It is one of the oldest and most dubious sayings in philosophy: No one does wrong willingly. That old Socratic line, though implausible as a general view about human action, might plausibly be defended in one special domain, that of epistemic agency. But in the real, non-ideal world, people believe what is false all the time, and not just out of pure and innocent ignorance. On the contrary, we are surrounded by a great deal of epistemic injustice. Yet when we turn our attention to why this is so, it turns out that the sources of epistemic injustice are more complex and varied than has been appreciated – so complex as to give rise, in a wide range of very real cases, to a confounding and perhaps irresolvable dilemma over what it is rational to believe. From beginning to end, then, I start with the Socratic argument against willful wrong action, then consider the special epistemic case, and finally apply the lessons learned to epistemic injustice.


Forgan Smith