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1. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
John Corvino “The Kind of Cake, Not the Kind of Customer”: Masterpiece, Sexual-Orientation Discrimination, and the Metaphysics of Cakes
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In June 2018 the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which baker Jack Phillips refused to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. The Court decided the case on fairly narrow grounds; in particular, it set aside the question of whether Phillips illegally discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation by refusing to sell the same cake to a gay couple that he would sell to a heterosexual couple. Concurring opinions by Justices Kagan and Gorsuch do address that question, however, and in this paper I explore the debate between them. By distinguishing between design-based and use-based refusals of service and then arguing that some use-based refusals are tantamount to discrimination on the basis of protected traits, I argue that Jack Phillips did indeed discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. I also argue that another baker, who refused to create a “Leviticus 18:22 ‘Homosexuality is a detestable sin’ ” cake, did not discriminate on the basis of religion. I thus side with Justice Kagan against Justice Gorsuch on the question of whether the Colorado commission treated the two bakers inconsistently.
2. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Robin Dembroff Real Talk on the Metaphysics of Gender
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Gender classifications often are controversial. These controversies typically focus on whether gender classifications align with facts about gender kind membership: Could someone really be nonbinary? Is Chris Mosier (a trans man) really a man? I think this is a bad approach. Consider the possibility of ontological oppression, which arises when social kinds operating in a context unjustly constrain the behaviors, concepts, or affect of certain groups. Gender kinds operating in dominant contexts, I argue, oppress trans and nonbinary persons in this way: they marginalize trans men and women, and exclude nonbinary persons. As a result, facts about membership in dominant gender kinds should not settle gender classification practices.
3. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Kristie Dotson, Ayanna De’ Vante Spencer Another Letter Long Delayed: On Unsound Epistemological Practices and Reductive Inclusion
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This paper is an effort toward conceptual transparency around toxic inclusivity in academic feminism and the kinds of care it lacks toward, what amounts to, bad knowledge production practices. In this paper, we claim that some of the forms of reductive inclusion that ought to be avoided are epistemologically unsound practices that propagate disempowering, false, and/or distortive messages about targets of inclusion. We take reductive inclusion to be inclusion that treats the targets of inclusion as plot devices and/or as means to a narrative end. These practices should be avoided in order to work toward a range of coalitional possibilities between differently situated populations with social justice aims. Moreover, we are concerned with making clear that toxic inclusion is a type of bad scholarship. The reductive inclusions to avoid articulated in this paper are (1) interpolation and (2) ossification. Interpolation involves executing “inclusion” with formal, instead of substantive, overtures. Ossification, however, establishes parasitic relations of inclusion that present a skeleton of one’s targets for inclusion that reduces whole groups to serve the purpose of the narrator. Through a discussion of Audre Lorde’s “An Open Letter to Mary Daly” (1979), we explain Lorde’s brilliant and succinct critique of Daly as exemplifying interpolation and ossification. Ultimately, this paper adds to diverse Black feminist literatures on effective coalitions and gestures toward potential rules for engagement across difference in our story telling.
4. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Jules Holroyd, Jennifer Saul Implicit Bias and Reform Efforts in Philosophy: A Defence
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This paper takes as its focus efforts to address particular aspects of sexist oppression and its intersections, in a particular field: it discusses reform efforts in philosophy. In recent years, there has been a growing international movement to change the way that our profession functions and is structured, in order to make it more welcoming for members of marginalized groups. One especially prominent and successful form of justification for these reform efforts has drawn on empirical data regarding implicit biases and their effects. Here, we address two concerns about these empirical data. First, critics have for some time argued that the studies drawn upon cannot give us an accurate picture of the workings of prejudice, because they ignore the intersectional nature of these phenomena. More recently, concerns have been raised about the empirical data supporting the nature and existence of implicit bias. Each of these concerns, but perhaps more commonly the latter, are thought by some to undermine reform efforts in philosophy. In this paper, we take a three-pronged approach to these claims. First, we show that the reforms can be motivated quite independently of the implicit bias data, and that many of these reforms are in fact very well suited to dealing with intersectional worries. Next, we show that in fact the empirical concerns about the implicit bias data are not nearly as problematic as some have thought. Finally, we argue that while the intersectional concerns are an immensely valuable criticism of early work on implicit bias, more recent work is starting to address these worries.
5. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Veronica Ivy, Aryn Conrad Including Trans Women Athletes in Competitive Sport: Analyzing the Science, Law, and Principles and Policies of Fairness in Competition
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In this paper, we examine the scientific, legal, and ethical foundations for inclusion of transgender women athletes in competitive sport, drawing on IOC principles and relevant Court of Arbitration for Sport decisions. We argue that the inclusion of trans athletes in competition commensurate with their legal gender is the most consistent position with these principles of fair and equitable sport. Biological restrictions, such as endogenous testosterone limits, are not consistent with IOC and CAS principles. We explore the implications for recognizing that endogenous testosterone values are a ‘natural physical trait’ and that excluding legally recognized women for high endogenous testosterone values constitutes discrimination on the basis of a natural physical trait. We suggest that the justificatory burden for such prima facie discrimination is unlikely to be met. Thus, in place of a limit on endogenous testosterone for women (whether cisgender, transgender, or intersex), we argue that ‘legally recognized gender’ is most fully in line with IOC and CAS principles.
6. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Serene Khader Passive Empowerment: How Women’s Agency Became Women Doing It All
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In a world where paid work is touted as a development panacea, empowering women has started to look a lot like burdening them. I argue here that this burdening of women is a predictable result of the conception of empowerment as choice or agency. Dominant conceptions of empowerment characterize empowerment as the increase in a person’s ability to do what they choose. Yet conditions of gender equality and poverty structure women’s options such that choosing (among unacceptable alternatives), doing (too much), and doing more (than men) are often both women’s best option and modes of disempowerment. Seeing the way increased agency can be disempowering requires shifting away from the view that social structures disempower by constraining individual agency. We instead need a conception of power as a constraint on individual action to a conception of power as structuring the field of available actions in ways that affect the relative position of social groups. Through a discussion of the gender division of labor and the feminization of responsibility, I argue that a more feminist conception of empowerment will weaken the link between empowerment and individual agency.
7. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Mary Kate McGowan On Locker Room Talk and Linguistic Oppression
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This paper argues that linguistic oppression is coherent; speech can oppress. Moreover, even though oppression is a structural phenomenon, a single utterance can nevertheless be an act of oppression. This paper also argues that ordinary utterances can oppress. That is, speakers do not need to have and be exercising authority in order for their speech to be oppressive. Furthermore, ordinary speech can oppress even though the speakers do not intend to oppress, even though the hearers do not take it to oppress, even though the oppressed do not hear it, and even though the oppressed are unaware of being oppressed. On the account offered here, linguistic oppression is sneaky, hidden, and surprisingly widespread.
8. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Christia Mercer The Philosophical Roots of Western Misogyny
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In this paper, I examine the arguments offered by prominent ancient philosophers (Plato and Aristotle) and medical theorists (Hippocrates and Galen) to justify the view that female bodies are imperfect or “mutilated” compared to male bodies from which it is supposed to follow that women are morally inferior to men. These arguments rendered men superior to women and justified the need for women to subjugate themselves to their procreative powers and to the wisdom of their superiors. Western sexism and misogyny has its roots here. It is unsettling to witness the ease with which a few men writing millennia ago laid the groundwork for centuries of sexism and depressing to realize that many of our contemporaries embrace the residue of these ancient ideas. But it is important for us to understand how these sexist attitudes arose, how they maintained themselves, and how utterly contingent they are.
9. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Elena Ruíz, Nora Berenstain Gender-Based Administrative Violence as Colonial Strategy
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There is a growing trend across North America of women being criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes. Rather than being a series of aberrations resulting from institutional failures, we argue that this trend is part of a colonial strategy of administrative violence aimed at women of color and Native women across Turtle Island. We consider a range of medical and legal practices constituting gender-based administrative violence, and we argue that they are the result of non-accidental and systematic production of population-level harms that cannot be disentangled from the goals of ongoing settler occupation and dispossession of Indigenous lands. While white feminist narratives of gender-based administrative violence in Latin America function to distance the places where such violence occurs from the ‘liberal democratic’ settler nation-states of the U.S. and Canada, we hold that administrative forms of reproductive violence against Latin American women are structurally connected to efforts in the U.S. and Canada to criminalize women of color and Indigenous women for their reproductive outcomes. The purpose of these systemically produced harms is to sustain cultures of gender-based violence in support of settler colonial configurations of power.
10. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Vanessa Wills What Could It Mean to Say, “Capitalism Causes Sexism and Racism?”
