Anti-Luck Virtue Epistemology and Divine Revelation


Anti-Luck Virtue Epistemology (ALVE) states that for S to have knowledge, S must have a virtuously formed safe true belief. S’s belief that p is safe if, in most near-by possible worlds where S’s belief is formed in the same manner as in the actual world, S’s belief is true. S’s safe belief that p is virtuously formed if S’s safe belief is formed using reliable and well-integrated cognitive processes and it is to S’s credit that she formed the belief. In this paper, I offer a novel counterexample to ALVE. I offer a case where an individual forms a belief on the basis of divine revelation. Intuitively the person has knowledge, but ALVE predicts otherwise. The upshot is not only that we have a counter example to ALVE, but also, that ALVE may not serve the needs of an adequate religious epistemology.

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  1. 1.

    Ibid, 267.

  2. 2.

    I would like to thank an anonymous referee for suggesting this paraphrase to me.

  3. 3.

    Let me note an ambiguity: Pritchard comments that safety applies to the methods in similar circumstances given the same input. Applied to our cases, it might be thought that safety applies to dreams with the same input—God input. Both Bob and Godfrey’s belief would be safe. The problem is that an individual who forms a true belief on the basis of a broken calculator would have a safe belief, since in every nearby possible world, she will have the same (correct) input!

  4. 4.

    Ibid, 260

  5. 5.

    A third possible response would be to challenge the assumption that divinely-caused dreams are phenomenologically similar to non-divine dreams. However, I cannot think of any principled reason for thinking that this must be the case, and therefore, will not consider it further.

  6. 6.

    This objection, so far as I can tell, requires that we understand the safety-condition as applying to an agent’s beliefs and not to the agent’s method of forming her belief. As will be seen below, Pritchard does not endorse this understanding of safety, and therefore, does not have a problem. I mention this objection because it may be thought to be the same or similar to the objection based on divine revelation.

  7. 7.

    Pritchard in 2009 handles cases such as Katie-Mae by drawing a distinction between cognitive success and knowledge. He admits that Katie-Mae has a cognitive success or achievement in forming her belief as she did, but denies her knowledge. For obvious reasons this response won’t work for Godfrey since we want him to have knowledge.


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I would like to thank the journal referees for helpful feedback.

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Correspondence to Christopher Bobier.

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Bobier, C. Anti-Luck Virtue Epistemology and Divine Revelation. Philosophia 42, 309–320 (2014).

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  • Anti-luck virtue epistemology
  • Safety
  • Virtue epistemology
  • Divine revelation