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Title: Skill and virtue after 'know-how'
Author: Dougherty, Matthew Ryan
ISNI:       0000 0004 8501 1357
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This dissertation is an investigation of the prospects for thinking of ethical virtue as a kind of skill in light of the discussions of 'knowledge-how' that begin with Gilbert Ryle. Chapter 1 offers an account of Ryle's interest in the notion of knowledge-how as partially underpinned by the hope that ethical virtue might be well-understood as a kind of skill. The chapter concludes, however, by noting that he eventually gives up on this idea, coming to believe that virtue requires a certain kind of care which skill does not. The remaining chapters can then be seen as an attempt to take up Ryle's project of understanding virtue as a kind of skill by engaging with recent work on know-how, on the skill analogy in virtue ethics, and on care and commitment. Chapter 2 concerns what knowledge-how is knowledge of. It argues that knowledge-how is well-understood as knowledge of the standards, norms, or rules of an activity. This view is defended against arguments from recent 'anti-intellectualists' and 'intellectualists'. Chapter 3 then argues that understanding knowledge-how as rule-knowledge is helpful for seeing that there are different senses of "knowledge-how", some of which amount to skill and some of which do not. It also attempts to turn the debate about know-how back toward what Ryle understood as 'Intellectualism' - viz., the view that human intelligence essentially amounts to thinking, rather than the view that 'know-how' can be ascribed with a "that"-clause. Chapter 4 then turns to the skill analogy and the history of objections to the idea that virtue is a skill. This chapter argues for a reinterpretation of the skill analogy. It argues that the analogy is properly understood not as comparing virtuous individuals to individuals with mere practical skill (as is standardly thought) but, rather, as comparing virtuous individuals to good occupants of skill-involving roles - individuals distinguished, amongst other things, by their commitment to a craft that is in part definitive of their identity. In general outline, such an interpretation agrees with Ryle's contention that virtue requires not only practical know-how but also care. Chapter 5, however, returns to the point at which Ryle had given up on virtue being a skill and asks whether the kind of care or commitment needed for the skill analogy might itself be a distinctive kind of skill. The aim in this chapter is to make plausible that such commitment is a skill and, hence, to make plausible that virtue might be thought of as consisting of a suite of skills.
Supervisor: Dougherty, Tom ; Holton, Richard Sponsor: University of Cambridge
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: skill ; virtue ; knowledge-how ; Ryle ; Aristotle