The Epistemology of Prejudice

Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 2 (1):90-99 (2013)
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According to a common view, prejudice always involves some form of epistemic culpability, i.e., a failure to respond to evidence in the appropriate way. I argue that the common view wrongfully assumes that prejudices always involve universal generalizations. After motivating the more plausible thesis that prejudices typically involve a species of generic judgment, I show that standard examples provide no grounds for positing a strong connection between prejudice and epistemic culpability. More generally, the common view fails to recognize the extent to which prejudices are epistemically insidious: once they are internalized as background beliefs, they quite reasonably come to control the assessment and interpretation of new evidence. This property of insidiousness helps explain why prejudices are so recalcitrant to empirical counterevidence and also why they are frequently invisible to introspective reflection

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Endre Begby
Simon Fraser University


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