Gaslighting, Implicit Bias, and Higher-Order Evidence

Abstract: In this paper, I explore a practical version of the skepticism-dogmatism debate. On the one hand, phenomena such as implicit bias put pressure on us to be skeptics about our beliefs. On the other hand, phenomena such as gaslighting put pressure on us to be dogmatists about our beliefs, to stick to our guns. This gives rise to a puzzle. Intuitively, we want to say that the person with implicit bias and the person who is gaslighted differ with respect to their epistemic status, yet things look the same on the inside to each of them. Thus, the internalist faces a problem in accounting for the epistemic differences between them. In contrast, although the externalist can account for an epistemic difference between the gaslighted woman and the man with implicit bias, the externalist still faces two objections, according to which externalism fails to offer a genuinely normative epistemology. First, it fails to capture the sense in which agents who ignore misleading higher-order evidence are blameworthy. Second, it fails to offer action-guiding norms. In response to the first objection, I reject the presupposition. I argue that to blame people like the gaslighted woman is to be an epistemic fetishist. In response to the second, I endorse an Epistemic Affirmative Action proposal. Ultimately, I think that phenomena such as gaslighting encourage us to rethink what it means for an epistemological theory to be normative. 

I’ve presented this paper at the 2019 Eastern APA as a Symposium Session, 2018 IIFS-UNAM Graduate Philosophy Conference, and a Michigan Graduate Student Working Group. I am very grateful to my commentators—-Arianna Falbo, José Navarro, and Ege Yumusak—and to audiences there. I am also very thankful to Sarah Moss, Dustin Locke, and Maria Lasonen-Aarnio for invaluable written feedback. 

Here's the paper. Here are slides.

Comments welcome, but please don’t cite without permission.