In London in 1993, a black teenager named Stephen Lawrence was fatally stabbed by a small gang of white teenagers. His friend Duwayne Brooks was a witness but the police failed to take his testimony seriously. When someone speaks but is not heard because of accent, sex, or colour, that person is undermined as a knower. This week, we look at was it means to do justice to someone's status as a knower.
I shall first briefly revisit the broad idea of ‘epistemic injustice’, explaining how it can take either distributive or discriminatory form, in order to put the concepts of ‘testimonial injustice’ and ‘hermeneutical injustice’ in place. In previous work I have explored how the wrong of both kinds of epistemic injustice has both an ethical and an epistemic significance—someone is wronged in their capacity as a knower. But my present aim is to show that this wrong can also have a political (...) significance in relation to non-domination, and so to freedom. While it is only the republican conception of political freedom that presents nondomination as constitutive of freedom, I shall argue that non-domination is best understood as a thoroughly generic liberal ideal of freedom to which even negative libertarians are implicitly committed, for non-domination is negative liberty as of right—secured non-interference. Crucially on this conception, non-domination requires that the citizen can contest interferences. Pettit specifies three conditions of contestation, each of which protects against a salient risk of the would-be contester not getting a ‘proper hearing’. But I shall argue that missing from this list is anything to protect against a fourth salient threat: the threat that either kind of epistemic injustice might disable contestation by way of an unjust deflation of either credibility or intelligibility. Thus we see that both testimonial and hermeneutical injustice can render a would-be contester dominated. Epistemic justice is thereby revealed as a constitutive condition of non-domination, and thus of a central liberal political ideal of freedom. (shrink)
In this paper I respond to three commentaries on Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. In response to Alcoff, I primarily defend my conception of how an individual hearer might develop virtues of epistemic justice. I do this partly by drawing on empirical social psychological evidence supporting the possibility of reflective self-regulation for prejudice in our judgements. I also emphasize the fact that individual virtue is only part of the solution – structural mechanisms also have an essential role (...) in combating epistemic injustice. My response to Goldberg principally concerns my perceptual account of the epistemology of testimony, which I defend as being both well-motivated and best categorized as a species of non-inferentialism. I also explain its relation to the reductionism/non-reductionism contrast, and defend my resistance to casting it as any kind of default view. In response to Hookway, I contrast discriminatory with distributive forms of epistemic injustice, and defend the basic taxonomy I present in the book, which casts testimonial and hermeneutical injustice as the two fundamental discriminatory forms of epistemic injustice. (shrink)
Bernard Williams is a sceptic about the objectivity of moral value, embracing instead a qualified moral relativism—the ‘relativism of distance’. His attitude to blame too is in part sceptical (he thought it often involved a certain ‘fantasy’). I will argue that the relativism of distance is unconvincing, even incoherent; but also that it is detachable from the rest of Williams's moral philosophy. I will then go on to propose an entirely localized thesis I call the relativism of blame, which says (...) that when an agent's moral shortcomings by our lights are a matter of their living according to the moral thinking of their day, judgements of blame are out of order. Finally, I will propose a form of moral judgement we may sometimes quite properly direct towards historically distant agents when blame is inappropriate—moral-epistemic disappointment. Together these two proposals may help release us from the grip of the idea that moral appraisal always involves the potential applicability of blame, and so from a key source of the relativist idea that moral appraisal is inappropriate over distance. (shrink)
This introductory text encourages students to engage with key problems and arguments in ethics through a series of classic and contemporary readings. The text will inspire students to think about the distinctive nature of moral philosophy, and to draw comparisons between different traditions of thought, between ancient and modern philosophies, and between theoretical and literary writing about the place of value in human life. Each of the book's six chapters focuses on a particular theme: the nature of goodness, subjectivity and (...) objectivity in ethical thinking, justice and virtue, moral motivation, the place of moral obligation, and the idea that literature can be a form of moral philosophy. Each chapter features two or three key readings, drawn from texts as diverse as Plato's Republic, J. S. Mill's Utilitarianism, Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and Rawls' A Theory of Justice. The readings are all accompanied by interactive commentary from the editors. (shrink)
My overarching purpose is to illustrate the philosophical fruitfulness of expanding epistemology not only laterally across the social space of other epistemic subjects, but at the same time vertically in the temporal dimension. I set about this by first presenting central strands of Michael Williams' diagnostic engagement with scepticism, in which he crucially employs a Default and Challenge model of justification. I then develop three key aspects of Edward Craig's ‘practical explication' of the concept of knowledge so that they may (...) be seen to resonate positively with Williams's epistemological picture: the admixture of internalist and externalist features; the proto-contextualism; and, finally, the distinctively genealogical antisceptical impetus. In this way I aim to support and augment the socialized anti-sceptical case mounted by Williams, and so to show that expanding epistemology in the temporal dimension can be a productive move in central debates in epistemology. Philosophical Papers Vol. 37 (1) 2008: pp. 27-50. (shrink)
Our understanding of social experiences is central to our social understanding more generally. But this sphere of epistemic practice can be structurally prejudiced by unequal relations of power, so that some groups suff er a distinctive kind of epistemic injustice—hermeneutical injustice. I aim to achieve a clear conception of this epistemicethical phenomenon, so that we have a workable definition and a proper understanding of the wrong that it inflicts.
The dual aim of this article is to reveal and explain a certain phenomenon of epistemic injustice as manifested in testimonial practice, and to arrive at a characterisation of the anti–prejudicial intellectual virtue that is such as to counteract it. This sort of injustice occurs when prejudice on the part of the hearer leads to the speaker receiving less credibility than he or she deserves. It is suggested that where this phenomenon is systematic it constitutes an important form of oppression. (...) [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]. (shrink)
This paper explores the relation between rational authority and social power, proceeding by way of a philosophical genealogy derived from Edward Craig's Knowledge and the State of Nature. The position advocated avoids the errors both of the 'traditionalist' (who regards the socio-political as irrelevant to epistemology) and of the 'reductivist' (who regards reason as just another form of social power). The argument is that a norm of credibility governs epistemic practice in the state of nature, which, when socially manifested, is (...) likely to imitate the structures of social power. A phenomenon of epistemic injustice is explained, and the politicizing implication for epistemology educed. (shrink)