Site Search
Subscribe to RSS

A. Virtue Epistemology > Carter on Anti-luck Virtue Epistemology

Adam Carter also has a new paper on this topic, available through SPringerlink. Unless I'm mistaken, Adam is here reversing his course, sine he previously argued in defense of Pritchard's dual "anti-luck" and "ability" account. Of course, I defended the need for both in several paper dating back to 2007 ("Two for the Show," etc. with a DATA -doxastic, alethic, aretaic and tucheic conditions) but I really haven't been following this debate much since then, so will look forward to reading these exchanges.

Abstract Duncan Pritchard has, in the years following his (2005) defence of a safety-based account of knowledge in Epistemic Luck, abjured his (2005) view that knowledge can be analysed exclusively in terms of a modal safety condition. He has since (Pritchard in Synthese 158:277–297, 2007; J Philosophic Res 34:33–45, 2009a, 2010) opted for an account according to which two distinct conditions
function with equal importance and weight within an analysis of knowledge: an anti-luck condition (safety) and an ability condition-the latter being a condition
aimed at preserving what Pritchard now takes to be a fundamental insight about knowledge: that it arises from cognitive ability (Greco 2010; Sosa 2007, 2009). Pritchard calls his new view anti-luck virtue epistemology (ALVE). A key premise in Pritchard’s argument for ALVE is what I call the independence thesis; the thesis that satisfying neither the anti-luck condition nor the ability condition entails that
the other is satisfied. Pritchard’s argument for the independence thesis relies crucially upon the case he makes for thinking that cognitive achievements are compatible with knowledge-undermining environmental luck—that is, the sort of luck widely thought to undermine knowledge in standard barn facade cases. In the first
part of this paper, I outline the key steps in Pritchard’s argument for anti-luck virtue epistemology and highlight how it is that the compatibility of cognitive achievement and knowledge- undermining environmental luck is indispensible to the argument’s
success. The second part of this paper aims to show that this compatibility premise crucial to Pritchard’s argument is incorrect.
November 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterGuy Axtell
This is excellent stuff! Both this and Christoffer Kelp's recent paper bear upon Pritchard's recent writing (post 2005 Epistemic Luck book). Kelp focuses on Pritchard's papers bearing on Lackey's case of the Chicago directions-asker, and his claim (conceding to her) that there are cases where a person can have knowledge without it being an acheivement. Carter deals with these papers also, but primarily with those that develop "anti-luck virtue epistemology," (ALVE) as a successor to the Robust anti-luck epistemology of 2005. The irony, of course, is that the one side of Pritchard's thinking is deeply in tension (flat out contradicts?) the other: ALVE clearly asserts an aretaic condition as a necessary condition on knowledge, whereas the stance on cases like the Chicago case seems to deny this.
I think I lost some interest in following Pritchard's progression due to my confusion over how he could take both stances. Who better to explain and clarify what is going on there than his former students? I'm still not at all sure I have a handle on how Pritchard balanced those two, but I take it that post-2005 he was pulled in both directions: (rightly) towards the need for an ability or aretaic condition, and (wrongly) towards accepting the force of Lackey-type testimonial counter-examples indicating that achievement (and hence virtue) isn't a necessary condition on knowing. But read these two papers, as both of them put these issues in language clearer than I can.

The upshot of both Kelp's article is that in Pritchard's Lackeyan papers, his "argument that the virtue theoretic ability condition on knowledge/cognitive achievement is not suffiecient for knowledge fails" (432). Carter could take this as further support for his own, somewhat broader yet still similar conclusion that Pritchard has not adequately shown that the virtue theoretic ability condition in his ALVE doesn't already entail his safety condition. Failing to show this, his defense of the "Independence Thesis"--the idea that both conditions are needed (virtue and safety, basically)--also fails. Both articles thus basically conclude that what Pritchard calls Robust VE is likely superior to what he calls the Moderate VE of anti-luck virtue epistemology (with two conditions rather than just the one).

Now having defended a form of ALVE epistemology myself (actually proposing it explicitly in 2007 ("Two for the Show: Anti-luck and Virtue Epistemologies in Consonance") prior to Pritchard's development of "anti-luck virtue epistemology," I remain very interested in these issues, and again think both Kelp and Carter do great work in their papers. My first questions are pretty much calls for further clarification:

1) Can you further explain how Pritchard could assert (in the same year if not the same paper) both the view that an aretaic condition is both too strong and too weak for knowledge, and ALVE? I still just see it as a deep inconsistency on his part.

2) Pritchard is something of a moving target, for the reasons just mentioned, but have you also considered or written on his still newer "Twin Earths" paper (forthcoming, I believe), which gives a fuller argument against Robust VE? If so, do you think his arguments there raise any new problems for your views, or can you basically handle them in the same ways you do in your papers?

Thanks much--explain me those two points, and then I'll suggest some reasons why I still think Moderate or 'dual-condition' account is favorable to Robust VE, even if Pritchard's anti-luck reasoning and cases fails (i.e., why there are serious non-directly veritic luck-related objections that Robust VE faces, that an account with more than an aretaic condition can better accomodate).
December 24, 2011 | Registered CommenterGuy Axtell
Sosa's "How Competence Matters in Epistemology" also contains a short but clear rebuttal to Pritchard's "anti-luck virtue epistemology," with its independent safety condition included to handle one or more kind of veritic epistemic luck that an aretaic condition is seen as insufficient for precluding.

