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Suspension of judgement: its nature and its norms

English title Suspension of judgement: its nature and its norms
Applicant Meylan Anne
Number 189259
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Philosophisches Seminar Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.09.2020 - 31.08.2024
Approved amount 952'110.00
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Keywords (7)

doubt; normative epistemology; precautionary principle; epistemic rationality; pragmatism; inquiry; ethics of belief

Lay Summary (French)

La notion de suspension de jugement émerge chez les stoïciens dans les discussions à propos de la possibilité de la connaissance. Elle est centrale chez Sextus Empiricus ainsi que dans le projet cartésien de fondation de la connaissance, où doute et suspension de jugement jouent un rôle crucial. Il est manifeste cependant que dans les débats épistémologiques intenses de ces 50 dernières années la suspension de jugement a été largement négligée au profit d’une focalisation quasi exclusive sur la croyance. Le but de ce projet est de remédier à cette situation en étudiant la place qu’occupent que doivent occuper le doute et la suspension de jugement dans notre vie intellectuelle.
Lay summary


Le projet possède une dimension métaphysique et épistémologique. D’une part, nous souhaitons déterminer la nature distinctive de la suspension de jugement par rapport à celle de nos autres attitudes cognitives telles que la croyance, le doute, la certitude. D’autre part, nous aimerions établir quelles normes spécifiques s’appliquent à la suspension de jugement. Autrement dit : quand devons-nous suspendre notre jugement ? Quand sommes-nous en droit de douter ?

Contexte scientifique et sociétal du projet de recherche

Ce projet contribuera à faire progresser les débats philosophiques étudiant la nature des attitudes cognitives (qu’est-ce que croire ? qu’est-ce que douter ? etc.) ainsi que ceux qui explorent les conditions d’une vie intellectuelle responsable.  Ce projet vise aussi à fournir une conception acceptable du principe de précaution.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 06.07.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
157436 Irrationality 01.09.2015 SNSF Professorships


Suspension of judgement undeniably has a very rich history in philosophy. It emerges in the Stoics’ discussions of the possibility of knowledge. It is central to Sextus Empiricus’s Pyrrhonian views and is obviously closely related to doubt, which plays a crucial role in Descartes’ theory of knowledge. Strikingly, however, suspension of judgement has received little attention in the intense epistemological debates of the past fifty years. The aim of the project “Suspension of judgement. Its nature and its norms” is to remedy this situation and to demonstrate how fruitful the study of suspension of judgement is for contemporary epistemology.The project “Suspension of judgement. Its nature and its norms” is structured around two subprojects A and B, each of which are subdivided into two further subparts (A1, A2 and B1, B2).Subproject A is entitled "Suspension of judgement: its nature". In this subproject, we mainly intend to disclose the specific metaphysical nature of suspension of judgement. In subpart A1, we would like to question the traditional idea that suspension of judgement is a doxastic state like beliefs and disbeliefs and consider the hypothesis that suspension of judgment has more to do with a performance than with a state. In subpart A2, we intend to cast light on the nature of suspension of judgment by contrasting it with other doxastic attitudes like doubt and credence.Subproject B is entitled "Suspension of judgement: its norms". In this subproject, we aim at investigating the specific (if any) normativity of suspension of judgment in comparison to belief. Subpart B1 mainly discusses the epistemic normativity of suspension of judgment. One main issue that we intend to address in this framework is whether the epistemic normativity of suspension of judgment is specifically instrumental. One might be conducted to take this to be the case given the tight connection that suspension of judgment seems to hold with inquiry. Additionally, subpart B1 is devoted to the consideration of the connection between suspension of judgment and the intellectual virtue of open-mindedness. While subpart B1 focusses on the epistemic normativity of suspension of judgement, subpart B2 focusses on its potential practical normativity. Are there practical reasons (i.e. reasons that have to do with the satisfaction of our practical interests rather than with the pursuit of truth) to suspend of judgement? And how are these practical reasons (if any) related to the epistemic normativity of suspension of judgement that we consider in subpart B1? Eventually, we would like to make use of the results achieved in subparts B1 and B2 to provide an acceptable interpretation of the Precautionary Principle, one that traces a middle-way between a paralysing form of doxastic prudence and a hazardous form of doxastic recklessness.The general methodology underlying the project “Suspension of judgement. Its nature and its norms” is one that has already proved successful in other of the applicant’s works and research projects. It consists in establishing a dialogue between, on the one hand, the descriptive results (achieved in subproject A) and, on the other, the normative results (achieved in subproject B). What this means, more concretely, is that the descriptive investigation that we intend to conduct in subproject A will benefit from the normative results obtained in subproject B and vice-versa.