Philosophy Videos

Ideology Beyond Belief: Social Practices and the Persistence of Injustice

Sally Haslanger presents the 2016 Miegunyah Philosophy Lecture

Sally Haslanger is the Ford Professor of Philosophy and Women's & Gender Studies in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. She has published on topics in metaphysics, epistemology and feminist theory, with a recent emphasis on accounts of the social construction of race and gender. She has served as the President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association (2013-14), given the Carus Lectures (2012) and held the Spinoza Chair at the University of Amsterdam (2015). In 2015, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice are more than just bad attitudes; after all, such injustice also involves unfair distributions of goods and resources. But attitudes play a role. How central is that role? Tommie Shelby argues that racism is an ideology that consists of false beliefs that arise out of and serve pernicious social conditions. In this lecture Haslanger agrees that racism is an ideology, but in her view, ideology is deeply rooted in social practices. Social practices are patterns of interaction that distribute things of value, guided by cultural meanings. In the case of subordinated social groups, these habits of mind distort, obscure, and occlude important facts about those groups and result in a failure to recognize their interests. How do we disrupt such practices to achieve greater justice? Haslanger argues that this is sometimes, but not always, best achieved by argument or challenging false beliefs, so social movements legitimately seek other means.