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When cognition turns vicious: Heuristics and biases in light of virtue epistemology

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In this paper, we explore the literature on cognitive heuristics and biases in light of virtue epistemology, specifically highlighting the two major positions—agent-reliabilism and agent-responsibilism (or neo-Aristotelianism)—as they apply to dual systems theories of cognition and the role of motivation in biases. We investigate under which conditions heuristics and biases might be characterized as vicious and conclude that a certain kind of intellectual arrogance can be attributed to an inappropriate reliance on Type 1, or the improper function of Type 2, cognitive processes. By the same token, the proper intervention of Type 2 processes results in the virtuous functioning of our cognitive systems (agent-reliabilism). Moreover, the role of motivation in attenuating cognitive biases and the cultivation of certain epistemic habits (a search for accuracy, being accountable for one's judgments, the use of rules of analysis, and exposure to differing perspectives) points to the tenets of agent-responsibilism in epistemic virtue. We identify the proper use of Type 2 cognitive processes and the habits of mind that attenuate biases as demonstrations of the virtue of intellectual humility. We briefly explore the nature of these habits and the contribution of personality traits, situational pressures, and training in their cultivation.
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Keywords: Heuristics and Biases; Intellectual Arrogance; Intellectual Humility; Virtue Epistemology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 17 November 2015

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