Microaggressions as negligence

Journal of Social Philosophy (forthcoming)
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In this paper, I suggest that the wrongness of many—though not at all—cases of microaggressions can be captured as cases of negligence. A case of negligence holds when, regardless of an actor’s intentions, he or she wrongs another in a manner that is both reasonably foreseeable and reasonably avoidable. Thinking of microaggressions as negligence answers some objections of skeptics who focus on the possibility that the alleged microaggressor “meant no offense”. It does so while retaining language explaining why a wrong was committed and suggesting what sort of corrective behavior can reasonably be demanded to avoid these wrongs in the future. I also argue that a negligence framework does a better job of phenomenologically explaining most microaggressions—both why they occur and why they are perceived as the sort of conduct that subjects the microaggressor to agent-level moral criticism. Indeed, I believe that negligence-style logic permeates many accounts that already exist regarding microaggressions, albeit without fully being recognized. Finally, in cases where it applies, the negligence framework has an advantage over alternate accounts in that it provides for consideration of both the moral culpability of the perpetrator as well as the tangible impact of microaggressions on the victim.

Author's Profile

David Schraub
Lewis & Clark College


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