Epistemic Justice and the Law

Authored by: Michael Sullivan

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

10.4324/9781315212043.ch28

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Abstract

In criminal law the choice of what (and who) to punish and how much to punish has consequence for the kind of activities and lives that thrive or fail to thrive in our society. Of course, this is a complicated story that must include consideration of those who make the law, enforce the law, prosecute the law, judge the law, and apply the judgments of courts. All of these actors and many more not explicitly named contribute to the social meaning of the law in our society. Testimony, by experts and laypersons, is a central ingredient in the formulation of law and the adjudication of disputes. We use it to determine the motivation and intention of those who are accused of violating the law. At many turns, opportunities for epistemic injustice abound in the practices of our legal system because our institutions and ourselves are not up to the challenges of understanding the experiences of others in difficult situations foreign to our own and because we remain unaware of the role that unexamined prejudice and bias play even in our best efforts to be impartial.

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