Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2022-23: Session 23

Interest and Curiosity as the Affective Springs of Inquiry:  The ‘Chiaroscuro’ Epistemic Emotions

Federico Lauria (LanCog, Centre of Philosophy, University of Lisbon)


12 May 2023, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: Interest and curiosity motivate exploration and inquiry. How are we to understand this epistemic role? This talk offers an affective approach to the Springs of Inquiry Puzzle. We argue that interest and curiosity are experiences of potential cognitive improvement or, if one prefers, of anticipated epistemic value. We develop this account with the help of three appraisals: epistemic goodness, epistemic gap, and high cognitive coping. This view offers an elegant typology of epistemic emotions. On the one hand, interest and curiosity differ from epistemic emotions of ‘darkness’, such as confusion, as the latter are experiences of epistemic obstacles or of absence of cognitive improvement. They also differ from epistemic emotions of ‘light’, like eureka moments, as the latter are experiences of actual epistemic value or of actual cognitive improvement. Between darkness and light, interest and curiosity are the ‘chiaroscuro’ epistemic emotions. We delineate our account in both metacognitive and first-order terms, which helps to dispel recent worries concerning the metacognitive content of epistemic emotions. It appears that interest and curiosity play a vital role in our epistemic pursuits.