Risky Inquiry: Developing an Ethics for Philosophical Practice

Hypatia 38:275-293 (2023)
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Philosophical inquiry strives to be the unencumbered exploration of ideas. That is, unlike scientific research which is subject to ethical oversight, it is commonly thought that it would either be inappropriate, or that it would undermine what philosophy fundamentally is, if philosophical research were subject to similar ethical oversight. Against this, I argue that philosophy is in need of a reckoning. Philosophical inquiry is a morally hazardous practice with its own risks. There are risks present in the methods we employ, risks inherent in the content of the views under consideration, and risks to the subjects of our inquiry. Likely, there are more risks still. However, by starting with the identification of these three risks we can demonstrate not only why an ethics of practice is needed but also which avenues are the most promising for developing an ethics for philosophical practice. Although we might be in the business of asking questions, we do not absolve ourselves of responsibility for the risks that inquiry incurs.

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Rima Basu
Claremont McKenna College


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