Dissolving the epistemic/ethical dilemma over implicit bias

Philosophical Explorations 20 (sup1):73-93 (2017)
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Abstract

It has been argued that humans can face an ethical/epistemic dilemma over the automatic stereotyping involved in implicit bias: ethical demands require that we consistently treat people equally, as equally likely to possess certain traits, but if our aim is knowledge or understanding our responses should reflect social inequalities meaning that members of certain social groups are statistically more likely than others to possess particular features. I use psychological research to argue that often the best choice from the epistemic perspective is the same as the best choice from the ethical perspective: to avoid automatic stereotyping even when this involves failing to reflect social realities in our judgements. This argument has an important implication: it shows that it is not possible to successfully defend an act of automatic stereotyping simply on the basis that the stereotype reflects an aspect of social reality. An act of automatic stereotyping can be poor from an epistemic perspective even if the stereotype that is activated reflects reality.

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Katherine Puddifoot
Durham University