Attributability, Accountability, and Implicit Bias

In Implicit Bias and Philosophy: Volume 2, Moral Responsibility, Structural Injustice, and Ethics, Jennifer Saul and Michael Brownstein (eds.) New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. 62-89.

This chapter distinguishes between two concepts of moral responsibility. We are responsible for our actions in the first sense only when those actions reflect our identities as moral agents, i.e. when they are attributable to us. We are responsible in the second sense when it is appropriate for others to enforce certain expectations and demands on those actions, i.e. to hold us accountable for them. This distinction allows for an account of moral responsibility for implicit bias, defended here, on which people may lack attributability for actions caused by implicit bias but are still accountable for them. What this amounts to is leaving aside appraisal-based forms of moral criticism such as blame and punishment in favor of non-appraising forms of accountability. This account not only does more justice to our moral experience and agency, but will also lead to more effective practices for combating the harms of implicit bias.

Full text available at Oxford Scholarship Online here.

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