Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Problem is Hermeneutical Injustice and The Solution is Conceptual Engineering

Will add more to this soon (hopefully?. For now, can say that these two concepts are the closest I've yet found to describing both of...

1) The type of problems this blog is attempting to point out and address

2) A means by which to attempt building solutions to or mitigation of those problems.

The Problem - Hermeneutical Injustice

What is hermeneutical injustice?

"Hermeneutical injustice occurs when someone's experiences are not well understood — by themselves or by others — because these experiences do not fit any concepts known to them (or known to others), due to the historic exclusion of some groups of people from activities, such as scholarship and journalism, that shape the language people use to make sense of their experiences"

Source: Wikipedia article on Epistemic Injustice

Example of hermeneutical injustice

"In the 1970s, the phrase sexual harassment was introduced to describe something that many people, especially women, had long experienced. Imagine the year is 1960, before the term was introduced, and a woman experiences sexual harassment. She may have difficulty putting her experience into words. According to [Maria] Fricker, the difficulty that she faces is no accident. It is due largely to women's exclusion from full participation in the shaping of the English language. Now suppose it is 1980, after the term was introduced. The woman may now understand what happened to her better. However, she may struggle to explain this experience to someone else, because the concept of sexual harassment is not yet well known. The difficulty she faces is again no accident, according to Fricker. It is due largely to women's exclusion from equal participation in journalism, publishing, academia, law, and the other institutions and industries that help people make sense of their lives. Fricker argues that some women's lives are less intelligible – to themselves, and/or to others – because women have historically wielded less power to shape the categories through which we all understand the world. Fricker claims that this is also true of other marginalized groups"

Source: Wikipedia article on Epistemic Injustice

A Solution - Conceptual Engineering

What is conceptual engineering?

"Conceptual engineering is the design, implementation, and evaluation of concepts."

Source: What is conceptual engineering and what should it be by David Chalmers

"Concepts are constitutive of social structure. They lay the groundwork for social interaction, shaping the way we organize and coordinate our behavior in response to the world, and those we share the world with"

"Conceptual engineers, tasked with thinking about injustice, assess the concepts that affect the character and direction of our lives, and make a determination as to whether such concepts must be removed, revised, or replaced."

Source: Conceptual Engineering and Structural Injustice by Paul-Mikhail Catapang Podosky

Example of conceptual engineering

"[An] example is Kate Manne’s (2018) proposed definition of misogyny, the aim of which is to understand misogyny as a structural phenomenon about gendered policing mechanisms, rather than the attitude of bad eggs."

Source: Conceptual Engineering and Structural Injustice by Paul-Mikhail Catapang Podosky

Glossary of Terms

 Work in Progress. Collection of terms / ideas I've found useful. Several of which I coined myself.


Related to the idea of apologies, this is an acknowledgment of and empathy for the reported or perceived negative experience of another that you had some role in. It is meant to leave aside questions of blame, fault, and accountability. Many apologies cause further conflict through disagreement on those points. This is a term to help say that aside from potential disagreement on "who's responsible", that negative experience is being seen, validated, and empathized with.

Fuzzy in the Middle, Sharp on the Edges (FMSE)

This is a concept was built as part of a planned article on the idea of fairness. The idea can also be applied to other areas. The idea of FMSE is that certain idea, concepts, or categories don't have a well defined center. But the farther something gets from the concepts, the clearer it becomes that the thing is question is probably or definitely not part of that idea, concept, or category.

Examples of concepts that have the quality of fuzzy middle and sharp edge include...

- Music and film genres

- Fairness

Fundamental Principle of Human Uniqueness

The current draft term for the objective observation that no two humans are exactly alike, not even human twins.

Interdependence of Individual Human Lives

(section needs work)

In short - the idea that no human is wholly self-sufficient.

