Empathy and Epistemic Injustice
Audrey Yap (University of Victoria)

March 8, 2019, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Department of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario

University College 1105
1151 Richmond Street

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Abstract: Epistemic injustice, as introduced by Miranda Fricker, describes a way in which people can be wronged in their capacity as knowers. For instance, people who are socially marginalized can be failed by society's collective hermeneutical resources if those resources fail to capture crucial aspects of their experience. One of the problems of overcoming situations of epistemic injustice is the fact that we are often meta-ignorant of the epistemic gaps that it involves. More specifically, those with sufficient social power and privilege to shape the collective hermeneutical resources are often structurally insulated from knowing about ways in which those resources fail. But as Jose Medina has also pointed out, in order to maintain various aspects of their self-conception or status, it may not just be that the privileged do not need to know about injustice; it may also be that they sometimes need not to know about it as well. This paper will consider the extent to which empathy can address the issue of meta-ignorance. I will argue that empathy as perspective-taking, on a relatively traditional philosophical account, is very unlikely to play the desired role. However, there may be promising other ways of thinking about empathy, drawing on feminist conceptions of the self, that would enable it to play a much more productive role in correcting for epistemic injustice.

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