Date of Completion
Social epistemology, feminist philosophy, feminist philosophy of language, epistemic injustice, silencing
Michael P. Lynch
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
In this dissertation, I argue for a unifying account of epistemic and communicative injustice. I do this by showing how these are both ultimately threats to our agency. More specifically, I argue that they are threats to our social-epistemic agency, a distinct kind of agency concerned with the ability to be self-determining in the social-epistemic domain. This agency is fundamentally valuable given the importance of being treated as someone worthy of inclusion in communicative and epistemic life. I argue that agency should be conceived of as a measure of our ability to actually bring about changes in the social-epistemic domain: our ability to alter the epistemic environment by contributing to enquiry, changing someone's mind, learning from one's teachers, occupying a desired social-epistemic role. Social-epistemic agency is dependent both on developing a tripartite set of agential competencies and on our treatment by others. These two components of social-epistemic agency come together to enable us to perform particular actions at particular times (e.g., testifying), and to occupy roles within the social-epistemic domain (e.g., as a union representative). I argue that social-epistemic agency is relational in two different ways. First, it is causally dependent on our relationships with others because our ability to develop agential competencies depends on our personal history of socialisation. Second, it is partly constituted by our relationships with other persons because our ability to actually exercise our agential competencies to bring about desired changes--i.e. to be agential--depends on the ways that others respond to us. I also argue that a notion of social-epistemic respect is necessary for understanding this kind of agency and the ways that we can be harmed through exclusion from social-epistemic life. Finally, using this relational account of social-epistemic agency, I address issues of silencing, epistemic objectification, online discourse, and intellectual humility.
Gunn, Hanna, "Social-Epistemic Agency" (2018). Doctoral Dissertations. 1875.