Epistemic InjusticePower and the Ethics of Knowing

Epistemic InjusticePower and the Ethics of Knowing

Miranda Fricker

Print publication date: 2007

ISBN: 9780198237907

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract

Justice is one of the oldest and most central themes of philosophy, but sometimes we would do well to focus instead on injustice. In epistemology, the very idea that there is a first-order ethical dimension to our epistemic practices — the idea that there is such a thing as epistemic justice — remains obscure until we adjust the philosophical lens so that we see through to the negative space that is epistemic injustice. This book argues that there is a distinctively epistemic genus of injustice, in which someone is wronged specifically in their capacity as a knower, wronged therefore in a capacity essential to human value. The book identifies two forms of epistemic injustice: testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice. In doing so, it charts the ethical dimension of two fundamental epistemic practices: gaining knowledge by being told and making sense of our social experiences. As the account unfolds, the book travels through a range of philosophical problems. Thus, the book finds an analysis of social power; an account of prejudicial stereotypes; a characterization of two hybrid intellectual-ethical virtues; a revised account of the State of Nature used in genealogical explanations of the concept of knowledge; a discussion of objectification and ‘silencing’; and a framework for a virtue epistemological account of testimony. The book reveals epistemic injustice as a potent yet largely silent dimension of discrimination, analyses the wrong it perpetrates, and constructs two hybrid ethical-intellectual virtues of epistemic justice which aim to forestall it.