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Products for grant FEL-281728-22

FEL-281728-22
The Metaphysics of Intersectionality
Sara Bernstein, University of Notre Dame

Grant details: https://apps.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FEL-281728-22

Biased Evaluative Descriptions (Article)
Title: Biased Evaluative Descriptions
Author: Sara Bernstein
Abstract: In this essay I identify a type of linguistic phenomenon new to feminist philosophy of language: biased evaluative descriptions. Biased evaluative descriptions are descriptions whose well-intended positive surface meanings are inflected with implicitly biased content. Biased evaluative descriptions are characterized by three main features: (1) they have roots in implicit bias or benevolent sexism, (2) their application is counterfactually unstable across dominant and subordinate social groups, and (3) they encode stereotypes. After giving several different kinds of examples of biased evaluative descriptions, I distinguish them from similar linguistic concepts, including backhanded compliments, slurs, insults, epithets, pejoratives, and dog whistles. I suggest that the traditional framework of Gricean implicature cannot account for biased evaluative descriptions. I discuss some challenges to the distinctiveness and evaluability of biased evaluative descriptions, including intersectional social identities. I conclude by discussing their social significance and moral status. Identifying biased evaluative descriptions is important for a variety of social contexts, from the very general and broad (political speeches) to the very particular and small (bias in academic hiring).
Year: 2022
Primary URL: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-the-american-philosophical-association
Primary URL Description: Journal of the American Philosophical Association
Access Model: Subscription only
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Journal of the American Philosophical Association
Publisher: Journal of the American Philosophical Association

Resisting Social Categories (Article)
Title: Resisting Social Categories
Author: Sara Bernstein
Abstract: The social categories to which we belong—Latino, disabled, American, woman— causally influence our lives in deep and unavoidable ways. One might be pulled over by police because one is Latino, or one might receive a COVID vaccine sooner because one is American. Membership in these social categories most often falls outside of our control. This paper argues that membership in social categories constitutes a restriction on human agency, creating a situation of non-ideal agency for most human individuals. However, there are ways to resist the causal influence of social categories, and certain socially marginalized groups can be understood as attempting to do just this. I discuss two instances of social category resistance: gender pronouns and the rights of trans individuals. I suggest that the intentional declaration of gender pronouns (“she/her” or “they/them”) can be understood as an attempt to resist the causal powers of social categorization. Similarly, one among many reasons to support the rights of trans individuals is that their self-declaration of gender identity can be viewed as a reclamation of agency in the face of causal constraints imposed by socially defined and imposed gender categories. This lesson can be generalized to people belonging to a broad range of marginalized groups, including intersectional ones.
Year: 2022
Access Model: Subscription Only
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, Volume 8
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Fundamental Social Categories (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Fundamental Social Categories
Author: Sara Bernstein
Abstract: Social categories like Black and woman are often assumed to be non-fundamental metaphysical entities. I argue otherwise. I explore the idea that social categories can be fundamental, on a certain conception of fundamentality. Social categories are not best explained by anything “below” or “above” them. There are differences in fundamentality between social categories, and some categories carve social reality at its joints. As a type of fundamentalia, social categories can be causal.
Date: 04/06/2023
Conference Name: Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association

Fundamental Social Categories (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Fundamental Social Categories
Author: Sara Bernstein
Abstract: Social categories like Black and woman are often assumed to be non-fundamental metaphysical entities. I argue otherwise. I explore the idea that social categories can be fundamental, on a certain conception of fundamentality. Social categories are not best explained by anything “below” or “above” them. There are differences in fundamentality between social categories, and some categories carve social reality at its joints. As a type of fundamentalia, social categories can be causal.
Date: 10/14/22
Conference Name: Fundamentality and the Fringes of Explanation, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.

The Metaphysics of Intersectionality (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The Metaphysics of Intersectionality
Author: Sara Bernstein
Abstract: This talk develops and articulates a metaphysics of intersectionality, the idea that multiple axes of oppression cross-cut each other. Though intersectionality is often described through metaphor, I suggest that rigorous theories of intersectionality can be formulated using the tools of contemporary analytic metaphysics. A central tenet of intersectionality theory, that intersectional identities are inseparable, can be framed in terms of explanatory unity. Inseparability should not be understood as modal inseparability or conceptual inseparability, I argue. Further, intersectionality is best understood as metaphysical and explanatory priority of the intersectional category over its constituents, comparable to metaphysical priority of the whole over its parts.
Date: 10/12/2022
Conference Name: Davidson College Philosophy Retreat

The Metaphysics of Intersectionality (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The Metaphysics of Intersectionality
Author: Sara Bernstein
Abstract: This talk develops and articulates a metaphysics of intersectionality, the idea that multiple axes of oppression cross-cut each other. Though intersectionality is often described through metaphor, I suggest that rigorous theories of intersectionality can be formulated using the tools of contemporary analytic metaphysics. A central tenet of intersectionality theory, that intersectional identities are inseparable, can be framed in terms of explanatory unity. Inseparability should not be understood as modal inseparability or conceptual inseparability, I argue. Further, intersectionality is best understood as metaphysical and explanatory priority of the intersectional category over its constituents, comparable to metaphysical priority of the whole over its parts.
Date: 12/01/2022
Conference Name: Reading Group on Gender and Race, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Social Dependence (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: Social Dependence
Abstract: We often reason about what our lives would have been like if we had belonged to different social groups-- for example, “If I had been African-American, being pulled over by police would have been more frightening,” or “If I had not been a woman, I would have had an easier time in that meeting.” This talk makes sense of such countersocial counterfactuals, conditionals whose antecedents run contrary to social facts. Based on the non-trivial truth of some countersocials, I suggest that social categories are literally causal: they are causes and effects, both of other general phenomena and some particular events in our lives. I then apply the results to the topic of intersectional oppression. Drawing on Stephen Yablo’s idea that causes are proportionate to their effects in terms of causal detail, I argue that intersectional oppression can be understood as involving causation containing the appropriate level of causal detail.
Author: Sara Bernstein
Date: 10/07/2022
Location: University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal

