May 9th: Kathryn Pendoley, “Emotion, Fittingness, and Epistemic and Testimonial Injustice” and Manuel Rodeiro, “Taxonomy of Environmental Responsibility”

Please join us for our third workshop of the Spring 2017 Term:

Emotion, Fittingness, and Epistemic and Testimonial Injustice

Kathryn Pendoley, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Taxonomy of Environmental Responsibility

Manuel Rodeiro, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Tuesday, May 9, 4:15-5:45pm
Location: The Graduate Center, CUNY, Room 5409

Please see the abstracts for the talks below:

Emotion, Fittingness, and Epistemic and Testimonial Injustice

I take it that considerations of the fittingness or appropriateness of emotions are in fact operative (with variation, of course, across social groups and context). However, as I see it discussions of fittingness in the philosophical literature are often problematic. Most of the philosophical literature on the fittingness or appropriateness of emotion assumes that the fittingness norms hold across people regardless of class, gender, race, etc. However, the fittingness conditions of the experience and expression of, or example, anger, are actually sensitive to the social identities: there is robust data in other fields such as psychology and sociology that shows that judgments about the fittingness of anger will depend partially on the social identity of the person in question. Of course, if fittingness conditions for emotions exist they ought to be sensitive to social contexts. However, social contexts are gendered, racialized, classed, etc., so in fact the norms of emotional fittingness inherit and reinforce the oppression of these contexts.

Judgments about fittingness conditions of emotions likely influence and often drive emotion regulation: My judgment (conscious or unconscious) that my anger is unfitting may result in my attempting to down-regulate my experience and/or my expression of my anger (though not always, and not always successfully). If there is a fittingness norm to the effect that, for example, it is less appropriate for women to be angry or express anger than it is for men to do so, then women will often attempt to down-regulate their experiences and/or expressions of anger. It seems likely that over the course of development and indeed over the course of a lifetime a woman may even be so successful in her regulation attempts that she is rarely aware of feeling angry, and rarely expresses anger. Hence, standing fittingness conditions influence the experience and expression of emotion via emotion regulation.

We might hope that a rich range of emotional experience and expression would be open to all people regardless of social identity, but that is not the only problem that results from the curtailing of emotion outlined above. Emotions seem to be an especially good epistemic basis for self-knowledge and for knowledge about one’s relationships with others. I can get quite a good sense of what kind of person I am by reflecting on the emotions I have in various situations. I can also judge the sorts of relationships I have by appealing to how I feel in those relationships, which sorts of emotions I tend to experience with which friends, romantic partners, family members, etc. If I have systematically attempted to down-regulate my anger, then I am likely missing important information about my self and about my relationships. I might not realize that I am treated unjustly, for example, and so fail to resist this injustice (of course, even if I am aware of an injustice, I might not be able to resist). Furthermore, even if I experience anger but have to down-regulate its expression, my emotional testimony will not be heard.

Taxonomy of Environmental Responsibility

This paper attempts to facilitate the creation of taxonomies concerning differentiated environmental responsibility, under the assumption that a richer understanding of who owes what to whom will help further environmental justice. The paper proceeds in three distinct sections: (1) provide an overview of the environmental justice movement; (2) establish an idealized spectrum of environmental responsibility by abstractly delineating the two polar extremes of culpability (those most responsible and those least responsible) for the current levels of environmental degradation, and (3) commence the normative analysis, prescribing what those most responsible owe to those least responsible, in the hopes of achieving environmental justice.

Environmental justice has three main objectives: (1) distributive justice – the fair and equitable distribution or sharing of ‘goods’ (resources) and ‘bads’ (harm and risk); (2) procedural/participatory justice – the ways in which decisions are made, who is involved and has influence must be expanded and more inclusive, and (3) justice as recognition – that all ought to be given respect, particularly those that have been historically undervalued.

However, as will be argued, this formulation of environmental justice is partially inadequate because its present-and-future-oriented scope fails at correcting prior environmental wrongs –i.e., satisfying the past-oriented reparative justice requirements. But before this discussion can proceed, it is necessary to establish a framework capable of delineating who is responsible for compensating whom for these environmental debts.

From a theoretical perspective one of the major achievements of the environmental justice movement is that it illuminates the disparate relationships and responsibilities existing between peoples and their environment. However, in opposition to this trend of highlighting incongruent levels of environmental responsibility, much of the current environmental literature is structured around the monolithic idea of the Anthropocene.

One of the major drawbacks with the concept of the Anthropocene is that it treats humanity as a singular monolithic force (the Anthropos). The narrative misses the fact that certain segments of the population are far more responsible than others (both historically and at present) for the general deterioration of the environment.

In this light, I will attempt an initial foray into developing an adequate taxonomy of environmental responsibility. The first step is to abstractly define who is most responsible for the current international state of affairs and consequently, most blamable for the present levels of environmental degradation (roving bandits). Afterwards, I will attempt to abstractly define those least liable for the present levels of environmental degradation (indigenous stewards); subsequently, discussing what ought to be owed to them (from an environmental standpoint) from those most accountable. Developing the two polar extremes should help refine the values, norms, principles, objectives, and methods necessary for transitioning towards and ultimately achieving environmental justice.

The hope is that the process of delineating environmental responsibility will increase the chances of environmental reparative justice gaining traction by: (1) assisting victims in better articulating their grievances; (2) more vividly, confronting perpetrators to recognize their mistakes; (3) strengthening victims power for self-determination, and (4) facilitating mutual understanding, connection, and cooperation between victims and perpetrators.