Barseghyan (2022b)

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Barseghyan, Hakob. (2022) Question Pursuit as an Epistemic Stance. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 94, 112-120.

Title Question Pursuit as an Epistemic Stance
Resource Type journal article
Author(s) Hakob Barseghyan
Year 2022
Journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Volume 94
Pages 112-120


Canonical discussions in the philosophy of science distinguish between acceptance and pursuit as epistemic stances that are customarily taken towards theories by epistemic agents (Laudan 1977; Wykstra 1980; Whitt 1990; Achinstein 1993; Barseghyan & Shaw 2017). Since a theory can be conceived as an attempt to answer a question (Jardine 2000; Rescher 2000; Rawleigh 2018) it is reasonable to inquire into the types of stances that epistemic agents can take towards questions. This paper explores the notion of question pursuit by differentiating it from related epistemic stances of theory pursuit and question acceptance. The analysis of the extant academic literature reveals that in most cases the phrase ‘question pursuit’ and its cognates refer to a search for an answer to a question. The paper provides a definition of the term that reflects this common usage and draws five conclusions. First, question pursuit is different from question acceptance, for it is possible for an epistemic agent to accept a question without finding it pursuitworthy. Second, question pursuit and question acceptance are related semi-orthogonally: in order to be considered pursuitworthy a question must, at minimum, be accepted, but not all accepted questions are pursuitworthy. Third, question pursuit is irreducible to theory pursuit; finding a question pursuitworthy is not expressible in terms of finding some theory pursuitworthy. Fourth, a pursuit of a theory cannot be expressed as a pursuit of a same-order question, but only as a pursuit of a question about that theory, i.e. a higher-level question. Fifth, to have a chance to be considered pursuitworthy by an agent, a question must meet some minimal necessary preconditions: it should be accepted by that agent and the agent should either lack an accepted answer to the question or have reasons to suspect that the accepted answer might be improved upon.