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Question of the Day

Briefly, I think you're right that there's an incompatibility between the two philosophical movements you describe. One turns on disinterested reasoning; the other denies that reasoning of that kind is possible. Be careful, however. If you mean by two different logics, two different ways of thinking through philosophical issues, then yes. I think that's right. Note, though, that many will use "logic" in the narrower sense of reasoning based on standard deductive and inductive logical principles. About it being a logical fallacy to reject an argument on the basis of the person advancing it, note that doing so is what philosophers call an "informal" fallacy. There may be nothing formally invalid or weak in the dismissive reasoning that appeals to the person, simply because there are times when the person is relevant. Sometimes genesis matters. You may have to look at the particulars to decide whether or not that's so for any given argument.

Now, the two approaches you describe can be made less incompatible by treating identitarian concerns as grounds for suspicion and heightened scrutiny but not sufficient grounds for rejecting an argument. We use genetic appeals to credentials, expertise, and track record all the time to make probabilistic judgments about claims and arguments. A well trained and experienced physician is more likely than me to be right about whether or not someone suffers from a particular illness. Albert Einstein would be more likely than me to make correct claims about relativity. But in each case, not necessarily so.

The idea that the oppressed hold a superior epistemic position to that of the oppressor is often related to Hegel's master-slave dialectic, if you want the background. But note that the principle doesn't apply to all cases. Sometimes privilege grants one a better epistemic standpoint (for example, the privilege of attending medical school), sometimes it doesn't (e.g., the blinders produced by an insular life lived only among others of the dominant class). When it comes to the question of whether identity, social position, and generally the person matters, the Devil's in the details.

There's way too much to be said here for one short post, but a handful of points.

First, As a straight, white male I'm pretty confident that there's a lot that I don't understand about what it's like to live in the country I live in (the US) as a woman, or as a Black person, or as a gay man, or transgender person, or as a lesbian or... This seems both unremarkable and important. It's unremarkable because we all are familiar with the fact that one's circumstances can sometimes make it easier to see or understand certain things. Lived experience does make a difference, and the difference it makes can be important.

For example: I suspect that a great many of the people who put in place the "separate but equal" regime that finally began to crumble with Brown v. Board of Education were pretty clueless about what "separate but equal" was like for Black Americans and therefore, about whether "separate but equal" was even a serious possibility. That's hardly a shocking thing to say. Correlatively, my pronouncements on what it's like to be Black or female or... should rightly be viewed with some initial suspicion. I'm likely to say things that reflect the limits of my experience.

Second, there aren't two logics here. When we reason, we need premises. And when we gather the information that feeds into our premises, we will inevitably make choices about which sources we draw from and trust. Our premises don't come to us as a gift from reasoning gods.

Third, recognizing that people's situations and experiences can be important sources of knowledge doesn't mean that the experiences of some member of some group lead them infallibly to the truth. It also doesn't mean that things about one's identity and experience never gets in the way of seeing things as they are. Taking the importance of intersectional identity and experience seriously doesn't mean that those are the only valid sources of knowledge and insight.

Fourth, no one needs to say that members of non-oppressed groups have no access to knowledge/insight into the lives of members of groups they don't belong to. I suppose some people might claim that, but so what? For just about any over-stated view you can find some people who hold it.

How all of this works out in practice is messy and hard. I'm convinced that my relatively privileged position has made it harder for me to understand a lot of things that I need to understand. I also hear people (perhaps not least politicians and people with power) saying things that suggest they don't get it. But I don't think the idea that there are two different "logics" here is helpful. There's the messy world that we all have partial perspectives on. Being privileged in various ways can create epistemic barriers. So, however, can being poor or oppressed. Analysis matters, and experience matters. Certain kinds of experience, I'm quite convinced, haven't been paid sufficient attention. While the details are hard, the broad points aren't radical.