School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences Philosophy


The Aims of Inquiry and Cognition

25 – 26 May 2012
Start time
Room 3.10, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AD
Type of event

An international conference on teleology in epistemology and the philosophy of mind. For registration information, contact Allan Hazlett.

The Aims of Inquiry and Cognition programme:

Friday, 25th May
08:45 – 09:00 Welcome coffee
09:00 – 11:00 Session 1 Chair: Andrew McGonigal
Paul Noordhof "Truth, More Respected than Loved"
Miguel Ángel Fernández "True Belief as the Cardinal Epistemic Value: What this Means and How to Argue for It"
11:00 – 11:15 Coffee
11:15 – 12:45 Invited paper - Chair: Joe Cruz
Stephen Grimm & Kristoffer Ahlstrom "Getting it Right"
12:45 – 13:45 Break
13:45 – 15:45 Session 2 Chair: Jane Friedman
Jan Willem Wieland "Sceptical Inquiry: Its Possibility and Aims"
Anne Baril "Encroachment in Epistemic Excellence"
15:45 – 16:00 Coffee
16:00 – 17:30 Invited paper - Chair: Nick Treanor
Carolyn Price "Belief and Truth: Aim or Function?"
Saturday, 26th May
08:45 – 09:00 Welcome coffee
09:00 – 11:00 Session 3 Chair: Matt Nudds
Sam Wilkinson "Beyond Believing Badly"
Jason D’Cruz "Rationalization in the Pejorative Sense and the Aim of Belief"
11:00 – 11:15 Coffee
11:15 – 12:45 Invited paper - Chair: Jesper Kallestrup
Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen "TBA"
12:45 – 13:45 Break
13:45 – 15:45 Session 4 Chair: Stephen Grimm
Kareem Khalifa "Understanding, Luck, and the Aim of Explanatory Inquiry"
Emily Sullivan "Scientific Idealizations with a Factive Account of Understanding"
15:45 – 16:00 Coffee
16:00 – 18:00 Keynote address - Chair: Allan Hazlett
Theodore Sider "The Value of Joint-Carving Belief"

Contact Details

0131 650 3654

Further Information

Further Information

The idea of a teleology of inquiry is familiar to epistemologists from Aristotle's oft-quoted opening sentence of the Metaphysics, on which "all men by nature desire knowledge." The picture is complicated, however, as at least three distinct aims might be posited: mere knowledge (suggested by the letter of the slogan), understanding (which Aristotle takes to be knowledge of explanations), and understanding of fundamental causes and principles (which is what Aristotle is seeking in the Metaphysics). Other candidates for the aims of inquiry and cognition present themselves: mere true belief, revealing nature's fundamental structure, fitting the world or the situation, or the promotion of our practical or pragmatic goals.

Two related sets of questions arise here: the first having to do with the very idea that inquiry and cognition (and thought more broadly) have aims, and the second having to do with the nature of these aims. This conference seeks to advance the debate on these and related questions by bringing together scholars working in epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of mind. Questions to be considered include:

  • Does cognition have an aim? What does it mean to say that cognition "aims" at something? Do mental states other than cognitive states have "aims"?
  • Is it a claim about the natural history of belief and/or the biological function of belief?
  • Does belief "aim at truth"? In what sense? Is the claim normative, and in what sense?
  • Are there aims essential to inquiry? Or to scientific inquiry? Is there a unique aim of inquiry, or are there a plurality of aims of inquiry? Are there aims of inquiry other than truth (e.g. understanding, "carving nature at the joints," empirical adequacy, etc.)? Are certain aims of inquiry pragmatic as opposed to properly epistemic (e.g. theoretical virtues such as simplicity, elegance, etc.)?
  • Why is it appropriate to characterize inquiry as having a goal or aim?
  • Does the fact that belief or inquiry has a certain aim explain the value of knowledge? Does this fact illuminate the nature of epistemic evaluation?
  • Can metaphysical or methodological naturalists endorse a teleological conception of belief (and other mental states)? Do they or should they accept the idea that the concept of belief (or mentality in general) is normative?

Sponsored by the Scots Philosophical Association, the Mind Association, the Leverhulme Trust, and the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences (PPLS) at the University of Edinburgh.

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