1st Edition

Rationality in Context Unstable Virtues in an Uncertain World

By Steven Bland Copyright 2024
    304 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book uses the psychological literature on rationality to weigh in on the recent debate between virtue epistemologists and epistemic situationists. It argues that both sides have misconstrued the literature and that an interactionist framework is needed to square epistemic theory with empirical facts about reasoning and inference.

    The explosion of empirical literature on human rationality has led to seismic shifts across a multitude of academic disciplines. This book considers its implications for epistemology. In particular, it critically evaluates the treatment of the rationality literature within the recent controversy between virtue epistemologists, who attempt to ground knowledge in stable epistemic virtues, and epistemic situationists, who claim that such a project is doomed by empirical evidence of widespread irrationality. It links this foundational controversy to two of the most important debates in psychology: the Rationality Wars and the person-situation debate. The book argues that both virtue theorists and epistemic situationists have misunderstood the implications of these debates, leading them to focus exclusively on personal dispositions and situational factors as two independent sources of epistemic success, failure, and improvement. A more accurate reading of the empirical literature implies that interactions between epistemic agents and their social, informational, and institutional environments are the fundamental drivers of both rational and irrational behaviour. An interactionist framework motivated by this insight conceives of epistemic virtues and vices as both responsive to and responsible for the environments in which they’re manifested and cultivated. The central aim of this book is to present and defend this novel type of virtue epistemology.

    Rationality in Context will be of interest to scholars and advanced students working in epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of psychology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology.

    1. Introduction  Part 1: The Virtue-situation Debate  2. Meliorism and the Psychological Sources of Cognitive Bias  3. Cognitive Bias and Epistemic Virtue Theories  4. The Situationist Challenge, Part 1  5. The Situationist Challenge, Part 2  Part 2: Epistemic Interactionism  6. Epistemic Interactionism  7. Reliabilist Virtues and Ecological Rationality  8. Responsibilist Virtues and Collectivist Rationality  9. The Replication Crisis


    Steven Bland is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Huron University College, in London, Ontario, Canada. He is the author of Epistemic Relativism and Scepticism: Unwinding the Braid (2018), as well as several articles in the fields of epistemology, the philosophy of science, and early analytic philosophy.

    "This important book shows how cultivating epistemic virtue while carefully selecting and designing epistemic environments is the key to sound reasoning. Bland provides a new perspective on rationality, showing how we can reason better despite our cognitive limitations."

    Marco Meyer, University of Hamburg, Germany