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Ethical Limits of Academic Inquiry (ELAI)

Ethical Limits of Academic Inquiry




  • Create visibility for the ethical limits of academic inquiry as a topic worthy of scholarly attention,
  • Build a community of scholars interested in the topic,
  • Promote and provide a platform for sharing research on the ethical limits of academic inquiry, and
  • Create and maintain a working bibliography on the topic.


  • Academics from various disciplines with an active interest in the ethical limits of academic inquiry.

See: About | Events | Past Events | Bibliography


Over the past few years, the humanities and social sciences have been marked by repeated and polarizing controversies over what kinds of views should and shouldn’t be debated by scholars. Recent examples include Peter Singer’s views on disability and Kathleen Stock’s views on gender. Many scholars hold that some positions should not be defended or engaged with in print or at conferences. Others believe that, in academic inquiry, anything should be up for debate, such that we need to leave room for the offensive and the outrageous.

The Ethical Limits of Academic Inquiry (ELAI) Working Group provides a space for the systematic, scholarly investigation of this meta-debate. While much recent scholarship has concerned itself with related topics, such as “cancel culture,” “free speech on campus,” and “no-platforming,” the difficult question of which views scholars should debate amongst themselves has received comparatively little attention in professional venues.

Pertinent questions are:

  • Can we distinguish, on principled grounds, which kinds of views fall inside the ethical limits of academic inquiry and which fall outside?
  • How is academic inquiry similar to or different form other kinds of speech?
  • What can this tell us about the justifiability of content restrictions?
  • How does the aim of excluding certain views from scholarly debate relate to the pursuit of truth?

Upcoming Events:

Does Philosophy Have an Attitude Problem?

Date: December 1, 2023, 1:00 pm EST

This event will take place via Zoom. Registration is required. Register by clicking the button below.

Speaker: Arianna Falbo, Bentley University

Abstract: What does it take to sincerely defend a philosophical view? What makes sincere philosophical inquiry different from mere trolling?  Recently there has been much attention given to the ethical limits of philosophical inquiries. For example, Basu (2023) and Yap (2021) have drawn important attention to the risks involved in pursuing philosophical inquiries into the lives of marginalized and vulnerable populations. This talk considers a related, but distinct issue, namely: whether the ethical status of philosophical inquiry may depend (at least in part) upon the sorts of attitudes that philosophers take towards their views. One possibility is that the sincere philosopher really believes the views that they defend, the troll doesn’t. But this can’t be right. According to a Conciliatory view of disagreement, we can’t rationally believe any of our controversial philosophical views. I suggest that sincere inquiry demands that philosophers have a particular commitment to the views that they defend, but this doesn’t—and shouldn’t—require belief.

Bibliography: (Forthcoming)