Evolving Concepts of Epistemic Injustice

Authored by: Miranda Fricker

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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What does the concept of epistemic injustice do for us? What should we want it to do? If meaning is use, then there is no point trying to put precise boundaries on the concept in advance; indeed its use has already evolved, spreading slightly more widely than originally intended, and for good reason. My chief purpose in invoking the label was to delineate a distinctive class of wrongs, namely those in which someone is ingenuously downgraded and/or disadvantaged in respect of their status as an epistemic subject. A first point to make is that this kind of epistemic injustice is fundamentally a form of (direct or indirect) discrimination. The cause of testimonial injustice is a prejudice through which the speaker is misjudged and perceived as epistemically lesser (a direct discrimination). This will tend to have negative effects on how they are perceived and treated non-epistemically too – secondary aspects of the intrinsic wrong. The cause of a hermeneutical injustice is a background inequality of hermeneutical opportunity – specifically, hermeneutical marginalisation in relation to some area of social experience. This puts them at an unfair disadvantage in comprehending and/or getting others to comprehend an experience of that kind (a somewhat indirect discrimination). It might therefore be a good idea to explicitly label both these phenomena as forms of ‘discriminatory epistemic injustice’; for as David Coady (2010, 2017) has rightly emphasised, we should leave room for something called ‘epistemic injustice’ that is primarily a distributive injustice – someone’s receiving less than their fair share of an epistemic good, such as education, or access to expert advice or information. 1 In this kind of epistemic injustice too, after all, someone is indeed wronged in their capacity as an epistemic subject, and so it fits the generic definition originally given (Fricker 2007).

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