I’m interested in Carroll’s argument about criticism and bias. For example, when discussing “description” on p. 91, he posits, “Criticism, like every other form of inquiry, is open to bias, since, again like every other form of inquiry, it involves selection.” “Bias is possible everywhere….The bias that might infect a critical description, however, is always remediable in principle.” Then he provides reasons why the bias is “remediable” in description and in other components. However, I am not persuaded.

I’m curious about this question because one of my previous researches is bias in peer review. In the context of quantitative research on bias in peer review, reviewer bias is understood as the violation of impartiality in the evaluation of a submission. We define impartiality in peer evaluations as the ability for any reviewer to interpret and apply evaluative criteria in the same way in the assessment of a submission. That is, impartial reviewers arrive at identical evaluations of a submission in relation to evaluative criteria because they see the relationship of the criteria to the submission in the same ways. And, so long as the evaluative criteria have to do with the cognitive content of the submission and its relationship to the literature, impartiality ensures evaluations are independent of the author’s and reviewer’s social identities and independent of the reviewer’s theoretical biases and tolerance for risk. After examining the empirical, methodological, and normative claims of bias, we find that it is really difficult to arrive such impartiality in peer evaluations.

Then think about the nature of peer review — an established component of professional practice, the academic reward system, and the scholarly publication process; think about peer reviewers — experts in a given domain; and think about submissions – usually scientific works submitted to scholarly journals. All of them are claiming: We are objective, straightforward, rigid, and professional. Even in such a system, bias is inevitable and sometimes harmful. Why do we think bias is “remediable” when criticizing artwork? Personally, I feel artwork, to a certain degree, is subjective, vague, indirect, uncontrolled, without established rigid rules/norms. This is why artwork can provide aesthetic experience. This is also why it may be more difficult to criticize artwork “unbiasedly”.

 

 

 

 

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