Racist value judgments as objectively false beliefs: A philosophical and social-psychological analysis

Journal of Social Philosophy 39 (1):77–95 (2008)
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Racist beliefs express value judgments. According to an influential view, value judgments are subjective, and not amenable to rational adjudication. In contrast, we argue that the value judgments expressed in, for example, racist beliefs, are false and objectively so. Our account combines a naturalized, philosophical account of meaning inspired by Donald Davidson, with a prominent social-psychological theory of values pioneered by the social-psychologist Milton Rokeach. We use this interdisciplinary approach to show that, just as with beliefs expressing descriptive judgments, beliefs expressing value judgments have empirical content, or can be inferentially linked to beliefs that do; the truth or falsity of that content can be objectively assigned; and that assignment is amenable to rational assessment. While versions of this objective view of value judgments have been defended by moral realists of various metaphysical stripes, our argument has the virtue of appealing, instead, to accounts that are as naturalistically informed as possible. And, unlike the influential subjective view of value judgments, and racist beliefs more particularly, our arguments are better able to account for instances where rational, persuasive strategies have been effective in reducing the ubiquity of racism in American culture.
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