Social Normativity and Ignorance
Elís Miller Larsen (Harvard University)

Today, 3:30pm - 5:30pm
Department of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario

STVH 1145
1151 Richmond Street


Many phenomena exist under the heading of "ignorance" (e.g., unawareness, obliviousness, lack of salience). The tendency to group all species of ignorance within the familiar understanding of ignorance as the lack of knowledge is a misstep since not all ignorance phenomena are privations.

I argue that there are types of ignorance central to explanations of social normativity which are substantive rather than privative. In this talk I'll focus on just one of these substantive forms as the Problem of Ignorance Under Uncertainty. Ignorance under uncertainty occurs when we have an open inquiry but fail to consider an obvious or relevant possibility (e.g., the possibility that the Indigenous woman is the professor, or the possibility that the Black man is the senator). Impoverished social practices, such as systemic racism or sexism, do not necessarily entail that any individual person will be subject to ignorance. I argue further that what makes ignorance bad is not a direct transfer from the social ills to individual minds. So, what causes us to fail to consider a possibility? And what is the problem with ignorance? Is it a moral problem? Epistemic? Or both? These are some fo the questions this talk will exam.

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