RESEARCH

My research interests lie at the intersections of epistemology, feminist theory, and philosophy of race. I study the role of features presumed to be irrelevant in discussions surrounding knowledge, features like social identity and personal interests. My work aims to show that these features play a significant role in inquiry and knowledge acquisition.  

FROM STANDPOINT EPISTEMOLOGY TO EPISTEMIC OPPRESSION

(2019, ​HYPATIA 34 (4): 598-618)

Standpoint epistemology is committed to a cluster of views that pay special attention to the role of social identity in knowledge acquisition. Of particular interest here is the situated knowledge thesis. This thesis holds that for certain propositions p, whether an epistemic agent is in a position to know that p depends on some non-epistemic facts related to the epistemic agent’s social identity. In this paper, I examine two possible ways to interpret this thesis. My first goal here is to clarify existing interpretations of this thesis that appear in the literature but that are undeveloped and often mistakenly conflated. In so doing, I aim to make clear the different versions of standpoint epistemology that one might accept and defend.​ 

 

This project is of significance, I argue, because standpoint epistemology provides helpful tools for understanding a phenomenon of interest as of late - epistemic oppression. My second goal is to provide an analysis that makes clear how each of the readings I put forth can be used to illuminate forms of epistemic oppression.

DEMARGINALIZING STANDPOINT EPISTEMOLOGY

(FORTHCOMING, EPISTEME)

In this paper I attempt to tease out the characterization of traditional epistemology that is at odds with standpoint epistemology. I offer a characterization of traditional epistemology that draws on two components that have been central to the critiques of leading standpoint epistemologists - the atomistic view of knowers and aperspectivalism. I use pragmatic encroachment as a dialectical tool to show that we ought to reject traditional epistemology so characterized. I then attempt to show how it is possible to have a view, similar to pragmatic encroachment, that  instead takes social identity to be the feature that makes a difference to what a person is in a position to know.  ​

PEER REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS

MASCULINE FOES, FEMINIST WOES:

A RESPONSE TO DOWN GIRL

(2019, ​APA NEWSLETTER ON FEMINISM AND PHILOSOPHY 18(2): 10-14)

In her book, Down Girl, Manne proposes to uncover the 'logic' of misogyny, bringing clarity to a notion that she describes as both 'loaded' and simultaneously 'politically marginal'. Manne is aware that full insight into the 'logic' of misogyny will require not just a 'what' but a 'why'. Though Manne finds herself largely devoted to the former task, the latter is in the not-too-distant periphery. Manne proposes to understand misogyny, as a general framework, in terms of what it does to women. Misogyny, she writes, is a system that polices and enforces the patriarchal social order (Manne 2018: 33). That's the 'what'. As for the 'why', Manne suggests that misogyny is what women experience because they fail to live up to the moral standards set out for women by that social order. I find Manne's analysis insightful, interesting and well argued. And yet, I find her account incomplete. While I remain fully convinced by her analysis of what misogyny is, I am less persuaded by her analysis of why misogyny is. For a full analysis of the 'logic' of misogyny, one needs to understand how the patriarchy manifests in men an interest in participating in its enforcement. Or so I hope to motivate here. I aim to draw a line from the patriarchy to toxic masculinity to misogyny, so that we have a clearer picture as to why men are invested in this system. I thus hope to offer here an analysis that is underdeveloped in Manne's book, but is equally worthy of attention if we want fully to understand the complex machinations underlying misogyny.

WHAT LIES BENEATH: THE EPISTEMIC ROOTS OF WHITE SUPREMACY

(FORTHCOMING) IN ELIZABETH EDENBERG AND MICHAEL HANNON (EDS.), POLITICS & TRUTH: NEW PERSPECTIVES IN POLITICAL EPISTEMOLOGY. OXFORD

UNIVERSITY PRESS.

Our ability to dismantle white supremacy is compromised by the fact that we don’t fully appreciate what, precisely, white supremacy is. In this chapter, I suggest understanding white supremacy as an epistemological system – an epistemic frame that serves as the foundation for how we understand and interact with the world. The difficulty in dismantling an epistemological system lies in its resilience – a system’s capacity to resist change to its underlying structure while, at the same time, offering the appearance of large-scale reform. Using white supremacy as a case study, here I explore what features enable this resilience. An analysis of white supremacy that presents it as more than a tool of social and political oppression, but as an epistemic system that makes this oppression possible, allows us to better understand, and eventually overthrow, such systems.

INVITED CONTRIBUTIONS

THE NOT SO 'RATIONAL RACIST':

RELOCATING THE WRONG

Some who defend moral encroachment take as a motivating case that of the ‘rational racist’. The ‘rational racist’ forms a morally problematic belief but does so according to the rules of evidentialism. On their view, such beliefs can be rejected in virtue of the fact that the ‘rational racist’ violates certain moral constraints on belief.
 
Here I argue that the rational racist – and others like him – is in fact guilty of an epistemic failure. To identify this error, I offer an analogous case to that of Rima Basu’s (2018) rational racist that allows us to see that, in cases of ‘rational racism’, we are sensitive to some non-epistemic feature, one which has no bearing on the truth of the belief. It is in virtue of this fact that such beliefs are irrational. I thus intend to show that the wrong of racist beliefs need not be located outside the domain of the epistemic.

IN DEFENSE

OF EPISTEMIC PRIVILEGE

​Standpoint epistemologists are committed to the view that an epistemic agent’s social identity makes a difference in what propositions she is in a position to know. Relatedly, many standpoint epistemologists have identified the further claim that some epistemic privilege can be drawn from the position of powerlessness. Call this the epistemic privilege thesis. This thesis stands in need of explication and support. My first goal is to offer one way of developing this thesis by appealing to the notion of epistemic peers that is available in a separate literature. Next, using the epistemic privilege thesis, I aim to show that marginally situated knowers and dominantly situated knowers are not epistemic peers. In order to defend this claim, I first establish that marginalized knowers are epistemically privileged in the social domain. I then draw on the peer disagreement literature in order to show that, in the social domain, dominantly situated knowers fail to satisfy the conditions for peerhood as developed in that literature.​

TITLE REMOVED (UNDER REVIEW)

In this paper, I identify four ways in which resistance by socially marginalized agents may be undermined: i) claiming the moral high ground, ii) misdirection, iii) appropriation, and iv) stereotype confirmation. I offer paradigmatic examples of each case of undermining, and examine how these acts create a political environment in which resistance is futile. Undermining resistance is, on its face, harmful because it disrupts one’s capacity to bring about political change. Moreover, attempts to undermine resistance bring about further harms in that they place an unjust epistemic burden on the marginalized agents engaged in the act of resistance. By this I mean that marginalized agents are forced to perform additional epistemic work to justify undertaking the act of resistance.
 
The aim of this paper is twofold. First, I seek to examine the rhetorical maneuvers employed by dominantly situated agents to create unfavorable conditions for resistance. Specifically, I argue that these conditions are such that marginalized agents either cannot resist, or their acts of resistance will fail to be recognized as such. Second, I argue that understanding the ways in which political resistance may be undermined places us in a position to plot out successful acts of resistance by anticipating these maneuvers. 

*Email me for drafts

WORKS IN PROGRESS*

Briana Toole   |   btoole@cmc.edu   |   888 N Columbia Ave, Claremont, CA 91711