SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Are we always neutral or undecided when we inquire?
(Epistemology, English)

Recently, epistemologists have given much attention to suspended judgment, and nearly all of them agree with this minimal account: Suspension of judgment is a form of doxastic neutrality or indecision (Friedman, forthcoming, 2017, 2013; Palmira, 2019; Raleigh, 2021; Sturgeon, 2020, 2010; Wagner, 2022). Namely, when one suspends one's judgment about a given question, one is neutral or undecided about which answer is the correct one. Furthermore, Jane Friedman (2017, forthcoming) closely ties this neutral/undecided doxastic state to inquiry. She argues that any agent inquiring into a given question suspends one's judgment about it. From the conjunction of these perspectives, it follows that if one inquires into a given question, one is neutral or undecided about which answer is the correct one.

In this talk, I argue that if we conceive suspension of judgment as a neutral or undecided state, Friedman's position does not hold. I show that there can exist biased inquiries, in which one inquires into a given question even if one already has a doxastic preference toward one of the possible answers. Moreover, I point out that not always inquirers are in a situation where they are undecided about the answer. Indeed, it can happen that one could not have available a set of possible answers from which to decide the correct one. Given this possibility, one could not be undecided about which answer is correct because one would not have a set of options from which to choose it. However, despite this, I show that there are cases in which one inquires into a given question for which the set of the possible answers is not available or already known by the agent.

Finally, I explore what role suspended judgment could have in an inquiry if it does not have the descriptive role Friedman applies to it, i.e., hallmarking what an inquirer is and when an inquiry is open. I suggest that suspended judgment can have a normative role: It can help us carry out well-conducted inquiries by protecting us from biased doxastic states that could make us collect and evaluate evidence wrongly and end up with a misrepresentation of the world that could even cause consequences that are problematic from an ethical point of view. In other words, suspension of judgment can have the role of helping us issue "right judgments" within and at the end of our inquiries. Namely, judgments that can correctly represent the thing investigated but also not provoke unethical consequences in our world.

Chair: Nikolai Shurakov
Time: 12:00-12:30, 08 September 2022 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.003
Remark: CHANGE. The talk is cancelled!

Leonardo Flamini 
(University of Pavia - University of Zurich, Italia)

Testability and Meaning deco