Descartes is a virtue epistemologist. Not only does he distinguish centrally between animal and reflective knowledge - in his terms, between cognitio and scientia - but in additionhe conceives of cognitio as apt grasp of the truth: i.e. as grasp whose correctness manifests sufficient epistemic competence. First-order knowledge is such cognitio or apt belief, which can then be upgraded to the level of scientia through competent reflective endorsement. So Descartes both (a) advocates aptness as an account of simple knowledge, and (b) highlights a higher knowledge that requires endorsement from a second-order perspective. This includes both main components of a sort of ‘virtue epistemology’ found in contemporary philosophy. This chapter argues that we can make sense of Descartes’s epistemological project only as a second-order project that fits with the view of his epistemology just sketched. Along the way supportive detail will reveal his commitment more fully.
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