In this commentary I give an overview of the book "What is Race?: Four Philosophical Views," outlining the arguments each author makes in formulating and defending their respective views. I present some challenges to these views and argue that the scope of the book is an important consideration in our assessment of its contribution.
Race theorists have been unable to reach a consensus regarding the basic historical question, “is ‘race’ modern?” I argue that this is partly because the question itself is ambiguous. There is not really one question that race scholars are answering, but at least six. First, is the concept of race modern? Second, is there a modern concept of race that is distinct from earlier race concepts? Third, are “races” themselves modern? Fourth, are racialized groups modern? Fifth, are the means and (...) methods associated with racialization modern? And sixth, are the meanings attached to racialized traits modern? Because these questions have different answers, the debate about the historical origins of “race” cannot be resolved unless they are distinguished. I will explain the ways in which “race” is and is not modern by answering these questions, thereby offering a resolution to a seemingly intractable problem. (shrink)
In this debate-format book, four philosophers--Joshua Glasgow, Sally Haslanger, Chike Jeffers, and Quayshawn Spencer--articulate contrasting views on race. Each author presents a distinct viewpoint on what race is, and then replies to the others, offering theories that are clear and accessible to undergraduates, lay readers, and non-specialists, as well as other philosophers of race.
Adam Hochman has recently argued for comprehensive anti-realism about race against social kind theories of race. He points out that sceptics, often taken as archetypical anti-realists, may admit race in certain circumstances even if they are eliminativists about race. To be comprehensively anti-realist about races, which also means rejecting all ‘race talk’, he suggests that racial formation theory should be abandoned in favour of interactive constructionism. Interactive constructionism argues for the reality of racialized individuals and racialized groups to the exclusion (...) of realism about races. Its supplementation of comprehensive anti-realism is meant to give us the ability to account for all relevant phenomena of interest surrounding the question of race without having to admit that races are real in any sense. I argue that although Hochman’s interactive constructionism succeeds in establishing the existence of racialized individuals and groups, it does not do so to the exclusion of realism about social races. Furthermore, I show that his comprehensive anti-realism, even when it is supplemented with interactive constructionism, is inadequate to deal with all relevant phenomena of interest surrounding the question of race. (shrink)
One debate that metaphysicians of race have been consumed with since the 1990s is what we can call the US race debate, which is the debate about what the nature and reality of race is according to the dominant ways that ‘race’ and race terms are used to classify people in contemporary American English. In 2014, I contributed a defence of biological racial realism in the US race debate that utilized new results about human genetic clustering from population genetics. In (...) this paper, I will show that all US race theories have been wrong, including my own. This is because, as I will argue, the correct US race theory has a radically pluralist form. This is an instance of a metametaphysical position that I call radical racial pluralism. After defending radical racial pluralism in the US race debate, I explore valuable implications of the view for philosophers of race. (shrink)
This article is Part II in a pair of articles on racial realism. In Part I, I defined “racial realism” and discussed the major attempts in the past twenty years among metaphysicians of race and biologists to defend racial realism from the viewpoint of what biologists mean by “race.” In this article, I continue discussing and critiquing how metaphysicians of race have conceived of and defended racial realism, but with a focus on how ordinary people use “race.” I focus on (...) two broad groups of racial realisms in this article: biological racial realism and social racial realism. After defining each one, I summarize a representative sample of recent attempts from metaphysicians of race to defend both types of racial realism. I also discuss major criticisms against each attempt. I end by sketching a new, radical pluralist way of being a racial realist, and I provide some empirical motivation for why it's promising. (shrink)
In this paper I defend the metaphysics of race as a valuable philosophical project against deflationism about race. The deflationists argue that metaphysical debate about the reality of race amounts to a non-substantive verbal dispute that diverts attention from ethical and practical issues to do with ‘race.’ In response, I show that the deflationists mischaracterize the field and fail to capture what most metaphysicians of race actually do in their work, which is almost always pluralist and very often normative and (...) explicitly political. Even if debates about the reality of race turn out to be verbal disputes, they are substantive, and worth having. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to develop an argument against metaphysical debates about the existence of human races. I argue that the ontology of race is underdetermined by both empirical and non-empirical evidence due to a plurality of equally permissible candidate meanings of "race." Furthermore, I argue that this underdetermination leads to a deflationist diagnosis according to #hich disputes about the existence of human races are non-substantive verbal disputes. $hile this diagnosis resembles general deflationist strategies in contemporary metaphysics" I (...) show that my argument does not presuppose controversial metametaphysical assumptions. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to argue that ontological choices in scientific practice undermine common formulations of the value-free ideal in science. First, I argue that the truth values of scientific statements depend on ontological choices. For example, statements about entities such as species, race, memory, intelligence, depression, or obesity are true or false relative to the choice of a biological, psychological, or medical ontology. Second, I show that ontological choices often depend on non-epistemic values. On the basis of (...) these premises, I argue that it is often neither possible nor desirable to evaluate scientific statements independently of non-epistemic values. Finally, I suggest that considerations of ontological choices do not only challenge the value-free ideal but also help to specify positive roles of non-epistemic values in an often neglected area of scientific practice. (shrink)
This year’s topic is “Genomics and Philosophy of Race.” Different researchers might work on distinct subsets of the six thematic clusters below, which are neither mutually exclusive nor collectively exhaustive: (1) Concepts of ‘Race’; (2) Mathematical Modeling of Human History and Population Structure; (3) Data and Technologies of Human Genomics; (4) Biological Reality of Race; (5) Racialized Selves in a Global Context; (6) Pragmatic Consequences of ‘Race Talk’ among Biologists.
Two families of mathematical methods lie at the heart of investigating the hierarchical structure of genetic variation in Homo sapiens: /diversity partitioning/, which assesses genetic variation within and among pre-determined groups, and /clustering analysis/, which simultaneously produces clusters and assigns individuals to these “unsupervised” cluster classifications. While mathematically consistent, these two methodologies are understood by many to ground diametrically opposed claims about the reality of human races. Moreover, modeling results are sensitive to assumptions such as preexisting theoretical commitments to certain (...) linguistic, anthropological, and geographic human groups. Thus, models can be perniciously reified. That is, they can be conflated and confused with the world. This fact belies standard realist and antirealist interpretations of “race,” and supports a pluralist conventionalist interpretation. (shrink)
Analyzing racial concepts has become an important task in the philosophy of race. Aside from any inherent interest that might be found in the meanings of racial terms, these meanings also can spell the doom or deliverance of competing ontological and normative theories about race. One of the most pressing questions about race at present is the normative question of whether race should be eliminated from, or conserved in, public discourse and practice. This normative question is often answered in part (...) by appealing to the ontological status of race: if race is an illusion, then it should be eliminated, and if it is real, then it can be conserved. 1 Thus, for.. (shrink)
In this essay, I contend that feminist theories of citizenship in the U.S. context must go beyond simply acknowledging the importance of race and grapple explicitly with the legacies of slavery. To sketch this case, I draw upon W.E.B. Du Bois's "The Damnation of Women," which explores the significance for all Americans of African American women's sexual, economic, and political lives under slavery and in its aftermath.