Real kinds or categories, according to conventional wisdom, enter into lawlike generalizations, while nominal kinds do not. Thus, gold but not jewelry is a real kind. However, by such a criterion, few if any kinds or systems of classification employed in the social science are real, for the social sciences offer, at best, only restricted generalizations. Thus, according to conventional wisdom, race and class are on a par with telephone area codes and postal zones; all are nominal rather than real. (...) I propose an account of real kinds that recognizes the current reality of race but not zip codes and shows how a kind can be both constructed and real. One virtue of such an understanding of realism is the light shed on our current practice of racial classification. Race is not a real biological kind but neither is race a myth or illusion. However, the question of whether a social kind is real is separate from whether the category is legitimate. W. E. B. Du Bois maintained that while there are no biological races, race is real and should be conserved. My aim, in this paper, is not to argue for the legitimacy or conservation of race but to defend Du Bois's idea that kinds of people can be both made up and real and provide an understanding of realism that does justice to the social sciences. (shrink)
This book is a critical introduction to the philosophy of social science. While most social scientists maintain that the social sciences should stand free of politics, this book argues that they should be politically partisan. Root offers a clear description and provocative criticism of many of the methods and ideals that guide research and teaching in the social sciences.
Race is a prominent category in medicine. Epidemiologists describe how rates of morbidity and mortality vary with race, and doctors consider the race of their patients when deciding whether to test them for sickle‐cell anemia or what drug to use to treat their hypertension. At the same time, critics of racial classification say that race is not real but only an illusion or that race is scientifically meaningless. In this paper, I explain how race is used in medicine as a (...) proxy for genes that encode drug metabolizing enzymes and how a proper understanding of race calls into doubt the practice of treating race as a marker of any medically relevant genetic trait. (shrink)
The biomedical sciences employ race as a descriptive and analytic category. They use race to describe differences in rates of morbidity and mortality and to explain variations in drug sensitivity and metabolism. But there are problems with the use of race in medicine. This article identifies a number of the problems and assesses some solutions. The first three sections consider how race is defined and whether the racial data used in biomedical research are reliable and valid. The next three sections (...) explain why racial variation in disease, including genetic disease, is not evidence that race is biological. The final section explains how a proper understanding of the role of race in medicine bears on public policy. (shrink)
IN SECTION X OF "AN INQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING", DAVID HUME RAISES TWO QUESTIONS ABOUT MIRACLES AND THEIR RELATION TO TESTIMONY. FIRST, HE ASKS WHETHER IT COULD EVER BE REASONABLE TO BELIEVE ON THE BASIS OF TESTIMONY THAT NATURE DOES NOT FIT THE IMAGE OF OUR SCIENCE, AND, SECOND, HE ASKS WHETHER IT COULD EVER BE REASONABLE TO BELIEVE ON THE BASIS OF TESTIMONY THAT NATURE IS NOT UNIFORM. HUME’S ANSWER TO THE FIRST QUESTION IS ’YES’ AND HIS ANSWER TO (...) THE SECOND IS ’NO’. HUME THINKS THAT A ’NO’ TO THE SECOND QUESTION SHOWS THAT BELIEF IN THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION IS LESS REASONABLE THAN A BELIEF IN MODERN SCIENCE. HOWEVER, HUME’S ’NO’ SEEMS TO OPPOSE HIS EMPIRICISM AND HIS BELIEF THAT THERE ARE NO NECESSARY TRUTHS ABOUT ANY MATTER OF FACT OR EXPERIENCE. THE POINT OF THIS PAPER IS TO SHOW THAT HUME CAN PROVE THAT THERE CAN BE NO TESTIMONY OF SUCH A QUANTITY OR QUALITY TO MAKE IT REASONABLE TO BELIEVE THAT NATURE IS NOT UNIFORM AND, AS RESULT, NO TESTIMONY TO MAKE IT REASONABLE TO. (shrink)
Studies in the social and biomedical sciences of racial differences in socioeconomic status or health within a population view the race of members as fixed and look for a difference in the frequency of a trait like average income or disease risk between racial subgroups. But, as I explain in this paper, there are good reasons to allow the race of members to vary with the trait whose variation within the population is to be described or explained. According to such (...) a view of race, racial categories are more scientifically significant if membership in the categories is allowed to vary with differences in scientific interest rather than held constant across a variety of interests. (shrink)
I compare the tasks that Noam Chomsky and W. V. Quine assign the grammarian and point out that in many cases where Chomsky sees a question of fact Quine sees only a question of convenience. I argue that these differences are attributable, at least in part, to a difference in view concerning the data. Chomsky relies mostly on a speaker's reports of his linguistic intuitions. Quine finds this source methodologically moot. I develop a series of arguments that draw on Quine's (...) theory of radical translation to defend Quine's doubts. (shrink)
In the United States, the racial and ethnic statistics published by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) assume that each member of the U.S. population has a race and ethnicity and that if a member is black or white with respect to his risk of one disease, he is the same race with respect to his risk of another. Such an assumption is mistaken. Race and ethnicity are taken by the NCHS to be an intrinsic property of members of (...) a population, when they should be taken to depend on interest. The actual or underlying race or ethnicity of members of a population depends on the risk whose variation within the population we wish to describe or explain. (shrink)
This paper argues that realism issue in the social sciences is not one that can be decided by general philosophical arguments that evaluate entire domains at once. The realism issue is instead many different empirical issues. To defend these claims, I sort issues that are often run together, explicate and criticize several standard realist and antirealist arguments about the social sciences, and use the example of the productive/nonproductive distinction to illustrate the approach to realism questions that I favor.
Nelson Goodman claims to have given us a criterion for likeness of meaning that is more stringent than simple coextensiveness and yet that avoids the familiar extentionalist objections. The notion of a nominal compound plays a key role in his account. I show that Goodman's comments concerning this notion are inadequate, that his comments concerning expressions like unicorn-picture are subject to two serious objections: they don't support his claims about likeness of meaning and they make English an unlearnable language.
Race is a prominent category in medicine. Epidemiologists describe how rates of morbidity and mortality vary with race, and doctors consider the race of their patients when deciding whether to test them for sickle cell anemia or what drug to use to treat their hypertension. At the same time, critics of racial classification say that race is not real but only an illusion or that race is scientifically meaningless. In this paper, I explain how race is used in medicine as (...) a proxy for genes that encode drug metabolizing enzymes and how a proper understanding of race calls into doubt the practice of treating race as a marker of any medically relevant genetic trait. (shrink)