Miranda Fricker’s Epistemic Injustice (Testimonial injustice handout)
Fricker’s arguments on charting out a positive space of epistemic justice by identifying negative spaces are too optimistic about justice and truth. Hermeneutical injustice occurs when an individual is not allowed to contribute towards resources of collective meaning making, but does this collective resource essentially identify with truth. This collectivity are epistemologies from dominant voices, representation does not run through the lines of class, race and individualism. There can never be perfect epistemic justice, due to the inert inequality of representation in truth. Truth becomes a problematic construct when seen through such a lens.
The problem lies with testimony as a subjective narrative that can be mangled by both the knower and the enquirer. This derailment of the truth is labeled as testimonial injustice by Fricker. But she does not take into account that the clouding of truth is also influenced by the collective resources of meaning making that engenders bias. Credibility is assigned to those agents of knowledge who are preapproved by the dominant collective. An example of this problem with testimonial credibility can be seen in the media’s obsession with Islamic nations, and the coloring of such countries in a bloody light. This testimony is attested for its truth by the sheer volume of agents who profess the same version. But testimony emanating from the Islamic side never comes to light.
Hermeneutical injustice can be seen in such debates as the one on abortion. Forms of dominant collective knowledge are patriarchal, this in a way lends towards the injustice of making a woman criminally responsible under the law, for decisions she takes relating to her body. Since the collective pool of knowledge is tainted, an abortion becomes equated to murder, and this comes under the guise of ethics or truth. But the undercurrent that runs through can rightfully sum up how Hermeneutical injustice cannot be addressed because of the legitimacy given to the versions of justice it upholds.
Fricker draws out testimonial justice as an intellectual and an ethical virtue, which in a way is overtly reductionist. Fricker’s assumption that the ethical and intellectual come together to form a positive hybrid, does not take into account that prejudice is acted upon with full consciousness of the intellectual and ethical faculties of the mind. On the other hand, hermeneutical justice would play a key role in bringing down structural prejudice in the collective hermeneutical resources. While these categories in a way, highlight the problems inherent in the structure of the epistemic, in particular relation to the testimonial and hermeneutical, the solution it provides can at best be used to enhance awareness. Furthermore this debate is very essential in realities we face today, than during the time frame of Harper Lee’s tale, since everything today comes to us as truths. Truth has become a prejudiced stereotype where the taint cannot be pointed out or scraped. Thus the shortcomings of testimonial and hermeneutical injustice, becomes a conscious decision where the hearer ignores something important because the individual accords blind allegiance to collective stereotyped knowledge.
Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2007. Print.