Appiah explores how the new empirical moral psychology relates to philosophical ethics. He elaborates a vision of naturalism that resists both temptations and traces an intellectual genealogy of the burgeoning discipline of 'experimental philosophy'.
Idealization is a fundamental feature of human thought. We build simplified models in our scientific research and utopias in our political imaginations. Concepts like belief, desire, reason, and justice are bound up with idealizations and ideals. Life is a constant adjustment between the models we make and the realities we encounter. In idealizing, we proceed “as if” our representations were true, while knowing they are not. This is not a dangerous or distracting occupation, Kwame Anthony Appiah shows. Our best (...) chance of understanding nature, society, and ourselves is to open our minds to a plurality of imperfect depictions that together allow us to manage and interpret our world. -/- The philosopher Hans Vaihinger first delineated the “as if” impulse at the turn of the twentieth century, drawing on Kant, who argued that rational agency required us to act as if we were free. Appiah extends this strategy to examples across philosophy and the human and natural sciences. In a broad range of activities, we have some notion of the truth yet continue with theories that we recognize are, strictly speaking, false. From this vantage point, Appiah demonstrates that a picture one knows to be unreal can be a vehicle for accessing reality. -/- As If explores how strategic untruth plays a critical role in far-flung areas of inquiry: decision theory, psychology, natural science, and political philosophy. A polymath who writes with mainstream clarity, Appiah defends the centrality of the imagination not just in the arts but in science, morality, and everyday life. (shrink)
In America today, the problem of achieving racial justice--whether through "color-blind" policies or through affirmative action--provokes more noisy name-calling than fruitful deliberation. In Color Conscious, K. Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann, two eminent moral and political philosophers, seek to clear the ground for a discussion of the place of race in politics and in our moral lives. Provocative and insightful, their essays tackle different aspects of the question of racial justice; together they provide a compelling response to our nation's (...) most vexing problem.Appiah begins by establishing the problematic nature of the idea of race. He draws on the scholarly consensus that "race" has no legitimate biological basis, exploring the history of its invention as a social category and showing how the concept has been used to explain differences among groups of people by mistakenly attributing various "essences" to them. Appiah argues that, while people of color may still need to gather together, in the face of racism, under the banner of race, they need also to balance carefully the calls of race against the many other dimensions of individual identity; and he suggests, finally, what this might mean for our political life.Gutmann examines alternative political responses to racial injustice. She argues that American politics cannot be fair to all citizens by being color blind because American society is not color blind. Fairness, not color blindness, is a fundamental principle of justice. Whether policies should be color-conscious, class conscious, or both in particular situations, depends on an open-minded assessment of their fairness. Exploring timely issues of university admissions, corporate hiring, and political representation, Gutmann develops a moral perspective that supports a commitment to constitutional democracy.Appiah and Gutmann write candidly and carefully, presenting many-faceted interpretations of a host of controversial issues. Rather than supplying simple answers to complex questions, they offer to citizens of every color principled starting points for the ongoing national discussions about race. (shrink)
Judeo-Christian and Anglo-Saxon forms of marriage have injected patrilineal values and companionate expectations into the Akan matrilineal family structure. As Anthony Appiah demonstrates, these infusions have generated severe strains in the matrikin social structures and, in extreme cases, resulted in the break up of families. In this essay, I investigate the ideological politics at play in this patrilinealization of Asante society.
