Cover: Profiles, Probabilities, and Stereotypes, from Harvard University PressCover: Profiles, Probabilities, and Stereotypes in PAPERBACK

Profiles, Probabilities, and Stereotypes

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$32.00 • £27.95 • €29.95

ISBN 9780674021181

Publication Date: 04/30/2006

Academic Trade

384 pages

Belknap Press


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In an era in which profiling, stereotyping, and generalizing are suspect Frederick Schauer’s Profiles, Probabilities, and Stereotypes is a frank, in-depth look at the justifications for such practices. Schauer takes an unpopular stance in supporting the use of generalization over particularization, opening the reader’s eyes to the fact that society operates on multiple levels by the widespread use of generalization… Schauer addresses the intriguing question of why we find some generalizations acceptable and others morally outrageous… Schauer skillfully develops his thesis that the outcomes of applying general rules are often preferable to those that would result from applying a rule’s rationale individually in each case. Profiles, Probabilities, and Stereotypes faces controversial issues with aplomb and will capture any reader interested in how fairness, equality, morality, stability, and community are interrelated.—Melanie Kilpatrick, Federal Lawyer

As Frederick Schauer argues in his excellent book, though we are right to suspect that all general rules are discriminatory, we are wrong to suppose that it is therefore better to trust individuals. This is because no individual is truly capable of judging each case on its merits; individuals simply bring their own personal generalisations to bear on the case in question… Schauer suggests that we should all toughen up about stereotyping, accept it as an inevitable fact of life, and instead of trying to avoid it, concentrate on coming up with the best stereotypes we can.—David Runciman, London Review of Books

Rather than indulge recriminations about racism or simple-minded nostrums about public safety, Schauer has shown that a society ruled by laws needs to make generalizations and, yes, create profiles.—Eli Lehrer, Weekly Standard

Schauer argues convincingly that generalizations are pervasive in judgment, among other things connecting the subject of generalizations to reliance on probabilistic data in civil trials. He does an excellent job of showing why many generalizations create no problem of injustice (including some that are claimed to be unjust) and of explaining why a limited number of nonspurious generalizations might nevertheless be thought unjust and should be avoided.—Kent Greenawalt, Columbia University

With admirable clarity and fair-mindedness, Frederick Schauer tackles timely issues of racial profiling, minimum voting and drinking ages, mandatory retirement, military exclusions based on gender and sexual orientation, and sentencing guidelines. He demonstrates that nothing less than social justice and stability is at stake in our ability to distinguish between different kinds of legal generalities. Profiles, Probabilities, and Stereotypes is full of intriguing examples and illuminating arguments, which together will make it a most welcome guide for concerned lawmakers and citizens alike.—Amy Gutmann, author of Identity in Democracy

If you’ve asked yourself whether it is fair to single out ethnic groups for profiling at airports, whether it’s right to retire pilots just because they turn 60, or whether it’s ever fair to bar women from certain professions, Frederick Schauer’s book will be essential reading. It is a profound and incisive guide to the contested zone of public policy where justice, fairness, and equality conflict.—Michael Ignatieff, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, author of The Lesser Evil

This book is a joy to read. Schauer makes an important argument with real brio, and uses wonderful examples. The book is a ringing and, I believe, wholly successful attack on those who are suspicious of generalizations and who therefore call for ever-greater ‘individualized,’ highly contextual decision-making.—Sanford Levinson, The University of Texas at Austin

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