Dilemmatic Gaslighting

Philosophical Studies:1-28 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Existing work on gaslighting ties it constitutively to facts about the intentions or prejudices of the gaslighter and/or his victim’s prior experience of epistemic injustice. I argue that the concept of gaslighting is more broadly applicable than has been appreciated: what is distinctive about gaslighting, on my account, is simply that a gaslighter confronts his victim with a certain kind of choice between rejecting his testimony and doubting her own basic epistemic competence in some domain. I thus hold that gaslighting is a purely epistemic phenomenon — not requiring any particular set of intentions or prejudices on the part of the gaslighter — and also that it can occur even in the absence of any prior experience of epistemic injustice. Appreciating the dilemmatic character of gaslighting allows us to understand its connection with a characteristic sort of epistemic harm, makes it easier to apply the concept of gaslighting in practice, and raises the possibility that we might discover its structure and the associated harm in surprising places.

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Cameron Domenico Kirk-Giannini
Rutgers University - Newark

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