Implicit Bias and the Idealized Rational Self

Authors
Nora Berenstain
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Abstract
The underrepresentation of women, people of color, and especially women of color—and the corresponding overrepresentation of white men—is more pronounced in philosophy than in many of the sciences. I suggest that part of the explanation for this lies in the role played by the idealized rational self, a concept that is relatively influential in philosophy but rarely employed in the sciences. The idealized rational self models the mind as consistent, unified, rationally transcendent, and introspectively transparent. I hypothesize that acceptance of the idealized rational self leads philosophers to underestimate the influence of implicit bias on their own judgments and prevents them from enacting the reforms necessary to minimize the effects of implicit bias on institutional decision-making procedures. I consider recent experiments in social psychology that suggest that an increased sense of one’s own objectivity leads to greater reliance on bias in hiring scenarios, and I hypothesize how these results might be applied to philosophers’ evaluative judgments. I discuss ways that the idealized rational self is susceptible to broader critiques of ideal theory, and I consider some of the ways that the picture functions as a tool of active ignorance and color-evasive racism.
Keywords rationality  objectivity  introspection  methodology  implicit bias  underrepresentation
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DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/ergo.12405314.0005.017
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