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Sungwoo Um’s Talk (Commentator: Wenqing Zhao)

Friendship and Epistemic Partiality: West and East


Time: 12:00 – 14:00 Wednesday April 27th

Location: West Duke 204

Main Speaker: Sungwoo Um Ph.D. Candidate (Duke)

Commentator: Wenqing Zhao Ph.D.

** The Center for Comparative Philosophy will provide a light lunch for the workshop.

The room will open from 12:00 for people to serve themselves and take a seat.


We often seem to be epistemically partial in forming beliefs about our friends who are near

and dear to us. For example, we are inclined to form positive beliefs about our friends and

reluctant to form negative beliefs about them; we tend to focus selectively on positive aspects of

our friends and evidence favorable for them; we tend to interpret our friend’s qualities in a

positive light. Simon Keller and Sarah Stroud argue, independently, that good friendship

sometimes demands some sort of epistemic partiality that is objectionable from an epistemic

In this talk, Sungwoo Um’s aim is to closely examine the relationship between friendship and

epistemic partiality. First, he argues that what good friendship involves as its constituent part is

not epistemic partiality per se, but what he calls friendly hope, which sometimes gives rise to the

former. Second, he addresses the worry that friendship can be an epistemic vice, since, even if it

does not demand epistemically objectionable partiality, it frequently gives rise to such partiality.

He concludes that friendship as such is neutral from an epistemic point of view.

Wenqing Zhao Ph.D. will comment on Sungwoo Um’s talk from a Confucian perspective.

She argues that unlike Aristotle, Confucius approaches friendship in terms of “friendship of

whom” and not “friendship of what.” This guiding Confucian thought steers the conversation

about epistemic partiality to include the notion of epistemic self-cultivation.

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