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Hermeneutic Opacity as a Condition for Racial Integration: An Epistemological Account

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This paper argues that necessary for the fruitful epistemic relation between racial groups is hermeneutic opacity because it allows for the cultivation of epistemic virtues. I employ the models of integration and assimilation to characterize two ways in which epistemic relations between racial subjects can occur. “Epistemic assimilation” is a one-directional approach to knowledge of the self and others that requires reducing difference to sameness, a requirement that Édouard Glissant calls “hermeneutic transparency” and which is detrimental to the epistemic development of both the racially dominant and the racially oppressed. In contrast, “epistemic integration” involves a two-directional approach to knowledge of the self and others that requires respect for difference. Glissant calls this requirement “hermeneutic opacity” and involves recognition of one’s epistemic limitations thus leading to the cultivation of what José Medina calls “epistemic virtues.” I conclude hermeneutic opacity ensures the continuous engagement and creation of meaning between racial groups.


Jorge Montiel    
Marquette University
United States


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