A Gadamerian Approach to Epistemic Injustice: Bearing Witness to the Vaccine Injured


In a recent article, “The Lacuna of Hermeneutics: Notes on the Freedom of Thought,” Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback raises an important question regarding the limitations of philosophical hermeneutics to be critical and attentive to the reality of current, concrete socio-political issues. In response, I claim that Gadamerian hermeneutics is well positioned to address current and controversial instances of epistemic injustice. In this article, I focus on the contemporary and controversial example of testimony of those that have been injured by the COVID-19 vaccines. In turning to selections from Gadamer’s Truth and Method, as well his lectures and essays on health and medicine, I argue that Gadamer’s emphasis on hermeneutic openness and readiness, as well as an attunement to the linguistic and embodied experience of pain, allow us to consider a responsible approach to testimonies of the vaccine injured. Instead of providing a set of criteria or a particular method for distinguishing true from false testimony, Gadamerian hermeneutics calls for an examination and transformation of one’s prejudices, especially prejudices which may impede one’s ability to interpret and understand the subject matter in the first place.

Keywords: Gadamer, hermeneutics, testimony, pain, COVID-19, vaccine

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