You you think Sosa offers further substantial support for Carter's and Kelp's arguments favoring what Pritchard calls "Robust" over "Moderate," VE? Here is the passage:

"Does true knowledge require a kind of safety on top of aptness?
Kyle, Simone, and Barney in that case fall short simply because their beliefs are so unsafe.4 The first problem with this approach is how to make it plausible that the kind of safety denied to our three unfortunates is not denied also to Norm. Does Norm’s ordinary perceptual belief sufficiently avoid the sort of danger that dooms the other three beliefs? Unlike being envatted or bedeviled, after
all, dreaming and insanity are relatively familiar phenomena; these pose greater danger for ordinary perceptual beliefs. Is this danger low enough that Norm’s belief is spared even while the other three beliefs are not? That is not beyond reasonable doubt.
We are considering whether a belief must be safe as well as apt if it is to constitute knowledge. A second kind of trouble for this safety requirement
derives from problematic examples. Take a subject who drinks from a cup out of several available on a table. All the other cups, let us say, contain a drug that much degrades “subitizing” ability. This is the ability to discern the cardinality of a perceived collection, without having to count. So our subject might easily have greatly lowered his subitizing competence. He might thus easily have believed incorrectly, since his competence might easily have been degraded. There were many equally available cups, after all; only by luck did he drink from the one without the drug. Does the fact that he might have suffered that fate deny him subitizing knowledge if in fact he does not suffer it? I can only report that to me that seems implausible."
January 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterGuy Axtell
Dear Guy, thanks for the comments. I am going to check out Pritchard's twin earths example and get back to you on that. But first I just want to say a few things by way of clarification. Pritchard typically argues in a way that presents his ALVE as a dual-condition account of knowledge according to which the two conditions (the aretaic and anti-luck) conditions are logically independent from each other, individually necessary and jointly sufficient for knowledge. He has, however, backtracked from this reading in a curious passage in In § 3.5 of Ch. 3 of his Value of Knowledge book. Pritchard here questions whether ALVE constitutes a reductive theory of knowledge. He admits that ‘the default reading of the view is as offering a reductive account’ (59) while also conceding that it’s possible to read his account as non-reductive. He opts ultimately to take ‘a liberal view on this issue’ (59). This might well be a problematic qualification. For my part, I would contend that--while backing away from claiming his view is a reductive account might be helpful to avoid certain counterexamples--it makes defending the epistemic value of knowledge over true belief more challenging for him. After all, this task seems promising for his view to the extent that satisfying the aretaic condition (and requiring cognitive achievement) is always necessary for knowledge. On another clarificatory note: In a sense Guy, I think you, Duncan and I all defend ALVE accounts of knowledge. I think we are all ALVE theorists because we think that , in order to know, one must get to the truth in a way that is both (i) through ability; and (ii) relevantly not lucky. Where Pritchard and I part ways is on the matter of whether these two desiderata can be captured in a theory that makes use only of a virtue condition. I think "yes" here, and so defend an ALVE view by defending RVE. Pritchard thinks no (he thinks the satisfaction of the virtue condition and the anti-luck condition are logically independent) and so defends ALVE by defending two distinct conditions. I'm working on a paper where I try to defend RVE more carefully than I originally did in my doctoral thesis. I'll send you a draft soon once I have it worked out.
January 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterJ. Adam Carter
Adam, Thanks for that reply, which is admirably clear. I don't have any strong sense about the issue of whether virtue epistemological or other account of knowledge should be reductive, so I'll leave that alone.
My only other note on what you wrote is just a small suggestion to avoid the language of defending ALVE via RVE. I guess you prefer the contrast of RVE and MVE ('Moderate') as subversions of ALVE. But that term 'Moderate' is more disputable (we all tend to see ourselves as more moderate and reasonable), and doesn't help any. So all I'm saying really is that if 'defending ALVE via RVE' is changing the terms around, I wouldn't do this unless you really see a need to. I thought of RVE and ALVE as already being the simplest, 'neutral' descriptions of two accounts that are generally similar but differ over the Q of whether an independent anti-luck condition is need to adequately address that anti-luck intuition. So I'm just quibbling here over the worry that claiming RVE is a version of ALVE confuses rather than clarifies the language.

Anyway, I promised I would offer a "non luck-related" argument for an independent anti-luck condition. It is simply that the "strengthening" of the ability condition by proponents of RVE lead them the apparent burden of giving a causal-explanatory account of the 'because of' relation. You mention this in your paper, saying it may not be the only possible account, but it is the way that Greco (and LZ) at least, have gone. But what about John Doris' claim that:

1) Empirical Content

2) Empirical Adequacy

and 3) Globalism (the posited traits are 'stable', and 'consistent').

cannot all be simultaneously supported. In other words, the greater the empirical content of the account of cognitive abilities that is given, the more open will the account be to the objection of "empirical inadequacy." I assume all forms of VE do want to hold on to (3). But sInce (or if) virtue epistemologies of the RVE sort place a greater burden of empirical content on themselves, they are more challenged in the way of empirical adequacy. That means, does the view really square with cognitive psychology, etc.?
My thought is first, that some versions of VE are more open to charges of empirical adequacy than others; and second, that an independent anti-luck condition has the effect of diluting or dissipating the empirical content, so that it does not fall wholly on the areteic condition. Perhaps one of these assumption is faultable, however, or perhaps RVE can just meet this demand with a causal explanatory account of reliable abilities anyway?
January 15, 2012 | Registered CommenterGuy Axtell