SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

"Medical Gaslighting" erkennen lernen. Ein subjektiver und ergebnisorientierter Ansatz
(Philosophy of Language , Englisch)


As a colloquialism, the term "medical gaslighting" (MG) has become prevalent in the disabled and chronically ill community to refer to experiences in which patients are made to question their bodily perceptions and their ability to make judgments about them (e.g. Sebring, 2021). I will argue that we need a philosophical approach to gaslighting that accounts for a particular detriment of MG, namely that victims are hindered in their capacity to judge who did them wrong, even after they realize that they have experienced MG.

In the recent philosophical literature, there has been an increasing demand to move beyond strictly interpersonal approaches to gaslighting and to turn towards structural concepts. The structural approaches emphasize the subliminal ways in which epistemic institutions and practices shape ignorance and thus unfairly disadvantage certain knowers (Ruiz, 2020; Pohlhaus, 2020).

These accounts, often implicitly, hint at issues of willful ignorance, culpability, and blameworthiness. But I argue that they don't give enough consideration to how these issues emerge on the interpersonal level where, ultimately, victims confront them. The difficulty of localizing culpability is not only what makes gaslighting so pernicious, but also further harms victims who, after painfully realizing they were being gaslit, might not be able to figure out by whom.

Therefore, I argue that we need an extension to such structural and objective accounts which captures even subtle instances of interpersonal MG and thereby helps victims make sense of the injustice that was done to them. I thus propose a subjective approach to MG which takes seriously the structural nature of gaslighting but starts from the victim__s harm.

In a first step, I will elaborate on the current literature on structural accounts of MG. Secondly, I will show how these accounts indicate issues of culpability and blameworthiness which emerge, yet might be extremely difficult to recognize, in interpersonal instances of MG. Thirdly, I will propose a subjective, outcome-based account of MG which allows even for untypical occurrences of MG to be discerned as such ex post. More precisely, I will show how even occurrences that are indistinguishable from epistemic bad luck (and often they are!) can be part of the cumulative experience that amounts to MG.


Pohlhaus, G. (2020). Gaslighting and Echoing, or Why Collective Epistemic Resistance is not a Witch Hunt. Hypatia, 35(4), 674-686.

Ru__z, E. (2020). Cultural Gaslighting. Hypatia, 35(4), 687-713.

Sebring, J. C. H. (2021). Towards a sociological understanding of medical gaslighting in western health care. Sociology of Health and Illness, 43(9), 1951-1964.

Chair: Marlene Valek
Zeit: 16:00-16:30, 09. September 2022 (Freitag)
Ort: SR 1.007
Anmerkung: Online Talk

Ella Valerie Berger
(University of Vienna, Österreich)

Testability and Meaning deco