, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 499–512 | Cite as

The Virtues of Ingenuity: Reasoning and Arguing without Bias

  • Olivier Morin


This paper describes and defends the “virtues of ingenuity”: detachment, lucidity, thoroughness. Philosophers traditionally praise these virtues for their role in the practice of using reasoning to solve problems and gather information. Yet, reasoning has other, no less important uses. Conviction is one of them. A recent revival of rhetoric and argumentative approaches to reasoning (in psychology, philosophy and science studies) has highlighted the virtues of persuasiveness and cast a new light on some of its apparent vices—bad faith, deluded confidence, confirmation and myside biases. Those traits, it is often argued, will no longer look so detrimental once we grasp their proper function: arguing in order to persuade, rather than thinking in order to solve problems. Some of these biases may even have a positive impact on intellectual life. Seen in this light, the virtues of ingenuity may well seem redundant. Defending them, I argue that the vices of conviction are not innocuous. If generalized, they would destabilize argumentative practices. Argumentation is a common good that is threatened when every arguer pursues conviction at the expense of ingenuity. Bad faith, myside biases and delusions of all sorts are neither called for nor explained by argumentative practices. To avoid a collapse of argumentation, mere civil virtues (respect, humility or honesty) do not suffice: we need virtues that specifically attach to the practice of making conscious inferences.


Virtue epistemology Argumentative theory of reasoning Objectivity Rhetoric Argumentation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cognitive ScienceCentral European UniversityBudapestHungary

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