Responsabilità politica per il bias implicito

Anno LI, n. 217, settembre-dicembre 2016
Centro Einaudi
Articolo completo/Full text


In this article I present and discuss the social phenomenon which falls under the rubric of ‘implicit bias’ and highlight why it is relevant to moral and political theorizing. By implicit bias I refer to those cases in which a stereotype about a certain group is automatically associated to members belonging to that group and affects one’s outward behaviour in a way that typically happens below the level of full consciousness and beneath our introspective radar. Implicit bias can be expressed into actual outward behaviours even if and when one is a genuine egalitarian. It is known that such biases tend to be learned from the social structures in which we live and track, to some extent, existing cultural stereotypes and social tendencies, existing patterns of privilege and disadvantage. Is the notion of moral responsibility able to make normative sense of the disadvantage created by implicit bias, that is, by the behavioural manifestations of implicit bias? Or does implicit bias fall beyond the realm of (in)justice? I argue that the agent who discriminates due to implicit bias cannot be considered morally responsible (in the attributability sense and in some versions of the accountability sense), but that he can and should be considered indirectly responsible qua member of the political community and that such responsibility is directly held by political institutions. This is a forward-looking account of responsibility which aims to change those social standards, social norms and stereotypes which create and nourish implicitly biased discriminatory behaviours. This implies a reassessment of the knowledge condition according to which, in the case of non-idiosyncratic implicit biases, the knowledge relevant to moral responsibility need not be ‘in the head’ of the agent whose actions is under scrutiny, but it has to be knowledge available in the agent’s epistemic environment over which institutions have responsibility.