Sara Suleri has written recently, in Meatless Days, of being treated as an "otherness machine"-and of being heartily sick of it.20 Perhaps the predicament of the postcolonial intellectual is simply that as intellectuals-a category instituted in black Africa by colonialism-we are, indeed, always at the risk of becoming otherness machines, with the manufacture of alterity as our principal role. Our only distinction in the world of texts to which we are latecomers is that we can mediate it to our fellows. (...) This is especially true when postcolonial meets postmodern; for what the postmodern reader seems to demand of Africa is all too close to what modernism-in the form of the postimpressionists-demanded of it. The role that Africa, like the rest of the Third World, plays for Euro-American postmodernism-like its better-documented significance for modernist art-must be distinguished from the role postmodernism might play in the Third World; what that might be it is, I think, too early to tell. What happens will happen not because we pronounce on the matter in theory, but will happen out of the changing everyday practices of African cultural life.For all the while, in Africa's cultures, there are those who will not see themselves as Other. Despite the overwhelming reality of economic decline; despite unimaginable poverty; despite wars, malnutrition, disease, and political instability, African cultural productivity grows apace: popular literatures, oral narrative and poetry, dance, drama, music, and visual art all thrive. The contemporary cultural production of many African societies, and the many traditions whose evidences so vigorously remain, is an antidote to the dark vision of the postcolonial novelist. 20. Sara Suleri, Meatless Days , p. 105. Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and literature at Duke University, is the author of a number of books, including For Truth in Semantics , Necessary Questions , and In My Father's House , a collection of essays on African cultural politics. His first novel, Avenging Angel, was published in 1990. (shrink)
Contemporary biologists are not agreed on the question of whether there are any human races, despite the widespread scientific consensus on the underlying genetics. For most purposes, however, we can reasonably treat this issue as terminological. What most people in most cultures ordinarily believe about the significance of “racial” difference is quite remote, I think, from what the biologists are agreed on. Every reputable biologist will agree that human genetic variability between the populations of Africa or Europe or Asia is (...) not much greater than that within those populations; though how much greater depends, in part, on the measure of genetic variability the biologist chooses. If biologists want to make interracial difference seem relatively large, they can say that “the proportion of genic variation attributable to racial differences is … 9 – 11%.”1 If they want to make it seem small, they can say that, for two people who are both Caucasoid, the chances of difference in genetic constitution at one site on a given chromosome are currently estimated at about 14.3 percent, while for any two people taken at random from the human population, they are estimated at about 14.8 percent. The statistical facts about the distribution of variant characteristics in human populations and subpopulations are the same, whichever way the matter is expressed. Apart from the visible morphological characteristics of skin, hair, and bone, by which we are inclined to assign people to the broadest racial categories—black, white, yellow—there are few genetic characteristics to be found in the population of England that are not found in similar proportions in Zaire or in China; and few too which are found in Zaire but not in similar proportions in China or in England. All this, I repeat, is part of the consensus . A more familiar part of the consensus is that the differences between peoples in language, moral affections, aesthetic attitudes, or political ideology—those differences which most deeply affect us in our dealings with each other—are not biologically determined to any significant degree.[…]In this essay, I want to discuss the way in which W. E. B. Du Bois—who called his life story the “autobiography of a race concept”—came gradually, though never completely, to assimilate the unbiological nature of races. I have made these few prefatory remarks partly because it is my experience that the biological evidence about race is not sufficiently known and appreciated but also because they are important in discussing Du Bois. Throughout his life, Du Bois was concerned not just with the meaning of race but with the truth about it. We are more inclined at present, however, not to express our understanding of the intellectual development of people and cultures as a movement toward the truth; I shall sketch some of the reasons for this at the end of the essay. I will begin, therefore, by saying what I think the rough truth is about race, because, against the stream, I am disposed to argue that this struggle toward the truth is exactly what we find in the life of Du Bois, who can claim, in my view, to have thought longer, more engagedly, and more publicly about race than any other social theorist of our century. 1. Masatoshi Nei and Arun K. Roychoudhury, “Genetic Relationship and Evolution of Human Races,” Evolutionary Biology 14 : 11; all further references to this work, abbreviated “GR,” will be included in the text. Anthony Appiah is associate professor of philosophy, African studies, and Afro-American studies at Yale. He is the author of Assertion and Conditionals and For Truth in Semantics . In addition, he is at work on African Reflections: Essays in the Philosophy of Culture. (shrink)
A literary historian might very well characterize the eighties as the period when race, class, and gender became the holy trinity of literary criticism. Critical Inquiry’s contribution to this shift in critical paradigms took the form of two special issues, ”Writing and Sexual Difference,” and “‘Race,’ Writing and Difference.” In the 1990s, however, “race,” “class,” and “gender” threaten to become the regnant clichés of our critical discourse. Our object in this special issue is to help disrupt the cliché-ridden discourse of (...) identity by exploring the formation of identities and the problem of subjectivity.Scholars in a variety of disciplines have begun to address what we might call the politics of identity. Their work expands on the evolving, anti-essentialist critiques of ethnic, sexual, national, and racial identities, particularly the work of those post-structuralist theorists who have articulated concepts of difference. The calls for a “post-essentialist” reconception of notions of identity have become increasingly common. The powerful resurgence of nationalisms in Eastern Europe provides just one example of the catalysts for such theorizing.Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of Assertion and Conditionals, Truth in Semantics, and Necessary Questions, has also published a novel, Avenging Angel, and a collection of essays, In My Father’s House. His most recent contribution to Critical Inquiry was “Is the Post- in Postmodernism the Post- in Postcolonial?”. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is coeditor of Transition, a quarterly review, and the author of Figures in Black, The Signifying Monkey, and Loose Canons. His latest contribution to Critical Inquiry was “Critical Fanonism”. (shrink)
