A.Y. Daring (.com)

occasionally light hearted feminist praxis

On Access to Theory

You know what pisses me off? That full-text academic journal articles are placed behind so many barbed wires. I get (some of the) reasons why, but it still pisses me off.

Knowledge now! Knowledge for everyone!

And even the academic texts that aren’t couched off from the general public are still prohibitively expensive. Miranda Fricker’s Epistemic Injustice: Ethics and the Power of Knowing changed my outlook as a student philosopher. I think everyone should read it. It’s also (I think) written in language that any eager person could understand without much more time and patience than a philosophy major would need. It costs between $30 and $70 depending on where you shop if you don’t have access to a library with a copy. SEVENTY! For a 208 page book.

Don’t get me wrong, Epistemic Injustice is good- it gave me access to a vocabulary for understanding and encoding my daily experiences, and for that I am eternally grateful. Also, Fricker’s opus makes me excited about the future of philosophy and what the field can do for the general public; I bought a copy out of a desire to support a movement. But I don’t think anyone should spent $30-$70 on a book if they can’t do it easily. Even I had to wait until my latest round of student loans came through. That’s the terrible part: the people who would most benefit from the principles in the book at the ones who would likely have the most difficulty accessing it.

Sure, some of this is an issue of economies of scale. They don’t print very many copies of academic texts- or at least not as many as they do copes of “50 Shades of Grey”. If we increase demand, the price will go down in some kind of related way. Surely my simplistic model of economics has some grounding.

What does it take to get powerful theoretical concepts into the hands of those who need it most? It’s probably not a right, but surely people are in some way entitled to good quality sources of information about the world around them. That doesn’t entail that all news sources are morally required to be free. Perhaps it does entail thought, that at least some good quality (we can decide what that means later) news sources need to be accessible (again, we can figure that out later, let’s use ordinary meanings for now). Yeah, there’s Wikipedia, but it’s not Nature or Ethics- there’s a production of new knowledge with the later two that I think needs to be in front of more eyes.

I don’t buy that people outside of university wouldn’t embrace the works if they were able to encounter them in their original forms and not, say, some horrible fluff piece in Slate or *shudder* the Huffington Post, stripped of all nuance and good sense. It rarely bodes well when “experts” decide what’s best for perfectly sensible and autonomous adults. We should let people decide what they want to read, rather than deciding for them what they can’t.

Does any of the above conflate any concepts that need to be pulled apart? My first thought is that I might be conflating censorship with elitism.

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