Beyond Polarization: Epistemic Distortion and Criticism
Individuals support forms of domination with varying levels of understanding that they are doing so. In many cases, those very structures of domination distort our conceptions of them through mechanisms such as motivated reasoning, implicit bias, affected ignorance, false consciousness, and belief polarization. These various epistemic distortions, in turn, cause social conflict, notably by promoting political polarization. Those worried by social conflict have spent a great deal of energy decrying the increasingly polarized contexts in which we live. However, epistemic distortions in our sociopolitical beliefs also maintain systems of domination, are misrepresentative, and prevent human needs from being met.
This workshop aims to go beyond pronouncements such as ‘we are polarized’ or that ‘partisanship is on the rise,’ and begin to think through epistemic distortions at the individual and intersubjective levels, the role of criticism and critique in facilitating belief and social change, and the idea of reconciliation, by asking questions such as:
- In what ways are individual beliefs about domination/social structures epistemically distorted?
- What explains why social beliefs are epistemically distorted?
- What are the normative upshots of epistemic distortion for social relationships like allyship, comradeship, and friendship?
- Ought polarization be remedied? Which epistemic resources and theoretical frameworks avail themselves of emancipatory potential?
Ege Yumuşak is a philosopher specializing in epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and social & political philosophy. She received a PhD in Philosophy from Harvard University in 2022. Her research examines political disagreement—its material foundations, psychological and social manifestations, and epistemic properties. She is currently writing a series of articles on the nature and significance of clashes of perspective in social life.
Nicolas Côté is a lecturer at the University of Glasgow. He works mainly in moral and political philosophy, with a focus on the axiomatic foundations of moral theory, the measurement and weighing of moral values, and the interaction between norms of rationality and norms of morality. He is also interested in the ethics of aid and development, and particularly in the conflict between the well-meaning motives that drive aid policy and the imperialist character that those policies often present.
Robin Celikates (Freie Universität Berlin); Charles Des Portes (Leeds University); Sanford Diehl (New York University); Daniela Dover (University of Oxford); Lidal Dror (Princeton University); Jade Fletcher (University of St Andrews); Joshua Habgood-Coote (University of Leeds); Mie Inouye (Bard College); Cain Shelley (Goethe University Frankfurt); Sabina Vaccarino Bremner (University of Pennsylvania); and Susanna Siegel (Harvard University).