What’s Wrong With Epistemic Injustice?

Harm, vice, objectification, misrecognition

Authored by: Matthew Congdon

The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice

Print publication date:  April  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138828254
eBook ISBN: 9781315212043
Adobe ISBN: 9781351814508


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The question posed in the title of this essay is part of a more general question, namely, how best to situate the concept of “epistemic injustice” within the contested terrain of competing traditions called “normative ethics.” 1 As is well known, while differing normative theories might readily agree that some action is wrong, they may nonetheless differ vigorously as to why, with utilitarians emphasizing harmful consequences, virtue ethicists emphasizing a vicious character, and Kantians emphasizing the usurpation of one’s standing as free and rational, to name just three amongst many possibilities. In light of this, a preliminary strategy for locating epistemic injustice on the normative map presents itself in the form of the question: what background ethical commitments do we assume when we critique epistemic injustice as, precisely, unjust? However, a cursory glance at the literature reveals the complexities involved in answering this question. In the short period since the publication of Miranda Fricker’s Epistemic Injustice, a range of normative approaches to the distinctive wrongfulness of unjust epistemic practices have been adopted, with Fricker herself synthesizing multiple traditions, including Kantian, virtue-theoretic, and social contract elements within her own account.

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