Intellectual Virtues in Science and Engineering
Rafaela Hillerbrand und Michael Poznic
In ethics and epistemology there have been recent trends to reconsider virtues as important cornerstones of success and apt practices, both in practical and theoretical perspectives. As a result of this, the approaches of “virtue ethics” and “virtue epistemology” are now established sub-fields in philosophy. According to these two fields virtues form the basis of either right actions or of knowledge processes. Especially so-called “intellectual virtues” that are studied in epistemology seem relevant for science, engineering and technology. Examples are the virtues of open-mindedness, intellectual integrity, sobriety, transparency and creativity among others. In general, intellectual virtues can be understood not only as character traits of persons but also as features of groups of persons and their social interrelations. A general question of this project is how can the ideas of virtue epistemology be transferred to science and technology. Specific questions to be addresses are: What are intellectual virtues of scientists or epistemic virtues of scientific communities? How are virtues embedded in technology? Do engineers need the same or other particular intellectual virtues than scientists? The engineering sciences are often associated with practical forms of knowledge (knowing how vs. knowing that) and it is claimed that engineers – in contrast to scientists - want to change the world rather than to understand it. Can certain intellectual virtues of engineers explain this contrast? Or, is this contrast only an apparent one and is this apparent contrast to be explained by a common understanding of knowledge that is relevant for science and technology alike. Do particular interpretations of intellectual virtues allow for such a broad understanding of knowledge that encompasses not only knowing that but also knowing how and other forms of practical knowledge?