Annals of Ethics
Online ISSN : 2434-4699
Hermeneutical Injustice and Vicious Agency
Examining Miranda Fricker’s Idea of Hermeneutical Injustice
Kunimasa SATO
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2019 Volume 68 Pages 247-261


 In her pioneering work Epistemic Injustice, Miranda Fricker elucidates how people are wronged as the knowers in various social epistemic practices of knowledge production, acquisition, transmission, and dissemination. In her account, “hermeneutical injustice” in essence refers to injustice caused by prejudice that is structurally internalized in the collective hermeneutical resource, such as conceptual tools and expressive styles, in a particular society at a particular time. Due to this structural prejudice, people of minority and socially powerless people can wrongfully be treated as knowers, so that their distinct voices and experiences remain unintelligible.  This paper explores the essential constituents of the vicious agency of perpetrators involved in hermeneutical injustice. In Fricker’s view, structural prejudice in the collective resource is bad not only epistemically but also morally because it causes people of minority and socially powerless people to be hermeneutically marginalized. However, Fricker argues that there is no perpetrator in hermeneutical injustice as prejudice is incorporated implicitly in the collective hermeneutical resource. On the contrary, Medina contends that vicious agency makes sense in terms of responsibility for noticing others’ non-standard voices and distinct experiences. Whereas Medina’s argument illuminates the possibility that people perpetrate hermeneutical injustice, there are other essential constituents of the vicious agency alongside agent’s responsibility.  On the basis of virtue theory, I will demonstrate that the vicious agency of agents who commit hermeneutical injustice is assessed not only by their vicious motivations but also by bad results produced by their action. First, if agents have motivations to intentionally disregard others’ sincere voices and experiences, and maintain the structural prejudice in the collective resource, they perpetrate hermeneutical injustice. Second, if agents do not neutralize the prejudice in their own hermeneutical resource, even by a direct interaction with others who appeal their voices and experiences, they are culpable of committing hermeneutical injustice.“ Neutralizing prejudice” here refers to agents’ becoming aware of a lacuna in the present hermeneutical resource as well as recognizing structural prejudices. Conversely, even if agents are unsuccessful in making others’ voices and experiences socially intelligible, they are not deemed as perpetrators if they produce the effect of neutralizing prejudice.

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