Anthony Appiah’s essay on liberal education in the United States begins by identifying a distinctive feature of classical liberalism – namely, that the state must respect substantial limits with respect to its authority to impose restrictions on individuals, even for their own good. Nevertheless, Appiah points out, the primary aim of liberal education is to ‘maximize autonomy not to minimize government involvement’. Most of the essays in this volume, including Appiah’s, are attempts to address the question of (...) what the liberal commitment to maximize personal autonomy means when it comes to the teaching of what Appiah refers to as ‘identity-related claims’. The aim of this chapter is to suggest how one might begin to think about some questions in the philosophy of education, guided by the liberal thought that education is a preparation for autonomy, and to show that this tradition is both powerful enough to help with this difficult question and rich enough to allow answers of some complexity. (shrink)
Here is a thorough, vividly written introduction to contemporary philosophy and some of the most crucial questions of human existence: the nature of mind and knowledge, the status of moral claims, the existence of God, the role of science, and the mysteries of language, among them. In Thinking It Through, esteemed philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah shows us what it means to "do" philosophy in our time and why it should matter to anyone who wishes to live a more thoughtful (...) life. Opposing the common misconceptions that being a philosopher means espousing a set of philosophical beliefs, or being a follower of a particular thinker, Appiah argues that "the result of philosophical exploration is not the end of inquiry in a settled opinion, but a mind resting more comfortably among many possibilities, or else the reframing of the question, and a new inquiry." Thinking It Through is organized around eight central topics--mind, knowledge, language, science, morality, politics, law, and metaphysics. It traces how philosophers in the past have considered each subject (how Hobbes, Wittgenstein, and Frege, for example, approached the problem of language) and then explores some of the major questions that still engage philosophers today. More important, Appiah shows us not only what philosophers have thought but how they think, giving us examples we might use in our own attempts to navigate the complex issues that confront any reflective person in the 21st century. Filled with concrete examples of how philosophers work and written in the liveliest prose, Thinking It Through guides readers through the process of philosophical reflection and enlarges our understanding of the central questions of human life. (shrink)
If "slavery" is defined broadly to include bonded child labor and forced prostitution, there are upward of 25 million slaves in the world today. Individuals and groups are freeing some slaves by buying them from their enslavers. But slave redemption is as controversial today as it was in pre-Civil War America. In Buying Freedom, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Martin Bunzl bring together economists, anthropologists, historians, and philosophers for the first comprehensive examination of the practical and ethical implications of slave (...) redemption. While recognizing the obvious virtue of the desire to buy the freedom of slaves, the contributors ask difficult and troubling questions: Does redeeming slaves actually increase the demand for--and so the number of--slaves? And what about cases where it is far from clear that redemption will improve the material condition, or increase the real freedom, of a slave? Buying Freedom includes essays by the editors and by Dean Karlan and Alan Krueger, Carol Ann Rogers and Kenneth Swinnerton, Arnab Basu and Nancy Chau, Stanley Engerman, Jonathan Conning and Michael Kevane, Jok Madut Jok, Ann McDougall, Lisa Cook, Margaret Kellow, John Stauffer, and Howard McGary. (shrink)
The study of identity crosses all disciplinary borders to address such issues as the multiple interactions of race, class, and gender in feminist, lesbian, and gay studies, postcolonialism and globalization, and the interrelation of nationalism and ethnicity in ethnic and area studies. Identities will help disrupt the cliche-ridden discourse of identity by exploring the formation of identities and problem of subjectivity. Leading scholars in literary criticism, anthropology, sociology, and philosophy explore such topics as "Gypsies" in the Western imagination, the mobilization (...) of the West in Chinese television, the lesbian identity and the woman's gaze in fashion photography, and the regulation of black women's bodies in early 20th-century urban areas. This collection of twenty articles brings together the special issue of Critical Inquiry entitled "Identities" (Summer 1992), two other previously published essays, and five previously published critical responses and rejoinders, all of which is interrogated in two new essays by Michael Gorra and Judith Butler. Contributors include Elizabeth Abel, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Akeel Bilgrami, Daniel Boyarin, Jonathan Boyarin, Judith Butler, Hazel V. Carby, Xiaomei Chen, Diana Fuss, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Avery Gordon, Michael Gorra, Cheryl Herr, Saree S. Makdisi, Walter Benn Michaels, Christopher Newfield, Gananath Obeyesekere, Molly Anne Rothenberg, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Sara Suleri, Katie Trumpener, and Joseph Valente. (shrink)
Appiah onderzoekt in zijn essay het kosmopolitische respect voor verschillen en wat dit respect vereist 'wanneer we verwikkeld zijn in morele debatten die over de grenzen tussen de naties heen reiken'. Volgens Appiah kunnen kosmopolieten al een wereldburgerschap laten gelden zonder dat daar enige verandering van de politieke instituties aan te pas komt: mede-wereldburgerschap kan al in praktijk gebracht worden zonder veranderingen op institutioneel niveau af te wachten.
