The Inevitability of Aiming for Virtue

In Stacey Goguen & Benjamin Sherman (eds.), Overcoming Epistemic Injustice: Social and Psychological Perspectives. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 85-100 (2019)
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I defend Fricker’s virtue-theoretic proposals for grappling with epistemic injustice, arguing that her account is both empirically oriented and plausible. I agree with Fricker that an integral component of what we ought to do in the face of pervasive epistemic injustice is working to cultivate epistemic habits that aim to consistently neutralize the effects of such prejudices on their credibility estimates. But Fricker does not claim that her specific proposals constitute the only means through which individuals and institutions should combat epistemic injustice. I therefore build on Fricker’s account by beginning to sketch a fuller picture of the structure of cultivating epistemic virtue. Virtue cultivation must, I argue, occur on two broad but interrelated fronts: first, the direct retraining of more automatic and unreflective patterns of thinking, feeling, and reacting to epistemic social reality, and second, the cultivation of more reflective, metacognitive virtues, such as the ability to swiftly identify contexts in which our first-order epistemic intuitions are likely astray. Although I articulate a range of individual-level obligations, my account is not individualistic. With Fricker, I argue that individual self-transformation is a necessary but not sufficient component of the struggle for epistemic justice. Accordingly, I sketch several ways in which individual virtue cultivation must be a socially and institutionally embedded process. Moreover, I argue that this process is ongoing. While most individuals cannot actually achieve such moral-epistemic ideals, many can (and therefore should try to) get much closer than they already are.

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Alex Madva
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


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