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Prof. McKinnon to Speak at Rutgers University

Posted by: Kate Kenney-Newhard | February 9, 2016 | No Comment |

The first talk was “Yikkity Yak, Who Said That? The Epistemology of Anonymous Assertions”

Abstract: Most of us know that we shouldn’t believe everything that we read online, particularly those things said anonymously. But should we believe any of it? This is the question at the heart of a debate in contemporary epistemology on the epistemology of anonymous assertions. Some such as Goldberg (2013, 2015) argue that it’s epistemically inappropriate to believe anonymous assertions. In essence, as audience members, we’re in an epistemically impoverished position from which to judge the veracity of the statements and the reliability of the speakers. Implicitly or explicitly, those such as Goldberg adopt what we may call a punitive model of speaker responsibility. In this paper, though, I’ll argue that the punitive model is mistaken. Moreover, once we abandon it, in favor of a trust-based model, I’ll also argue that we’re sufficiently epistemically well positioned to form justified beliefs (and thus knowledge) on the basis of anonymous assertions. I will use a recent social media platform, built around anonymous assertions, known as Yik Yak to make my case. I will also connect this discussion to issues of silencing and testimonial injustice.


The second talk was given at the Rutgers Department of Philosophy Annual Climate Talk “Allies Behaving Badly: Gaslighting as Epistemic Injustice” on Thursday, February 11th.


Abstract: In a 2013 blog post, and in her recent book, Mia McKenzie convincingly argues for the end of the term and concept of “allies.” Like her, I’m done with allies. In this talk, I raise some ways in which allies and ally culture has resulted in a number of very serious problems for those that “allies” seek to support. In many cases, allies are causing more harm than they’re preventing. Drawing on real-life examples, I connect ally culture to a lack of accountability and a worrying prevalence of gaslighting, which is a kind of epistemic injustice. In its place, I suggest that we focus on people being good active bystanders, “currently operating in solidarity with” those they seek to support, as McKenzie puts it.


People can watch an earlier version of this talk, delivered in 2013 at Rice University, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4cGNF2y40c

under: colloquia

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