GSTF Journal of General Philosophy (JPhilo)

, 1:5

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Explicating Curiosity via Uncertainty and Interest, Augmented with Open-Mindedness

  • Ali FarAffiliated withUniversity of CaliforniaSanta Clara UniversitySan Francisco State University


The objective of this paper is to raise a challenge to Ilhan Inan’s claim (2013) that an agent’s curiosity ceases when the agent is firmly certain about the object of curiosity that is of interest to him, and to supplement his account by appealing to an aspect of curiosity that Inan overlooks substantively: open-mindedness. To achieve this objective, I first provide a brief summary of Inan’s claim that an agent’s curiosity is directly proportional to his interest and uncertainty, and inversely proportional to evidence and belief. Second, I discuss my objection to an aspect of Inan’s claim that firm certainty and (high) interest yields no curiosity. In ordinary enquiries or cases of propositional curiosity (e.g., whether questions), Inan’s claim that firm certainty extinguishes curiosity is convincing. However, there can be objectual curiosity cases (e.g., what questions) where Inan’s claim may not be sufficient. Moreover, in many academic enquiries, a scientist may remain motivated to expend extra epistemic and cognitive capital, despite his firm certainty about his once imaginable aspects of the object of curiosity, for the sake of unimaginable possibilities. Fueled by his continued curiosity, it is not uncommon for a scientist to take self-initiatives and reconsider propositions he was once certain about. Based on his past experiences, he might have learned that certainty is generally impermanent and does not always last forever, which could keep his curiosity and hence the possibility of discovering more truths alive. Third, I present a number of rebuttals to my objection and show how they fall short of supporting Inan’s account including the role of other feelings such as fear and anxiety about losing face, and knowing but being subjectively uncertain, which may motivate continued curiosity even when the agent is firmly certain. Fourth, I suggest an alternative view by adding open-mindedness to Inan’s curiosity formulation that could help exculpate my objection. Instead of Inan’s proposition, I suggest that one can remain curious about an objective he is interested in, despite being certain about it, when he is open-minded. (Baehr, 2012) Open-mindedness is a facilitating virtue and an activity that is a cognitive moving beyond or transcending of the person’s doxastic commitments, thus facilitating curiosity. Open-mindedness assists in keeping the agent’s interest and uncertainty alive, and helps freeing the mind beyond default beliefs and binds of certainty.


Curiosity Ilhan Inan Uncertainty Open Mindedness Baehr