Defining Wokeness

Social Epistemology 37 (3):321-338 (2023)
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ABSTRACT Rima Basu and I have offered separate accounts of wokeness as an anti-racist ethical concept. Our accounts endorse controversial doctrines in epistemology: doxastic wronging, doxastic voluntarism, and moral encroachment. Many philosophers deny these three views, favoring instead some ordinary standards for epistemic justification. I call this denial the standard view. In this paper, I offer an account of wokeness that is consistent with the standard view. I argue that wokeness is best understood as ‘group epistemic partiality’. The woke person does extra epistemic work before forming a negative belief about a member of an oppressed social group. Just as we do extra epistemic work when forming belief about our friends, so the woke person does for members of oppressed social groups. I first outline the account. I then raise questions about the scope of wokeness and belief formation. After this, I demonstrate that the group partiality view is consistent with the standard view in epistemology. The partiality view, therefore, should appeal to epistemologists who have adopted the standard view because it is consistent with ordinary standards of justification. I conclude that wokeness as a concept in epistemology should not be controversial for those who endorse the standard view.

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J. Spencer Atkins
State University of New York at Binghamton


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