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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

How to know who’s trustworthy

T. Ryan Byerly
Originally posted 4 Nov 2020

Here is an excerpt:

An interesting fact about the virtues of intellectual dependability is that they are both intellectual and moral virtues. They’re ‘intellectual’ in the sense that they’re concerned with intellectual goods such as knowledge and understanding; but they’re moral virtues too, because they’re concerned with the intellectual goods of others. Indeed, the moral, other-regarding features of these virtues are especially central in a way that’s different to other intellectual virtues, such as inquisitiveness or intellectual perseverance.

It is in part because of the centrality of their other-regarding dimensions that the virtues of intellectual dependability haven’t taken on a larger role in education. The reigning paradigm of what we should aim for in education is that of the critical thinker. But being a critical thinker doesn’t necessarily mean that you possess other-regarding qualities, such as the virtues of intellectual dependability.

While we might lament this fact when it comes to formal education, we can still make efforts to become more intellectually dependable on our own. And we arguably should try to do so. After all, it’s not just us who are in need of dependable guides in our networks – we need to be intellectually dependable for the sake others, too.

If we want to grow in these virtues of intellectual dependability – to become more benevolent, transparent and so on – what can we do? The following are four strategies that researchers tend to agree can help us grow in intellectual virtue.

A first strategy is direct instruction – learning about the nature of particular intellectual virtues that we hope to cultivate. Ideally, we’ll gain an account of what the virtue involves, and we might learn about the vices that oppose it. Part of the reason why direct instruction is important is that it helps to reduce our cognitive load. It gives us a framework to think through our intellectual life. It also helps us set a target to aim for.

A second strategy is to think how intellectual virtues apply in particular situations, considering what the intellectual virtue – and perhaps also its opposing vices – looks like in action. You might select some historical, contemporary or even fictional examples of people who appear to act in accordance with the virtue or its opposing vice. By encountering exemplars, you might gain a taste or sensibility for the virtue, and a person to emulate. More generally, this exercise can help you to practise evaluating scenarios in which intellectual virtues can influence behaviour. When done well, this can help you appreciate the variety of contexts in which intellectual virtues make a difference, and the different kinds of behaviour they lead to.