Philosophical Studies

, Volume 172, Issue 6, pp 1603–1623 | Cite as

Varieties of cognitive achievement

  • J. Adam CarterEmail author
  • Benjamin W. Jarvis
  • Katherine Rubin


According to robust virtue epistemology (RVE), knowledge is type-identical with a particular species of cognitive achievement. The identification itself is subject to some criticism on the (alleged) grounds that it fails to account for the anti-luck features of knowledge. Although critics have largely focused on environmental luck, the fundamental philosophical problem facing RVE is that it is not clear why it should be a distinctive feature of cognitive abilities that they ordinarily produce beliefs in a way that is safe. We propose a novel way to resolve this problem. Key to our proposal will be an appreciation of different representational states beholden to truth. We suggest these different representational states are distinguished by how, in the proper governance of these states, the twin goods of attaining truth and avoiding error are weighted. Moreover, we explain how varieties of representational states line up with varieties of cognitive achievement such that knowledge, cum cognitive achievement, must be (ordinarily) safe because of the kind of attempt at success that belief is—namely, an attempt that places the premium it does on avoiding error.


Virtue epistemology Epistemic luck Cognitive achievement Knowledge Belief 



The authors would like to thank audiences at Sheffield, Southampton, Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast for their feedback on related work. Particularly helpful were questions and comments from George Botterill, Stewart Cohen, Joseph Diekemper, Paul Faulkner, Conor McHugh, Steve Makin, Joe Morrison, Yonatan Shemmer, Jonathan Way, Daniel Whiting, Jeremy Watkins, with apologies to those not named. Benjamin Jarvis would like to thank, further, John Turri, for helpful conversations. J. Adam Carter would like to thank Emma C. Gordon for feedback on an earlier draft.


