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Epistemic restraint and the vice of curiosity

  • Neil C. Manson (a1)

In recent years there has been wide-ranging discussion of epistemic virtues. Given the value and importance of acquiring knowledge this discussion has tended to focus upon those traits that are relevant to the acquisition of knowledge. This acquisitionist focus ignores or downplays the importance of epistemic restraint: refraining from seeking knowledge. In contrast, in many periods of history, curiosity was viewed as a vice. By drawing upon critiques of curiositas in Middle Platonism and Early Christian philosophy, we gain useful insights into the value and importance of epistemic restraint. The historical discussion paves the way for a clarification of epistemic restraint, one that distinguishes the morally relevant features of epistemic process, content, purpose, and context. Epistemic restraint is identified as an important virtue where our epistemic pursuits pose risks and burdens, where such pursuits have opportunity costs, where they are pursued for vicious purposes. But it is in the social realm where epistemic restraint has most purchase: epistemic restraint is important both because privacy is important and because being trusted are important. Finally, some suggestions are offered as to why epistemic restraint has not received the contemporary attention that it deserves.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

‘An epistemic virtue is an excellence of character instrumental to the acquisition of true belief and knowledge’ Jonathan Dancy in A Companion to Epistemology, ed. By J. Dancy , E. Sosa and M. Steup . (Oxford Blackwell2010), 343

David Owens , ‘Epistemic Akrasia’, The Monist 85 (2002), 381397

Joseph G. DeFilippo , ‘Curiositas and the Platonism of Apuleius' Golden Ass’, The American Journal of Philology 111 (1990), 471492, 476

Charles Fried , ‘Privacy’, Yale Law Journal 77 (1968), 475493

Privacy: its constitution and vicissitudes’, Law and Contemporary Problem 31 (1966), 281306

Julia Driver ,‘The Virtues of Ignorance’, Journal of Philosophy 86 (1989), 373384

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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