"Epistemic Resilience in the face of Prejudice and Discrimination"
The disposition to respond to evidence about our capacities and limitations in deciding what to do is central to rational agency. Rational agents confronted with a variety of valuable ends will choose those that are less risky unless the risky end’s value far outstrips the value of the alternatives. This is, of course, a platitude to many rational choice theorists, but it is a principle that many others tacitly accept. Yet, this very useful rational disposition, in the face of prejudice and discrimination, can lead agents who are members of marginalized groups to rationally conclude that they are unlikely to succeed in the pursuit of a difficult long-term goal they value and give up on its pursuit in favor of a less risky alternative. In this talk, I defend this argument against various ways one might resist it. It isn’t rational, when one has valuable alternatives that are less risky, to pursue difficult long-term goals in which one is likely to face prejudice and discrimination that make success highly unlikely. Though some might find this argument hard to accept, I will argue that it offers the correct diagnosis of the cases in question because it puts the onus for change on the context, in particular, on the evidence available to the agent, rather than on the agent’s capacity to act against the evidence.
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