Acting to know
a virtue of experimentation
We often act in order to know. One celebrated instance of this is scientific experimentation, but as epistemic acts experiments in science have a lot in common with a variety of everyday activities, such as asking for the time or wiping your glasses. The important feature is that the act succeeds only if knowledge results. Capacities of doing this well are thus both epistemic and practical virtues. In this paper I explore one central virtue of experimentation, which I eventually name the virtue of experiment-shopping. It is the virtue of knowing if an experiment is worth performing, and although some obvious examples of it are found in scientific practice, I believe it is important throughout our intellectual lives. To call this capacity a virtue is to link it to a particular kind of success, that of coming to know if an experiment is the one to carry out. You can also say that if the virtue is used then the determination whether to carry out the experiment is arrived at well, as long as you don't build into this any ideas of its following any particular rational method. All I mean is that it is sensitive to the factors that make experiments achieve their ends or fail. In the last section of the paper I connect the virtue to intellectual virtues in general.
Morton, A. (2014)., Acting to know: a virtue of experimentation, in A. Fairweather (ed.), Virtue epistemology naturalized, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 195-205.
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