What Is a Scholarly Persona? Ten Theses on Virtues, Skills, and Desires

What is the problem that “epistemic virtues” seek to solve? This article argues that virtues, epistemic and otherwise, are the key characteristics of “scholarly personae,” that is, of ideal-typical models of what it takes to be a scholar. Different scholarly personae are characterized by different constellations of virtues and skills or, more precisely, by different constellations of commitments to goods (epistemic, moral, political, and so forth), the pursuit of which requires the exercise of certain virtues and skills. Expanding Hayden White's notion of “historiographical styles” so as to encompass not only historians' writings, but also their nontextual “doings,” the article argues that different styles of “being a historian”—a meticulous archival researcher, an inspired feminist scholar, or an outstanding undergraduate teacher—can be analyzed productively in terms of virtues and skills. Finally, the article claims that virtues and skills, in turn, are rooted in desires, which are shaped by the examples of others as well as by promises of reward. This makes the scholarly persona not merely a useful concept for distinguishing among different types of historians, but also a critical tool for analyzing why certain models of “being a historian” gain in popularity, whereas others become “old-fashioned.”