Can you seek the answer to this question?

Amber Carpenter, Jonardon Ganeri

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Plato articulates a deep perplexity about inquiry in 'Meno's Paradox' - the claim that one can inquire neither into what one knows, nor into what one does not know. Although some commentators have wrestled with the paradox itself, many suppose that the paradox of inquiry is special to Plato, arising from peculiarities of the Socratic elenchus or of Platonic epistemology. But there is nothing peculiarly Platonic in this puzzle. For it arises, too, in classical Indian philosophical discussions, where it is formulated with great clarity, and analysed in a way that casts it in a new light. We present three treatments of the puzzle in Indian philosophy, as a way of refining and sharpening our understanding of the paradox, before turning to the most radical of the Indian philosophers to tackle it. The Indian philosophers who are optimistic that the paradox can be resolved appeal to the existence of prior beliefs, and to the resources embedded in language to explain how we can investigate, and so move from ignorance to knowledge. Highlighting this structural feature of inquiry, however, allows the pessimist philosopher to demonstrate that the paradox stands. The incoherence of inquiry is rooted in the very idea of aiming our desires at the unknown. Asking questions and giving answers rests on referential intentions targeting objects in a region of epistemic darkness, and so our 'inquiry sceptic' also finds structurally similar forms of incoherence in the pragmatics of interrogative discourse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-594
Number of pages24
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Volume88
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

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Paradox
Philosopher
Plato
Incoherence
Discourse
Indian philosophy
Skeptics
Interrogatives
Meno Paradox
Clarity
Darkness
Ignorance
Commentators
Resources
Intentions
Referential
Language
Epistemology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy

Cite this

Can you seek the answer to this question? / Carpenter, Amber; Ganeri, Jonardon.

In: Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 88, No. 4, 01.12.2010, p. 571-594.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Carpenter, Amber ; Ganeri, Jonardon. / Can you seek the answer to this question?. In: Australasian Journal of Philosophy. 2010 ; Vol. 88, No. 4. pp. 571-594.
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