Epistemic Justice: A Principled Approach to Knowledge Generation and Distribution

Machteld Geuskens

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternally prepared


This thesis addresses a number of interrelated questions: what is knowledge, how can it be gained through testimony, and what, if any, are the norms that pertain to knowledge sharing? It argues that knowledge can be understood as related to a social phenomenon without relativizing truth to community agreement. What is needed is to understand that the concept of knowledge is indefinable and irreducible, as “knowledge first” theorists have contended, while we can elucidate the concept by using the genealogical method. It is argued, further, that the genealogical elucidation of the concept brings out its social role and nature. In turn, the social understanding of knowledge yields a new dynamic understanding of testimony as a generative source of knowledge. Contrary to the two mainstream views of evidentialism and assurantism and hybrids, it is argued that testimony is a practice through which knowledge is co-created. While we together shape and determine what claims pass as knowledge, we ought to ensure that what comes to pass as knowledge really is so. Thus, the social nature of knowledge and the generative role of testimony serve to explain why there are norms that guide our epistemic conduct, and why our epistemic practices ought to be such as to ensure the correct criteria for knowledge. It is argued that these norms follow from epistemic justice, positively conceived. Epistemic justice is conceptualized as the proper use and allocation of epistemic power, and as fitting into a pluralist theory of justice. The norms for epistemic conduct and the criteria for knowledge and authority it yields are investigated in the final chapters of this thesis.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Tilburg University
  • Buekens, Co-supervisor
Award date11 Dec 2018
Place of PublicationS.I.
Print ISBNs9789492679680
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


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