Limited Power to Walk Away

This term is a draft attempt to capture and examine ideas surrounding choice and power in social dynamics. Within most modern Western cultures the majority of citizens are not forced into using any particular service or business. You have a right to go find a second opinion and/or switch doctors. You have a right to quit most jobs. You have a right to not eat at a given dining establishment. You are not, in that sense, "forced" to use a specific offering. I call this the "power to walk away".

This power is very effective when there are numerous attainable and unobstructed options available. Depending on the context of one's social situation, this can be anywhere from an extremely useful and strong power to a extremely limited, almost useless one.

In many areas, there's limited choice. That's a limit to the power.

In many circumstances, one doesn't have a true choice to walk away. Most of us can't afford to simply not work. We can perhaps walk away from a particular job, but we can't walk away from "the need for gainful employment".

We very often have limited power or say on the items being built to walk toward. As a somewhat trivial example, if you like Chinese food but your town doesn't have such a restaurant, you have only limited power to will such a feature into existence. We exert very little (though not zero) authority on such matters, and that further limits the power of the fact the we can walk away. 

If you have nowhere to walk toward, the ability to walk way isn't really an ability at all.

The Weightlifting Ethos of Of "5 Pounds On, 5 Pounds Off" 

A concept from gym culture, but extends into work/effort culture overall, is "no pain, no gain". In the modern gym, they're finally, slowly, starting to replace that with "uh oh, always pushing to the max is unsustainable, unhealthy, and foolish". I call the new ethos, and teach it to people, the "5 pounds on, 5 pounds off" rule. In weightlifting, some days you want to push through discomfort, add that extra 5 pounds on, and push through. Other days, the ego or pressure or just self-desire for success fuels putting too much on too quickly, and so you also need to "un-push" and sometimes take 5 pounds off.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Job Hunting - The Two Things You Need to Demonstrate To Get Hired


This article brought to you by the Peer Voices Network. Find us on YouTube at...

Please consider donating to support this work. I am disabled, financially struggling, and am forced by existing social structures into producing content like this for free. I hope those with means and privilege will eventually shift priorities toward increased support for lived experience content generation and expertise sharing. Donations are never required and always appreciated. Donate Link: https://ko-fi.com/socialrealitylab

I am also available for consultation work, curriculum development, trainings, etc.. I enjoy partnering with organizations on development of more accurate understandings of social reality. 

I can be reached by email at taylor.geomatics@gmail.com


My background has included years of personal job hunting experience. I've pivoted careers multiple times. Along the way I attending numerous workshops seminars, read dozens of articles, and tried to find an answer to that very common question - what does it take to get hired in the modern job market?

After going through all of that, here's my single favorite characterization of what the job hiring process ultimately boils down to. In broad terms, getting hired is about two things...

1) Can you do the work? Can you show you have the right skills?

2) Do we know you? Do we like you?

And that's basically it. That is, in general, what a hiring process is. Getting answers to those two main lines of questioning. 

Some obvious caveats apply. This is industry specific. A doctor needs a medical degree and, in most countries, to have a medical license. Many jobs, especially in the public and academic sectors, have certain "check the box" minimum requirements including advanced academic degrees or professional certifications. Certain fields are so in need of help that it barely matters what your background is. 

Beyond those fairly obvious field to field differences, I find that the above generality works extremely well as a baseline for how to think about what a given employer is looking for. Your goal, as a job applicant, is to show how you best answer those two lines of questioning.

If that's feeling a little under-explained, here's some additional detail on this idea.

Criteria 1 - Can You Do the Work?

At the end of the day, what is a job? Some sort of task needs doing. It could be more abstract. It could be more concrete. But some task is involved. So the person doing the hiring wants evidence that you can either perform, or in some cases capably learn to perform, that task or set of tasks. 

Somewhat shockingly, it's very rare that a degree or training program, in and of itself, actually meet Criteria 1. Degrees help with bureaucratic minimum requirements, especially in government positions. Beyond that though, people want to see relevant, applicable direct experience. They want to see or hear about specific coursework (whether it's part of a degree program or not). They want to see or hear about specific example projects.

