Race Essay

3866 WordsFeb 26, 201316 Pages
In common sense thought, race is simply a fact: humans are not all alike, there are whites, blacks and yellows, maybe reds and browns too, and these different kinds are races, and that's just a feature of the way the world is. However, recent work on the concept of "race" shows that "race" and "race"-talk can be understood by analogy to what Foucault suggests about psychiatry and mental illness coming into being together: (1) it is now beginning to appear than "race" and racism came into existence together as well. It is racism that has made talk of race something that we can take seriously. A statement attributing intelligence or laziness to a person on the basis of her/ his skin color, can only be judged true if there are resources in the vocabulary for associating personality traits with skin colors. The major resource providing this association is the concept of race. So, for instance, we find David Hume in the 18th century commenting on racial inferiority, in a way that we are perfectly used to, appalled by but not astonished by. He writes, "I am apt to suspect the negroes to be naturally inferior to the whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent in either action or speculation... Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction between these breeds of men". (2) But we don't see philosophers or writers of antiquity saying this sort of thing about other peoples. It is appropriate to ask what made it possible for such a statement to be taken seriously, so that it could be thought true. Ivan Hannaford's Race: The History of the Idea in the West, (3) provides a great deal of information in reply. Reviewing the history is not part of my purpose here. Meanings of "Being" Heidegger suggests that the meaning of

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