Expanding the situationist challenge to reliabilism about inference

Mark Alfano*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The last few decades have witnessed the birth and growth of both virtue epistemology and the situationist challenge to virtue ethics. It seems only natural that eventually we would see the convergence of the twain: the situationist challenge to virtue epistemology. Virtue epistemologists divide into three camps: reliabilists, for whom the intellectual virtues are cognitive capacities, processes, or dispositions; responsibilists, for whom the intellectual virtues are conative traits of intellectual character related to the love of truth and aversion to error; and mixed theorists, who countenance the virtues of both reliabilism and responsibilism. For all three, justification and knowledge are analyzed in terms of intellectual character: someone is justified in believing that p just in case her belief was acquired and retained through the exercise of intellectual virtue, and she knows that p just in case her justified belief that p is true. Empirical research on cognitive dispositions spells trouble for reliabilist accounts of justification and knowledge. The trouble can be framed as an inconsistent triad: (inferential non-skepticism) Most people know a lot inferentially; (inferential reliabilism) Inferential knowledge is true belief acquired and retained through inferential reliabilist intellectual virtue; (inferential cognitive situationism) People acquire and retain most of their inferential beliefs through heuristics rather than intellectual virtues. Inferential non-skepticism is an unrevisable Moorean platitude. I muster evidence from cognitive psychology to argue for inferential cognitive situationism. If my argument is correct, inferential reliabilism must be rejected.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVirtue epistemology naturalized
Subtitle of host publicationbridges between virtue epistemology and philosophy of science
EditorsAbrol Fairweather
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783319046723
ISBN (Print)9783319046716
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameSynthese Library
ISSN (Print)0166-6991


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