Briana Toole on "Standpoint Epistemology – Social or Applied?"

February 16, -
Speaker(s): Briana Toole



As a standpoint epistemologist, I have sometimes been called an “applied epistemologist”. But is this characterization of standpoint epistemology correct? On the surface, one might think the distinction is insignificant. But I argue that the interpretation of standpoint epistemology as an applied epistemology serves an important ideological purpose: it preserves an epistemological landscape wherein mainstream, or traditional epistemology, is the default theory of knowledge. This in turn diminishes some of the central insights of standpoint epistemology, most notably those that represent standpoint epistemology as an alternative to classical theory, or demand a revision of key components of traditional epistemology.  


This paper aims to accomplish two tasks: first, to show that standpoint epistemology, though a social epistemology, is not an applied epistemology. I’ll then argue that classical epistemology is social in many of the same ways that standpoint epistemology is – it merely hides this fact. In epistemology, traditional epistemology holds pride of place. It maintains this grip on the field primarily through the devaluation of alternatives, like standpoint theory. By clarifying the relationship between the social and applied, as well as between traditional and standpoint, I hope to de-center traditional epistemology, and to reposition it as but one theory among many.  

Briana Toole smiling