27 February 2009

Epistemic Injustice

I have taken to listening to a podcast called Philosophy Bites. It took me a while to get around to it, though many people had recommended it to me. However, it is quite enjoyable.

One of the ones I have listened to so far was given by Miranda Fricker, who is a professor at Birkbeck, which has made me all the more excited about applying there. She talked about epistemic injustice and credibility deficits. Epistemic injustice is also called testimonial injustice and it refers to a situation in which a speaker is not accorded the appropriate authority as a giver of knowledge. This might sound a little frivolous on the face of it but when one considers its instantiations in the real world, the dangers become obvious.

Take, for instance, a situation which she uses as an example and which has happened to me in my real life. Let us suppose that there is a meeting and a woman participant offers a suggestion that is overlooked. Subsequently, the same suggestion is offered by a male participant and greeted with enthusiasm. Each of the two has offered the same information and yet only one was taken seriously.

Another example of testimonial injustice that I can think of is the psychiatrist's office. As a patient, no matter what one says, one's credibility is only granted at the whim or opinion of the psychiatrist or any other mental health practitioner. Because one has the label of being insane (or whatever designation you might prefer) and because one is in an environment that reinforces that label, the psychiatrist or similar as the audience is the sole determiner of credibility because they have the label and position that accords them superior epistemic authority. Depending on the practitioner, this can be more or less of an issue. However, I would be willing to wager that anyone who has ever received treatment for mental health has experienced the frustration of being awarded a credibility deficit in the doctor's office because of the very fact of having a diagnosis. I myself find it unbelievably obnoxious, the more so because the doctors, when confronted about it, claim that such an imbalance does not exist. You can see where it will go from there.

Anyhow, I heartily recommend listening to the podcast itself. Dr. Fricker does a much better job of explaining this than I do. I found that it was a great relief to get a nice new descriptive term for the phenomenon; such terms help me think more clearly about things.

No comments:

Post a Comment