The Epistemology of Inclusiveness – University of Copenhagen

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Social Epistemology Research Group > Activities > Past Activities (2008-2014) > The Epistemology of In...

The Epistemology of Inclusiveness

University of Copenhagen,
Room 24.1.45

Wednesday, April 13

12.30 - 13.00: Coffee
13.00 - 14.20: KRISTINA ROLIN (Aalto) - Feminist Standpoint Theory as an Epistemology of Inclusion
14.30 - 15.50: JESPER KALLESTRUP (Edinburgh) - Voluntary Exclusion and the Epistemology of Denial
16.00 - 17.20: SANFORD GOLDBERG (Northwestern) - Inclusiveness Under Conditions of Systematic Disagreement
19:00: Workshop Dinner (Restaurant Cofoco)

Thursday, April 14
10:00 - 10.40: Coffee
10.40 - 12.00: KARIN JONCH-CLAUSEN (Copenhagen) - Public Reason and Scientific Inquiry
12.00 - 13.20: Lunch
13.20 - 14.40: KLEMENS KAPPEL (Copenhagen) - Dimensions of Epistemic Diversity and Why They Matter
14.40 - 16.00: MIRANDA FRICKER (Birkbeck) - Epistemic Justice as a Condition of Political Freedom

Workshop attendance is free. However, anyone who wishes to attend the workshop should email Kristoffer Ahlstrom (ahlstrom[a] beforehand.

The workshop is funded by the Velux Foundation, as part of the research project The Epistemology of Liberal Democracy. The project is hosted by the Social Epistemology Research Group (SERG) at the University of Copenhagen.

(Alphabetically by Author)
Miranda Fricker: Epistemic Justice As a Condition of Political Freedom
I shall first revisit the broad idea of what I call ‘epistemic injustice’, explaining it now as a wider phenomenon that can take either distributive or discriminatory form. I shall defend the idea that ‘testimonial injustice’ and ‘hermeneutical injustice’ are basic kinds of epistemic injustice in its discriminatory form. These phenomena have ethical and epistemic significance—in both sorts of case, someone is wronged in their capacity as a knower—but my aim here is to show that they also have a political significance. If we take the republican conception of political freedom as non-domination (Pettit), we see that non-domination requires that the citizen can contest any otherwise arbitrary interference. (So long as she is able to contest, it does not count as arbitrary.) However, contestation requires that one not be disabled as a contester by either testimonial or hermeneutical injustice: channels of communication must not be blocked by prejudice, in the hearer’s judgement or in the collective hermeneutical resources, that deflates either the credibility or the intelligibility of the contester’s word. In short, on the republican conception, we see that both testimonial and hermeneutical justice are revealed as conditions of political freedom.

Sanford Goldberg: Inclusiveness Under Conditions of Systematic Disagreement
There are many reasons for thinking that it is an epistemic virtue to structure inquiry in such a way as to include the participation of a wide swath of people, especially those with backgrounds and beliefs different from one’s own, and to consider the viewpoints of others as one fixes belief through such inquiry.  It must be acknowledged, though, that in being inclusive in this way one is likely to encounter views that challenge one’s own.  In some cases these challenges come from people we recognize (or should recognize) as peers.  The topic of peer disagreement has recently received a good deal of attention in the epistemology literature.  What I want to do here is to address two questions at the intersection of the epistemology of inclusiveness and the epistemology of disagreement.  First, what is involved in being ‘epistemically inclusive’ in a context, or a domain, in which there is pervasive (systematic) disagreement?  Second: what epistemic value, if any, does a disposition towards epistemic inclusiveness have in such contexts or domains?  My assumption is that if inclusiveness can be seen as having an epistemic value even in such domains, where the pervasiveness of disagreement threatens to undermine one’s confidence in and/or justification for one’s own beliefs, then this would be a very strong case indeed for the epistemic value of inclusiveness.

Karin Jonch-Clausen: Public Reason and Scientific Inquiry

Public reason accounts have faced the difficult task of balancing two objectives: 1) providing a framework for generating good reasons for public policy and 2) providing a framework for inquiry that can be accepted from all reasonable points of view. Philip Kitcher has recently argued that viable accounts of public reason cannot be inclusive of epistemologies that conflict with the basic methods of scientific inquiry. If public reason is to lead to fruitful democratic decision-making it must be based on shared (scientific) standards of knowledge. Kitcher’s argument suffers from deficiencies, but it nevertheless points some to important questions: Must viable accounts of public reason assume the basic methods of scientific inquiry? Can we reasonably agree about these methods? This paper attempts to address the questions of whether public reasons should be in line with “the methods and conclusions of science when these are not controversial” (Rawls, PL 1995:224), whether we can reasonably agree on which methods and conclusions are non-controversial  and how and if norms of scientific inquiry in public reason can be justified in light of disagreements about these standards.

Jesper Kallestrup: Voluntary Exclusion and the Epistemology of Denial
The transfer of knowledge from expert to novice is facilitated by a question-answer process: the novice knows that an identifiable expert knows the answer to a known question. More precisely, the novice has second-order knowledge that the expert has knowledge-wh which the novice lacks, where knowledge-wh comprises knowledge of a proposition bound by an existential quantifier. Unlike knowledge dissemination, knowledge transfer is a reciprocal process that allows for the expert to be attuned to the epistemic needs of the novice. During communicative exchanges the novice is able to shrink the domain of quantification so as to acquire knowledge of propositions that fulfills those needs and thereby achieve her epistemic goals. This paper explores the ways in which the epistemic goals are thwarted when agents voluntarily exclude themselves from epistemic enquiries by adopting a denialist stance. Examples from recent debate on climate change, evolution theory, vaccines against killer deceases, smoking-related deaths and flu pandemics illustrate confirmation bias, illicit emotional appeal and propagation of rumors. The denialist strategy is to discredit experts so as to legitimize the introduction of propositions into the quantificational domain that falsely or misleadingly answers the embedded wh-question. Consequently, other novices are involuntarily excluded from having needs-fulfilling knowledge transferred or disseminated to them, and thus prevented from achieving their epistemic goals. The upshot is that the epistemic inclusion of one agent can depend on another agent not epistemically excluding herself.

Kristina Rolin: Feminist Standpoint Theory as an Epistemology of Inclusion
Feminist epistemology can be understood as an epistemology of inclusion insofar as it advances the view that scientific communities benefit from the inclusion of marginal or excluded perspectives into scientific debates. As Kristen Intemann has argued recently (2010 in Hypatia), feminist empiricists and feminist standpoint theorists provide different accounts of why diversity within scientific communities is epistemically beneficial. Feminist empiricists recommend that scientific communities be comprised of individuals with diverse values and interests. The reason for this is thought to be that it is easier to identify when values or interests are influencing scientific reasoning when those values or interests are different from one’s own. And the objectivity of scientific knowledge is claimed to be increased by identifying values and interests. Feminist standpoint theory, on the other hand, maintains that it is diversity of social positions (as opposed to diversity of values and interests) that is epistemically beneficial. The question is, between feminist empiricism and standpoint theory, which account of diversity is more plausible? Intemann argues that feminist empiricism should adopt the standpoint theory’s view about diversity. For this reason, she suggests that the two views merge to “feminist standpoint empiricism.” In my presentation I will provide a review of recent debates on feminist standpoint theory and a critical discussion of the view that diversity of social positions is to be preferred to diversity of values and interests in an epistemology of inclusion.