CARL G. HEMPEL LECTURE: "Critical Standpoints and the Epistemology of Injustice"

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 11:49am -- ngroll
Speaker: 
Sally Haslanger
Affiliation: 
MIT

LECTURE ABSTRACT:  In the context of ideal theory, the Rawlsian original position has been a standard method for attempting to determine what justice is. This paper explores epistemology of justice in the context of non-ideal theory, specifically the epistemology of consciousness raising. Epistemic standpoint theory is a form of non-ideal moral epistemology, but existing standpoint accounts tend to either credit standpoints with unexplained epistemic privilege, or reduce standpoints to mere vantage points on a phenomenon. This paper contributes to an epistemology of injustice by considering how a political epistemology differs from a moral epistemology for individual action and explores the role of counter-publics and social movements in generating social knowledge of injustice.

SERIES TITLE:  "Ideology, Critique, and Conceptual Amelioration."

SERIES ABSTRACT: Culture frames the possibilities for thought and action: from within a culture, certain morally relevant facts are eclipsed and others distorted, and meaningful action occurs within a limited range of options.  On my view, problematic networks of social meanings constitute an ideology.  Such networks prevent us from properly appreciating what is valuable (and how it is valuable) and organize us in unjust ways.  Entrenched ideologies are resilient and are substantial barriers to social justice.

However, culture is not a rigid frame, but is a set of tools – social meanings – made ready for use in certain ways.  In the first lecture, “Ideology in Practice,” I will elaborate my conception of ideology in relation to a theory of social practices and will locate potential sites of agency and resistance.  In the second lecture, “Conceptual Amelioration: Going On, Not in the Same Way,” I will argue that resistant practices can improve or replace our concepts, and thus combat ideology.  Working within an externalist approach to thought and meaning, I argue that both epistemic and semantic amelioration is possible.  However, if, under conditions of injustice, our cognition is shaped by ideology, how can we gain the moral knowledge needed for critique? How do we know what counts as amelioration?  In the third lecture, “Critical Standpoints and the Epistemology of Justice,” I sketch a political epistemology for non-ideal conditions by exploring the phenomenon of consciousness raising.

Date: 
Friday, March 29, 2019 -
4:00pm to 6:00pm
Location: 
101 McCormick Hall