Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2023-24: Session 8

Impostor Concepts and Hermeneutical Injustice

Laura Delgado (LanCog, Centre of Philosophy, University of Lisbon)


17 November 2023, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: Hermeneutical injustice, as introduced by Miranda Fricker (2007), occurs when subjects are unable to make some significant experiences intelligible to themselves and to others owing to their being hermeneutically marginalized. Hermeneutical injustice has been widely characterized by Fricker and others as arising because there is a ‘lacuna’ or a ‘gap’ in the collective hermeneutical resources such that the terms or concepts needed to make some experience intelligible and communicable are lacking. This situation constitutes an injustice because this gap or lacuna is due to the fact that these subjects are unfairly denied sufficient participation in the creation or development of concepts or other tools of social interpretation and this exclusion or limitation is caused by some identity prejudice. In this paper we highlight a species of hermeneutical injustice that arises both because there is a conceptual lacuna with regard to certain experiences in the collective interpretative resources and, importantly, also because there is a powerful authoritative concept in place that does render the experience intelligible, albeit incorrectly. We call this an ‘impostor concept’ because it takes a place where a better, more adequate concept should be, and because it deceivingly provides intelligibility to the target experiences; whereas in reality it conceals them, effectively obstructing the possibility of arriving to better interpretations. We analyse the workings of impostor concepts and argue that their use constitute cases of hermeneutical injustice. We compare this with other similar cases discussed in the literature, aiming to widening our understanding of hermeneutical injustice. (Joint work with Claudia Picazo.)