Epistemic Injustice and Mental Illness

Authored by: Anastasia Philippa Scrutton

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 first part of this chapter looks at epistemic injustices that can take place in the context of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. I argue people diagnosed with mental illnesses are often stereotyped in such a way as to deflate their credibility, and that the authoritative and even exclusive status accorded to third-person, medical perspectives on experiences of mental illness leads to hermeneutical marginalization and silencing. The second part of the chapter takes as its starting-point the idea that epistemic injustice can be countered by a recognition of the ways in which the marginalized person is in fact epistemically privileged. I argue that recognizing the ways in which people diagnosed with mental illnesses have access to distinctive and/or unique forms of knowledge can correct our testimonial sensibilities and provide us with new hermeneutical resources, and is therefore a route to epistemic justice. I explore ways in which this might be the case in relation to experiences of mental illness, focusing on two kinds of knowledge: knowledge of what the experience is like, and knowledge of what is good for the person. I conclude with some implications for clinical practice and more general ethical behaviour.

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