Epistemic Injustice and the Attention Economy

Leonie Smith, Alfred Archer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

In recent years, a significant body of literature has emerged on the subject of epistemic injustice: wrongful harms done to people in their capacities as knowers (Fricker 2007). Up to now this literature has ignored the role that attention has to play in epistemic injustice. This paper makes a first step towards addressing this gap. We argue that giving someone less attention than they are due, which we call an epistemic attention deficit, is a distinct form of epistemic injustice. We begin by outlining what we mean by epistemic attention deficits, which we understand as a failure to pay someone the attention they are due in their role as an epistemic agent. We argue that these deficits constitute epistemic injustices for two reasons. First, they affect someone’s ability to influence what others believe. Second, they affect one’s ability to influence the shared common ground in which testimonial exchanges take place. We then outline the various ways in which epistemic attention deficits harm those who are subject to them. We argue that epistemic attention deficits are harms in and of themselves because they deprive people of an essential component of epistemic agency. Moreover, epistemic attention deficits reduce an agent’s ability to participate in valuable epistemic practices. These two forms of harm have important impacts on educational performance and the distribution of resources. Finally, we argue that epistemic attention deficits both hinder and shape the development of epistemic agency. We finish by exploring some practical implications arising from our discussion.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020

Keywords

  • Attention economy
  • epistemic injustice
  • Education
  • epistemic agency
  • Epistemic attention
  • working class

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