Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Eldon Coffman

Committee Members

Markus Kohl, Adam Cureton, Stephen Blackwell


Evidence is a central concept in epistemology and more narrowly, theories of epistemic justification. Evidence is commonly thought to be what justifies our beliefs. On this view, a belief is justified for a person if that belief fits that person’s total body of evidence. But it is also commonly thought that evidence isn’t the only thing that justifies a belief. Some epistemologists even think that evidence isn’t what justifies a belief at all. Virtue epistemologists give epistemic or intellectual virtues an important and fundamental role in theories of epistemic justification. On such views, for a belief to be epistemically justified, the belief must be formed responsibly or formed as the result of a reliable belief-forming process, faculty, or agent. Thus, virtuous character, agency, and inquiry are thought to be central to epistemic justification. The pressing issue to be explored in this dissertation is whether theories of epistemic justification in which evidence is central are compatible with theories of epistemic justification in which virtue is central. The aim of this dissertation is to argue for a hybrid view of epistemic justification in which evidence and virtuous (reliable) inquiry both play a salient role in the epistemic justification of a belief.

This hybrid or ‘two-component’ view of epistemic justification holds that a belief is justified along two dimensions: the fittingness-dimension and the reliability-dimension. More precisely, a subject’s belief p is categorically justified (justified ‘period’ or ‘full stop’) when it fits the subject’s total body of evidence E (the fittingness-dimension), but that in addition, the reliability of one’s evidence-gathering methods (virtuous inquiry) can also play a salient role in increasing the degree to which p is justified (other things being equal) (the reliability-dimension). Furthermore, I will argue that being justified along the fittingness-dimension is all that is necessary for a belief to be justified full-stop (this also allows for the strength of one’s evidence to partly—sometimes wholly—determine the degree to which a belief is justified). Being justified along the reliability-dimension can only increase the degree to which the belief is justified.

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Epistemology Commons