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.