Stereotyping as Discrimination: Why Thoughts Can Be Discriminatory

Social Epistemology 35 (6):547-563 (2021)
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.Can we treat people in a discriminatory way in virtue of how we think about them? In this essay, I argue that the answer is yes. According to the constitutive claim, stereotyping constitutes discrimination, either sometimes or always. This essay defends the constitutive claim and explores the deeper justifications for it. I also sketch the constitutive claim’s larger ethical significance. One upshot is that we can wrongfully discriminate against (or in favor of) others in thought, even if we keep our views of others to ourselves. Second, if stereotyping is a form of discrimination, theories of wrongful discrimination bear on the ethical questions associated with stereotyping, including this one: under what conditions is it wrong to stereotype? In closing, I introduce an intriguing possibility, namely, that stereotyping is wrong if and when it constitutes wrongful discrimination.
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