Minding Gaps and Drawing Lines

This talk considers what it means for our concepts to be adequate for our purposes, particularly our normative purposes. In recent years, philosophers have argued that already marginalised agents can suffer further injustice due to gaps in our shared hermeneutical resources; these gaps make it the case that these agents are unable to adequately understand crucial aspects of their own social experiences. Taking the concept ‘sexual harassment’ as a central case study, I consider what it means for a hermeneutical gap to be ‘filled’. I argue that the addition of this concept, and the resulting ‘filling’ of the hermeneutical gap, was a genuine achievement, but one that is harder to explain than might be expected. I offer an account of this achievement. But I also consider reasons to think that the concept may have outlived its usefulness, insofar as it draws lines between phenomena that are in fact importantly related. I conclude that talk of ‘filling’ hermeneutical gaps is misleading, and that we should think of hermeneutical progress in alternate terms.