Can prejudiced beliefs be rational?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In his book Prejudice, Endre Begby argues that people who hold paradigmatically prejudiced beliefs–for example, the belief that women are less adept at math than men–might be fully rational in holding those beliefs. In this article, I argue that Begby fails to provide compelling examples of beliefs that are both rational and prejudiced. On Begby’s account, whether a belief is prejudiced is determined by its content: it follows that any two token beliefs with the same content will either both be prejudiced, or both unprejudiced, regardless of how they differ in other respects. I sketch an alternative account, on which whether a person’s belief counts as prejudiced might be sensitive to a greater range of factors. I then turn to Bebgy’s discussion of ‘evidential preemption,’ a phenomenon by which certain speech acts seem to inoculate themselves from having their contents disconfirmed or falsified by later counterevidence. I argue for skepticism about evidential preemption. To the extent that there is a genuine normative phenomenon in the neighborhood, it is the familiar one of testimonial defeat, in which testimony from one source is neutralized by conflicting testimony from another source that one has reason to think is more reliable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInquiry (United Kingdom)
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


  • Prejudice
  • belief
  • evidential preemption
  • rationality
  • stereotypes
  • testimony


Dive into the research topics of 'Can prejudiced beliefs be rational?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this