Implicit Bias - What is it and Who is to Blame?

Course Description

This course has two main focuses, i.e., the nature and moral blameworthiness of implicit bias (IB), and will explore the following questions: In the first half, we will explore the nature of implicit bias. Is implicit bias fundamentally a belief? Or, is implicit bias some form of automatic association, e.g., between “women” and “less intelligent,” we have formed as part of our socio-political history? In the second half, we will explore the moral blameworthiness of implicit bias. Are we morally blameworthy for judgments and actions done due to implicit bias? Where should we go from here? What kind of interventions should be implemented? How can cognitive science help us with it?

On the Nature of IB:

We will explore the disagreement among philosophers over the nature of IB. Some, agreeing with most psychologists, think that IB is some sort of automatic association; some believe that IB is indeed a form of belief. Their strategy is to look closely at cases that we might take to be IB and argue how these states still exhibit characteristics of a belief state. There are also some philosophers who take an intermediate position along the spectrum between philosophers who take IB to be automatic association and those who take IB to be belief states.

On Moral Blameworthiness:

We will first explore questions such as: Should we be held responsible if we are not aware of our IB? Should we be held accountable if it’s not up to us to control our IB? We will also explore how our discussions in the first half of the course, i.e., on the nature of IB, can shed some light on how we can answer the moral responsibility question. Are moral responsibilities dependent on the distinct mental mechanism that grounds implicit bias? If so, does it mean that there is a difference in degree with respect to how responsible we are if the state of our IB is an alief rather than a belief? Can psychologists' findings shed some light on the issue?

Upon completion of this course, you should be able to:

• Differentiate different causes of IB when encountering cases of IB in real life.
• Evaluate the moral blameworthiness of real-life IB examples case by case by paying special attention to the cause of each case.
• Critically analyze and evaluate how different philosophers utilize different methods and sources to make their arguments and identify what’s at the core of their disagreements.
• Critically and respectfully engage in conversations that deal with complex social and moral issues.


No prerequisites. A background in philosophy is not necessary to succeed in this course.


One Section Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: July 25, 2022 - August 05, 2022
Duration: 2 Weeks
Meeting Times: M-F 12:15P-3:05P
Status: Closed
Format: On-Campus
Instructor(s): Ying Huang
Course Number: 10281