Pragmatic Encroachment and Political Ignorance

In Michael Hannon & Jeroen De Ridder (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Political Epistemology (forthcoming)
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Take pragmatic encroachment to be the view that whether one knows that p is determined at least in part by the practical consequences surrounding the truth of p. This view represents a significant departure from the purist orthodoxy, which holds that only truth-relevant factors determine whether one knows. In this chapter I consider some consequences of accepting pragmatic encroachment when applied to problems of political knowledge and political ignorance: first, that there will be cases in which it will not be practically rational to acquire political knowledge when the stakes surrounding one’s political actions are high; second, that political knowledge can be more easily acquired when one values the welfare of others less; and third, that pragmatic encroachment may fail to account for a form of epistemic injustice when it comes to evaluating the political knowledge of members of marginalized groups. I argue that while these consequences are undesirable, the extent to which the pragmatic encroacher is committed to them depends both on the details of the theory, as well as the extent to which one considers political knowledge to be important.

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Kenneth Boyd
University of Toronto, St. George Campus (PhD)


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