The classic trope of entry-level job, "two years experience desired" makes a lot of sense with the logic of Criteria 1. Almost never does someone want to cover the risk and cost of a new trainee. Experience demonstrates that you can do the work, and that's exactly what Criteria 1 cares about.

So the advice here is acquire real-world experience however it can be acquired. Try to use real-world scenarios in school projects. Volunteering, while exploitative from a social justice perspective, is nonetheless a potential avenue for this. 

If you want to do the work - show you can do the work.

I really, really wish training was more directly supported from a social structure viewpoint. In modern Western culture, we've placed responsibility on the individual. Culturally, it is your job and your responsibility to figure out how to show an employer the answer to Criteria 1. It also explains why privilege, systemic barriers, and inequality becomes such problems and factors in the reality of the inequitable playing field. We do not live in a meritocracy of opportunity for skills training. 

Criteria 2 - Are You Trustworthy and Likeable? (Why Networking Matters)

It can be sometimes easy to forget, but jobs aren't just about tasks. It is, fundamentally, also a social endeavor. Even the most introverted and isolated jobs still involve occasional contact with other humans. Given that context, the other part of jobs is an employer deciding which types of people they want to work with.

That could mean many things, but one model to at least start to approach this idea with is two key parts of the social relationship - trust and likability.


Hiring people is an odd thing because, in many cases, you're interacting with total strangers. You typically don't decide who to marry after a one hour interview. But it's just the briefest of social interactions that determine who you're spending 40+ hours a week with?  Very odd. Very risky. 

To avoid hiring strangers, many employers will, well, not hire strangers. They want to hire people they already have a relationship with. And can thus trust more than a stranger. Or, if not the direct hire themselves, they hire someone who was recommended by a trusted colleague. In fact, many job opportunities never make it to the stage of being publicly posted. There's enough colleague-built recommendations that a recruit is picked solely from that pool of pre-existing relationships.

This is why, and what, the idea of "networking" is about at its core. It's a large part of maneuvering oneself into a more advantageous position for meeting Criteria 2. And that doesn't have to be some outright nefarious or manipulative plot. It's the reality that it's more comfortable and less risky to hire people where there's some pre-established relationship instead of a total stranger. It makes sense from a basic human nature perspective.

It's also then, given this idea, extremely odd how little of the education process involves networking components. There is, to my mind, shockingly little interaction between employers and schools. Yes, within that, there's a debate about academic freedom versus education serving industry. But education is, very much, in part about equipping oneself with an ability to be employable. Networking is part of employability and is mostly missing from "career preparation" as a socially-supplied commodity. 

While we wait for a social revolution, what can be done in the meantime? Since society deems it our personal responsibility to generate networks for ourselves?

It won't always be easy, but a lot of creativity can go into this. Informational interviews are a good tool. Meaning - you can a stranger and ask them about their job. Great way to learn more about what skills matter to better meet Criteria 1. And, after the conversation, if it goes well that's one more person who's now not a stranger and has potential to assist with Criteria 2.

Other options include going wherever professionals are. Information booths. Career fairs. Conferences. Volunteering. None of it's guaranteed, but there's a lot of humans out there to potentially meet. You'd be surprised who you can outright directly email in this modern, connected, digital age.


Still in the category of "work as a social endeavor", but separate from trust is likability. I hate to say it, but if you thought popularity contests ended in high school, well, they don't. Leaving aside social justice equitability and fairness for a moment - it makes some sense. It's nicer to work with people who you mesh with. It's unpleasant to work with people you don't mesh with or worse. So, human nature will favor likability. 

The management-speak term for this is "workplace culture", and one bit of common advice is trying to find a workplace where there's a culture match. 

To be clear, likability isn't an outright prerequisite for a job. People need someone skilled (Criteria 1). Not everyone gets along. Plenty of people wind up in jobs with people they can't stand. But, we're kidding ourselves if we think likability isn't a huge factor in hiring.

