The Nature of Inquiry

March 6, 2020 - March 7, 2020
Department of Philosophy, Agnes Scott College

Decatur 30030
United States

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Oxford University
New York University
Western Washington University
Eindhoven University of Technology


Rhodes College
Agnes Scott College

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Inquiry lies at the heart of philosophy as well as the liberal arts, animating both the scientific and humanistic traditions. Nonetheless, philosophers’ interest in inquiry is typically peripheral or auxiliary to more traditional pursuits concerning, e.g., the nature of knowledge, existence, morality, or beauty. Rather than taking center stage, inquiry is all too often cast in a supporting role and pressed into the service of those well-worn topics. Consequently, the philosophical literature on inquiry remains inchoate, fragmented, and disparate. What if questions about inquiry took precedence over more familiar philosophical issues? What insights would we glean? How might the rest of the enterprise benefit? We propose, by means of this conference, to take some initial steps to finding out.

Whatever else it might be, inquiry is a goal-directed activity that involves asking and answering questions. This opens the door to a number of exciting issues: 

·  What is the relationship between inquiry, questions, and answers? 

·  What is (are) the goal(s) of inquiry? 

·  Are there norms that govern inquiry or general preconditions that must be satisfied in order to inquire? Are there different norms for different sorts of inquiries?

·  Are there rational constraints on what can be inquired into, how inquiry is to be conducted, and what collateral attitudes an inquirer might hold? What psychological attitudes are necessary for or incompatible with inquiring?

·  What makes an inquiry collective or communal and how does it differ from individual inquiry?

·  What conceptions of inquiry appear in the history of philosophy and how do they advance our understanding of the broader issues described above?

·  What are the strengths or weaknesses of some formal, logical, and mathematical models of inquiry?

            The workshop will take place over two days, March 6-7, 2020 Participants will circulate papers in advance to generate discussion. We invite papers addressing any of the questions above or any aspect of inquiry of general philosophical interest. We will also be assigning commentators to each paper. 

If you are interested in presenting, please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words that is prepared for blind review and accompanied by a separate page that includes title and author information (name, affiliation, and contact information). Submit these materials to Jared Millson [email protected] by 15 November 2019. Decisions will be sent out no later than 15 December 2019. If you are interested in serving as a commentator, please send an email to Jared Millson [email protected] by 1 December 2019.

Confirmed Speakers:

Jane Friedman (NYU) [Keynote]

Luca Castagnoli (Oxford)

Christiana Olfert (Tufts)

Dunja Šešelja (Eindhoven)

Dennis Whitcomb (Western Washington)

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