  1. Alfano, M. (2012). Expanding the situationist challenge to responsibilist virtue epistemology. The Philosophical Quarterly, 62(247), 223–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alston, W. (1985). Concepts of epistemic justification. The Monist, 68(1), 57–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ball, B. (2013). Knowledge is normal belief. Analysis, 73(1), 69–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benton, M. & Turri, J. (2014). Iffy predictions and proper expectations, Synthese, 191, 1857–1866. doi:  10.1007/s11229-013-0377-y.
  5. Carter, J. A. (forthcoming). Robust virtue epistemology as anti-luck epistemology, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. doi: 10.1111/papq.12040.
  6. Carter, J. A., Jarvis, B., & Rubin, K. (2013a). Knowledge and the value of cognitive ability. Synthese, 190(17), 3715–3729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carter, J. A., Jarvis, B., & Rubin, K. (2013b). Knowledge: Value on the cheap. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 91(2), 249–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carter, J. A., Jarvis, B., & Rubin, K. (unpublished). Belief without credence.Google Scholar
  9. Chrisman, M. (2013). The normative evaluation of belief and the aspectual classification of belief and knowledge attributions. The Journal of Philosophy, 109(10), 588–612.Google Scholar
  10. Comesaña, J. (2005). Unsafe knowledge. Synthese, 146(3), 395–404.Google Scholar
  11. Craig, E. (1990). Knowledge and the state of nature: An essay in conceptual synthesis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. David, M. (2001). Truth as the epistemic goal. In Matthias Steup (Ed.), Knowledge, truth and duty: Essays on epistemic justification, responsibility and virtue (pp. 151–169). Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Descartes, R. (1641/1985). The philosophical writings of descartes (vol. 2). Cambridge: CUP.Google Scholar
  14. Fallis, D. (2006). Epistemic value theory and social epistemology. Episteme, 2(3), 177–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Foley, R. (1987). The theory of epistemic rationality. Cambridge, MA: HUP.Google Scholar
  16. Goldman, A. I. (1999). Knowledge in a social world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Greco, J. (2008). What’s wrong with contextualism? The Philosophical Quarterly, 58(232), 416–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Greco, J. (2009). Knowledge and success from ability. Philosophical Studies, 142(1), 17–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Greco, J. (2010). Achieving knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Greco, J. (2013). A (different) virtue epistemology. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 85(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hetherington, S. (2013). There can be lucky knowledge. In M. Steup & J. Turri (Eds.), Contemporary debates in epistemology (2nd ed., pp. 164–176). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Ichikawa, J. J. & Jarvis, B. (forthcoming). Hybrid virtue epistemology and the a priori. In D. Dodd & E. Zardini (TBA) (Eds.), A priori justification.Google Scholar
  23. James, W. (1897). The will to believe. New York: Longmans, Green and Company.Google Scholar
  24. Jarvis, B. (2013). Knowledge, cognitive achievement, and environmental luck. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 94(4), 529–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jarvis, B. & Rubin, K. (unpublished). The evaluative and normative roles of knowledge.Google Scholar
  26. Kelly, T. (2013). Evidence can be permissive. In Matthias Steup & John Turri (Eds.), Contemporary debates in epistemology (pp. 298–312). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  27. Kelp, C. (2013). Knowledge: The safe-apt view. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 91(2), 265–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Luper, S. (1984). The epistemic predicament. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 62, 26–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Luper, S. (2003). Indiscernability skepticism. In S. Luper (Ed.), The skeptics: Contemporary essays (pp. 183–202). Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  30. Mackie, J. L. (1955). Responsibility and language. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 33(3), 143–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Madison, B. J. (2011). Combating anti anti-luck epistemology. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 89(1), 47–58.Google Scholar
  32. MIllar, A. (2010). Perceptual knowledge and recognitional abilities. In D. Pritchard, A. Millar & A. Haddock (Eds.), The nature and value of knowledge: Three investigations. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Millikan, R. (1989). Biosemantics. Journal of Philosophy, 86(6), 281–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pritchard, D. H. (2002). Resurrecting the Moorean response to the sceptic. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 10, 283–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pritchard, D. H. (2005). Epistemic luck. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pritchard, D. H. (2007). Anti-luck epistemology. Synthese, 158, 277–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pritchard, D. H. (2009a). Knowledge. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pritchard, D. H. (2009b). Knowledge, understanding and epistemic value. In A. O’Hear (Ed.), Epistemology (pp. 19–43)., Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.Google Scholar
  39. Pritchard, D. H. (2009c). Apt performance and epistemic value. Philosophical Studies, 143(3), 407–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pritchard, D. H. (2012a). Anti-luck virtue epistemology. Journal of Philosophy, 109, 247–279.Google Scholar
  41. Pritchard, D. H. (2012b). In defence of modest anti-luck epistemology. In T. Black & K. Becker (Eds.), The sensitivity principle in epistemology (pp. 173–192). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pritchard, D. H. (2013). There cannot be lucky knowledge. In M. Steup & J. Turri (Eds.), Contemporary debates in epistemology (2nd ed., pp. 152–164). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  43. Ross, J., & Schroeder, M. (2012). Belief, credence and pragmatic encroachment. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research,. doi: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2011.00552.x.Google Scholar
  44. Sainsbury, R. M. (1997). Easy possibilities. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 57, 907–919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sober, E. (1981). The evolution of rationality. Synthese, 46(1), 95–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sosa, E. (1999). How to defeat opposition to Moore. Noûs, 33(s13), 141–153.Google Scholar
  47. Sosa, E. (2007). A virtue epistemology: Apt belief and reflective knowledge (Vol. 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sosa, E. (2009). Knowing full well: The normativity of beliefs as performances. Philosophical Studies, 142(1), 5–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sosa, E. (2013). Animal versus reflective orders of epistemic competence. In T. Henning & D. Schweikard (Eds.), Knowledge, virtue and action: Putting epistemic virtues to work. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  50. Speaks, J. (2006). Is mental content prior to linguistic meaning? Nous, 40(3), 428–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stalnaker, R. (1984). Inquiry. Cambridge: Bradford Books, The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  52. Stich, S. (1993). The fragmentation of reason. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  53. Turri, J. (2010). Epistemic invariantism and speech act contextualism. Philosophical Review, 119(1), 77–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Turri, J. (2011). Manifest failure: The gettier problem solved. Philosopher’s Imprint, 11(8), 47.Google Scholar
  55. Turri, J. (2012). Is knowledge justified true belief? Synthese, 184(3), 247–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Turri, J. (forthcoming). Knowledge as achievement, more or less. In M. A. Fernandez (TBA) (Ed.), The present and future of virtue epistemology.Google Scholar
  57. Unger, P. (1967). Experience and factual knowledge. The Journal of Philosophy, 64(5), 152–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. White, R. (2005). Epistemic permissiveness. Philosophical Perspectives, 19(1), 445–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Whiting, D. (2012). Does belief aim (Only) at the truth? Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 93(2), 279–300.Google Scholar
  60. Whiting, D. (2013). The good and the true (or the bad and the false). Philosophy, 88(2), 219–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Williamson, T. (2002). Knowledge and its limits. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Adam Carter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Benjamin W. Jarvis
    • 2
  • Katherine Rubin
    • 3
  1. 1.Eidyn Research CentreUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Stern School of BusinessNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Weill Cornell Medical CollegeNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations