12 Caring to Ask: A New Picture of Inquisitiveness

Jordan Droira

In recent years, Anglo-American philosophy has increasingly mapped the contours of epistemic injustice. This type of moral and epistemic wrong—that is, wronging agents in their capacity as knowers—is pervasive wherever social power interacts with economies of knowledge, and science is no exception. As such, the scientist concerned with human flourishing must face the question: what does virtuous scientific inquiry look like, not just generally, but in light of the dangers surrounding epistemic injustice?

In this paper, I sketch one plausible answer.[1] I argue that scientists ought to cultivate “care-inquisitiveness,” a virtue whereby an agent is characteristically motivated to engage sincerely in good questioning stemming from one’s care for others. I reach my conclusion in four parts. In the first section, I motivate my project by presenting the dangers of epistemic injustice generally but also in science—particularly, that of testimonial injustice. In the second, I show a lacuna in conceptual resources, particularly in the distinction between (a) fulfilling one’s responsibility with respect to the normativity of testimony and (b) the loftier goal of reaching virtue in testimony. In the third, I begin filling the conceptual gap by appealing to Vrinda Dalmiya’s intellectual virtue of care and Lani Watson’s intellectual virtue of inquisitiveness, highlighting the distinctively investigative aspect of science as well as testimonial injustice’s interpersonal dimension. In the fourth, I propose a hybrid view of Dalmiya and Watson’s proposals, characterizing virtuous activity in science as exercising “care-inquisitiveness.” Finally, I conclude that this new paradigm of “caring to ask” enriches the way we look at research generally, since it views the good as primarily attractive.

Epistemic Injustice in Science

In this section, I will briefly outline the general concept of epistemic injustice, then focus on one in particular—namely, testimonial injustice. My goal here is to show one particular form of epistemic injustice and its relevance to scientific practice. Miranda Fricker has made a notable recent contribution to the general topic of epistemic injustice.[2] While this, broadly speaking, is framed as “wronging an agent in her capacity as a knower,” Fricker distinguishes at least two ways in which this may take place: testimonial justice and hermeneutic injustice. Roughly, the former occurs when a hearer attributes less credibility to a speaker than she is owed; the latter occurs when an agent lacks the ability to understand a key aspect of her lived experience, due to the fact that conceptual resources for her community have been undercut by systemic oppression.

For an example of testimonial injustice, Fricker turns to the scene from To Kill a Mockingbird in which the jury withholds the credibility owed to Tom Robinson because of their anti-black prejudice. To illuminate hermeneutic injustice, Fricker cites women experiencing sexual harassment while not yet possessing the term “sexual harassment.”[3] Testimonial injustice wrongs agents in their capacity to know, since giving and receiving testimony is a large part of our epistemic lives. On the other hand, hermeneutic injustice wrongs knowers in their ability to self-understand and relate lived experiences to others, since the creation of conceptual resources often prioritize already privileged social groups and overlook oppressed ones. Indeed, part of Fricker’s goal is to elucidate the dually ethical and epistemic dimensions of oppressive systems.

As such, these two frameworks—testimonial injustice and hermeneutic injustice—contribute immensely to our ability to map our epistemic responsibilities. However, these concepts have also fueled further conversation within analytic philosophy, including in the growing taxonomy of epistemic wrongs. For example, Gaile Polhaus Jr. takes the concept of hermeneutical injustice—something which Fricker characterizes as primarily systemic rather than culprit-based—and extends it to situations where dominantly-situated knowers refuse to acknowledge and employ terms already created by marginalized communities.[4] She calls this “willful hermeneutical ignorance.”[5] Again, what makes this an epistemic injustice is that it harms agents as knowers. However, other terms, such as “participant-based injustice” and “trust injustice,” have also been proposed to map formerly obscured situations, denoting increasingly nuanced aspects of epistemic harm. There is even work that examines how the study of epistemic injustice may itself perpetuate epistemic injustice in some key ways.[6] The general idea here is that analytic philosophy’s understanding of epistemic injustice is valuable but also unfinished and still-budding—partly evidenced by this paper and the connections I attempt to show with scientific inquiry and virtue epistemology.

Now that I’ve briefly reviewed the general concept of epistemic injustice, I’d like to dig a bit deeper into the nature of one particular type of epistemic injustice—namely, testimonial justice. Fricker describes testimonial injustice as a negative trait, whereby a speaker experiences “a credibility deficit owing to identity prejudice in the hearer.”[7] In other words, if a hearer’s identity prejudice causes her to discount the testimony of a speaker, she has committed a testimonial injustice. Fricker explains that this kind of injustice need not be conscious; in fact, we perpetrate it by failing to reflectively and critically engage our own prejudices so as to neutralize them. Conversely, a stable disposition to neutralize one’s identity prejudices, causing one to fully recognize one’s speakers as knowers, amounts to the “virtue of being testimonially just.”

Importantly, Fricker frames both testimonial injustice and testimonial justice in the context of responsibilist virtue epistemology.[8] As such, the virtue of testimonial justice is conceptualized as a “global trait.”[9] In other words, testimonial justice qua intellectual character virtue ought not to manifest merely in a single subset of an agent’s life (e.g., neutralizing identity prejudices only when they speak to their family); the virtue should manifest in a variety of situations. They will be testimonially just when they converse with their friends, when they serve on a jury, when they teach a class, etc. And, most relevant, the testimonially just agent will act accordingly when they engage in scientific inquiry.

Testimonial justice, then, plays an important role in scientific inquiry, since it focuses on all the ways testimony and credibility attribution towards speakers contributes to the production of scientific knowledge.[10] For example, the background assumptions scientists carry into an inquiry play an important causal role in the research projects—assumptions which we usually imbibe (or fail to imbibe) from the testimony of others.[11] These assumptions can range but are not limited to implicit biases with respect to: who “looks like” a competent scientist, who should be prioritized with respect to research aims, who is expendable with respect to a research project’s cost, what kind of research methodologies are “legitimate science” and which ones belong in an assumed lesser “anthropological studies.” Allowing implicit biases with respect to gender, race, disability, and so on to sneak into our lives generally also means that they threaten to implicate scientists in testimonial justice. Such vulnerabilities demonstrate how and why egregious abuse of, e.g., the poor and racial minorities, have taken place: science, to be good, must fully acknowledge the agents involved as contributors of knowledge. Neutralizing credibility deficits due to identity prejudices, then, is of clear importance to the scientist concerned with virtue.

Responsibility or Excellence?

At this point, one might be convinced that Fricker’s virtue of testimonial justice is indeed necessary for a flourishing scientific life. At the very least, the converse seems obviously true: testimonial injustice in science would clearly inhibit human flourishing. However, as important as testimonial justice is, there is good reason to think it is not a genuine virtue. As I will argue in this section, how we characterize neutralizing our identity prejudices is important, especially if it is more of a responsibility than a virtue. The upshot, if testimonial injustice is a mere responsibility, is not that it isn’t worth pursuing; it’s that we have no robust normative rubric for excellence in relation to avoiding testimonial injustice. I explain this first by appealing to the distinction between right action and virtuous action, and second by applying Wayne Riggs’s analysis on the deeply deontic nature of testimonial injustice. As I will show, an analysis of full-fledged virtue in relation to testimonial injustice requires further conceptualization.

Linda Zagzebski characterizes intellectual virtues as a subcategory of moral virtues. As such, they share the same overall structure: both are dispositions of emotions as well as dispositions of reliable success in their characteristic ends. However, virtues, on this responsibilist account, are also moral excellences. More specifically, whereas deontic concepts of duty entail merely escaping blame, character virtues aim for the praiseworthy.[12] This conceptual distinction may be illustrated by an example. When students take an exam, the grading rubric may be one of two types. The first type is pass/fail; the second is a gradient from a “A+” to a “low F.” A deontic model, which defines right action in terms of “avoiding the wrong,” is more akin to the pass/fail distinction of grading; an aretaic model, which aims for moral excellence, is more akin to the “A+” to “low F” spectrum of grading. One advantage of virtue theoretic rubrics is that their primary focus is mapping the contours of “A+ living,” not just merely a “passing” behavior.

This is especially important when we examine the culpability for testimonial injustice, as Wayne Riggs does.[13] By a careful exegesis of Fricker’s text, Riggs highlights that it is not clear when we are culpable for testimonial injustice; moreover, it’s not clear exactly for what the agent is culpable. Of course, a failure to neutralize one’s identity prejudices is an obvious part of the problem, but Fricker’s examples seem to yield conflicting judgments as to when we are culpable. For example, though Fricker defines testimonial injustice as occurring whenever a speaker experiences a “credibility deficit owing to the identity prejudice of the hearer,” there is an exception made for Herbert Greenleaf, a character in The Talented Mr. Ripley.[14] Even though Herbert disbelieves the testimony of Marge Sherwood, Fricker proposes that this is a “non-culpable” instance of testimonial injustice.[15]

As Riggs comments, it’s difficult to understand exactly what a “non-culpable injustice” may amount to. On the one hand, Herbert Greenleaf’s culpability may be diminished on account of “the critical consciousness of gender” being beyond his reach.[16] Perhaps, this view goes, Greenleaf’s behavior would become culpably unjust should he have greater opportunity to understand his social situatedness as a man in a male-dominated society and, even then, fail to correct for his biases. On the other hand, Greenleaf clearly attributed less credibility than his speaker was owed. Riggs solves the conflicting intuitions regarding culpability by recasting the “vice of testimonial injustice,” plainly and simply, as a form of negligence. In other words, agents are testimonially unjust only when (a) it is reasonable to expect the agent in question to correct their credibility judgements and (b) it is reasonable to expect the agent in question to recognize the harms that would result from a failure to do so.[17]

However, this analysis is deeply deontic in nature. In other words, if Riggs is right, testimonial injustice simply amounts to avoiding harm: it is a type of negligence related to one’s identity prejudices. Testimonial justice, then, amounts to doing one’s duty and not being negligent. This provides a more satisfactory answer as to when and why agents are culpable. But the price tag on this amendment is forfeiting the notion of testimonial justice as an intellectual character virtue. Since Fricker defines testimonial justice as “not being testimonially unjust,” the virtue language used for prejudice-neutralization is misleading. Testimonial justice amounts only to fulfilling one’s responsibility.

Riggs’ analysis is especially illuminating when we turn back to see how epistemic injustice has played in science.[18] As Grasswick explains, science has been misused to oppress marginalized social groups along such axes as race, class, gender.[19] A specific example of this is the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, which denied black men treatment for syphilis—despite the fact that penicillin was available and recognized as the standard medical response—merely to track the progression of the disease.[20] Surely, testimonial injustice was part of what led to the harms. And as such, the scientists involved were culpable in their negligence according to the two features above: their prejudices prevented them from fully recognizing racial minorities as knowers, and this led to the preventable harms to which the test subjects were subjected.

Above and Beyond Harm-Avoidance: Possible Candidates

This raises a further question: what does it mean for the scientist to act virtuously in relation to testimonial injustice? Simply put, virtue theorists must show us exactly what the “A+” looks like, whereas Fricker’s “testimonial justice” only shows us what a “passing grade” is. A comprehensive answer is likely too much for a single paper, but I would like to briefly sketch a picture which may at least help fill out the missing parts of our normative rubric. The first part of this section simply explains my overall strategy—appealing to non-sui generis character virtues which have prima facie relevance to testimonial injustice. I then appeal to an intellectual character virtue specifically relevant to scientists qua researchers, and finally appeal to an intellectual character virtue dealing specifically with the interpersonal dimension of testimonial injustice. My overall goal, then, is to lay the foundation for a genuinely virtue-based rubric concerning testimonial injustice, one which not only avoids harm, but reaches excellence.

As mentioned, my goal is to provide a normative account that goes above and beyond the harms intrinsic to testimonial injustice. As such, one plausible strategy is to appeal to another intellectual character virtue, such as open-mindedness.[21] On this augmented rubric regarding testimonial injustice, a wrong act is avoided by correcting one’s prejudices to avoid harm, but a virtuous act is reached by exercising open-mindedness. Such is Jack Kwong’s contention, when he explains how open-mindedness plays an important normative role in accounting for the goodness and badness of testimonial injustice (along with other “culprit-based” forms of epistemic injustice, for that matter). Thus, we receive the full “A+ to low F” spectrum of evaluation characteristic of virtue ethics, since it also allows us to evaluate acts with greater specificity. Building off his addendum, excellence means exercising the virtue of open-mindedness; being continent with respect to open-mindedness ranks a bit lower; incontinence with respect to open-mindedness (thus allowing prejudices to diminish credibility attributions) ranks a bit lower; and, finally, vicious close-mindedness with respect to others’ standpoints is the most morally blameworthy. This “A+ to low F” gradience in normative evaluation is a characteristic advantage of virtue-based rubrics, and Kwong’s style of thought is what I seek to emulate here.

As helpful as open-mindedness is in relation to testimonial injustice, this normativity-mapping is not finished. For one thing, Kwong himself suggests that there must be other intellectual character virtues doing the explanatory work.[22] Another issue, however, has to do with the uniqueness of scientists qua investigators. It is not enough for a scientist to be open-minded; a characteristic feature of the scientist is that she actively seeks cognitive goods. And though open-mindedness is intuitively important for a scientist’s success, the fact that the scientist goes above and beyond this—initiating research projects and seeing them through to the end—suggests, at least on prima facie grounds, another virtue.

Lani Watson provides us with a plausible candidate for this additional virtue: the character virtue of inquisitiveness.[23] On her view, the inquisitive agent is characteristically motivated to engage in sincerely good questioning. Here, good questioning always ends at improving epistemic standing, or in Zagzebski’s language, “bringing the agent into closer cognitive contact with reality.”[24] Such a virtue is partly a matter of perception—i.e., being able to properly ingest the data from the world around her—and partly a matter of question construction—i.e., getting to the “heart” of a particular matter.

We can find an illustration of this virtue in a classroom setting. Imagine an ethics course where the subject matter is utilitarian ethical theories. The student who creates a relevant, sincere, and well-formulated question succeeds in a virtuous act of inquisitiveness. If the question is about what the instructor had for lunch, it fails to reach virtue because of its irrelevance; if the student asks a question merely to impress the instructor (perhaps for a letter of recommendation), the question fails to reach virtue because of its poor motivation; if the question is too confusing in its wording, then it fails to reach virtue because of its formulation. Thus, Watson’s conception of inquisitiveness entails excellence in all these criteria of questioning, making the person who characteristically engages in this kind of behavior the possessor of this intellectual character virtue.

So, in at least one sense, the virtuous scientist must concern herself with the virtue of inquisitiveness—particularly as she is a researcher.[25] But there is another facet we must account for as well: virtue, in relation to testimonial injustice, deals with agents’ relationships to others. That is, inquisitiveness (and open-mindedness, for that matter) has little to say about how to relate to other people qua people. In the epistemic sense, they do not tell us what cognitive goods, or even what kinds of cognitive goods, we should prioritize.

Here’s another way to frame this problem: inquisitiveness is a virtue which, by and large, a calloused person could exercise.[26] Imagine a scientist who is deeply concerned with figuring out how the human body works and uses human test subjects in her research projects. Such a scientist may be characteristically motivated to ask sincere, relevant, and well-formulated questions. But she may prioritize her curiosities about biology over and above the well-being of the test subjects. That is, her pursuit of cognitive goods needs to be evaluated alongside the criteria of her relationship to others. Appealing to inquisitiveness alone, it is unclear why there is a specific subset of questions she ought to consider. Once we isolate this desideratum of scientific inquiry—i.e., how well we relate to others—it stands to reason we should isolate what virtue looks like in particularly in this regard.

A plausible candidate for this is the intellectual character virtue of care, as conceived by Vrinda Dalmiya in her 2002 article “Why Should a Knower Care.”[27] Dalmiya first acknowledges that care is intuitively conceived as a moral virtue, and so develops a version of care that is consistent with Linda Zagzebski’s model of responsibilist character virtues—i.e., a characteristic disposition of emotions and behavior. However, Dalmiya argues further that care is an intellectual character virtue. Her reasoning is that it brings us, in Zagzebski’s words, “into closer cognitive contact with reality.”

In Dalmiya’s view, care (as a moral virtue) is rooted in empathy for the person cared-for, a kind of empathy manifested in the simulation of the cared-for’s subjective experience. Moreover, there must be a displacement of interest from the care-giver’s experience, favoring that of the person cared-for. This displacement of interest is important because even psychopaths may understand the subjective experiences of their victims; sincerely valuing the other’s experience is what makes a moral difference. Care is also characterized as a golden mean between caring too much and caring too little. This kind of care is tempered by feedback from the person cared-for, such that the virtuous caregiver values the cared-for’s experience to the right degree. As such, the person who characteristically engages in this type of behavior is virtuously caring.

However, care (as an intellectual virtue) also plays an important role in reorienting the knower’s perspective of what is epistemically valuable and what is not. Knowledge-seeking tempered by care is focused not only on true belief collection—but also on whose beliefs they are. The caring knower is cognizant of the complex relationship between herself and her community. As Dalmiya writes, virtuous care-knowing “involves taking a broader look at those who are affected by our attitudes and by our knowing and at the reasons for our interest in them in the first place.”[28] As such, ignoring the expectations of others in our relationships in knowledge-seeking constitutes not only an ethical failure, but an epistemic one. Put simply, virtuous care-knowing points epistemic agents towards the appropriate cognitive goals—based on the particularities of her relationships, not least those of her community.

What’s important for our analysis is that care, qua intellectual character virtue, plays an important role in our normative rubric—particularly in the pursuit of the right cognitive goods. Thinking back to our callous yet inquisitive scientist, we can now evaluate her badness and goodness in a virtue-normative framework, since the scientist falls short particularly because her inquisitiveness isn’t aimed at the right target. And most importantly, Dalmiya’s account gives us a principled understanding of what excellence in this respect would be: valuing not just true nor interesting beliefs, but the subjective-experience of another, constitutes virtuous care.

Again, my overall strategy is to invoke the normative power of other intellectual character virtues when it comes to accounting for what we originally called “testimonial justice.” Since Fricker’s conception of testimonial injustice seems to amount to merely avoiding harms, it should be augmented with other virtues to provide a fuller picture, one which maps virtues qua excellences. As it concerns virtuous scientific inquiry, my first candidate is inquisitiveness, since scientists are characteristically in the business of seeking knowledge and understanding the world. However, my second candidate is the intellectual character virtue of care, since testimonial justice is fundamentally other-regarding. Together, these virtues lay the groundwork for my next section, where I argue that the two virtues are complementary in at least one important sense, helping refine the picture of what virtuous activity—in relation to testimonial injustice—looks like.

Pin-Pointing the “A+”: Care-Inquisitiveness

Now that I’ve laid the foundation for a virtue theoretic addendum to Fricker’s rubric, I can refine my target. As explained earlier, the two virtues of inquisitiveness and care seem importantly relevant to the scientist concerned with testimonial injustice. In what follows, I will first show how the two virtues intersect in at least one important way; then, I will show how the exercise of this virtue adequately accounts for the excellence which goes above and beyond specifically testimonial harm; I conclude this section by demonstrating the value of this normative re-structuring.

When thinking about the virtue of inquisitiveness, it’s worth digging deeper with respect to what constitutes a valuable question. In other words, there is a matter of “significance, worthiness, and relevance” that a particular question may bring an agent’s epistemic standing. As mentioned earlier, a question about what an instructor may have eaten for lunch, if asked during a lecture on utilitarianism, does not count as good questioning because it does not seem to meet the worthwhileness aspect of question-asking. However, our intuition regarding what counts as a “good question” in a classroom setting is partially dependent on the aims of the class. When it comes to good questioning more generally, and especially in science where more open-ended inquiry is not only possible but encouraged, the matter of “significance, worthiness, and relevance,” requires further clarification.

Roberts and Woods delve into this topic in their work on regulative epistemology.[29] Namely, they highlight that cognitive goods can be “worthy” in more than one sense: some are worthy because of the role they play in human flourishing (e.g., medical discoveries); others are worthy even if they have no practical application (e.g., the age of the universe); others can even be fictional and worth studying (e.g., the mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literature). However, I submit that the value of other-related cognitive goods finds a parsimonious explanation in the virtue of care. In the virtue-responsibilist language of Zagzebski, certain cognitive goods are valuable because a caring agent would characteristically seek them. Adding care to Watson’s normative rubric has two main advantages.

First, the hybridization of inquisitiveness and care produces a normative standard that is excellence-aimed independently of avoiding harms. In other words, it is a genuinely virtue-theoretic and not a mere deontological norm dressed in virtue language. The inquisitive agent who acts from care does so in a way that is “A+” material in a way that is not explanatorily dependent on avoiding negligence. Second, the care-inquisitive agent will also neutralize her credibility deficits as to avoid harm, though she will go above and beyond that expectation as well. Since this agent’s goals are such that she excellently seeks the cognitive goods which prioritize the wellbeing of others, prejudice neutralization is entailed by the exercise of this virtue.[30] After all, caring about the well-being of those around us is partly constituted by critically assessing and avoiding the ways we may harm them.[31]

It’s helpful to provide an exemplar of care-inquisitiveness, for which I turn to my mother. About two years ago, my grandmother (my mother’s mother) was diagnosed with an aggressive type of cancer. In light of this news, my mother quickly began personal research into the subject, consulting the appropriate experts on the subjects (family members who practiced medicine, local oncologists, and others). She researched the type of cancer itself, learning about possible side effects of treatment and what different timelines looked like, what kind of diet is best for chemotherapy patients, and so on. In a word, she was sincerely motivated to improve her epistemic standing by engaging in good questioning. According to typical Western cultural and philosophical intuitions, such behavior is clearly within the bounds of care (she would also engage in caring practices which were not distinctively epistemic—e.g., comforting my grandmother, praying with her, etc.) However, what’s important to notice for my purposes is that my mother’s cognitive goals were not led by a general thirst for knowledge and other cognitive goods. Her admirable inquiry was led by her prioritization of the cared-for’s subjective experience. In other words, she asked because she cared.

Another way to conceptualize this virtue is to imagine a Venn diagram: in one circle, you find all the acts which count as genuine acts of inquisitiveness; in the other, you find all the acts which count as genuine acts of virtuous care. Where the circles overlap, you find care-inquisitiveness—wherein an agent is genuinely motivated to engage in good questioning not because of her general interest in cognitive goods but because of her care for others. This image of inquisitiveness recognizes the variety in value when it comes to improve epistemic standing—some questions may be valuable since they seek deep truths about the world, others may have instrumental value—but an important subset are valuable simply because they are what a caring agent would seek.

I believe this provides a much better target for scientific virtue as it relates to testimonial injustice. In other words, we now have a clearer picture of excellence as it relates to science, oppression, and testimonial harms. According to my rubric, testimonial injustice occurs with incontinent and vicious character—i.e., when scientists may know they are incontinent with respect to care-inquisitiveness or have a corresponding vice (e.g., callousness).[32] Credibility-reducing identity prejudices will never or seldom be undone unless we self-interrogate with the right motivation and skill. But we now have a more robust rubric for when agents do indeed neutralize identity-prejudices in their hearing: they may characteristically engage in sincerely good questioning, prioritizing the subset of cognitive goods which deal with the well-being of others. Simply put, we have a clearer picture as to how they may reach virtue.

