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Olberding, Amy. Subclinical Bias, Manners, and Moral Harm.
2014, Hypatia 29 (2):287-302
Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas

Mundane and often subtle forms of bias generate harms that can be fruitfully understood as akin to the harms evident in rudeness. Although subclinical expressions of bias are not mere rudeness, like rudeness they often manifest through the breach of mannerly norms for social cooperation and collaboration. At a basic level, the perceived harm of mundane forms of bias often has much to do with feeling oneself unjustly or arbitrarily cut out of a group, a group that cooperates and collaborates but does not do so with me. Appealing to the subtle but familiar choreography of mannered social interaction, I argue, makes it easier to recognize how exclusion can be accomplished through slight but symbolically significant gestures and styles of interaction, where bias manifests not in announced hostility but in an absence of the cooperation and collaboration upon which we rely socially.

Comment: This paper explores a manifestation of bias in the form of rudeness (or breaches of good manners) that are specifically attached to social identity. The author targets academic philosophy and the mundane and subtle forms of rudeness that cause, in particular, women to be excluded (and feel excluded) from the discipline, but also makes a more general claim about how the disregard for conventional good manners may make addressing and combatting a wide varity of biases more difficult in many different social contexts. The ideas discussed in the paper bear broad relevance to the philosophical study of bias and exclusion, contemporary feminism, civility and etiquette, and themes in the philosophy of social justice. However, the paper could also be used in discussion about professional and workplace ethics, since it also indirectly considers some normative questions about what kinds of etiquette we should extend to those with whom we cooperate and collaborate.

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