Archives For hermeneutical injustice

Author Information: Charles W. Mills, Northwestern University, c-mills@northwestern.edu

Mills, Charles W. “White Ignorance and Hermeneutical Injustice: A Comment on Medina and Fricker.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 1 (2013): 38-43.

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In my “White Ignorance” (Mills 2007), I welcomed the development within formal epistemology of social epistemology, and the advent of journals like Social Epistemology, while complaining that the authors in this new branch of epistemology seemed in general to be working with a concept of the social that excluded social oppression. So I should begin by saying how delighted I am to find my essay being discussed years later in none other than Social Epistemology (and the Review Collective) itself — and by two philosophers, Miranda Fricker and José Medina, whose recent books (Fricker 2007; Medina 2013) I see as exemplary challenges to this unfortunate pattern of exclusion. I would claim that in the same way that the “ideal theory” famous from John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1999) has oriented — or, in my view, mis-oriented — philosophical discussions of social justice, so its epistemic analogue has arguably mis-oriented philosophical discussions of social epistemology.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Miranda Fricker, University of Sheffield, m.fricker@sheffield.ac.uk

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.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-SC

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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: Laura Beeby, California State University, Fullerton, lbeeby@fullerton.edu

Beeby, Laura. 2012. Collective resources and collectivity: A reply to José Medina Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (11): 12-15.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-ty

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I am grateful to José Medina for his thoughtful response to my concerns about abandoning the notion of a broadly shared hermeneutical resource.[1] This notion of a shared resource, opened up so nicely by Fricker’s work, will be of interest to anyone concerned with how we manage to share our thoughts with one another — both in terms of shared understandings and in terms of shared conversations.[2] Without some shared set of meanings, concepts, terms, or practices, these fundamental capacities for communication and understanding become impossible for us. The questions under discussion in my exchanges with Medina are about how we share our collective resource, and with whom we do the sharing. Medina’s comments provide helpful clarification about these questions, and they promise to move the debate forward in several ways. Continue Reading…

Author Information: James McCollum, Saint Louis University, jim.mccollum@gmail.com

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McCollum, James. 2012. Fleshing out the structural aspects of hermeneutical injustice. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (9): 33-36

The PDF for the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-qC

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Sandra Marshall (2012) puts pressure on several aspects of my account of hermeneutical injustice in the social sciences. Her comments are useful and give me an opportunity to broaden the scope of my research. Her most significant concern, from my point of view, is whether the social sciences and the bureaucratic epistemes that they underwrite actually constitute hermeneutical injustice.

Hermeneutical injustice is, in Fricker’s words, “the injustice of having some significant area of one’s social experience obscured from collective understanding owing to persistent and wide-ranging hermeneutical marginalization.” (Fricker 2007, 154) This injustice, because it is conceptual in nature, affects the way we interpret our world and render our experiences intelligible to others. Marshall rightly highlights the intelligibility condition of hermeneutical injustice, for it is not merely a refusal to hear a complaint but a failure, a structural failure, to understand a certain form of harm. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Sandra Marshall, University of Stirling, s.e.marshall@stir.ac.uk

Marshall, Sandra. 2012.A Problem for the Social Sciences: A Comment on James McCollum on Hermeneutical Injustice. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (7): 21-23

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In Miranda Fricker’s own account of ‘hermeneutical injustice’ two features seem to be particularly salient: that hermeneutical injustice is to be understood as structural and as involving a failure of communicative intelligibility. As Elizabeth Anderson usefully puts it: “Hermeneutical injustice occurs when a society lacks the interpretive resources to make sense of important features of a speaker’s experience … Hermeneutical injustice is structural, because hearers are not at fault for not being able to understand [my emphasis] what the victims are saying” (2012, 166) What is argued here is that this is a very particular kind of wrong and one which not simply reducible to other kinds of injustice, nor, presumably, to other kinds of wrong. We should be clear then that simply having one’s views, ideas, concerns or experiences ignored will not amount to hermeneutical injustice, but maybe, rather, a case of testimonial injustice. Or, it may not be any kind of injustice at all. So, if hermeneutical injustice is to be a useful tool for assessing the social sciences, and the applications of social scientific theories in trying to solve real world problems, as McCollum’s paper argues that it may, then both the core features mentioned above need to be kept firmly in view. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Laura Beeby, California State University at Fullerton, laurabeebyis@googlemail.com

Beeby, Laura . 2012. “Reply to José Medina” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (6): 27-30.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-15j

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In “Hermeneutical Injustice and Polyphonic Contextualism: Social Silences and Shared Responsibilities”, José Medina suggests some refinements to Miranda Fricker’s notion of hermeneutical injustice. As Medina sees it, Fricker “pays insufficient attention to the interactive and performative dimension of hermeneutical injustice, which is treated [by Fricker] mainly as a semantic phenomenon concerning the intelligibility of experiential contents”. [1] While Fricker develops the idea of hermeneutical injustice as “the injustice of having some significant area of one’s social experience obscured from collective understanding” [2], Medina wants us to consider the thought that the notion of a collective understanding may be insufficiently complex to capture the social dynamics present in so many of our communicative exchanges. I think Medina is right to point out some difficulties presented by the idea of a collective understanding. However, I don’t think these difficulties necessarily preclude us from making any use of the idea at all.

First, let’s look at some background to the idea of a collective understanding. In her account of hermeneutical injustice, Miranda Fricker draws our attention to one disadvantage stemming from women’s situation within an unjustly structured society. This particular disadvantage has to do with something that Fricker calls ‘social power’ and its influence on what she calls ‘collective forms of social understanding’. Continue Reading…