Philosophical Studies

, Volume 172, Issue 1, pp 29–56 | Cite as

Competence to know

  • Lisa MiracchiEmail author


I argue against traditional virtue epistemology on which knowledge is a success due to a competence to believe truly, by revealing an in-principle problem with the traditional virtue epistemologist’s explanation of Gettier cases. The argument eliminates one of the last plausible explanation of Gettier cases, and so of knowledge, in terms of non-factive mental states and non-mental conditions. I then I develop and defend a different kind of virtue epistemology, on which knowledge is an exercise of a competence to know. I show how the account, while circular, is not viciously so. It explains both how knowledge is a mental state, as well as the relationship between knowledge and justification, including justified false beliefs and Gettier cases. Moreover, although direct virtue epistemology is compatible with many views on the nature of belief, it can explain how knowledge might be metaphysically more fundamental than belief as well.


Knowledge Virtue epistemology Knowledge-first epistemology Gettier cases Dispositions Competence 



Thanks to Bob Beddor, Selim Berker, Matt Benton, David Black, Rodrigo Borges, Jessica Brown, Herman Cappelen, Andy Egan, Megan Feeney, Will Fleisher, Jonathan Ichikawa Jenkins, Nico Kirk-Giannini, Peter Klein, Stephanie Leary, Brian McLaughlin, Ricardo Mena, Eliot Michaelson, Jennifer Nagel, Kate Nolfi, Carlotta Pavese, Ted Poston, Pamela Robinson, Blake Roeber, Susanna Schellenberg, Daniel Singer, Ernest Sosa, Jason Stanley, Kurt Sylvan, John Turri, and Peter van Elswyk.


  1. Bergmann, M. (2008). Reidian externalis. In V. Hendricks & D. Pritchard (Eds.), New waves in epistemology. London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  2. Bird, A. (2007). Justified judging. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 74(1), 81–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Black, C. (1971). Knowledge without belief. Analysis, 31(5), 152–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buckwalter, W., Rose, D., & Turri, J. (2013). Belief through thick and thin. Noûs, 47(3),Google Scholar
  5. Burge, T. (2005). Disjunctivism and perceptual psychology. Philosophical Topics, 33(1), 1–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burge, T. (2010). Origins of objectivity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burge, T. (2011). Disjunctivism again. Philosophical Explorations, 14(1), 43–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chisholm, R. (1966). Theory of knowledge (1st ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  9. Choi, S., Fara, M. (2012). Dispositions. In Zalta V. N. (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Google Scholar
  10. Chrisman, M. (2012). The normative evaluation of belief and the aspectual classification of belief and knowledge attributions. Journal of Philosophy, 109(10), 588–612.Google Scholar
  11. Devitt, M. (2006). Ignorance of language. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dickie, I. (2012). Skill before knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 85(3), 737–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dretske, F. (1981). Knowledge and the flow of information. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  14. Dretske, F. (1986). Misrepresentation. In R. Bogdan (Ed.), Belief: Form, content, and function. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Egan, F. (2013). How to think about mental content. Philosophical Studies. doi: 10.1007/s11098-013-0172-0.Google Scholar
  16. Fodor, J. (1990). A theory of content and other essays. Cambridge: MIT/Bradford.Google Scholar
  17. Gettier, E. (1963). Is justified true belief knowledge? Analysis, 23(6), 121–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goldman, A. (1976). Discrimination and perceptual knowledge. Journal of Philosophy, 73, 771–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Greco, J. (2001). Virtues and rules in epistemology. In A. Fairweather & L. Zagzebski (Eds.), Virtue epistemology: Essays on epistemic virtue and responsibility (pp. 117–141). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Greco, J. (2009). Knowledge and success from ability. Philosophical Studies, 142(1), 17–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Greco, J. (2010). Achieving knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Greco, J. (2012). A (different) virtue epistemology. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 85(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greco, J., & Turri, J. (2011). Virtue epistemology. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Google Scholar
  24. Hájek, A. (2007). The reference class problem is your problem too. Synthese, 156, 185–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hetherington, S. (1999). Knowing failably. Journal of Philosophy, 96, 565–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hetherington, S. (2001). Good knowledge, bad knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kelp, C. (2013). Knowledge: The safe-apt view. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 91(2), 265–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Klein, P. (1971). A proposed definition of propositional knowledge. Journal of Philosophy, 68(16), 471–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Klein, P. (1976). Knowledge, causality, and defeasibility. Journal of Philosophy, 73(29), 792–812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lackey, J. (2007). Why we don’t deserve credit for everything we know. Synthese, 158, 345–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lackey, J. (2009). Knowledge and credit. Philosophical Studies, 142, 27–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lehrer, K. (1965). Knowledge, truth, and evidence. Analysis, 25, 168–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lewis, D. (1997). Finkish dispositions. The Philosophical Quarterly, 47, 143–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lycan, W. (2013). On the gettier problem problem.
  35. McDowell, J. (1994). Mind and world. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Millar, A. (2008). Perceptual-recognitional abilities and perceptual knowledge. In A. Haddock & F. Macpherson (Eds.), Disjunctivism: Perception, action, knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Miracchi, L. (2014). Getting things done. PhD Thesis, Rutgers University, New Brunswick.Google Scholar
  38. Myers-Schulz, B., & Schwitzgebel, E. (2013). Knowing that p without believing that p. Noûs, 47(2), 371–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Plantinga, A. (1993). Warrant and proper function. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pritchard, D. (2010). nti-luck virtue epistemology. In A. Pritchard & A. Millar (Eds.), The nature and value of knowledge: Three investigations., Chapter 3 Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Radford, C. (1966). Knowledge–by examples. Analysis, 27, 1–11.Google Scholar
  42. Riggs, W. (2003). Understanding ‘virtue’ and the virtue of understanding. In M. DePaul & L. Zagzebski (Eds.), Intellectual virtue: Perspectives from ethics and epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Roberts, R. C., & Wood, W. J. (2007). Intellectual virtues: An essay in regulative epistemology. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rose, D., & Schaffer, J. (2013). Knowledge entails dispositional belief. Philosophical Studies, 166(1), 19–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schellenberg, S. (2013). Experience and evidence. Mind, 122(487), 699–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sosa, E. (1980). The raft and the pyramid: Coherence versus foundations in the theory of knowledge. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 5, 3–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sosa, A. (2007). A virtue epistemology: Apt belief and reflective knowledge (Vol. 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sosa, E. (2010). How competence matters in epistemology. Philosophical Perspectives, 24, 465–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sosa, E. (forthcoming). The unity of action, perception, and knowledge. Forthcoming.Google Scholar
  50. Stanley, J. (2005). Knowledge and practical interests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stanley, J. (2011). Know how. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sutton, J. (2007). Without justification. Cambridge, MA: MIT/Bradford.Google Scholar
  53. Turri, J. (2011). Manifest failure: The gettier problem solved. Philosophers’ Imprint, 11(8), 1–11.Google Scholar
  54. Weatherson, B. (2003). What good are counterexamples? Philosophical Studies, 115, 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and its limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Zagzebski, L. (1994). The inescapability of gettier problems. Philosophical Quarterly, 44(174), 65–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zagzebski, L. (1996). Virtues of the Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

Personalised recommendations