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Epistemic Injustice, Responsibility and the Rise of Pseudoscience: Contextually Sensitive Duties to Practice Scientific Literacy

  • Author(s): Joyal, Abraham
  • Advisor(s): Guevara, Daniel
  • et al.

This dissertation explores the responsibilities of different individuals to agree with the scientific consensus of their time and place. It seeks to provide a normative response to the growth of pseudoscientific movements such as the anti-vaccination movement or climate change denialism. That said, this dissertation takes all scientific beliefs held by non-scientists to be based on some amount of luck. The level of luck different non-experts experience meanwhile, is evidence of certain epistemic injustices, as they've been described by the likes of José Medina and Miranda Fricker. I argue that these epistemic injustices can occur as a result of the non-expert being privileged or as a result of the non-expert being oppressed. But if both privilege and oppression can lead one to believe in pseudoscience, should privileged and oppressed people be held to the same standard of responsibility? Certain theorists have naively and tacitly approved of both being held to the same standards of culpability, particularly those who comment on the so-called “epistemic condition for moral responsibility”. I assert that a twofold conception of responsibility can explain this state of affairs, taking people to be culpable for what I call their “preparatory responsibilities” according to how privileged or oppressed they are, while taking people to be culpable for what I call their “deliberative responsibilities” according to whatever epistemic obstacles they face, regardless of whether these obstacles follow from privilege or oppression. I then reapply this twofold conception of responsibility to certain theorists of epistemic injustice, particularly Medina and Fricker, drawing on the former to flesh out my view of preparatory responsibilities and drawing on the latter to explore my view of deliberative responsibilities. I then consider whether these responsibilities can be judged for other people or whether they can only be judged introspectively, and answer arguments for moral skepticism made on these basis’. Finally, I make recommendations for reforming pro-science media on the basis of my normative picture.

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