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Beyond Polarization: Epistemic Distortion and Criticism

General Programming

dateNovember 8, 2023 timeWednesday, 9:20am–7:00pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Political Science
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Additional details and registration information to come

  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Many mirrors at different angles in front of an industrial building

Individuals support forms of domination with varying levels of understanding that they are doing so. In many cases, those very structures of domination distort our conceptions of them through mechanisms such as motivated reasoning, implicit bias, affected ignorance, false consciousness, and belief polarization. These various epistemic distortions, in turn, cause social conflict, notably by promoting political polarization. Those worried by social conflict have spent a great deal of energy decrying the increasingly polarized contexts in which we live. However, epistemic distortions in our sociopolitical beliefs also maintain systems of domination, are misrepresentative, and prevent human needs from being met.

This workshop aims to go beyond pronouncements such as ‘we are polarized’ or that ‘partisanship is on the rise,’ and begin to think through epistemic distortions at the individual and intersubjective levels, the role of criticism and critique in facilitating belief and social change, and the idea of reconciliation, by asking questions such as:

  • In what ways are individual beliefs about domination/social structures epistemically distorted?
  • What explains why social beliefs are epistemically distorted?
  • What are the normative upshots of epistemic distortion for social relationships like allyship, comradeship, and friendship?
  • Ought polarization be remedied? Which epistemic resources and theoretical frameworks avail themselves of emancipatory potential?


Ege Yumuşak is a philosopher specializing in epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and social & political philosophy. She received a PhD in Philosophy from Harvard University in 2022. Her research examines political disagreement—its material foundations, psychological and social manifestations, and epistemic properties. She is currently writing a series of articles on the nature and significance of clashes of perspective in social life.

Nicolas Côté is a lecturer at the University of Glasgow. He works mainly in moral and political philosophy, with a focus on the axiomatic foundations of moral theory, the measurement and weighing of moral values, and the interaction between norms of rationality and norms of morality. He is also interested in the ethics of aid and development, and particularly in the conflict between the well-meaning motives that drive aid policy and the imperialist character that those policies often present.


Robin Celikates (Freie Universität Berlin); Charles Des Portes (Leeds University); Sanford Diehl (New York University); Daniela Dover (University of Oxford); Lidal Dror (Princeton University); Jade Fletcher (University of St Andrews); Joshua Habgood-Coote (University of Leeds); Mie Inouye (Bard College); Cain Shelley (Goethe University Frankfurt); Sabina Vaccarino Bremner (University of Pennsylvania); and Susanna Siegel (Harvard University).


time9:20am EDT

Opening Remarks

time9:30am EDT

Ideology as Relativized A Priori

(co-authored with Chloé de Canson)


Sabina Vaccarino Bremner

University of Pennsylvania


Robin Celikates

Freie Universität Berlin


Lidal Dror

Princeton University

time11:00am EDT


time11:15am EDT

Bad Questions

Joshua Habgood-Coote

University of Leeds

time12:10pm EDT


time1:25pm EDT

What is ‘Consciousness Raising’?

Cain Shelley

University of Frankfurt


Mie Inouye

Bard College


Jade Fletcher

University of St. Andrews

time2:55pm EDT


time3:10pm EDT

Understanding the Racial/Colonial Polarization

Charles Des Portes

University of Leeds

time4:05pm EDT


time4:20pm EDT

The Democratic Soul

Daniela Dover

Oxford University


Sandy Diehl

New York University


Susanna Siegel

Harvard University