On Race and Philosophy is a collection of essays written and published across the last twenty years, which focus on matters of race, philosophy, and social and political life in the West, in particular in the US. These important writings trace the author's continuing efforts not only to confront racism, especially within philosophy, but, more importantly, to work out viable conceptions of raciality and ethnicity that are empirically sound while avoiding chauvinism and invidious ethnocentrism. The (...) hope is that such conceptions will assist efforts to fashion a nation-state in which racial and ethnic cultures and identities are recognized and nurtured contributions to a more just and stable democracy. (shrink)
Joshua Glasgow argues against the existence of races. His experimental philosophy asks subjects questions involving racial categorization to discover the ordinary concept of race at work in their judgments. The results show conflicting information about the concept of race, and Glasgow concludes that the ordinary concept of race is inconsistent. I conclude, rather, that Glasgow’s results fit perfectly fine with a social-kind view of races as real social entities. He also presents thought experiments to show that (...) social-kind views give the wrong results, but intuitions might differ on which results are the wrong ones, and social-kind views can resist the implications he derives from these cases. Widespread false beliefs about a concept or category need not undermine anything’s existence, and a sufficiently context-sensitive approach to races will allow for competing criteria for race-membership in different contexts without contradictory criteria in any one context. Glasgow’s arguments are therefore unsuccessful. (shrink)
In this concisely argued, short new book, well-known philosopher Naomi Zack explores the scientific and philosophical problems in applying a biological conception of race to human beings. Through the systematic analysis of up-to-date data and conclusions in population genetics, transmission genetics, and biological anthropology, Zack provides a comprehensive conceptual account of how "race" in the ordinary sense has no basis in science. Her book combats our everyday understanding of race as a scientifically supported taxonomy of human beings, (...) and in conclusion challenges us to be clear about what we mean by "race" and what it would require to remedy racism. (shrink)
Does the concept of “race” find support in contemporary science, particularly in biology? No, says Naomi Zack, together with so many others who nowadays argue that human races lack biological reality. This claim is widely accepted in a number of fields (philosophy, biology, anthropology, and psychology), and Zack’s book represents only the latest defense of social constructivism in this context. There are several reasons why she fails to make a convincing case.
When Spinoza described his dream of a black, scabby Brazilian, was the image indicative of a larger pattern of racial discrimination? Should todays readers regard racist comments and theories in the texts of 17th- and 18th-century philosophers as reflecting the prejudices of their time or as symptomatic of philosophical discourse? This article discusses whether a critical discussion of race is itself a form of racism and whether supposedly minor prejudices are evidence of a deeper social pathology. Given historical hindsight, (...) we may read such discussion of race in early modern philosophy as a sign of the incipient struggle against prejudice, a sign that we can recognize and use in the struggles of our own time. Key Words: colonialism the concept of haunting essentialism David Hume Immanuel Kant racism Benedict Spinoza. (shrink)
The legacy and future of continental philosophy with regard to the critical philosophy of race can be seen in prominent canonical philosophical figures, the scholarship of contemporary philosophers, and recent edited collections and book series. The following reflections highlight some (though certainly not all) of the contacts and overlaps between a select number of continental philosophers and the critical philosophy of race. In particular, I consider how the continental tradition has contributed to the development of (...) the critical philosophy of race by offering tools from existentialism, phenomenology, and genealogy to emphasize questions of existence, facticity, lived experience, and historicity as they relate to analyses of race, racism, slavery, and colonialism.1 I argue that these tools have been used both implicitly and explicitly in the writings of contemporary continental philosophers who theorize about race and that the critical philosophy of race has impacted and expanded continental philosophy in significant ways. (shrink)
It is nowadays a dominant opinion in a number of disciplines (anthropology, genetics, psychology, philosophy of science) that the taxonomy of human races does not make much biological sense. My aim is to challenge the arguments that are usually thought to invalidate the biological concept of race. I will try to show that the way “race” was defined by biologists several decades ago (by Dobzhansky and others) is in no way discredited by conceptual criticisms that are now (...) fashionable and widely regarded as cogent. These criticisms often arbitrarily burden the biological category of race with some implausible connotations, which then opens the path for a quick eliminative move. However, when properly understood, the biological notion of race proves remarkably resistant to these deconstructive attempts. Moreover, by analyzing statements of some leading contemporary scholars who support social constructivism about race, I hope to demonstrate that their eliminativist views are actually in conflict with what the best contemporary science tells us about human genetic variation. (shrink)
Despite the recent rise in articles by American philosophers willing to deal with race, the sophistication of American philosophy's conceptualizations of American racism continues to lag behind other liberal arts fields committed to similar endeavors. Whereas other fields like American studies, history, sociology, and Black studies have found the foundational works of Black scholars essential to "truly" understanding the complexities of racism, American philosophy-driven by the refusal of white philosophers to acknowledge and incorporate the foundational works of (...) Black scholars at the turn of the century, as well as the relevant insights of contemporary race theorists-remains in a very real sense underdeveloped .. (shrink)
