EMILY C. R. TILTON
I'm a philosophy Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia. Starting in Fall 2024, I'll be an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. My research is primarily in feminist philosophy and epistemology.
My current project is an attempt to bridge feminist epistemology and traditional, purist epistemology. As I characterize it, an epistemology is “purist” insofar as it holds that anyone who is exposed to the relevant evidence can, at least in principle, appreciate the epistemic warrant provided by that evidence. A consequence of this view is that epistemic norms are not sensitive to shifting practical or moral stakes, to an agent’s location in social hierarchy, or to an agent's values, except insofar as those factors make a difference to the evidence that the agent has or their ability to reason in light of it. Feminists have tended to take purist frameworks to be incompatible with feminist aims. In contrast, I argue that neither radical feminist politics nor radical feminist epistemology require rejecting purist epistemological commitments.
I'm also involved in the Public Scholars Initiative at UBC. You can read more about my work and its connections with the PSI here.
In my spare time, I like to spend time with my friends, partner, and cats. I'm also often at the thrift store looking for new weird objects to decorate my apartment with.
If you'd like to contact me, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Standpoint theorists have long been clear that marginalization does not make better understanding a given. They have been less clear, though, that social dominance does not make ignorance a given. Indeed, many standpoint theorists have implicitly committed themselves to what I call the strong epistemic disadvantage thesis. According to this thesis, there are strong, substantive limits on what the socially dominant can know about oppression that they do not personally experience. I argue that this thesis is not just implausible but politically pernicious; it is an excuse for ignorance and silence that stifles our ability to address many injustices. Moreover, I argue that if we are to avoid lending support to the SEDT while working within a standpoint theory framework, we must hold that the socially dominant can achieve marginalized standpoints. So, we must hold that men can achieve feminist standpoints, that white women (and men) can achieve black feminist standpoints, and so on.
You can read a blog post I wrote summarizing and extending the idea in this paper here.
There is an undeniable cultural tendency to unjustly dismiss (many) women’s rape allegations. One popular explanation for this tendency is that people think that rape is not that bad. I reject this explanation--it is incompatible with the deadly seriousness with which allegations that black men have raped white women are met. Instead, I argue that rape myths function to distort the epistemic resources people bring to bear on rape allegations. These myths disrupt people’s abilities to accurately recognize most rapes. So, rape allegations are unjustly dismissed because people (incorrectly) judge that there was no rape. Catastrophizing myths play a central role in this story. Centering this category of myths helps to explain why reactions to rape allegations vary along racial lines, and also why rape culture persists in the face of widespread disavowal of rape.
Not What I Agreed To: Content and Consent. Ethics (2021). (Co-authored with Jonathan Ichikawa).
Deception sometimes results in nonconsensual sex. A recent body of literature diagnoses such violations as invalidating consent: the agreement is not morally transformative, which is why the sexual contact is a rights violation. We pursue a different explanation for the wrongs in question: there is valid consent, but it is not consent to the sex act that happened. Semantic conventions play a key role in distinguishing deceptions that result in nonconsensual sex (like stealth condom removal) from those that don’t (like white lies). Our framework is also applicable to more controversial cases, like those implicated in so-called “gender fraud” complaints.
Works in (Various Stages of) Progress:
Epistemology — especially feminist epistemology — offers important tools for analyzing oppression. However, I'll argue that a troubling trend is diminishing feminist epistemology’s political possibilities. Among feminist epistemologists, it is increasingly common to defend politically significant conclusions on (primarily) moral grounds, despite the availability of traditional evidential support. This is a long-standing tendency, though it is made more salient by the popularization of moral encroachment. I argue that the tendency to invoke non-evidential reasons to believe in accordance with feminist values betrays a lack of faith that the facts will bear out feminist commitments. This lack of faith results in what I call anxious epistemology. Anxious epistemology undermines feminist aims, and so cannot be the basis of a viable feminist epistemology. (Draft available soon.)
The Metaphysics of Mayonnaise.
Taking the intersectional nature of oppression seriously has methodological implications that are often underappreciated. It is common for feminists to signal awareness that women's subordination is maintained by multiple, intersecting forms of oppression, but to nonetheless bracket considerations of race, disability, etc. These "complicating" intersectional considerations are left to future work, or even to other people who may be "better positioned" to extend the initial analysis. I argue that this approach fails to take intersectionality seriously, and, consequently, results in distorted theory. I illustrate this by considering competing accounts of rape culture. I argue that rape culture should not be seen as exclusively or even primarily oppressive to women. It is instead a tool that reinforces social hierarchy broadly construed. Thus, there are some crucial respects in which rape culture empowers (some) women relative to (some) men. (Draft not yet available.)
Standpoint Epistemology without Deference. Co-authored with Briana Toole.
Standpoint epistemology has been linked with increasing calls for deference to the socially marginalized. As we understand it, deference involves recognizing someone else as better positioned than we are, either to investigate or to answer some question, and then accepting their judgment as our own. We connect contemporary calls for deference to old objections that standpoint epistemology wrongly reifies differences between groups. We also argue that while deferential epistemic norms present themselves as a solution to longstanding injustices, habitual deference prevents the socially dominant from developing for themselves the skills necessary to expand their capacity for empathy, to deftly probe for evidence, and to ask critical questions. We argue that standpoint epistemology must be understood as calling for inclusion, not deference. (Draft available soon.)
Abstract coming soon :)
RECENT AND UPCOMING TALKS
March 25, 2023
SOCIAL EPISTEMOLOGY WORKSHOP (ST. ANDREWS)
April 12, 2023
PERSPECTIVES ON PERSPECTIVALISM
"Standpoint, Encroachment, and Jain Epistemology"
April 8, 2023
PACIFIC APA, SOCIETY FOR ASIAN AND COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY: PERSPECTIVES ON PERSPECTIVALISM
"Standpoint, Encroachment, and Jain Epistemology"
December 3, 2022
EPISTEMIC ANXIETY WORKSHOP (UBC)
There is a reason I publish as 'Emily C. R. Tilton' and not just 'Emily Tilton'. There is another Emily Tilton who publishes erotic novels. If you google my name, many of her books come up. This disambiguation section serves to emphasize that I did not write these books.
Given my interest in (feminist) sexual ethics, I think this coincidence is extremely funny. My favorite plotline is from her book Bought and Trained: women sign up for a concubine training program and (consensually) have their memory of consenting to this program erased. You can read the blurb for this book here. I have not actually read this book and so cannot recommend more than the blurb. I recognize that this particular storyline puts some pressure on my insistence that I did not write this book--the plotline reads like a philosopher's thought experiment. This is part of why I am so amused by this coincidence.