Archives For epistemic injustice

Author Information: Leonie Smith, University of St. Andrews,

Smith, Leonie. “Challenges and Suggestions for a Social Account of Testimonial Sensitivity.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 6 (2016): 18-26.

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Editor’s Note:

    The SERRC thanks the contributors and participants—especially William Tuckwell—at the Tartu Graduate Conference in Social Epistemology, at the University of Tartu on 26-27 March 2016, for allowing us to publish selected papers. We will bring these papers, and subsequent replies, together in a special issue of the SERRC.


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Recent work on epistemic injustice has re-ignited the importance of sensitivity-analyses of knowledge, via the possibility of audiences being insufficiently sensitive to the testimonial credibility of prejudiced-against speakers.[1] The focus of this work has quite rightly been on demonstrating the epistemic harms to potential testifiers when sensitivity fails to apply. However there is clearly a corollary impact on audiences, and their ability to achieve knowledge from testimonial sources, when they fail to apply appropriate conditions of sensitivity with regard to the testimony of others. The notion of being appropriately-sensitive, implicitly assumes that we can make sense of what these sensitivity conditions on testimonial-knowledge formation might be.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Ben Sherman, Brandeis University,

Sherman, Ben. “Learning How to Think Better: A Response to Davidson and Kelly.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 3 (2016): 48-53.

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My thanks to Davidson and Kelly for their reply to my paper.[1] I am grateful on two counts in particular:  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Lacey J. Davidson, Purdue University,; Daniel R. Kelly, Purdue University,

Davidson, Lacey J. and Daniel R. Kelly. “Intuition, Judgment, and the Space Between: A Reply to Sherman.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 11 (2015): 15-20.

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“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” —John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Sherman (2015) agrees with Fricker (2007) that there is a problem, but disagrees about what to do about it. The problem is epistemic injustice, failing to take others as seriously as they deserve to be taken in matters epistemic, a form of miscalculation whose effects can not only stabilize and strengthen types of injustice that already exist, including types of inequality, prejudice, discrimination, but that can potentially produce new forms of injustice as well. Fricker sketches an account of testimonial justice, a virtue that, when properly nourished, she claims can serve as a corrective to epistemic injustice. Sherman is skeptical on many counts: that attempts to achieve testimonial justice would help —indeed, he worries that they would actually backfire and hinder the fight against epistemic injustice; that testimonial justice as depicted by Fricker is in fact a virtue; and that the virtue-theoretic framework via which Fricker expresses her notion of testimonial justice is generally viable anyway. Our reply to Sherman is broadly Frickerian in spirit, though the position we take departs Fricker’s own. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Mark Alfano, University of Oregon,

Alfano, Mark. “Becoming Less Unreasonable: A Reply to Sherman.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 7 (2015): 59-62.

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“I’m the most reasonable, responsible person here in Washington.”

That’s what John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, said in an interview with ABC News on November 9th, 2012. Whether you agree with Boehner or not, you might worry about anyone who endorses such a claim about themselves. No one is perfect, after all, and it’s likely that thinking of yourself as reasonable and fair in your opinions makes it harder to recognize and correct your own mistakes. In “There’s No (Testimonial) Justice” (2015), Benjamin R. Sherman raises a related concern about the pursuit of epistemic justiceContinue Reading…

Author Information: Laura Beeby, California State University, Fullerton,

Beeby, Laura. 2103. “Review of The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations, by José Medina.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (8): 66-70.

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The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations
by José Medina
Oxford University Press, 2012, 352 pp

José Medina’s picture of epistemic resistance is compelling because he presents epistemic activism as something that regular people can do in the course of their day-to-day lives. This is not a book about firebrands and grand sweeping change.  Instead it is mostly about what Medina calls “the everyday struggle toward epistemic justice”. Though he does highlight “epistemic heroes” like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Rosa Parks — people who resist unjust norms when few others have the courage and clarity to do so — it is clear that Medina intends that each of us take up a habitual stance of epistemic resistance, and moreover that this is not a particularly unreasonable expectation. We can participate in epistemic resistance while we work, while we raise families, or while we discuss news with our friends. This leaves the door open for those who do not see themselves as particularly radical — epistemically or otherwise — to join in the movement towards epistemic justice. For Medina, epistemic resistance is something both radical and unassuming.  In fact, the most subversive and radical knowers may be those who practice epistemic resistance almost unconsciously while they visit a supermarket or gather with friends and family. For Medina, to be epistemically resistant is to feel friction when relying on a single understanding, to constantly allow room for other voices and other ways of understanding and being in the world. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Miranda Fricker, University of Sheffield,

Fricker, Miranda. 2013. “How is hermeneutical injustice related to ‘white ignorance’? Reply to José Medina’s ‘Hermeneutical Injustice and Polyphonic Contextualism: Social Silences and Shared Hermeneutical Responsibilities’.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (8): 49-53.

