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date: 26 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers an account of central issues and themes in feminist philosophical reflections on bias and objectivity. Some feminists have argued that objectivity is an unachievable and thus inappropriate epistemic norm for human beings. But at the same time, these feminists have criticized philosophy for displaying masculinist bias. This complex critique faces a problem I’ve called the “Bias Paradox” and that Helen Longino calls an “Essential Tension:” how we can criticize partiality at the same time we acknowledge its ubiquity. I explain Longino’s proposed “social empiricist” solution, and contrast it with my own. I argue for a re-conception of “bias” as a normatively neutral epistemic inclination. Biases, in this sense, play a crucial constructive role in the development of human knowledge by solving the problem of underdetermination of theory by evidence. The biases we (correctly) regard as morally bad, such as social prejudice, involve the operation of neutral biases in unpropitious natural or social environments.

Keywords: bias, objectivity, naturalism, prejudice, nativism, underdetermination, knowledge

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