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Virtue, Connaturality and Know-How
Research Collection School of Social Sciences
  • John N. WILLIAMS, Singapore Management University
  • T. Brian MOONEY, Singapore Management University
  • Mark NOWACKI, Singapore Management University
Publication Type
Working Paper
Publication Date
Virtue epistemology is new in one sense but old in another. The new tradition starts with figures such as Code (1984), Greco (1993), Montmarquet (1987), and Zagzebski (1999). The old tradition has its pedigree in Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and their modern interpreters such as Anscombe (2005) and MacIntyre (1988; 2001). Virtue epistemology recognizes that knowledge is something we value and that propositional knowledge requires intellectual virtues, that is to say, virtues as applied to the intellect. Although much pioneering work in the new tradition has been done on propositional knowledge, comparatively little in it has been done on know-how. This is surprising, because one might naturally think of know-how as something to be refined into a skill, and virtues may be thought of as skills. In the modern epistemological tradition that does not take its direction from virtue ethics, propositional knowledge, as opposed to know-how, has received by far the bulk of the discussion, although since Ryle first argued that knowhow is not always propositional knowledge (1949, 29; 31; 57–58), there has been a fairly recent resurgence of interest in know-how.We value intellectual virtues because they are skills that promote our flourishing, both as individuals and as members of a community. The intellectual virtues are truth- seeking virtues and stem from a love of the truth. Since love is itself a virtue - indeed it was what Tyndale called the greatest Christian virtue before the King James translation renamed it as charity—it may be seen as the virtue that motivates all other intellectual virtues. A commitment to the truth is presupposed by any intellectual virtue. For example, logic is important to a community, and in particular to the intellectual community, not only because there are rules governing the activity of logic but also because there are those within the community who are trustworthy in following the activity and because there are publically accepted standards of accountability in the way the activity of logic is practiced. Here is how we will proceed. In section 2 we sketch a metaphysics of natural purposes that supports the claim that there are objective goods that beings need qua the kinds of being they are in order to flourish. In section 3 we argue that flourishing includes the acquisition of virtues. We give a general account of virtue, roughly as a stable disposition to act upon a habit elevated to a skill of putting one’s know-how into practice that springs from one’s motivation to pursue what one perceives as good. In section 4 we give a general sketch of intellectual virtues as truth-seeking virtues that stem from a love of the truth that are the skills to flourish intellectually. In section 5 we discuss connaturality, namely those specific metaphysical accidents readily acquired by beings due to their first nature. We make an original distinction between ontological connaturality, namely the connaturality that belongs to animals qua beings of a certain kind, and habitual connaturality, namely our first natures suffused with virtues—or vices, although we will concentrate only on virtues. Habitual connaturality is acquired through the practice of virtue and involves perceptiveness awakened by the possession of the virtue in question. The knowledge arising from this form of connaturality may be a form of know-how. In section 6 we give an account of connatural apprehension and connatural propositional knowledge. In section 7 we discuss connatural know-how and argue that it makes certain virtues possible. At this point we will have shown that intellectual and moral virtues are informed by know-how. In sections 8 and 9 we give analyses of know-how and skill in terms of counterfactual success. We show how skill is a refined form of know-how and how both know-how and skill are informed by moral and intellectual virtues. We conclude in section 10 that know-how informs intellectual and moral virtues in the sense that virtue is to be elucidated in terms of skill, which is in turn to be elucidated in terms of know-how. Moreover, virtues inform know-how in the sense that know-how is to be elucidated in terms of intellectual and moral virtues. No circularity arises because different virtues and different forms of know-how are involved.
Citation Information
John N. WILLIAMS, T. Brian MOONEY and Mark NOWACKI. "Virtue, Connaturality and Know-How" (2011)
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