Philosophy Seminar: Knowledge, professional skills and epistemic injustice
Dr Katrina Hutchison | Macquarie University
Knowledge, professional skills and epistemic injustice: reflections on the case of surgery
Theories of epistemic injustice have potential to illuminate a variety of real-world situations where harm results from misjudging the credibility of a knower. One such context is the workplace. In this talk I explore the relevance of epistemic injustice to women surgeons’ experiences of work, drawing on data from an empirical interview study. I argue that epistemic injustice understood narrowly (as Miranda Fricker has described it, focusing on testimonial and hermeneutical injustice) is only applicable to a fraction of the wrongs experienced by women surgeons in their capacity as knowers. In surgery, credibility tracks the skilled performance of the worker: arguably the knowledge that matters most to patients (and employers such as hospitals) is not the surgeon’s propositional knowledge, but their ability to enact knowledge of disease and anatomy through the successful hands-on performance of an operation. Successful performance of surgery moreover requires successful interactions with skilled colleagues (e.g. anaesthetists, nurses and technicians), while successful care of patients requires interpersonal and communication skills. The practice of surgery, then, defies simple analysis in terms of knowledge and credibility. I use the case to illuminate both strengths and limitations of the theoretical lens of epistemic injustice in applied contexts.
Wednesday, 16 September, 3:30-5:00 pm
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