Standpoint theory in epistemology provides a gateway for my question: For our purposes, the theory can be something vague like, “Human beings often have perspectives that make some truths access to them, while the truths are not accessible to those without the perspectives.” For example, one might want to claim that there are truths accessible from the point of view of a gay person which are not accessible to others.
I was struck today by the fact that the vague principle above implies something we might find very troubling; namely, human beings typically lack perspectives that make some truths accessible to others. E.g., over some wide area, heterosexuals lack the perspective from which they might understand gay experience.
By way of background, let me say I have been thinking recently especially about conversations I had with Robert McClelland when we worked on the 2013 APA Central Division Meeting. He arranged a number of sessions on African American experience and thought. I learned a great deal from him in the short time we could talk, but I was also left with an abiding sense that too much experience that was a matter of course for him was nearly beyond my understanding. For example, the role of sports in the formation of young black boys’ ambitions was something of which I had only the most superficial of understandings.
I’ve been wondering how to understand and change my ignorance here. But right now I’m also wondering why I missed the fairly staggering implications of standpoint theory? Perhaps I didn’t really, and am simply seeing things mistakenly as if they were new. My sense right now is that there’s a pretty big chasm between many of the beliefs I employ in everyday life and those of people of color, of different ethnicities, etc.
I’d love to hear or see what others think about understanding others. It would be very easy to work one’s self into a quite skeptical mood here. There’s been some discussion in a number of places (e.g., new apps) of epistemic equals. We could see this point as a worry about how even to understand the implications of a fairly frequent lack of epistemic equality.