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Culpability for Epistemic Injustice: Deontic or Aretetic?

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This paper focuses on several issues that arise in Miranda Fricker’s book Epistemic injustice surrounding her claims about our (moral) culpability for perpetrating acts of testimonial injustice. While she makes frequent claims about moral culpability with respect to specific examples, she never addresses the issue in its full generality, and we are left to extrapolate her general view about moral culpability for acts of testimonial injustice from these more restricted and particular claims. Although Fricker never describes testimonial injustice in such terms, I argue that the fundamental wrong done in acts of testimonial injustice is a form of negligence. Once we understand testimonial injustice in this way, it is easier to see when and why we are culpable for perpetrating such injustices. Indeed, explicitly recognizing testimonial injustice as a form of negligence solves several problems for Fricker’s view, which are elucidated briefly along the way. However, construing testimonial injustice as a form of negligence has a cost as well. It highlights the fact that the normative core of Fricker’s view is deontological, rather than virtue-theoretic. Fricker claims to be offering a theory of the virtue of testimonial justice along the model of current virtue theories in epistemology, yet it seems that there is no compelling reason to think of what she has offered as a virtue theory, at least not on the model of virtue theories that one finds in epistemology. This is not to say that her view is any less plausible for not being a virtue theory. But calling it a virtue theory affects how one interprets its various claims, and tends to lead one away from, rather than toward, a proper understanding of the deep deontological nature of her account.
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Keywords: Deontology; Epistemic Injustice; Injustice; Moral Culpability; Social Epistemology; Testimony; Virtue Epistemology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-04-01

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