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.

Bias, Structure, and Injustice: A Reply to Haslanger

Presented at the Bias in Context Conference at the University of Sheffield, 2016 ASPP, the MAP@Leeds Conference, the University of Hamburg Feminist Philosophy Workshop, the 11th Annual Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity and Graduate Education, and North Carolina State University Philosophy.

Sally Haslanger (2015) has argued that recent philosophical focus on implicit bias is overly individualistic, since social inequalities are best explained in terms of social structures rather than the actions and attitudes of individuals. I defend a certain kind of individualistic theorizing and practice aimed at rectifying structural injustice, and I offer an alternative conception of social structure according to which implicit biases are themselves best understood as a special type of structure.

For a full draft, please email me at robin.zheng(at)