Beyond Polarization: Epistemic distortion and criticism

November 8, 2023
The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University

Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room
74 Morningside Dr
New York 10027
United States

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  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Political Science


University of Leeds
London School of Economics
University of Leeds


University of Glasgow
Columbia University

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Beyond Polarization: Epistemic distortion and criticism

Individuals support forms of domination with varying levels of understanding that they are doing so. In many cases, those very structures of domination distort our conceptions of them through mechanisms such as motivated reasoning, implicit bias, affected ignorance, false consciousness, and belief polarization. These various epistemic distortions, in turn, cause social conflict, notably by promoting political polarization. Those worried by social conflict have spent a great deal of energy decrying the increasingly polarized contexts in which we live. However, epistemic distortions in our sociopolitical beliefs also misrepresent, maintain systems of domination and prevent human needs from being met. At this workshop, we will go beyond pronouncements such as ‘we are polarized’ or that ‘partisanship is on the rise’ and begin to think through epistemic distortions at the individual and intersubjective levels, the role of criticism and critique in facilitating belief and social change, and the idea of reconciliation by asking questions such as:

  • In what ways are individual beliefs about domination/social structures epistemically distorted? 
  • What explains why social beliefs are epistemically distorted? 
  • What are the normative upshots of epistemic distortion for social relationships like allyship, comradeship, and friendship? 
  • Ought polarization be remedied? Which epistemic resources and theoretical frameworks avail themselves of emancipatory potential?


Ege Yumuşak; Nicolas Côté

Invited speakers:

Sabina Vaccarino Bremner (UPenn); Daniela Dover (Oxford); Cain Shelley (Goethe University Frankfurt) 

Invited commentators: 

Robin Celikates (Freie Universität Berlin); Lidal Dror (Princeton); Susanna Siegel (Harvard); Sanford Diehl (NYU); Jade Fletcher (St Andrews); Mie Inouye (Bard)

Selected speakers:

Joshua Habgood-Coote (Leeds); Charles Des Portes (Leeds)

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November 7, 2023, 5:00pm EST

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