most notably Baehr, 2013) have held that virtue epistemology not only can provide regulative normative guidance, but moreover that we should reconceive the primary epistemic aim of all education as the inculcation of the intellectual virtues. Baehr’s picture contrasts with another well-known position – that the primary aim of education is the promotion of critical thinking (Scheffler 1989; Siegel 1988; 1997; 2017). In this paper – that we hold makes a contribution to both philosophy of education and epistemology and, a fortiori, epistemology of education – we challenge this picture. We outline three criteria that any putative aim of education must meet and hold that it is the aim of critical thinking, rather than the aim of instilling intellectual virtue, that best meets these criteria. On this basis, we propose a new challenge for intellectual virtue epistemology, next to the well-known empirically-driven ‘situationist challenge’. What we call the ‘pedagogical challenge’ maintains that the intellectual virtues approach does not have available a suitably effective pedagogy to qualify the acquisition of intellectual virtue as the primary aim of education. This is because the pedagogic model of the intellectual virtues approach (borrowed largely from exemplarist thinking) is not properly action-guiding. Instead, we hold that, without much further development in virtue-based theory, logic and critical thinking must still play the primary role in the epistemology of education.
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Archival date: 2019-02-04
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