Conclusion

My sketch of virtue in relation to testimonial injustice is, I hope, a small but constructive step in fully mapping the normative terrain of scientific inquiry. In my first section, I highlighted the problem that testimonial injustice plays in science; in the second, I showed that testimonial justice is not a genuine responsibilist virtue, as it amounts to mere harm-avoidance; in the third, I began constructing a virtue-normative response to this lacuna by appealing to the virtues of inquisitiveness and care; finally, I showed how the two virtues may overlap in a single type of activity—care-inquisitiveness. Such a rubric goes over and above the deontic roots of testimonial injustice and brings us closer to understanding what human flourishing looks like.

Though this argument may appear to be a mere philosopher’s quibble, the way we conceptualize goodness in with respect to prejudice, responsibility, harm, and virtue is fundamentally important to the way we practice science. It matters to the same degree that “being a violinist” goes above and beyond merely avoiding the sour notes; doing so would severely impair a violinist’s growth, since the target is ill-conceived. Instead, conceptualizing violin-playing as reaching for virtuosity is far preferable. Thus, we may ask, how should the scientist conceptualize her practice in relation to testimonial injustice: a matter of avoiding harms or reaching for excellence? Virtuosity, in this case, means caring to ask.

JORDAN DROIRA is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Oklahoma’s philosophy department. His research interests include virtue ethics and social epistemology. Jordan is originally from South Florida, where he attended Florida International University for his B.A.

