Gaslighting, epistemic self-Trust, self-Trust, peer-Disagreement, epistemic injustice


Epistemology | Philosophy


Miranda Fricker has characterized epistemic injustice as “a kind of injustice in which someone is wronged specifically in her capacity as a knower” (2007, Epistemic injustice: Power & the ethics of knowing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 20). Gaslighting, where one agent seeks to gain control over another by undermining the other’s conception of herself as an independent locus of judgment and deliberation, would thus seem to be a paradigm example. Yet, in the most thorough analysis of gaslighting to date (Abramson, K. 2014. “Turning up the lights on gaslighting.” Philosophical Perspectives 28, Ethics: 1– 30), the idea that gaslighting has crucial epistemic dimensions is rather roundly rejected on grounds that gaslighting works by means of a strategy of assertion and manipulation that is not properly understood in epistemic terms. I argue that Abramson’s focus on the gaslighter and on the moral wrongness of his actions leads her to downplay ways in which gaslighters nevertheless deploy genuinely epistemic strategies, and to devote less attention to the standpoint and reasoning processes of the victim, for whom the experience of gaslighting has substantial and essential epistemic features. Taking these features into account reveals that all gaslighting has epistemic dimensions and helps to clarify what resistance to gaslighting might look like.

Original Citation

Spear, A. D. (2019). Epistemic dimensions of gaslighting: Peer-disagreement, self-trust, and epistemic injustice. Inquiry, 0(0), 1–24.

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