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LK McPherson

"That is to say, our actions reveal that people are willing to keep suffering collective, epistemic maybe even economic costs in order to keep black people...out."

I think this might be overly optimistic and is perhaps more of a gloss of Bright's perspective. Under white (American) supremacy, "love of superiority" combines with exceedingly low expectations for Blacks. Generally, Whites do not believe they are losing out on their boats being lifted when accommodating themselves to entrenched patterns and practices of supremacy. A lot of their racial resentment is due to the delusional belief that too much attention has been spent and resources wasted when exceedingly few Blacks have the talent and drive to be worth the trouble. See, e.g., James Watson's views: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fury-at-dna-pioneers-theory-africans-are-less-intelligent-than-westerners-394898.html .

Simply put, you (and Bright) seem to be assuming that "the community" would be better off if it "tapped [Blacks as an additional] source of knowledge and expertise" -- and that most Whites share this assumption but are addicted to a love of superiority that would have the "out-group" (viz., Blacks) suffer instead. I wish you were right: prospects for real progress would be greater as the costs for many Whites continue to rise.

Liam Kofi Bright

Thanks for the reply Dr. McPherson! I guess first things first: I was responding to the situation of women in science, so I wasn't really saying anything about what White folk think of Black folk at all. But, ok, setting that aside, because of course it could be that a similar thing goes there -- the men are so convinced of their own superiority that they think they can do perfectly well, even better, without worrying about recruiting women. But even then I wasn't just thinking about men in general; I was thinking about people responding to particular argument, where (perhaps wrongly) my impression is that those who heard it and who were not initially disposed to agree anyway have not been convinced by this argument upon encountering it. My question was then: why is this argument not as rhetorically effective as I initially thought it would be?

Now, my explanation is: many men think to themselves that even if all the stuff about women making science better is true the men hearing this should still prefer not to have to suffer the indignity of women doing better. By analogy this would be people thinking: even if more Black folk would be good for philosophy as a profession, I'd still sooner not work with them if it means they'd get uppity -- or something of that sort. The point just being that people grant the premises but do not feel they are of the right sort to motivate any sort of pro-diversity conclusion, because they are not speaking to people's real concerns about women and science. A person may just dislike the Out Group and not want them to have nice things, so if you want to convince them that it'd be a good thing to have more Out Group People in science you really have to convince them either to like the Out Group more or that being in science is not so nice a thing.

Now I go through all that just to highlight that this is quite compatible with people *also* thinking that in any case it turns out we don't need the Out Group to do good work. That would just be a case of thinking that an argument is bad because even if I grant the premises I need not grant the conclusion, while also thinking that additionally the premises are false. In fact, I want to now go further -- I agree with what you say there! I suspect a great many folk really do just think that the Superior Type people are just so good that, well, they can do perfectly fine on there own thank you very much, all this diversity stuff is just a distraction, an inherent trade off from Quality, which would mean 99% Superior Type folk forever. So I did not mean to be saying anything incompatible with what you say there... well I guess but for the end where you say you are disagreeing with me -- I mean to be saying something incompatible with that, for fear of a liar paradox!

LK McPherson

Liam (and Eric): I understood the argument, and I find your presentation of it interesting and subtle. I wasn't expressing any disagreement about its quality as an argument or its possibility. Rather, I was questioning its applicability re white (American) supremacy. Maybe I lack real comprehension of what it would be like for members of some large In Group to "just dislike [an] Out Group and not want them to have nice things," namely, to such an extent that many members of the In Group would prefer to incur substantial costs to their own well-being for the sake of feeling somehow superior.

Eric Schliesser

Dear Lionel, I agree with everything that Liam and you are saying (except, perhaps, the part where you say I am too optimistic). I thought I recognized your point, too, that most whites don't think they are *are losing out on their boats being lifted when accommodating themselves to entrenched patterns and practices of supremacy* when in the paragraph on the defenders of the status quo, I allowed that some defenders of the quote do not see it as "lacking in epistemic features: whatever epistemic progress is still possible, it is possible in the conditions of white supremacy (which gets relabeled 'merit')." Perhaps, on re-reading my post, I could have expressed your point more clearly.

Liam Kofi Bright

Ah interesting; maybe it does not apply here! Indeed it seems Eric means things to be compatible with the idea that generally this is not what is going on. To be honest, it was not my first thought either; after all, I expected the initial appeal to Platonic feminism to work. And in the case of White supremacy, I have not really lived here long enough nor looked into the matter in enough detail to have any confident opinion.

I suppose, mind you, that something like this thesis seems to cohere well with theories of the psychological wages descendent from Du Bois' work, where people argue that what made poor Southern Whites acquiesce to a system that seems to be after all just awful for them is that they gained some psychological benefit from knowing that the Blacks had it worse. This, I suppose, seems to be an at least somewhat related psycho-racial hypothesis?

But, yes, I do not mean to assert anything confidently in this area, I am rather unsure myself and only mean to be tentative.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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