Conference 2020: The Nature of Inquiry

 March 6-7, 2020, at Agnes Scott College

Courtesy of the James T. and Ella Rather Kirk fund.

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?

Workshop Chairs 

Jared A. Millson


Harald Thorsrud



Call for Papers & Invited Speakers