Traumatic Blocking and Brandom's Oversight

Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 14 (1):1-12 (2007)
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Abstract

Robert Brandom grants that an individual can know even if she cannot provide a reasoned defense of her non-accidentally true beliefs about the world. Brandom is wrong, I argue, to suggest that this phenomenon of super blindsightedness is rare or fringe. This oversight becomes clear when we turn from the eccentric example of the industrial chicken-sexer to the case of the survivor of sexual violence. What we have in this instance is a subject who, qua survivor, has certain reliably formed, that is, non-accidentally true, beliefs about which she has deep conviction, but which she cannot defend because she has blocked from memory the details of her traumatic experience. She is super blindsighted. In light of the universality and everydayness of sexual violence this phenomenon is, I conclude, run of the mill. Thus, even if Brandom is right that reliabilism cannot replace reason-giving from its central role in a cognitive practice, it takes up a vital role alongside it.

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Karyn L. Freedman
University of Guelph

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