Papers in progress

The drafts of these papers are in progress; for a copy of one of the papers, please email me (renee.bolinger@gmail.com). In addition to the papers below, I am also working on several papers for my dissertation.

  

The Rational Impermissibility of Accepting Racial Generalizations

  • I argue that racialized inferences (e.g. believing Fernando is a janitor, on the grounds that he is Salvadorean and most Salvadoreans in this area are janitors) instantiate species of a more general epistemic flaw: accepting a proposition when, given the stakes of the context, one is not adequately justified in doing so. I sketch an account of the nature of adequate justification---practical adequacy with respect to eliminating the ~P possibilities from one's epistemic statespace---and suggest that whether one is justified in accepting a proposition on generalized evidence partially depends on whether the membership conditions of the generalization satisfy constraints on permissible avoidable signaling conventions. If they do, then the moral stakes are lower, as the object of belief has waived their complaint against acceptance. Finally, I suggest that since racial membership conditions do not satisfy these constraints, generalizations based on race cannot justify acceptance of a proposition P if one risks wronging the object of belief if mistaken.

 

Reporting Bad Beliefs: Solutions for Pragmatic Accounts of Slurs

  • Pragmatic accounts of slurs are characterized by commitment to the equivalence thesis: that slurs are semantically equivalent to their neutral counterparts. I present the three most common objections to pragmatic approaches stemming from this thesis: the equivalence problem, that it makes “all (NCs) are (slurs)” a conceptual truth; the substitution problem, that the view falsely predicts slurs may be substituted into intensional contexts salva veritae; and the conversational problem, that reports omitting slurs are intuitively incomplete and thus indicate that slurs differ from NCs in semantic content. I show that pragmatic theorists have adequate responses to each objection. The substitution problem relies on principles she is free to deny, while the equivalence objection is question begging. Finally, the conversational problem relies on delicate data that does not clearly support a semantic interpretation.

 

Epistemic Injustice and the Harm in Mental Illness Epithets

  • This paper aims to focus carefully on the topic of pejoratives relating to mental illness. I argue that though `crazy' and similar mental illness-based epithets (MI-epithets) are not best understood as slurs, they do function to isolate, exclude, and marginalize members of the targeted group in ways similar to the harmfulness of slurs more generally. While they do not generally express the hate/contempt characteristic of weaponized uses of slurs, MI-epithets perpetuate epistemic injustice by portraying sufferers of mental illness as deserving minimal credibility. After outlining the ways in which these epithets can cause harm, I examine available legal and social remedies, and suggest that the best path going forward is to pursue a reclamation project rather than aiming to censure the use of MI-epithets.

 

Metalinguistic Moral Disagreement

  • The problem of moral disagreement has been presented as an objection to contextualist semantics for ought, since it is not clear that contextualism can accommodate or give a convincing gloss of such disagreement. I argue that independently of our semantics, disagreements over oughts in non-cooperative contexts are best understood in the framework of metalinguistic negation, which is easily accommodated by contextualism. If this is correct, then rather than posing a problem for contextualism, the data from moral disagreements provides some reason to adopt a semantics that allows variance in the meanings of oughts.