Poetic Injustice

Episteme:1-15 (forthcoming)
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When J.R. Cash (Johnny Cash) sings that he shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, audiences impressed by the singer's skillful creation and depiction of a nihilistic lyrical subject clap and cheer. When Terrell Doyley (Skengdo) and Joshua Malinga (A.M.) sang broadly similar lyrics at a concert in 2018, London's Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service took them to be describing violent acts they had participated in and violent intentions they harbored, and the lyrics were used as the basis for legal proceedings against the singers that resulted in convictions. In this paper, I will argue that Doyley and Malinga's case illustrates a distinctive and important form that epistemic injustice can take. By failing to see their lyrics as speech that involves the exercise of their capacity for imagination, the police and prosecutors treat them as an impoverished sort of epistemic agent. I will call the wrong involved in cases like this onepoetic injustice.



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Ethan Nowak
Umeå University

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References found in this work

Does conceivability entail possibility.David J. Chalmers - 2002 - In Tamar Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 145--200.
On Bullshit.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1986 - Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Is conceivability a guide to possibility?Stephen Yablo - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (1):1-42.
Speech acts and unspeakable acts.Rae Langton - 1993 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 22 (4):293-330.

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