ArgLab • Permanent Seminar

Playing (well) the game of inquiry

Javier González de Prado Salas (UNED)

Norms of inquiry govern the activity of inquiring into some question. These include norms about gathering evidence, about how to open and close investigations, or norms concerning clutter avoidance and the management of cognitive resources. Are norms of inquiry in tension with traditional epistemic norms for rational or justified belief, such as evidentialist norms? Jane Friedman has recently argued that this is the case. My aim is to resist this conclusion. In order to do so, I explore a picture of epistemic practices as rule-governed games. The idea is that, while epistemic norms are constitutive correctness standards for the attitudes involved in epistemic games, norms of inquiry derive from the internal aims of those games. Moves that respect the rules of a game can be detrimental to the aims of that game. This does not mean that the game is incoherent. I argue that something analogous happens in epistemic practices: correct epistemic attitudes that are inadvisable regarding the goals of some inquiry are just like bad (but legal) moves in basketball or chess. I further consider cases in which the aims of inquiry recommend breaking epistemic norms. I compare them to strategic infractions, which are common in many coherent games. Finally, I explore the connections between rules and aims in games and in inquiry. I show that in both cases respecting the rules is constitutively required for satisfying the aims of the practice.


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This event is organized by E. Rast. The purpose of this seminar series is to give researchers a platform to discuss ongoing work and problems in the philosophy of language, epistemology, argumentation, metaethics, and related areas. For administrative inquiries, please contact Erich Rast at