PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Two Roads Diverged in a Wood: Indifference to the Difference Between ‘Diversity’ and ‘Heterogeneity’ Should Be Resisted on Epistemic and Moral Grounds

We argue that a conceptual tension exists between “diversity” and “heterogeneity” and that glossing over their differences has practical, moral, and epistemic costs. We examine how these terms are used in ecology and the social sciences; articulate a deeper linguistic intuition; and test it with the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). The results reveal that ‘diversity’ and ‘heterogeneity’ have conflicting rather than interchangeable meanings: heterogeneity implies a collective entity that interactively integrates different entities, whereas diversity implies divergence, not integration. Consequently, striving for diversity alone may increase social injustice and reduce epistemic quality of academic institutions and governance structures.

Author Information:

Ayelet Shavit    
Interdisciplinary Studies and Environmental Sciences
Tel Hai College

Anat Kolumbus    
Psychology Department
Tel Hai College

Aaron M. Ellison    
Harvard Forest
Harvard University


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