Charles Mills makes visible in the world of mainstream philosophy some of the crucial issues of the black experience. Ralph Ellison's metaphor of black invisibility has special relevance to philosophy, whose demographic and conceptual "whiteness" has long been a source of wonder and complaint to racial minorities. Mills points out the absence of any philosophical narrative theorizing and detailing race's centrality to the recent history of the West, such as feminists have articulated for gender domination. European expansionism (...) in its various forms, Mills contends, generates a social ontology of race that warrants philosophical attention. Through expropriation, settlement, slavery, and colonialism, race comes into existence as simultaneously real and unreal: ontological without being biological, metaphysical without being physical, existential without being essential, shaping one's being without being in one's shape. His essays explore the contrasting sums of a white and black modernity, examine standpoint epistemology and the metaphysics of racial identity, look at black-Jewish relations and racial conspiracy theories, map the workings of a white-supremacist polity and the contours of a racist moral consciousness, and analyze the presuppositions of Frederick Douglass's famous July 4 prognosis for black political inclusion. Collectively they demonstrate what exciting new philosophical terrain can be opened up once the color line in western philosophy is made visible and addressed. (shrink)
Africana Philosophy is a gathering notion used to cover collectively particular articulations, and traditions of particular articulations, of persons African and African-descended that are to be regarded as instances of philosophizing. (The notion is meant to cover, as well, the philosophizing efforts of persons not African or African-descended, efforts that are, nonetheless, contributions to the philosophizing endeavors that constitute Africana philosophy.) A central concern of the essay is the question whether there are characteristics of the philosophizing practices of (...) persons identified as members of social groups thought to comprise a geographically and historically dispersed and ethnically diverse race that do, or should, distinguish the practices by virtue of being those of persons African and/or African-descended. Is there, can there be, should there be a properly determined field of philosophy that is constituted, first and foremost, by the efforts of persons of a particular race and its ethnic groups? (shrink)
Naomi Zack’s unique and important collection, Women of Color and Philosophy, brings together for the first time the voices of twelve philosophers who are women of color. She begins with the premise that the work of women of color who do philosophy in academe, but who do not write exclusively on issues of race, ethnicity, and gender, merits a collection of its own. It’s rare that women of color pursue philosophy in academic contexts; Zack counts at (...) most thirty among the ten thousand members of the American Philosophical Association. Women of color in philosophy often suffer an initial lack of credibility with colleagues and students, their success is often attributed to affirmative action, and the merit of their research is often questioned. They are expected to teach classes on race and gender, and asked to serve on endless committees vouching for the diversity of university programs and policies. But Zack’s collection is not about the philosophical import of these professional considerations. The idea underlying her anthology is that social identity is relevant to both philosophical activity and the production of ideas even when an author does not address race and gender. -/- This landmark volume is divided into three sections intended to reflect three critical themes: direct critiques of traditional academic philosophy; new and original applications of philosophical methods to social issues; and the fresh interpretation of traditional philosophy in ways that suggest new areas of study. (shrink)
Social commentators have long asked whether racial categories should be conserved or eliminated from our practices, discourse, institutions, and perhaps even private thoughts. In A Theory of Race, Joshua Glasgow argues that this set of choices unnecessarily presents us with too few options. Using both traditional philosophical tools and recent psychological research to investigate folk understandings of race, Glasgow argues that, as ordinarily conceived, race is an illusion. However, our pressing need to speak to and make sense (...) of social life requires that we employ something like racial discourse. These competing pressures, Glasgow maintains, ultimately require us to stop conceptualizing race as something biological, and instead understand it as an entirely social phenomenon. (shrink)
Philosophers of science widely believe that the hereditarian theory about racial differences in IQ is based on methodological mistakes and confusions involving the concept of heritability. I argue that this "received view" is wrong: methodological criticisms popular among philosophers are seriously misconceived, and the discussion in philosophy of science about these matters is largely disconnected from the real, empirically complex issues debated in science.
Some of the literature about teaching issues of race and racism in classrooms has addressed matters of audience. Zeus Leonardo, for example, has argued that teachers should use the language of white domination, rather than white privilege, when teaching about race and racism because the former language presupposes a minority audience, while the latter addresses an imaginary or presupposed white one. However, there seems to be little discussion in the literature about teaching these issues to an audience that (...) is in fact predominantly minority. Leonardo assumes that minority students need little convincing about the reality of white domination, but students of color are not a monolithic group. The paper addresses some specific challenges the author has faced teaching theories of white domination to a predominantly minority student audience in New York City. Leonardo is right that audience matters, but audience turns out to matter in ways that defy common assumptions. (shrink)
In this article, Jean-Paul Sartre’s relationship to the négritude movement and black intellectuals in Paris between the 1940s and the 1960s is examined in sociological and historical context. Sartre’s version of négritude, developed in his 1948 treatise “Orphée noir” prefacing Léopold Senghor’s collection of African and Malagasy poetry, is analyzed in terms of its role in shaping the discourses and debates surrounding négritude and the relationship of black intellectuals to the rest of French society. Sartre’s phenomenological theories of race, (...) juxtaposing dominant and subaltern ideologies, are contrasted with his dialectic of négritude. The antinégritude movement of the late 1960s is also considered with reference to Sartre’s theories and inspiration. During this period, the relationship that Sartre established with Martinican intellectual and revolutionary Frantz Fanon helped to place Sartre into prominence as an activist and a theorist of decolonization and Third World politics. Sartre’s theories of race, self, and society were integral to both his early and later works and warrant review as approaches to the sociology of culture and sources of reflection for contemporary postcolonial studies. (shrink)