Bibliography

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  • Dalmiya, Vrinda. “Why Should a Knower Care?” Hypatia 17.1 (2002): 34–52.
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  • Reverby, Susan. Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
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  1. The conceptual problem I raise (section 2) is that “testimonial justice” reduces, by and large, to harm-avoidance. I suspect that other forms of epistemic injustice (e.g., hermeneutical injustice) suffer from the same problem, though a deeper discussion of this issue is beyond the scope of this paper.
  2. Miranda Fricker, Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
  3. Ibid., 150. The implication here is that the work of women such as Carmita Dickenson and Susan Brownmiller filled this conceptual lacuna by proposing a fitting and then new term. Fricker quotes Brownmiller: “The ‘this’ they were going to break the silence about had no name. ‘Eight of us were sitting in an office of Human Affairs,’ Sauvigne remembers, ‘brainstorming about what we were going to write on the posters for our speak-out. We were referring to it as ‘sexual intimidation,’ ‘sexual coercion,’ ‘sexual exploitation on the job.’ None of those terms seemed right. We wanted something that embraced a whole range of subtle and unsubtle persistent behaviors. Somebody came up with ‘harassment.’ Sexual harassment! Instantly we agreed. That’s what it was” (emphasis in original).
  4. Gaile Pohlhaus, Jr., “Relational Knowledge and Epistemic Injustice: Toward a Theory of Willful Hermeneutical Ignorance,” Hypatia 27.4 (2012): 715–35.
  5. Ibid., 15.
  6. Iann James Kidd, Jose Medina, and Gaile Pohlhaus, Jr. outline this worry in their introduction to The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice (London: Routledge, 2017), as Pohlhaus “…offers four different lenses for examining the varieties of epistemic injustice and relations among epistemic injustices. Because our knowledge practices, including those that map concepts, orient epistemic attention simultaneously toward some and away from other aspects of the world, [Pohlhaus Jr.] cautions against using only one lens (or even one set of lenses) for thinking about epistemic injustices.” For more explicit cases of epistemic opression perpetuated through its own study see, for example, Kristie Dotson, “A Cautionary Tale: On Limiting Epistemic Oppression,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 33.1 (2012): 24–47. Moreover, the perpetuation of epistemic injustice perpetuation through its own study may also occur within other intellectual traditions which study the same phenomenon, though by a different framework; see, for example, Mariana Ortega’s criticism of the citation politics within U.S. academic work in decolonial philosophy (“Decolonial Woes and Practices of Un-Knowing,” The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 31.3 (2017): 504–16).
  7. Fricker, Epistemic Injustice, 28.
  8. Linda Zagzebski, Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Foundations of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
  9. Nancy Snow, Virtue as Social Intelligence: An Empirically Grounded Theory (London: Routledge, 2010).
  10. Heidi Grasswick, “Epistemic Injustice in Science,” in The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice, 314–23.
  11. Ibid.
  12.   Zagzebski, Virtues of the Mind.
  13. Wayne Riggs, “Culpability for Epistemic Injustice: Deontic or Aretetic?,” Social Epistemology 26.2 (2012): 149–62.
  14. Fricker, Epistemic Injustice.
  15. For those who are unfamiliar with this part of the story, Marge possesses knowledge as to the identity of her husband’s killer. Herbert fails to attribute her due credibility with a wave of the hand: “Marge, there’s female intuition, and then there’s facts.”
  16. Riggs, “Culpability for Epistemic Injustice.”
  17. Ibid.
  18. I mention epistemic justice generally, since testimonial injustice is surely not the only means by which these science-sponsored harms have taken place; testimonial smothering, testimonial quieting, trust injustice, hermeneutical injustice, etc.—these are all jointly the means by which these harms are perpetuated, when we talk about the history of marginalized groups in relation to science. However, I think that Riggs’ argument applies equally well to several of these other types of epistemic injustice as well: these are importantly connected to the foreseeable and preventable harms agents fail to prevent.
  19. Grasswick, “Epistemic Injustice in Science.”
  20. Susan Reverby, Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).
  21. Jack Kwong, "Epistemic Injustice and Open-Mindedness," Hypatia 30.2 (2015): 337–51.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Lani Watson, “What is Inquisitiveness?,” American Philosophical Quarterly 52.3 (2015): 273–87.
  24. Ibid.; Zagzebski, Virtues of the Mind.
  25. Watson, “What is Inquisitiveness?” Another way to frame my appeal to inquisitiveness is to recall the work of Phillipa Foot. Her neo-Aristotelian theory asks us to consider the “natural goodness” of a creature—and though scientists are members of the human species, we may also ask what about the characteristic features of the scientific life. Plausibly, inquisitiveness is a central feature in the scientific life and so deserves a place on the normative rubric we seek.
  26. This possibility assumes that the “unity of the virtues” thesis is incorrect. Of course, if possession of one virtue entails the possession of all others, then this counterexample would not hold. At the very least, what I aim to show here is that our normative rubric thus far—even with both open-mindedness and inquisitiveness—fails to explain the goodness and badness that manifests in the characteristically interpersonal aspects of testimonial injustice.
  27. Vrinda Dalmiya, “Why Should a Knower Care?,” Hypatia 17.1 (2002): 34–52.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Robert Roberts and Jay Wood, Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007).
  30. My account’s success is partly dependent on the notion that care, as a virtue, entails caring for people broadly speaking. If the agent only cares for her immediate family members (and is not expected to care beyond this circle), then my proposed normative rubric won’t be much help. A full treatment of this objection is beyond the scope of this paper. However, I submit that scientists have a prima facie duty to care for their communities. Pre-theoretic intuitions about the moral wrongness inherent in unjust experimentation on minorities, for instance, are rooted in the vice of callousness. And if this intuitive judgement is correct, care is the corresponding trait we should appeal to when explaining moral goodness.
  31. Dalmiya, “Why Should a Knower Care?”
  32. Here, one might highlight that many scientists may not see callousness as a vice with respect to scientific inquiry. The idea here is that callousness may actually be something epistemically desirable in research—taking the form of, say, impartiality. I think this is an important point. However, I think that the two concepts remain conceptually distinct: being callous denotes the kind of behavior that we described earlier—of pursing research at the expense of harm caused to other people. Conversely, impartiality denotes a kind of justice with respect to inquiry. If so, then it may highlight the need for a higher-order virtue, such as phronesis (roughly, practical wisdom), to adjudicate how and when to be caring rather than impartial—or vice versa. I thank Darcia Narvaez for raising this point in her comments.