My task was to match Miranda Fricker’s ideas on epistemic injustice with one of the texts studied during our class sessions. For my analysis, I have chosen a poem titled Summer Solstice by Sharon Olds. From the first sight, seems like the story is focused on the theme of suicide and reasons for this sin. However, after having a deeper insight, a reader realizes that the main point is the coexistence of humanity and technology. The quality of our life and self-development today completely depends on the access to technological innovations. But only the man alone can achieve life’s revitalization.
A reader is introduced to the tired man who is thinking about committing a suicide standing alone on the roof of some building. The feeling of despair is delivered through every single detail: setting, time, man’s problems, and location. The poem describes one of the essential issues for the entire humanity on the example of this poor man and tall cops: knowledge and evolution. Miranda Fricker with her Epistemic Injustice expresses her outlook concerning resources of knowledge and how exactly it can be gained. I will try to match the main points of these two authors.
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Olds rather tries to highlight the relationship between people and mechanics than discuss the problem of suicide. She involves a lot of metaphors and similes to both discuss the unadulterated world and draw attention to the impact of contemporary technologies on human development. To recall technological progress, Olds inserts phrases like “iron stairs through the roof of the building” (Olds, 1996) that take the main character back to the starting point of the world. He has an obvious choice: to escape and never learn something new or rediscover a vital human connection which is necessary for further existence. Small campfires recalled in the poem stimulated human progress and enabled survival centuries ago, so even these innovations can be considered primitive technology. Later on, buildings and more complex constructions appeared representing the improved knowledge of mankind. At the same time, one of these high buildings is meant to take away the life. Summer solstice and New York City were chosen intentionally: New York is known as the city of opportunities and new skills. But not all people possess access to the education, medicine, resources, and social activities. In her Epistemic Injustice (2007), Miranda Fricker stresses that some people face this type of injustice “when they are unfairly prevented from obtaining knowledge due to the limited access” (Fricker, 2007:7). New York being a man-made place with its manufactures and impressive technologies is not for everyone.
Fricker also recalls a testimonial injustice which is based on the social gap. The cops believe they have enough power to stop the man and prevent any event thanks to their weapon. Olds tries to show how technological elements are unfairly used by some social groups to gain power and influence. Those people who do not have the same access have to obey the rules of others. Olds and Fricker have some similar views in terms of learning and obtaining new skills. The poem points to the simplicity of the past; people trying to get new experience from things they did not know before. This hunger for novelty led to the appearance of modern technology. Fricker, in her turn, argued that it’s crucial to find “ somebody who is a source of reliable information about something” (Williams, 1970:146). Olds believes that coming back to the simpler things is not degradation, but rather a beginning of the evolution. Both Olds and Frickers agree that human is the only inquirer of knowledge. It was not a technology which created all those buildings and equipment round us. It was the man with “the desire to acquire knowledge for oneself” (Fricker, 2007:9). Epistemic injustice and irreplaceable human chemistry and hunger for new skills are closely connected.
After reading the points of two authors, I have come up with a conclusion that it’s a blasphemy to rely on artificial intelligence of machines instead of keeping in mind that human alone possess enough power to live. A word of God should live in the heart of every person. But by forgetting traditions and customs of our ancestry who managed to survive with the help of fire, water, and woods, people may soon turn robots too. And that is something that really scares in Olds’ poem and Fricker’s warnings.
Fricker, M. (2007). Epistemic Injustice . Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Olds, S. (1996). The Wellspring: Poems . Knopf, 1st Edition.
Williams, B. (1970). Deciding to Believe. Language, Belief and Metaphysics . Albany: State University of New York Press.