, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 253-275

A Problem for Pritchard’s Anti-Luck Virtue Epistemology

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Abstract

Duncan Pritchard has, in the years following his (2005) defence of a safety-based account of knowledge in Epistemic Luck, abjured his (2005) view that knowledge can be analysed exclusively in terms of a modal safety condition. He has since (Pritchard in Synthese 158:277–297, 2007; J Philosophic Res 34:33–45, 2009a, 2010) opted for an account according to which two distinct conditions function with equal importance and weight within an analysis of knowledge: an anti-luck condition (safety) and an ability condition-the latter being a condition aimed at preserving what Pritchard now takes to be a fundamental insight about knowledge: that it arises from cognitive ability (Greco 2010; Sosa 2007, 2009). Pritchard calls his new view anti-luck virtue epistemology (ALVE). A key premise in Pritchard’s argument for ALVE is what I call the independence thesis; the thesis that satisfying neither the anti-luck condition nor the ability condition entails that the other is satisfied. Pritchard’s argument for the independence thesis relies crucially upon the case he makes for thinking that cognitive achievements are compatible with knowledge-undermining environmental luck—that is, the sort of luck widely thought to undermine knowledge in standard barn facade cases. In the first part of this paper, I outline the key steps in Pritchard’s argument for anti-luck virtue epistemology and highlight how it is that the compatibility of cognitive achievement and knowledge- undermining environmental luck is indispensible to the argument’s success. The second part of this paper aims to show that this compatibility premise crucial to Pritchard’s argument is incorrect.