Pursuit and inquisitive reasons

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 94 (C):17-30 (2022)
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Sometimes inquirers may rationally pursue a theory even when the available evidence does not favor that theory over others. Features of a theory that favor pursuing it are known as considerations of promise or pursuitworthiness. Examples of such reasons include that a theory is testable, that it has a useful associated analogy, and that it suggests new research and experiments. These reasons need not be evidence in favor of the theory. This raises the question: what kinds of reasons are provided by pursuitworthiness considerations? Are they epistemic reasons or practical reasons? I argue that pursuitworthiness considerations are a kind of non-evidential epistemic reason, which I call an inquisitive reason. In support of this, I first point out two important similarities between the traditional pursuitworthiness considerations discussed in philosophy of science, which I call promise reasons, and certain social epistemic reasons that I call social inquisitive reasons. Specifically, both kinds of reason (1) favor pursuing a theory in a non-evidential way, and (2) concern promoting successful inquiry. I then propose recognition of a new category of normative reason: inquisitive reasons. This category contains both promise and social inquisitive reasons. Finally, I argue that inquisitive reasons share three essential features with previously recognized epistemic reasons: a connection to epistemic aims, explanatory independence, and the presence of a specific right-kind/wrong-kind reasons distinction. Each of these features have been used to argue that evidence should be treated as part of a distinct, independent domain of epistemic normativity. Since inquisitive reasons share these features, they too should be considered part of this independent epistemic domain. Thus, inquisitive reasons, including pursuitworthiness considerations, are epistemic reasons.

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Will Fleisher
Georgetown University

Citations of this work

Intellectual courage and inquisitive reasons.Will Fleisher - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (4):1343-1371.
Popper: Critical Rationalist, Conventionalist, and Virtue Epistemologist.Patrick M. Duerr - 2023 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 13 (1):54-90.
Norms of Inquiry.Eliran Haziza - forthcoming - Philosophy Compass.

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References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ian Hacking.
Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The structure of empirical knowledge.Laurence BonJour - 1985 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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