SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

What are inquirers?
(Epistemology, )

Epistemologists do not usually pose inquirers at the core of their speculations. They are usually more interested in defining the nature and the normative profile of doxastic and epistemic states, such as belief and knowledge. However, Friedman (2013ab, 2017, 2019, 2020, forthcoming) has recently provided some insights into what inquirers are. She argues that one must be in an inquiring state of mind to be an inquirer: A state in which one poses a question and tries to find out its answer. Nevertheless, she goes further and argues that the fundamental inquiring state of mind is suspension of judgment. She concludes that inquirers are suspenders. Friedman's radical position has triggered a lively debate within epistemology. As in any debate, some epistemologists are more inclined toward Friedman_s position (Lord, 2020; Lord&Sylvan, 2021), while others deny it (Archer, 2018, 2019; Feldman&Conee, 2018; Masny, 2020; McGrath, 2020; Raleigh, 2019). However, even if this debate has posed inquirers at the epistemologists' attention, it is mainly concerned with the question of whether inquirers are suspenders or not. It does not go deeper to better and more broadly understand what inquirers are and do. The aim of this presentation is to foster this broader comprehension. To do this, I develop the platitude that inquirers ask questions and seek answers. In the first part, I identify what kind of asking is relevant to be an inquirer. I argue that it should not be intended as an interrogative speech act representing a request for information (Hilpinen,1991; Hintikka, 2007; Searle, 1979; Vanderveken, 1990). Otherwise, simple creatures, such as babies and animals, or even subjects who lost the language command could not be inquirers. Rather, the relevant kind of asking should be judged to be a state in which a question is posed in thought (a mental state that an interrogative speech act can express). Therefore, I follow Friedman precisely in this point: Being an inquirer means being in an inquiring state of mind. In the second part, I investigate some insights into this state that Friedman (2017, 2019) only presents but does not develop further: aim-directness and information sensitivity. Typically, an agent in an inquiring state of mind is seeking an answer: She is not only raising a question, but she is also aiming at its answer. Moreover, an agent with this aim must be sensitive to the information relevant to solve her focal question. For example, a detective inquiring into the question "Who committed the crime?" must be disposed to listen to witnesses and acquire evidence if she aims to solve her inquiring state. Namely, she must acquire the relevant pieces of information if they become available to her. In developing these Friedman's suggestions, I propose some cases that show how the sensitivity to information is gradable: Inquirers are more or less disposed to acquire the information relevant to resolve their questions. I explain this gradability by arguing that the cases proposed exemplify agents who are more or less committed to achieving an answer. In other words, I argue that the inquiring state of mind is not a yes/no state but a degreed one: Some inquirers inquire more than others that inquire less. Finally, in the third part, I show how the degree of the inquiring state one is into commits one to do more or fewer actions with one_s body and mind to answer one's questions. After critically assessing Friedman_s position that inquirers need not be bodily active, I argue that it depends on the level of the inquiring states of mind they are into. For example, high-level ones can commit an agent to exert an effort that is not only mental but bodily too. Therefore, higher-level inquiring states of mind can require the agent to do many things mentally or bodily to answer her questions. In conclusion, the theory I offer will give an account of what inquirers are, from the more speculative to the more practical, from the lazier to the more dynamic.

Chair: Stefan Sleeuw
Time: 14:00-14:30, 11 September 2021 (Saturday)
Location: HS E.002
Remark: (Online Talk)

Leonardo Flamini 
(FINO, University of Pavia, )



Testability and Meaning deco