A new edition of the highly acclaimed book Multiculturalism and "The Politics of Recognition," this paperback brings together an even wider range of leading philosophers and social scientists to probe the political controversy surrounding ...
"These essays make a splendid book. Ignatieff's lectures are engaging and vigorous; they also combine some rather striking ideas with savvy perceptions about actual domestic and international politics.
Abusua do funu. The matriclan loves a corpse. AKAN PROVERB My father died, as I say, while I was trying to finish this book. His funeral was an occasion for strengthening and reaffirming the ties that bind me to Ghana and “my father's house' ...
Through most of the twentieth century, life scientists grew increasingly sceptical of the biological significance of folk classifications of people by race. New work on the human genome has raised the possibility of a resurgence of scientific interest in human races. This paper aims to show that the racial sceptics are right, while also granting that biological information associated with racial categories may be useful.
Some three score years ago, the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess found himself dissatisfied with “what are called ‘theories of truth’ in philosophical literature.” “The discussion has already lasted some 2500 years,” he wrote. “The number of participants amounts to a thousand, and the number of articles and books devoted to the discussion is much greater.” In this great ocean of words, he went on, the philosophers had often made bold statements about what “the man in the street” or “Das Volk” (...) or “la conscience humaine” made of truth or Wahrheit or vérité. And Naess had a few simple questions about these claims: “How do the philosophers know these things? What is the source of their knowledge? What have they done to arrive at it? … their writings,” he complained, “contain almost nothing of this matter.”1 And so Naess began the research that resulted in the publication in 1938 of his first book in English: “Truth” As Conceived By Those Who Are Not Professional Philosophers. (shrink)
This article argues against the view that affirmative action is wrong because it involves assigning group rights. First, affirmative action does not have to proceed by assigning rights at all. Second, there are, in fact, legitimate “group rights” both legal and moral; there are collective rights—which are exercised by groups—and membership rights—which are rights people have in virtue of group membership. Third, there are continuing harms that people suffer as blacks and claims to remediation for these harms can fairly treat (...) the (social) property of being black as tracking the victims of those harms. Affirmative action motivated in this way aims to respond to individual wrongs; wrongs that individuals suffer, as it happens, in virtue of their membership in groups. Finally, the main right we have when we are being considered for jobs and places at colleges is that we be treated according to procedures that are morally defensible. Morally acceptable procedures sometimes take account of the fact that a person is a member of a certain social group. (shrink)
This book develops in detail the simple idea that assertion is the expression of belief. In it the author puts forward a version of 'probabilistic semantics' which acknowledges that we are not perfectly rational, and which offers a significant advance in generality on theories of meaning couched in terms of truth conditions. It promises to challenge a number of entrenched and widespread views about the relations of language and mind. Part I presents a functionalist account of belief, worked through a (...) modified form of decision theory. In Part II the author generates a theory of meaning in terms of 'assertibility conditions', whereby to know the meaning of an assertion is to know the belief it expresses. (shrink)
This article summarizes my views on epistemological problems in African studies as I have expressed them previously in different contexts, mainly my book In My Father's House (1992), to which I refer the reader for further details. I start with an attempt to expose some natural errors in our thinking about the traditional-modern polarity, and thus help understand some striking and not generally appreciated similarities of the logical problem situation in modern western philosophy of science to the analysis of traditional (...) African epistemic procedures. This similarity rests upon both types of analysis dealing with procedures crucially hinging upon knowledge claims. (shrink)