Philosophical Topics 46 (2):71-102 (2018)

Jennifer Saul
University of Waterloo
This paper takes as its focus efforts to address particular aspects of sexist oppression and its intersections, in a particular field: it discusses reform efforts in philosophy. In recent years, there has been a growing international movement to change the way that our profession functions and is structured, in order to make it more welcoming for members of marginalized groups. One especially prominent and successful form of justification for these reform efforts has drawn on empirical data regarding implicit biases and their effects. Here, we address two concerns about these empirical data. First, critics have for some time argued that the studies drawn upon cannot give us an accurate picture of the workings of prejudice, because they ignore the intersectional nature of these phenomena. More recently, concerns have been raised about the empirical data supporting the nature and existence of implicit bias. Each of these concerns, but perhaps more commonly the latter, are thought by some to undermine reform efforts in philosophy. In this paper, we take a three-pronged approach to these claims. First, we show that the reforms can be motivated quite independently of the implicit bias data, and that many of these reforms are in fact very well suited to dealing with intersectional worries. Next, we show that in fact the empirical concerns about the implicit bias data are not nearly as problematic as some have thought. Finally, we argue that while the intersectional concerns are an immensely valuable criticism of early work on implicit bias, more recent work is starting to address these worries.
Keywords General Interest  Philosophy of Mind  Diversifying philosophy  Implicit bias  Gender  Race
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DOI 10.5840/philtopics201846214
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