Colloquium - Christiane Merritt, Washington University in St. Louis

Title: "I Know I Am, But What Are We?: Relational Autonomy and Responsibility for Implicit Bias"

Abstract: If I act according to implicit or unconscious biases, especially when they contradict my considered beliefs, am I responsible for my biased actions? It may seem as if I could not have acted otherwise and should not be held morally responsible. But a growing number of philosophers argue that we do have some kind of control over our implicit biases and are at least sometimes responsible for their ill effects. I argue that these accounts are flawed; they focus too heavily on promoting individual “cognitive hygiene.” Some individual control over implicit biases seems possible, but the cognitive hygiene approach is apt to fail or even backfire in the face of widespread social biases. Some, like Sally Haslanger and Elizabeth Anderson, wish therefore to draw our attention to structural inequalities rather than individual responsibility. However, I argue that accounts of relational autonomy drawn from feminist philosophy can help us clarify the importance of holding each other responsible while avoiding the pitfalls of the cognitive hygiene approach.