Chair: Marianna Papastephanou
Department of Education, University of Cyprus, Cyprus

Workshop: Epistemic Curiosity: The Culture, Politics and Identity of the Curious(ly) Virtuous

What makes us ask questions and what kind of questions do we ask? Is epistemic curiosity, which drives inquiry, a distinctive feature of European culture, as some thinkers have claimed from early modernity until now? Whereas historians of philosophy have offered valuable conceptualizations of curiosity, today most philosophical trends maintain an affirmative stance on curiosity that de-politicizes it, treating it as an unambiguous concept. Some trends maintain their positive outlook by imagining that any political complicities of curiosity can be staved off by dissociating it from epistemology and couching it in ethicized or aestheticized idioms. Any attempt to offer a more qualified understanding of curiosity is kept at bay since the ‘philosophical figure/disciple’ relationship dictates that curiosity should either be appreciated (following Foucault or Rancière) or wholly incriminated (following Heidegger).

            Although most current approaches to curiosity begin with the opening lines of Aristotle’s Metaphysics about the universal desire for knowledge, they fail to historicize it or to note Aristotle’s more complex and politicized stance. Some such approaches explore curiosity from a virtue epistemological perspective and consider it crucial for the formation of the virtuous thinker (and related education). Other approaches (e.g., the psychoanalytic) connect it with the scopic drive and the  ethic of control. What is still glaringly missing in current philosophies of curiosity is any discussion of its role in European colonialism/masculinism and, therefore, any discussion of the implications of how curiosity is theorized and unconditionally accepted as an educational aim. 

The workshop invites papers that investigate epistemic curiosity and/or epistemic restraint.

For participation, please send a 350-500 word abstract by 31 March 2016 to Marianna Papastephanou at      

​​​​​​2016 ISSEI conference 

The University of Lodz, Poland