Does ‘Race’ Have a Future?

Kitcher Philip

in Preludes to Pragmatism

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199899555
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980154 | DOI:
Does ‘Race’ Have a Future?

Show Summary Details


This chapter argues for two main claims. First, without succumbing to any of the noxious forms of essentialism that have often afflicted discussions of race, it is possible to develop an account of races as biologically meaningful units within the human species. Second, how we think about biological species, sub-species, and incipiently speciating populations depends importantly on the purposes of our inquiries: nature does not delineate these units for us. Hence, although the brilliant work of Marcus Feldman and his colleagues on the distribution of various DNA sequences across the human species might incline us to separate out certain “biological units,” our doing so depends on the roles separations of this sort might play overall in our projects. The projects in question are partly biological, partly social, and partly a mix of the two—as in instances where medical concerns might call for different treatment regimes for different types of people or where doctors might hope to recruit organs for transplant purposes. Perhaps some of these ventures encourage the re-introduction of notions of race, while others militate against it. From a pragmatist perspective, the overall judgment can only be made along the lines envisaged by the ideal of deliberation among well-informed, mutually engaged representatives of diverse points of view. “Race” has a future just in case there is value in continuing to talk about races—and that assessment of value must be determined by considering the interests of all.

Keywords: races; biological species; pragmatism; DNA; Marcus Feldman

Chapter.  10332 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.