Philosophical Papers

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Metaethics Meets Virtue Epistemology: Salvaging Disagreement about the Epistemically Thick

H Battaly


Virtue ethics and virtue epistemology shift the focus of evaluation from thin
concepts to thick ones. Simon Blackburn has argued that a shift to thick ethical concepts
dooms us to talking past one another. I contend that virtue epistemologists can answer
Blackburn's objection, thus salvaging genuine disagreement about the epistemically thick.
Section I introduces the standard cognitivist and non-cognitivist analyses of thick concepts.
Section II argues that thick epistemic concepts are subject to combinatorial vagueness. I
contend that virtue epistemologists share vague concepts of intellectual virtue and openmindedness. Section III addresses Allan Gibbard's worry that appealing to vagueness
exacerbates the problem. I conclude that for genuine disagreement to occur, the parties
must (1) share vague concepts; and (2) agree on the goals of their conceptual analyses.

Philosophical Papers Vol. 37 (3) 2008: pp. 435-454
AJOL African Journals Online