Gender and first-person authority

Synthese 201 (122):1-19 (2023)
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Abstract

Following Talia Mae Bettcher, many philosophers distinguish between ethical and epistemic conceptions of the first-person authority that we have over our gender identities. Rather than construing this authority as explained by our superior epistemic access to our own gender identities, many have argued that we should view this authority as explained by ethical obligations that we have towards others. But such views remain silent on what we ought to believe about others’ gender identities: when someone avows their gender identity, should we believe them? Or is it enough to merely act as though we do? In this paper, I argue that mere action is not enough: we ought to believe what others say about their gender identities. I present several cases that motivate the claim that there is something distinctively wrong with merely ‘playing along’ with what another person says about their gender identity. I offer several answers for what explains why such cases involve wrongs. I argue that an adequate account of FPA cannot remain silent on belief but must instead take on an epistemic norm of FPA in addition to an ethical norm of FPA.

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Gus Turyn
Cornell University

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