I'm attending an unusual conference at Fudan University 復旦大學 in Shanghai on the theme "Sosa Encountering Chinese Philosophy." The conference poster is here. The aim of the conference is put Ernest Sosa's virtue epistemology into dialogue with Chinese sources. Here's the Introduction to my own very tentative contribution:
Epistemic Competence and Agency in Sosa and Xúnzǐ
University of Hong Kong
Knowledge is an achievement manifesting a type of competence, akin in important respects to a skill. Accordingly, epistemic judgment is an exercise of agency. Ernest Sosa’s work has elaborated these and related insights into a meticulous, persuasive version of a virtue epistemology. Given the framing assumptions of mid-twentieth century Anglo-American epistemology, developing a competence-centered explanation of judgment, knowledge, and justification required brilliant critical and creative thought. So it is intriguing and perhaps instructive to consider how some of Sosa’s views relate to the outlook of early Chinese thinkers, for whom the idea of knowledge as a competent performance required no argument, being implicitly taken as an obvious, shared starting point. Here I will focus on Xúnzǐ 荀子, whose epistemological concerns in some respects dovetail with and in others complement Sosa’s. I will draw on concepts from Sosa’s framework to elucidate features of Xúnzǐ’s epistemology and in turn suggest how Xúnzǐ’s theoretical orientation might cast light on Sosa’s project. In particular, I will suggest that Sosa’s conception of full aptness helps to elucidate the significance of Xúnzǐ’s discussion of epistemic pitfalls, while Xúnzǐ’s treatment of the epistemic agent’s awareness of and commitment to norms of judgment helps to enrich Sosa’s view of epistemic agency.