, Volume 194, Issue 8, pp 2973–3003 | Cite as

Virtuous distinctions

New distinctions for reliabilism and responsibilism
  • Will FleisherEmail author


Virtue epistemology has been divided into two camps: reliabilists and responsibilists. This division has been attributed in part to a focus on different types of virtues, viz., faculty virtues and character virtues. I will argue that this distinction is unhelpful, and that we should carve up the theoretical terrain differently. Making several better distinctions among virtues will show us two important things. First, that responsibilists and reliabilists are actually engaged in different, complementary projects; and second, that certain responsibilist critiques of reliabilism miss the mark. With these distinctions on the table, we can see that the virtue reliabilist project is in some ways more fundamental than the responsibilist project, since the latter importantly depends on the former. I argue that the distinctively epistemic value of the responsibilist’s character virtues is derived from their connections to the reliabilist’s constitutive virtues. While this will give us a unified account of the epistemic value of intellectual virtues, it is not a reduction of the responsibilist project to the reliabilist one; rather, it as a way of securing the separate importance of each project by clarifying how they relate to one another.


Epistemology Virtue epistemology Reliabilism Responsibilism Virtues Competence 



I would like to thank three anonymous referees at this journal, as well as Logan Douglass, Elizabeth Fricker, Andy Egan, Branden Fitelson, and audiences at Oxford University and Northern Illinois University for helpful comments on this paper. Special thanks to Megan Feeney, Georgi Gardiner, Lisa Miracchi, David Black, Bob Beddor, and Ernest Sosa for repeated readings and comments on several versions of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyRutgers, The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA

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