Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session
Race is a hotly contested issue in contemporary politics and medicine: should race be taken into account in our social and health policy or not? Should we (both in our personal relationships and in governmental institutions) be race blind? Is race real or not? This political controversy has generated corresponding debate within the academy, particularly in political philosophy, bioethics, the history and philosophy of science, and more recently metaphysics and epistemology. For example, drawing on his expertise in the philosophy of language, Anthony Appiah has argued that there is no such thing as race: if we analyze the concept of race, i.e., the sense of the term 'race', we'll find that nothing in the world fulfills the conditions of the analysis. Alternatively, if we suppose that 'race' is a natural kind term that directly refers, we'll find there is no corresponding natural kind.
This course will consider the claim that there is no such thing as race, with a particular emphasis on the question whether races should be thought of as natural kinds: is our concept of race a natural kind concept? Is the term 'race' a natural kind term? If so, is Appiah right to conclude that there are no races? How should one go about "analyzing" the concept of race?
The readings for the course will be drawn from an interdisciplinary literature, including work in philosophy, genetics, biology, sociology, and history. We will consider whether there are any reasons (epidemiological, sociological, historical) to categorize humans into racial groups, and whether, e.g., health disparities reflect genetic predispositions. Throughout the course we will be guided by questions such as: What are natural kinds, and how do we determine whether a term in our vocabulary picks out a natural kind or not? Are there features that distinguish natural kind terms as opposed to other general terms? In cases where a term is used differently over time and/or from context to context, what determines whether it expresses the same concept/refers to the same kind in the different occurrences? To what extent can a concept change and remain the same concept?
The texts consist of book excerpts and journal articles. Please see readings.
Each student will prepare a seminar presentation. The presentation is a summary and critical assessment of one assigned reading with the written version handed in at the same class.
There is also a final term paper (20-25 pages).
|WEEK #||TOPICS||KEY DATES|
|2||Natural Kind Terms (Issues in Philosophy of Language)|
|3||Classification and Natural Kinds (Issues in Metaphysics and Epistemology)|
|4||Historical Background on the Notion of Race|
|5||Biology, Philosophy, and Race: The Early Debate|
|6||Race in Recent Philosophy of Science|
|7||The DNA Revolution and Race|
|8||Genomics, Medicine, and Race|
|9||Genomics, Race, and Health Policy|
|11||Race, Ethnicity, and Panethnicity|
|12||Elminativism, Conservatism, or Revisionism?|| |
Term paper draft due 2 weeks after Ses #12
Term paper due 3 weeks after Ses #12