At its worst, this includes outright discrimination. Even with legal protections in place, it's abundantly clear that discrimination is still an issue. It's yet another challenge to the myth of a meritocratic (a.k.a. fair) work environment.

Short of outright identity-based discrimination, there's also a complex ethical question about fairness and where the line is between "having to learn to get along" versus not forcing personality incompatibility and instead trying to build a workplace of people who generally enjoy each other's company. Lots of middle ground there that could be its own article series.

Apologies for going a bit deep there on the question of which aspects of this are just and which aren't. The takeaway for this article is - a fact of the hiring process is that a key part of selecting job candidates is getting judged on which are most socially likable to the person or team doing the hiring.

Regarding advice on this front, two things to note might be..

1) Criteria 1 can absolutely supersede likability issues. The more skilled you are, the harder it is to base a hiring decision on Criteria 2 judgements.

2) Trying to aim for jobs, or even entire generalized career paths, where you're a better fit with others doing that type of work. That is advice strictly and solely from a "hireability" perspective. 

Concluding Thoughts

This is a first draft attempt at writing this article. May come back and adjust. Always up for hearing lived experience feedback on whether this rings true or not. Might include some other tips or resources (for example, could add a link on how to conduct an informational interview).

Also, for a reading recommendation critiquing career advice culture, I highly recommend the recently published book The Trouble with Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality by Erin Cech (link to book overview from the publisher).

Good luck in your job hunts, and remember that society is constructed to blame you and you alone for job hunt failure. That does not fully align with the reality of the situation, and we can keep ask and pushing for accountability beyond just the individual. While trying to still do our best in the meantime.

* * *

Monday, August 1, 2022

The Reality of Interdependence (and why it matters for counseling)

Today's post is a progress update on my efforts to built a counter-argument to a category of mental health advice and approaches that attempt to, in various ways...

"encourage independence and self-regulation"

Credit to livedexperiencecounselor on Instagram for the wording of that last line (see this post for reference). Fantastic account I recommend following.

If you're looking for a specific example of this, I can point to a popular mental health advice meme that declares "your trauma is not your fault, but healing is your responsibility". Brian Peck, who runs the Room to Thrive religious trauma recovery Facebook community, wrote an excellent counterpoint analysis as to why he finds that advice problematic. I fully agree with his stance, and think he's working toward countering the same broad concept I'm working on here.

I'm still working on a full and complete rebuttal (and wow can that work be a slog at times), but did have at least one part of the critique I'm ready to share and feel confident about. We might call this effort "in defense of interdependence and why that matters for therapy and counseling." And a section of that defense will likely include this...

The following are two observations about the human condition, and life in modern society, that seems essentially unquestionable and objectively true.

1) We are, as newborns and children, unable to self-educate and unable to survive without early assistance

2) The vast majority of social systems worldwide are based on a foundation of specialization. They operate through developing human laborers who will not be able to operate or survive as individuals if wholly cut off from society.

Point #1 seems basically self-evident, but nonetheless important. And Point #2 might come with reactions of "is this good or bad". I'm not yet ready to speak to value judgements on that observation just yet. Obvious points that will likely come up include the economic theory of division of labor (specialization), the role of money in human interaction, and a multitude of other important theories and concepts across the social and biological sciences. Like I said, this is a big effort here. 

At this point thought, I'm proud of at least pulling out the two points above. Regardless of what else will bubble up as part of this analysis, the two statements above seems objectively true. And will very likely serve as important building blocks for the eventual larger discussion on the topic of modern counseling so often encouraging independence and self-regulation. And why I continue to have numerous objections to that approach. 

Also, as always, a disclaimer that this is work in progress. The points above might be able to be stated more clearly. Maybe there's something in those statements that seems objectionable. Always open to open-minded debate, keeping an eye on the goal of establishing an objective, agreeable set of principles to work from as part of building a more effective model of mental health theory and aide.