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I have learned an enormous amount from all the discussions of epistemic injustice in the Review and Reply Collective, and I have found it virtually impossible to know how to intervene. However, something in José Medina’s discussion of hermeneutical injustice and, in particular, its relation to the phenomenon that Charles Mills has termed ‘white ignorance’, has opened up an issue to which I feel I can make a contribution. That is, despite being unsure about how best to relate the phenomenon I wrote about under the head ‘hermeneutical injustice’ to the phenomenon of white ignorance[1] (something Gaile Pohlhaus has also written about under the more generic label ‘willful hermeneutical ignorance’), I am inclined to express some disagreement with the direction Medina wants to take the category ‘hermeneutical injustice’. Continue Reading…

Author Information: James Bohman, Saint Louis University,

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Bohman, James. 2012. In defense of republican epistemology: Reply to May. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (9): 42-45

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Miranda Fricker’s masterful book, Epistemic Injustice, focuses our attention on a hitherto little studied form of injustice: epistemic injustice, where “any epistemic injustice wrongs someone in their capacity as a subject of knowledge, and thus in a capacity essential to human value” (2012: 5). As May points out, I do not think that Fricker’s account is sufficient, especially to the extent to which she depends largely on “corrective ethical-intellectual virtues” to able to improve our lives as subjects and objects of knowledge. Of course, she herself evinces some skepticism about the sufficiency of epistemic virtue on its own, when she immediately adds the caveat that there is “a limit to what virtues on the part of individuals can achieve when the root cause of epistemic injustice is structures of unequal power and the systemic prejudices they generate” (7-8). This concession on the limits of such virtues, however important they may be in particular instances of individual epistemic exclusion, motivates much of my criticisms of Fricker’s approach and my turn to republican epistemology. Continue Reading…

Author Information: David Coady, University of Tasmania, Australia,

Coady, David. 2012. Decision-making and credibility. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (8): 13-15

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Professor Wayne Riggs has made a generous and thoughtful response to my comments on his article. I would like to offer some further comments on the matter, which I hope will be constructive.

Both Riggs and Fricker claimed that the fictional character Herbert Greenleaf was not culpable for the epistemic harm he did Marge Sherwood. They both argued that since Greenleaf could not reasonably be expected to know better (and so avoid causing the harm), he is not to blame. I responded that this argument lets Greenleaf (and others like him) off too lightly. One can reasonably expect (i.e. predict) that people will do bad things (or fail to do good things), and still rightly hold them responsible for what they do (or fail to do). Riggs responds to my objection by noting an ambiguity in the word “expect”: Continue Reading…

Author Information: Simon Căbulea May, Florida State University,

May, Simon Căbulea. 2012. Bohman on domination and epistemic injustice. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (8): 7-12

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Miranda Fricker (2007) claims that an individual suffers an epistemic injustice when she is wronged in her capacity as a knower. Fricker identifies two main forms of epistemic injustice. Testimonial injustice occurs when an individual’s credibility is diminished because her audience holds an identity prejudice against people like her. Hermeneutical injustice occurs when an individual cannot properly articulate her experiences or interests insofar as the interpretive resources available in the social environment are oriented towards the experiences and interests of others. In both cases, the individual is harmed as a contributor to the collective production and dissemination of knowledge. Virtuous epistemic agents manifest epistemic justice by detecting and correcting identity prejudices and by being alert to the presence and effects of hermeneutical impoverishment.

James Bohman (2012) proposes a republican conception of epistemic injustice as an alternative to Fricker’s virtue theoretical account. The key element in Bohman’s approach is the concept of domination, one of the central concepts in republican political theory more generally. He claims that all cases of epistemic injustice involve forms of domination (2012: 182-83), and that institutional mechanisms of non-domination are accordingly necessary to remedy epistemic injustice. In essence, Fricker’s account needs a more robust political dimension, one that republican thought stands ready to provide. I agree with Bohman that there are important connections between domination and epistemic injustice. Nevertheless, I am not persuaded by his characterisation of these connections. In what follows, I briefly set out Bohman’s account of domination and then critically discuss three interpretations of the relationship between domination and epistemic injustice suggested by his discussion: Continue Reading…

Author Information: Paul Faulkner, University of Sheffield,

Faulkner, Paul. 2012. Trust and the assessment of credibility. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (8): 1-6.

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Epistemic failings can be ethical failings. This insight is owed to Miranda Fricker who explores this idea in developing a theory of epistemic injustice. [1] A central type of epistemic injustice is testimonial injustice, where there are two components to this. A knower suffers a testimonial injustice when she is not given due credit and is thereby prevented from doing what is fundamental to being a knower, which is inform others of what she knows. This is the first component, which is epistemic: a testimonial injustice starts with a misjudgement of a knower’s credibility; it starts, in Fricker’s terms, with the knower suffering a credibility deficit. The second, ethical, component is the explanation of this credibility deficit. There is a testimonial injustice when the cause of this credibility deficit is not innocent error but some form of prejudice. Here Fricker wants to draw our attention to one pervasive prejudice, which she calls identity prejudice. [2] This is the prejudice that attaches to a person by virtue of their social identity and which thereby tracks that person through the multitude of social activities, economic, political and so on. Thus the paradigm case of testimonial injustice is identity-prejudicial credibility deficit. [3]

The stated objective of Gloria Origgi’s paper “Epistemic Injustice and Epistemic Trust” is:

to broaden her [Fricker’s] analysis in two ways: first, I will argue that the ways in which credibility judgments are biased go far beyond the central case of identity prejudice; and, second, I will try to detail some of the mechanisms that control our ways of making testimonial injustices to the speakers [sic]. [4]

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