Senior Lecturer in Philosophy
‘Social Power and the Giving and Asking for Reasons’
It has become popular in some circles to think of being rational in terms of the ability to make a move in a particular norm-governed social practice, sometimes dubbed "the game of giving and asking for reasons". Participation in such a social practice depends, in part, on the reciprocal attitudes of other participants. In any actual social practice, these attitudes will be subject to various distortions, due to the pervasive influence of social power and identity relations, resulting in the preclusion of certain groups of people from full participation in these practices. This project aims to explore some philosophically-significant aspects of this particular kind of deformation of rationality.
Whilst few will deny that the space of reason is subject to such deformation in practice, some argue that exploration of these issues is an empirical matter with only minimally interesting philosophical import. For others, the effect of viewing these epistemic interactions through a socio-historical lens is a thoroughgoing suspicion of the very category of reason, and a concomitant reduction of rational norms to operations of power. One motivating goal here is to that show that both responses are incorrect, by using this conception of rationality to afford philosophical insight into instances of interpersonal ethical infractions - including prejudice, silencing, ignoring and denial.