Epistemological Solipsism

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Michael Rectenwald:

"The New Left then appropriated standpoint epistemology and siphoned it through various postmodern identity filters. Standpoint epistemology is the root of the contemporary social justice belief in the identity-knowledge nexus. Social justice holds that membership in a subordinated identity group accords members exclusive access to particular knowledge, their own knowledge, their own reality. Members of dominant identity groups cannot access or understand the knowledge or reality of subordinated others. Further, individual members of subordinated identity groups have their own individual knowledge. For social justice believers, knowledge is finally personal, individual, and impenetrable to others. Under the social justice worldview, everyone is locked in an impenetrable identity chrysalis with access to a personal knowledge that no one else can access. I call this social-justice-inflected belief prong, “epistemological solipsism.”

In a recent New York Times op-ed entitled, “How Ta-Nehisi Coates Gives Whiteness Power,” Thomas Chatterton Williams discusses what I am calling epistemological solipsism, which he calls “knowing-through-being” and “identity epistemology.” Williams laments identity epistemology or knowing-through-being because it limits knowledge to members of particular identity categories and it slides seamlessly into “identity ethics” or “morality-through-being.” Morality-through-being is believed to follow from knowing-through-being as the subordinated assumes the moral high ground on the basis of a superior knowledge standpoint deriving from subordinated status. Morality-through-being or identity-ethics results in a moral ranking in which the lowest on the totem pole is deemed a moral superior by virtue of her (previous) subordination. Through the kind of hierarchical inversion that Friedrich Nietzsche saw in Christianity and socialism, low status becomes high status." (https://www.michaelrectenwald.com/essays/2017/1/23/sample-blog-post-v1-aria)