The Place of Prejudice

The Place of Prejudice

Adam Adatto Sandel
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Place of Prejudice
    Book Description:

    We associate prejudice with ignorance and bigotry and consider it a source of injustice. Can prejudice have a legitimate place in moral and political judgment? Adam Sandel shows that prejudice, properly understood, is not an obstacle to clear thinking but an essential aspect of it. The aspiration to reason without preconceptions is misguided.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-41622-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction: Prejudice Reconsidered
    (pp. 1-23)

    Today prejudice is out of favor, and understandably so. It refers, more often than not, to a deplorable set of attitudes and practices based on animus and hatred for this or that group. Racial prejudice is a notorious example. It casts a dark shadow over any attempt to find a legitimate place for prejudice in moral and political judgment. Why would any decent person want to acknowledge a place for prejudice? What possibly can be said on its behalf? Insofar as prejudice refers to thought or action beclouded by hatred, the answer is nothing; such prejudice warrants condemnation, not defense....

  4. 1 The Case against Prejudice
    (pp. 24-67)

    To understand today’s suspicion of prejudice, we should consider its philosophical roots in early modern thought. By unearthing these origins and tracing their growth, we may better grasp the detached ideal of judgment. It seems that the case against prejudice did not arise in the realm of moral and political thought, but in seventeenth-century natural philosophy. The idea that we judge best when we abstract from “prejudice” can be traced to Sir Francis Bacon and René Descartes. Although neither philosopher extends his critique of prejudice to the realm of ethics, both powerfully shape the detached conception of judgment that informs...

  5. 2 The Case for Situated Understanding: Heidegger on Being-in-the-World
    (pp. 68-109)

    As we have seen in Chapter 1, today’s suspicion of prejudice in politics, law, and everyday life is part of a larger way of thinking that emerged in seventeenth-century natural philosophy and came to full expression during the Enlightenment: To know reality, or to critically assess our motives, we must step back from our life circumstance. We must escape the perspective shaped by tradition, habit, custom, and our upbringing. We must, in other words, cleanse our mind of all prejudice and methodically use our own reason to confirm the validity of our beliefs and motives.

    Heidegger undermines this way of...

  6. 3 Situated Agency: The Implication of Being-in-the-World for Freedom
    (pp. 110-156)

    As we have seen, the case against prejudice arose not only out of a concern for the truth. It was motivated, in large part, by a certain conception of freedom, a conception that came to its fullest expression in Kant: to be free is to be guided from within, “to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another.”¹ By contrast, to be influenced by prejudice of any sort—whether human authority, tradition, common opinion, or custom—is to be slavish. According to Kant, freedom requires detachment from the perspective of one’s upbringing and even from one’s own desires....

  7. 4 The Role of Prejudice in the Study of History: Gadamer on Past and Present
    (pp. 157-184)

    Perhaps the most striking aspect of Gadamer’sTruth and Method(1960) is his defense of prejudice(Vorurteil). In attempting to revive prejudice from its disparaged status, Gadamer seems to follow in the footsteps of Burke. On the surface, the similarities between the two thinkers are remarkable. Both use “prejudice” to denote the influence of tradition. Both defend prejudice against those Enlightenment thinkers who impugn its legitimacy. But Gadamer, unlike Burke, connects prejudice to reason. Prejudice, Gadamer writes, is a “condition of understanding,” and certain prejudices are “productive of knowledge.”¹ Whereas Burke defends prejudice in terms of “sentiment” and “pleasing illusion,”...

  8. 5 The Role of Prejudice in Moral Judgment: A Hermeneutic Reading of Aristotle
    (pp. 185-224)

    The situated conception of understanding is not simply an achievement of twentieth-century thought. In a sense, we have always known ourselves to be “situated,” even before we were able to express it in such terms. The great achievement of Heidegger and Gadamer was to elicit the situated conception of understanding from the depths of our implicit awareness. In light of this achievement, Heidegger and Gadamer might seem to be torchbearers. Interpreters tend especially to view Heidegger in this way, as a rebel against a tradition of thought distracted by abstract theory and detached from the world. Dreyfus offers one such...

  9. 6 Prejudice and Rhetoric
    (pp. 225-254)

    If prejudice is indeed an indispensable feature of judgment, then what are the implications for politics? In this final chapter, I consider how the situated conception of judgment might lead us to reconsider some familiar views about the nature of political argument and how it should proceed. In particular, the situated conception forces us to rethink the familiar assumption that political rhetoric is a lowly kind of discourse—one that engages people’s passions, interests, loyalties, and not their reason. This assumption figures prominently in contemporary discourse. It underlies the way we often dismiss a politician’s speech as “mere rhetoric,” as...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-260)
  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 261-262)
  12. Index
    (pp. 263-268)