Exploring the Metaphysics of Hegel's Racism: The Teleology of the ‘Concept’ and the Taxonomy of Races

Hegel Bulletin 44 (1):99-126 (2022)
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Abstract

This article interprets Hegel's hierarchical theory of race as an application of his general views about the metaphysics of classification and explanation. We begin by offering a reconstruction of Hegel's hierarchical theory of race based on the critical edition of relevant lecture transcripts: we argue that Hegel's position on race is appropriately classified as racist, that it postulates innate mental deficits of some races, and that it turns racism from an anthropological into a metaphysical doctrine by claiming that the division of humankind into races (at least in the Old World) is not a brute fact, but follows a ‘higher necessity’. We then summarize our interpretation of the relevant metaphysical background to this theory. On our reading, Hegel postulates an essentialist form of explanation that explains given kinds as stages in a teleological, non-temporal process through which the nature of a superordinate kind is realized. We argue that Hegel's views about a hierarchical and necessary division of humankind into races are an application of this model to the case of human diversity, motivated by explanatory considerations and subject to confirmation bias. By way of conclusion, we address two possible attempts to ‘save’ Hegelian philosophy from its racist baggage.

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References found in this work

Scientific Essentialism.Lenny Clapp - 2002 - Philosophical Review 111 (4):589-594.
Hegel and Colonialism.Alison Stone - 2020 - Hegel Bulletin 41 (2):247-270.
Racisms.Kwame Anthony Appiah - 1990 - In David Goldberg (ed.), Anatomy of Racism. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 3-17.

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