The epistemically virtuous clinician

Theor Med Bioeth. 2009;30(3):249-65. doi: 10.1007/s11017-009-9109-1.


Today, modern Western medicine is facing a quality-of-care crisis that is undermining the patient-physician relationship. In this paper, a notion of the epistemically virtuous clinician is proposed in terms of both the reliabilist and responsibilist versions of virtue epistemology, in order to help address this crisis. To that end, a clinical case study from the literature is first reconstructed. The reliabilist intellectual virtues, including the perceptual and conceptual virtues, are then discussed and applied to the case study. Next, a similar method is employed to examine the responsibilist intellectual virtues, including curiosity, courage, honesty, and humility, and to apply them to the case study. To round out the discussion, the love of knowledge and both theoretical and practical wisdom are explored and applied to the case study. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of how the notion of an epistemically virtuous clinician addresses the quality-of-care crisis, in terms of the connection between ethical and intellectual virtues, and of the notion's implications for medical education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Ethics, Clinical* / education
  • Ethics, Medical* / education
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / complications
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Rape / psychology
  • Virtues*
  • Young Adult