Another Mind-Body Problem: A History of Racial Non-Being

Albany: SUNY (2018)
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The mind-body problem in philosophy is typically understood as a discourse concerning the relation of mental states to physical states, and the experience of sensation. On this level it seems to transcend issues of race and racism, but Another Mind-Body Problem demonstrates that racial distinctions have been an integral part of the discourse since the Modern period in philosophy. Reading figures such as Descartes, Leibniz, and Kant in their historical contexts, John Harfouch uncovers discussions of mind and body that engaged closely with philosophical and scientific notions of race in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, in particular in understanding how the mind unites with the body at birth and is then passed on through sexual reproduction. Kant argued that a person’s exterior body and interior psyche are bound together, that non-White people lacked reason, and that this lack of reason was carried on through reproduction such that non-Whites were an example of a union of mind and body without full being. Charting the development of this phenomenon from sixteenth-century medical literature to modern-day race discourse, Harfouch argues for new understandings of Descartes’s mind-body problem, Fanon’s experience of being ‘not-yet human,’ and the place of racism in relation to one of philosophy’s most enduring and canonical problems. “Harfouch has written an important book on the intersection of race and the Western construction of the mind-body problem … This book is a significant resource for theorists dealing with race and decolonization issues, but it is more significant for the critique of philosophy itself and the continued teaching of mind-body issues. Readers will need some knowledge of philosophy, but the volume is in general accessible. It should be required reading for scholars of philosophy. Harfouch establishes a logically strong argument and makes a unique contribution to the field.” — CHOICE



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John Harfouch
University of Alabama, Huntsville

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