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'.
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)
The beating of Rodney King and the resulting riots in South Central Los Angeles. The violent clash between Hasidim and African-Americans in Crown Heights. The boats of Haitian refugees being turned away from the Land of Opportunity. These are among the many racially-charged images that have burst across our television screens in the last year alone, images that show that for all our complacent beliefs in a melting-pot society, race is as much of a problem as ever in America. In (...) this vastly important, widely-acclaimed volume, Kwame Anthony Appiah, a Ghanaian philosopher who now teaches at Harvard, explores, in his words, "the possibilities and pitfalls of an African identity in the late twentieth century." In the process he sheds new light on what it means to be an African-American, on the many preconceptions that have muddled discussions of race, Africa, and Afrocentrism since the end of the nineteenth century, and, in the end, to move beyond the idea of race. (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)
By turns historical, sociological and autobiographical, this book investigates racism as social pathology - a cultural disease that prevails because it allows one segment of society to empower itself at the expense of another.
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)
W. E. B. Du Bois never felt so at home as when he was a student at the University of Berlin. But Du Bois was also American to his core, scarred but not crippled by the racial humiliations of his homeland. In Lines of Descent, Kwame Anthony Appiah traces the twin lineages of Du Bois' American experience and German apprenticeship, showing how they shaped the great African-American scholar's ideas of race and social identity. At Harvard, Du Bois studied with such (...) luminaries as William James and George Santayana, scholars whose contributions were largely intellectual. But arriving in Berlin in 1892, Du Bois came under the tutelage of academics who were also public men. The economist Adolf Wagner had been an advisor to Otto von Bismarck. Heinrich von Treitschke, the historian, served in the Reichstag, and the economist Gustav von Schmoller was a member of the Prussian state council. These scholars united the rigorous study of history with political activism and represented a model of real-world engagement that would strongly influence Du Bois in the years to come. With its romantic notions of human brotherhood and self-realization, German culture held a potent allure for Du Bois. Germany, he said, was the first place white people had treated him as an equal. But the prevalence of anti-Semitism allowed Du Bois no illusions that the Kaiserreich was free of racism. His challenge, says Appiah, was to take the best of German intellectual life without its parochialism--to steal the fire without getting burned. (shrink)
An indispensable collection that re-examines what it means to belong in the world. "Where are you from?" The word cosmopolitan was first used as a way of evading exactly this question, when Diogenes the Cynic declared himself a “kosmo-polites,” or citizen of the world. Cosmopolitanism displays two impulses—on the one hand, a detachment from one’s place of origin, while on the other, an assertion of membership in some larger, more compelling collective. Cosmopolitanisms works from the premise that there is more (...) than one kind of cosmopolitanism, a plurality that insists cosmopolitanism can no longer stand as a single ideal against which all smaller loyalties and forms of belonging are judged. Rather, cosmopolitanism can be defined as one of many possible modes of life, thought, and sensibility that are produced when commitments and loyalties are multiple and overlapping. Featuring essays by major thinkers, including Homi Bhabha, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Thomas Bender, Leela Gandhi, Ato Quayson, and David Hollinger, among others, this collection asks what these plural cosmopolitanisms have in common, and how the cosmopolitanisms of the underprivileged might serve the ethical values and political causes that matter to their members. In addition to exploring the philosophy of Kant and the space of the city, this volume focuses on global justice, which asks what cosmopolitanism is good for, and on the global south, which has often been assumed to be an object of cosmopolitan scrutiny, not itself a source or origin of cosmopolitanism. This book gives a new meaning to belonging and its ground-breaking arguments call for deep and necessary discussion and discourse. (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)