Social Dependence (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: Social Dependence
Abstract: We often reason about what our lives would have been like if we had belonged to different social groups-- for example, “If I had been African-American, being pulled over by police would have been more frightening,” or “If I had not been a woman, I would have had an easier time in that meeting.” This talk makes sense of such countersocial counterfactuals, conditionals whose antecedents run contrary to social facts. Based on the non-trivial truth of some countersocials, I suggest that social categories are literally causal: they are causes and effects, both of other general phenomena and some particular events in our lives. I then apply the results to the topic of intersectional oppression. Drawing on Stephen Yablo’s idea that causes are proportionate to their effects in terms of causal detail, I argue that intersectional oppression can be understood as involving causation containing the appropriate level of causal detail.
Author: Sara Bernstein
Date: 10/11/2023
Location: Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain

Social Dependence (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: Social Dependence
Abstract: We often reason about what our lives would have been like if we had belonged to different social groups-- for example, “If I had been African-American, being pulled over by police would have been more frightening,” or “If I had not been a woman, I would have had an easier time in that meeting.” This talk makes sense of such countersocial counterfactuals, conditionals whose antecedents run contrary to social facts. Based on the non-trivial truth of some countersocials, I suggest that social categories are literally causal: they are causes and effects, both of other general phenomena and some particular events in our lives. I then apply the results to the topic of intersectional oppression. Drawing on Stephen Yablo’s idea that causes are proportionate to their effects in terms of causal detail, I argue that intersectional oppression can be understood as involving causation containing the appropriate level of causal detail.
Author: Sara Bernstein
Date: 11/18/2022
Location: University of Arizona

Social Dependence (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Social Dependence
Author: Sara Bernstein
Abstract: We often reason about what our lives would have been like if we had belonged to different social groups-- for example, “If I had been African-American, being pulled over by police would have been more frightening,” or “If I had not been a woman, I would have had an easier time in that meeting.” This talk makes sense of such countersocial counterfactuals, conditionals whose antecedents run contrary to social facts. Based on the non-trivial truth of some countersocials, I suggest that social categories are literally causal: they are causes and effects, both of other general phenomena and some particular events in our lives. I then apply the results to the topic of intersectional oppression. Drawing on Stephen Yablo’s idea that causes are proportionate to their effects in terms of causal detail, I argue that intersectional oppression can be understood as involving causation containing the appropriate level of causal detail.
Date: 02/24/2023
Conference Name: Central Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association

Social Dependence (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Social Dependence
Author: Sara Bernstein
Abstract: We often reason about what our lives would have been like if we had belonged to different social groups-- for example, “If I had been African-American, being pulled over by police would have been more frightening,” or “If I had not been a woman, I would have had an easier time in that meeting.” This talk makes sense of such countersocial counterfactuals, conditionals whose antecedents run contrary to social facts. Based on the non-trivial truth of some countersocials, I suggest that social categories are literally causal: they are causes and effects, both of other general phenomena and some particular events in our lives. I then apply the results to the topic of intersectional oppression. Drawing on Stephen Yablo’s idea that causes are proportionate to their effects in terms of causal detail, I argue that intersectional oppression can be understood as involving causation containing the appropriate level of causal detail.
Date: 06/01/2023
Conference Name: Duke Social Metaphysics Workshop

Social Dependence (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Social Dependence
Author: Sara Bernstein
Abstract: We often reason about what our lives would have been like if we had belonged to different social groups-- for example, “If I had been African-American, being pulled over by police would have been more frightening,” or “If I had not been a woman, I would have had an easier time in that meeting.” This talk makes sense of such countersocial counterfactuals, conditionals whose antecedents run contrary to social facts. Based on the non-trivial truth of some countersocials, I suggest that social categories are literally causal: they are causes and effects, both of other general phenomena and some particular events in our lives. I then apply the results to the topic of intersectional oppression. Drawing on Stephen Yablo’s idea that causes are proportionate to their effects in terms of causal detail, I argue that intersectional oppression can be understood as involving causation containing the appropriate level of causal detail.
Date: 07/05/2023
Conference Name: Australasian Association of Philosophy

Biased Evaluative Descriptions (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Biased Evaluative Descriptions
Author: Sara Bernstein
Abstract: This paper identifies a type of linguistic phenomenon new to feminist philosophy of language: biased evaluative descriptions. Biased evaluative descriptions (BEDs) are those descriptions whose well-intended positive surface meanings are inflected with implicitly biased content. Biased evaluative descriptions are characterized by three main features: (i) they have roots in implicit bias or benevolent sexism, (ii) their application is counterfactually unstable across dominant and subordinate social groups, and (iii) they encode stereotypes. After giving several different kinds of examples of biased evaluative descriptions, I distinguish them from similar linguistic concepts, including backhanded compliments, slurs, insults, epithets, pejoratives, and dog-whistles. I suggest that the framework of traditional Gricean implicature cannot account for BEDs. I discuss some challenges to the distinctiveness and evaluability of BEDs, including intersectional social identities. I conclude by discussing the social significance and moral status of BEDs. Identifying BEDs is important for a variety of social contexts, from the very general and broad (political speeches) to the very particular and small (bias in academic hiring).
Date: 11/4/2023
Conference Name: Words Workshop, University of Pittsburgh


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