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Eleanor Harris

Philosophy, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

Delusions: Exploring Epistemic Injustice and Epistemic Vigilance

In everyday social transactions, we typically grant that others have some knowledge, and the skill to speak sincerely and reasonably about what they know. Granting this is important to ensure their fair treatment in a variety of situations. Epistemic injustice occurs when this is missing (Fricker, 2007). When we do notgrant that someone has knowledge or the ability to communicate it for prejudicial reasons, the speaker experiences a credibility deficit; we view them as less credible than they are. My project will focus on epistemic injustice specifically as it arises in the clinical and everyday treatment of people who have delusions. I will explore two questions:

  1. Why are people who have delusions vulnerable to epistemic injustice? Here I will explore the notion of epistemic vigilance, which is the sense of being on our guard when evaluating testimony. I will apply this notion to the context of delusional cognition and argue that we are overly vigilant against believing false information issuing from subjects with delusions. I will also consider the negative stereotypes which are associated with delusions (e.g. clinical irrationality), and how these deflate epistemic credibility. 
  2. How can we resolve the conflict between epistemic vigilance and epistemic injustice in cases of delusional cognition? I will argue that dispelling the stereotypes identified in the first question, increasing clinical awareness of epistemic injustice, and a focus on patient-centred care will reduce the vulnerability of those with delusions to epistemic injustice.  

Research Area

  • Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Mind

Other Research Interests

  • Philosophy of Mental Health