Submitted by Stefan Riegelnik (University of Zurich).


CfR: Master class with Philip Kitcher: The Progress of Inquiry (Zürich, 12.-13. Oktober 2021, Universität Zürich)

Date: 12-13 October 2021

Further information and reading list:

Department of Philosophy, University of Zurich.


People engage in inquiry not only when they attempt to gain factual knowledge, but in other domains of life as well. We ask what we should do, how we should live, what experiences would be worthwhile – and how we can improve our physical skills, tend an attractive flowerbed, or finish a poem. Traditional epistemology views the case of factual knowledge as paradigmatic, identifying inquiry as progressive insofar as it delivers the truth. The result of this stance is to raise difficult (if not intractable) issues with respect to other domains. If we make progress in moral inquiry or in mathematics or in cooking, how should we make sense of the notion of truth that undergirds our advances? Must there be realms of moral values, abstract objects, ideal skills represented in the discoveries successful inquiries yield?

Pragmatism, especially in the versions developed by William James and John Dewey, inverts the supposed relation between progress and truth. Instead of viewing progress as measured by our ever closer approximations to a pre-existent truth, pragmatists propose that truth is what emerges from well-conducted inquiry. The proposal opens up the possibility of treating the varieties of inquiry in a uniform fashion, and, within the overarching framework, of distinguishing the special features of particular domains.

This class will attempt to elaborate this approach with respect to the sciences, mathematics, morality, and ethics. Its aim will be to show how to reorient traditional questions in epistemology and metaphysics, so that well-known difficulties are dissolved.

The number of participating students is limited. If you would like to be considered for a place, please send an expression of interest, including a brief description of your area of research and how you hope to benefit from the Master class to by September 15, 2021.