Making Race Out of Nothing: Psychologically Constrained Social Roles

Ron Mallon and Daniel Kelly

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392753
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Making Race Out of Nothing: Psychologically Constrained Social Roles

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This article introduces the sort of solution that has typically been given to the race puzzle, and suggests some ways in which such a solution might be extended and improved. Racial categories are not biological groupings, but are rather social roles of some sort. The denial of the biological reality of race, and accounts of racial phenomena spelled out in terms of social roles, representations, and practices of racial classification, are explored. The most striking thing about implicit biases, including racial biases, is that they can coexist within a single individual, with explicit attitudes which are prima facie incompatible with them. Racial disparities in employment provide an area in which social scientific explanations can be usefully enriched by appeal to implicit racial biases. Race may not be biologically real, but it remains important. The social roles are strongly affected by the specific character of the psychological mechanisms in play.

Keywords: race puzzle; social roles; representations; racial classification; implicit racial biases; racial disparities

Article.  10717 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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