The Specter of Normative Conflict: Does Fairness Require Inaccuracy?

In Erin Beeghly & Alex Madva (eds.), An Introduction to Implicit Bias: Knowledge, Justice, and the Social Mind. Routledge. pp. 191-210 (2020)
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Abstract

A challenge we face in a world that has been shaped by, and continues to be shaped by, racist attitudes and institutions is that the evidence is often stacked in favor of racist beliefs. As a result, we may find ourselves facing the following conflict: what if the evidence we have supports something we morally shouldn’t believe? For example, it is morally wrong to assume, solely on the basis of someone’s skin color, that they’re a staff member. But, what if you’re in a context where, because of historical patterns of discrimination, someone’s skin color is a very good indicator that they’re a staff member? When this sort of normative conflict looms, a conflict between moral considerations on the one hand and what you epistemically ought to believe given the evidence on the other, what should we do? It might be unfair to assume that they’re a staff member, but to ignore the evidence would mean risking inaccurate beliefs. Some, notably Tamar Gendler (2011), have suggested that we simply face a tragic irresolvable dilemma. In this chapter, I consider how these cases of conflict arise and I canvass the viability of suggested resolutions of the conflict. In the end, I argue that there’s actually no conflict here. Moral considerations can change how we epistemically should respond to the evidence.

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Rima Basu
Claremont McKenna College

Citations of this work

A Tale of Two Doctrines: Moral Encroachment and Doxastic Wronging.Rima Basu - 2021 - In Jennifer Lackey (ed.), Applied Epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 99-118.
The Ethics of Belief (3rd edition).Rima Basu - forthcoming - In Kurt Sylvan, Matthias Steup, Ernest Sosa & Jonathan Dancy (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Epistemology, 3rd edition. Wiley-Blackwell.
Belief, blame, and inquiry: a defense of doxastic wronging.Z. Quanbeck - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (10-11):2955-2975.

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The wrongs of racist beliefs.Rima Basu - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 176 (9):2497-2515.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Doxastic Wronging.Rima Basu & Mark Schroeder - 2019 - In Brian Kim & Matthew McGrath (eds.), Pragmatic Encroachment in Epistemology. Routledge. pp. 181-205.

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