(You Drive Me) Crazy: How Gaslighting Undermines Autonomy
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"Gaslighting", a type of manipulation whereby one person has another doubt their own perception, judgment, and sense of reality, has been a household term in psychology since the 1960s. However, it has so far barely been studied by philosophers. In this thesis I investigate how gaslighting undermines autonomy. I argue that it does so through the impairment of a victim’s trust in three crucial epistemic capacities: the capacity for perception and memory, the capacity to participate in trustful conversation, and the capacity for self-discovery. By limiting a victim’s opportunities to exercise these capacities and participate in valuable epistemic practices, but most of all by instilling self-doubt, the gaslighter alienates the victim from reality, others, and herself. In doing so, gaslighting corrupts the three axes of engagement - marked by attitudes of confidence, trust, and open-mindedness - that constitute autonomous agency.