Twenty-first century perspectivism. The role of emotions in scientific inquiry

Mark Alfano


How should emotions figure in scientific practice? I begin by distinguishing three broad answers to this question, ranging from pessimistic to optimistic. Confirmation bias and motivated numeracy lead us to cast a jaundiced eye on the role of emotions in scientific inquiry. However, reflection on the essential motivating role of emotions in geniuses makes it less clear that science should be evacuated of emotion. I then draw on Friedrich Nietzsche’s perspectivism to articulate a twenty-first century epistemology of science that recognizes the necessity of emotion to inquiry but aims to manage the biases that emotions can introduce. Twenty-first century perspectivism is both social and (temporally) distal, helping it to overcome a paradox of self-critical inquiry.


Exemplarism; Emotion; Confirmation bias

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