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Marxism is a materialist theory that centers economic life in its analysis of the human social world. This materialist orientation manifests in explanations that take economic class to play a fundamental causal role in determining the emergence, character, and development of race-and sex-based oppression—indeed, of all forms of identity-based oppression within class societies. To say that labor is mediated by class in a class-based society is to say that, in such societies, the class-based division of that activity which produces and reproduces the human species is the definite form in which labor appears, and that the human life which is the product of that self-making activity bears its stamp. Marxism’s emphasis on economic factors as central in the constitution and development of human life has been seized upon as evidence of its alleged “class reductionism”—its supposed tendency to think of all aspects of human life as direct and simple expressions of a class relation. No such thing follows; quite the opposite, a correct understanding of the relationships among capitalism, racism, and sexism only further highlights how central the struggle against each is to the struggles against any of the others.
11. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Quill R Kukla, Cassie Herbert Moral Ecologies and the Harms of Sexual Violation
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Traditional moral explorations of sexual violation are dyadic: they focus on the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, considered in relative isolation. We argue that the moral texture of sexual violation and its fallout only shows up once we see acts of sexual violation as acts that occur within an ecosystem. An ecosystem is made up of dwellers and an environment embedded in a broad, thick, interdependent, and relatively stable web of norms, practices, environments, material and institutional structures. We argue that many of the important and interesting harms wrought by sexual violation can only be understood as ecological harms. To illustrate this, we focus on sexual violations that occur within a specific type of ecosystem, namely an academic department with a graduate program. We examine the possible damaging effects of sexual violation on the ecology of a department. We also consider what makes an ecosystem resilient and relatively able to self-repair, and how sexual violation within an ecosystem may weaken its self-repairing resources. We show that looking at sexual violation through this ecological lens lets us identify harms that are otherwise obscured or difficult to locate.
12. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Rima Basu Can Beliefs Wrong?
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We care what people think of us. The thesis that beliefs wrong, although compelling, can sound ridiculous. The norms that properly govern belief are plausibly epistemic norms such as truth, accuracy, and evidence. Moral and prudential norms seem to play no role in settling the question of whether to believe p, and they are irrelevant to answering the question of what you should believe. This leaves us with the question: can we wrong one another by virtue of what we believe about each other? Can beliefs wrong? In this introduction, I present a brief summary of the articles that make up this special issue. The aim is to direct readers to open avenues for future research by highlighting questions and challenges that are far from being settled. These papers shouldn’t be taken as the last word on the subject. Rather, they mark the beginning of a serious exploration into a set of questions that concern the morality of belief, i.e., doxastic morality.
13. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Simon Keller Belief for Someone Else’s Sake
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You care about what others believe about you. What others believe about you determines whether you have a good reputation, whether you have the respect of your peers, and whether your friends genuinely like you. Your caring about others’ beliefs makes sense, because others’ beliefs bear directly upon your level of well-being. Your beliefs can influence others’ well-being, as much as their beliefs can influence yours. How your beliefs influence another’s well-being is a different matter from whether your beliefs are supported by the evidence. Sometimes you can benefit another person by regulating your beliefs in response to considerations of her well-being, not (only) of the evidence. Usually, you do not have strong reasons to regulate your beliefs in response to considerations of the interests of others. But it can be different when the person in question is your friend. Within some perfectly good friendships, the support that each friend provides for the other extends as far as their being willing to regulate their beliefs with the goal of benefiting the other, even if that makes it less likely that their beliefs will be supported by the evidence. Within our friendships, we then have reasons for belief that do not arise directly from, and sometimes compete with, reasons provided by evidence. This claim conflicts with the widespread Aristotelian view that good friendship is oriented to virtue. But it fits with a more plausible view about friendship, on which the function of friendship is to help us cope with the fact that we are not fully virtuous, and to serve needs that we have because we are not fully virtuous.
14. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Nomy Arpaly, Anna Brinkerhoff Why Epistemic Partiality is Overrated
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Epistemic partialism is the view that friends have a doxastic duty to overestimate each other. If one holds that there are no practical reasons for belief, we will argue, one has to deny the existence of any epistemic duties, and thus reject epistemic partialism. But if it is false that one has a doxastic duty to overestimate one’s friends, why does it so often seem true? We argue that there is a robust causal relationship between friendship and overestimation that can be mistaken for a constitutive relationship; we also argue that one can still accept some of the normative intuitions that motivate epistemic partialism even if one rejects epistemic partialism itself. Along the way, we consider and reject a watered-down version of epistemic partialism—call it epistemic partialism-light—according to which one has a duty to take steps to create in oneself a disposition to overestimate one’s friends.
15. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Kate Nolfi Moral Agency in Believing
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Ordinary moral practice suggests that our beliefs, themselves, can wrong. But when one moral subject wrongs another, it must be something that the first subject, herself, does or brings about which constitutes the wronging: wronging involves exercising moral agency. So, if we can wrong others simply by believing, then believing involves an exercise or expression of moral agency. Unfortunately, it is not at all obvious how our beliefs could manifest our moral agency. After all, we are not (or at least not typically) capable of believing at will, and belief generally seems to be nonvoluntary. Indeed, believing is often nondeliberative, automatic, and reflexive. Belief is a kind of spontaneous and unchosen cognitive response to one’s circumstances; it is the doxastic output of cognitive processing that is often wholly unreflective and subconscious. This paper develops and defends a two-part explanation of how beliefs that are nonvoluntary, automatic, and reflexive can nevertheless manifest our moral agency in a way that can help vindicate the intuitively attractive idea that our beliefs, themselves, can wrong.
16. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Sarah K. Paul, Jennifer M. Morton Believing in Others
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Suppose some person ‘A’ sets out to accomplish a difficult, long-term goal such as writing a passable PhD thesis. What should you believe about whether A will succeed? The default answer is that you should believe whatever the total accessible evidence concerning A’s abilities, circumstances, capacity for self-discipline, and so forth supports. But could it be that what you should believe depends in part on the relationship you have with A? We argue that it does, in the case where A is yourself. The capacity for “grit” involves a kind of epistemic resilience in the face of evidence suggesting that one might fail, and this makes it rational to respond to the relevant evidence differently when you are the agent in question. We then explore whether similar arguments extend to the case of “believing in” our significant others—our friends, lovers, family members, colleagues, patients, and students.
17. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Berislav Marušić, Stephen White How Can Beliefs Wrong?: A Strawsonian Epistemology
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We take a tremendous interest in how other people think of us. We have certain expectations of others, concerning how we are to figure in their thought and judgment. And we often feel wronged if those are disappointed. But it is puzzling how others’ beliefs could wrong us. On the one hand, moral considerations don’t bear on the truth of a belief and so seem to be the wrong kind of reasons for belief. On the other hand, truth-directed considerations seem to render moral considerations redundant. In this paper, we argue that to understand the possibility of doxastic wronging, we need to understand beliefs, no less than actions, as ways of relating to one another. In particular, how we take account of what others think and say will depend on whether we take up what P. F. Strawson calls the participant stance toward them. We show how this helps to make sense of an example Miranda Fricker identifies as a case of epistemic injustice. We then use the example to spell out the ethical significance of Tyler Burge’s idea that we have a default entitlement to accept at face value what we receive from a rational source.
18. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Mark Schroeder When Beliefs Wrong
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Most philosophers find it puzzling how beliefs could wrong, and this leads them to conclude that they do not. So there is much philosophical work to be done in sorting out whether I am right to say that they do, as well as how this could be so. But in this paper I will take for granted that beliefs can wrong, and ask instead when beliefs wrong. My answer will be that beliefs wrong when they falsely diminish. This answer has three parts: that beliefs wrong only when they are false, that beliefs wrong only when they diminish, and that false diminishment is sufficient for wronging. I will seek to elaborate on and defend all three of these claims, but it is the first to which I will give the most attention.
19. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Kristie Dotson Accumulating Epistemic Power: A Problem with Epistemology
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On December 3, 2014, in a piece entitled “White America’s Scary Delusion: Why Its Sense of Black Humanity Is So Skewed,” Brittney Cooper criticizes attempts to deem Black rage at state-sanctioned violence against Black people “unreasonable.” In this paper, I outline a problem with epistemology that Cooper highlights in order to explore whether beliefs can wrong. My overall claim is there are difficult-to-defeat arguments concerning the “legitimacy” of police slayings against Black people that are indicative of problems with epistemology because of the epistemic power they accumulate toward resilient oblivion, which can have the effect of normalizing oppressive conditions. That is to say, if one takes the value of lessening oppression as a key feature of normative, epistemological conduct, then it can generate demands on epistemological orientations that, in turn, generate wrongs for beliefs and, more specifically, beliefs as wrongs.
20. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Endre Begby Doxastic Morality: A Moderately Skeptical Perspective
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Beliefs can cause moral wrongs, no doubt, but can they also constitute moral wrongs in their own right? This paper offers some grounds to be skeptical of the idea that there are moral norms which operate directly on belief, independently of any epistemic norms also operating on belief. The resultant skepticism is moderate in the following sense: it holds that the motivations underlying the doxastic morality approach should not be dismissed lightly; they are genuine insights and serve to bring to light important new issues concerning the interaction between our notions of moral and epistemic responsibility. Nonetheless, it is also skeptical, in holding that these concerns are ultimately best voiced in more traditional categories which distinguish the epistemology of belief from the morality of action.