Empowering the Settler Expansion of Canada: The Colonial Liberal Thinking of George Brown: Éléna Choquette (University of British Columbia) Abstract: A promising strand of scholarship has undertaken to explore the roots of the liberal tradition in the history of colonialism and imperialism (Arneil 1996, Bell 2016, Pitts 2005, Tully 1980). This literature, however, relies heavily on the writings of a few canonical thinkers (most importantly Locke and Mill), who developed their ideas from within metropolitan cores. In order to bring into view the sources of the liberal tradition in the territorial and political development of settler states, this research examines the writings and political career of George Brown, a liberal thinker working from within the Canadian Dominion. This paper shows that in addition to being the founder of the Globe and Mail and a Liberal Member of Parliament, Brown was Canada’s most prolific and influential expansionist. Shortly before Confederation, Brown, who proclaimed himself Canada’s “special advocate of opening up the Great West”, designed a racialised project for the government of the North-West, which he asserted Canada had to annex as soon as it was formed in 1867. To grasp the specific content of mid-19th century liberal colonialism in British North America, I examine the different documentary sources relevant to this project by using a contextualist approach (Pocock 1971, Skinner 1989, Tully 1980). In sum, this research offers a new perspective on liberalism and its connection to settler territorial expansion by illuminating the ways in which the ideas of a critical and yet overlooked liberal thinker helped produce the massive territorial entity that Canada is taken to be today.
The Burden of Total Experience and Epistemic Abstinence: Caleb Althorpe (Western University) Abstract: In this present age of divisive politics and disagreement, questions over the role of truth in using our beliefs as a basis of our claims in public discourse is becoming ever more pertinent. This paper will reconstruct a Rawlsian argument to defend the claim that even when we have strong convictions that our beliefs are true, there can also be strong epistemic grounds that make the use of political power to enforce such beliefs unjustified in the context of reasonable disagreement. This paper will build upon the relevant epistemic literature, starting with Nagel’s argument that claims made in the arena of public justification require a higher threshold than the beliefs we hold as true in our own private lives, and then the Raz/Barry response that driving this sort of a wedge in between truth and belief in the public realm leads to an incoherent epistemic position. This paper will defend a position of epistemic abstinence that avoids this critique, as it does not depend on separating one’s beliefs from truth. Instead, it turns on a reconstruction and extension of Rawls’ ‘total experience’ burden. The way we assess evidence and make moral judgements is affected by lived experiences over the course of our lives. As such, our interlocutors in the public sphere are not necessarily in a symmetrical epistemic relationship with us. A recognition of the incommunicability on particular matters of truth makes it coherent to abstain from imposing our beliefs on others, even when we are confident in their truth.
Epistemic Justice Beyond Credibility: Lev Marder (Queen's University) Abstract: Epistemic injustice refers to the phenomenon when someone is harmed as a knower. Miranda Fricker uses the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird to illustrate how epistemic injustice works—how the testimony of the accused Black male is perceived to not be credible, because he is a Black male. Jose Medina likewise turns to this trial, but he puts it in broader context and explains that excess of credibility wrongly extended to the White accuser contributes to the epistemic harm done to the accused. Attributing proper credibility to those who deserve it, by virtue of being knowers only appear as epistemic justice and could not possibly appear as a type of an epistemic injustice when the focus is squarely on credibility.
In the paper, I argue that knowing what one knows but should not know, and there is no doubt that the knower is credible and should be accorded appropriate credibility, constitutes another form of epistemic injustice, one that turns on the use of excessive knowledge. Revisiting the trial in To Kill A Mockingbird, I find this type of epistemic injustice looming over the proceedings. If members of the jury come in with prior knowledge of the accused or incidents in question that already constitutes an epistemic injustice, for some of those giving testimony would at the outset not be taken as reliable sources of information. Using this and other case studies, the paper develops a knowledge economy that accounts for the deficits and excesses of both credibility and knowledge.