SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

SOPhiA ToolsDE-pageEN-page

Programme - Talk

Concept-Use and Hermeneutical Justice
(Philosophy of Language, English)

TW: Rape

I argue that hermeneutical justice demands not only that an agent possess the relevant concept(s), but also that she can competently use them. This requires revisions to mainline descriptions of hermeneutical justice.

Trauma is one way that harms to someone's ability to use concepts can result in hermeneutical injustice. I consider the hypothetical case of Olivia, a rape victim. The high emotional and social costs of identifying her experience as rape prevent Olivia from competently using her concept, <rape>, to make sense of her trauma.

The case points towards two conclusions. First, concept-possession and concept-use can come apart: After Olivia is raped, she possesses the concept but cannot competently use it. Second, unjustly violating someone's ability to use a concept constitutes a hermeneutical injustice - even if one maintains possession of the concept.

Both conclusions challenge mainline theories of hermeneutical justice, and I sketch two ways to revise the theories accordingly. One option requires revising our definition of concept-possession to include competent concept-use. A second involves revising our understanding of hermeneutical justice to require both concept-possession and concept-use. I argue that this second option is more promising.

My intervention has implications for our efforts to promote epistemic justice. We must ensure that educational efforts pair relevant concepts with the tools to actually use them competently. Additionally, we must pay careful attention to the usefulness of the concepts we develop when we do ameliorative analysis and conceptual engineering. We also see that hermeneutical justice requires lowering the social, emotional, and cognitive costs associated with using concepts that people already possess.

The stakes are high. Recognizing the importance of concept-use has consequences for our theories of hermeneutical justice, and failing to do so risks overlooking opportunities to promote justice.

Chair: Hugo Ribeiro Mota
Time: 12:00-12:30, 09. September 2022 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.007
Remark: (Online Talk)

Margot Witte 
(University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, United States)

Testability and Meaning deco