Testimonial Withdrawal and The Ontology of Testimonial Injustice

Southwest Philosophy Review 40 (1):115-126 (2024)
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Concepts like testimonial injustice (Fricker, 2007) and testimonial violence (Dotson, 2011) articulate that marginalized epistemic agents are unjustly undermined as testifiers when dominant agents cannot or will not hear, understand, or believe their testimony. This paper turns attention away from these constraints on uptake, and towards pragmatic, social, and political constraints on how dominant audiences receive and react to testimony. I argue that these constraints can also be sources of testimonial injustice and epistemic violence. Specifically, I explore a kind of injustice that I call testimonial withdrawal, which occurs when a would-be speaker chooses to remain silent because they know or reasonably expect that there is pragmatic risk associated with speaking, given their unjust marginalization. I argue that this unjustly undermines epistemic agency, and that expanding Fricker and Dotson’s umbrella concepts to accommodate this idea results in a better understanding of the moral and epistemic contours of both testimonial withdrawal and these broader categories.



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Emily Colleen McWilliams
Duke Kunshan University

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