BRIDGING THE GAP- The role of epistemic virtues in navigating the complexities and uncertainties of translational animal research
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Animal experiments have traditionally been employed to understand human diseases and find new treatments. However, a growing number of studies shows that the translation of results from animals to humans is oen unsuccessful. Since animal experiments are justified on the basis of their expected benefits, translational failures represent an epistemic but also a normative problem. The purpose of this thesis is to address both problems by exploring the role of epistemic virtues in avoiding failures that can be reconducted to an individual's cognitive attitudes. I argue that epistemic virtues (1) further the moral imperative to do better at achieving successful translation while avoiding unnecessary experiments and (2) guide moral reasoning and decision making in harm-benefit analyses that precede the choice of an animal model in experiments. Aer a literature review of contemporary virtue epistemology, Chapter 1 builds on a theoretical framework where epistemic virtues are intended in a responsibilist sense, as best intellectual character traits that should characterize any responsible knower. Chapter 2 presents three arguments which focus on the normative significance of epistemic virtues. Here it is shown that a) better knowledge facilitates moral reasoning by reducing the margin of uncertainty and bias in the assessment of animal experiments and that b) epistemic virtues represent standards of behavior for members of an epistemic community who are supposed to be responsible for the way they acquire knowledge. Finally, Chapter 3 considers a selection of epistemic virtues that can, more than others, mitigate the epistemic dimension of translational failures. Contextually, each virtue is examined and tested in practical cases.