Stereotypes And Stereotyping: A Moral Analysis

Philosophical Papers 33 (3):251-289 (2004)
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Stereotypes are false or misleading generalizations about groups, generally widely shared in a society, and held in a manner resistant, but not totally, to counterevidence. Stereotypes shape the stereotyper’s perception of stereotyped groups, seeing the stereotypic characteristics when they are not present, and generally homogenizing the group. The association between the group and the given characteristic involved in a stereotype often involves a cognitive investment weaker than that of belief. The cognitive distortions involved in stereotyping lead to various forms of moral distortion, to which moral philosophers have paid insufficient attention. Some of these are common to all stereotypes—failing to see members of the stereotyped groups as individuals, moral distancing, failing to see subgroup diversity within the group. Other moral distortions vary with the stereotype. Some attribute a much more damaging or stigmatizing characteristic (e.g. being violent) than others (e.g. being good at basketball). But the characteristic in question must also be viewed in its wider historical and social context to appreciate its overall negative and positive dimensions.

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Lawrence Blum
University of Massachusetts, Boston


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