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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

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Hi Bill,
Thank you for taking the time to consider all this in such depth. On some points we may disagree less than it seems. Since there's a lot to talk about, I'll post a few separate comments. First a few words about equal opportunity. You write:

"My challenge to the NRs: How can you fail to see the importance of equal treatment of men and women? One of the NRs claimed that the notion of equality of opportunity is vacuous. Why? To require that applicants for a job not be discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, or creed, is not vacuous. It has a definite content."

Here I can clarify things a bit. Suppose that by 'equal opportunity' we mean something *roughly* like this 'a society where people are not legally or institutionally barred from getting an education or trying to enter some professions because of their sex or race'. I could agree that something *roughly* along those lines is (at least) a morally acceptable scenario. Of course, there are many important caveats.

For example, I understand that the insane US government is now opening all combat roles in the US Army to women. This is one of the stupidest and most evil ideas they've had yet, though it was predictable decades back. In my view, women have absolutely no place in combat; there are a zillion reasons for this, over and above the very deep differences in physical strength. And if I were in charge women would have virtually no role in the military at all, unless maybe we were in some state of total war and there was no other option. So I would want to restrict some kinds of work on the basis of sex. But not things like teaching philosophy. I would have no problem with some kinds of 'discrimination' in hiring on the basis of sex, or race, because I think there are some cases where such discrimination is entirely rational and right.

But, again, I could agree that in the vast majority of cases there's no reason for the employer to refuse to consider someone on that kind of basis. Now we come to a more fundamental issue, though. I imagine you'll agree with me that if the employer gets no public funding he should free to hire the person he likes best, even if the reason is just that he doesn't like women or black people. I don't think that I have any kind of moral obligation to hire anyone at all to work in my laundromat, and so a fortiori there's no obligation to give all those who'd like a job an 'equal opportunity' to work there -- in the sense of considering all of them regardless of sex or race.

If you'd agree with me that the private employer has the right to discriminate, wouldn't you also agree that some on your Left may reasonably say that a society where he's free to discriminate in this way is not really one where 'equal opportunity' has been realized? For real true equal opportunity, private employers must be forced to hire the 'best' person regardless of sex or race. And someone a bit further to the Left will now say that true equal opportunity means that people need to be equalized far before they get to the point of applying for jobs: it's not fair that blacks don't read to their kids as much as whites, and blacks don't have 'equal opportunities' as a result, so maybe we need affirmative action to correct for 'white privilege'. And so on. Moreover, this person may ask why only race and sex are prohibited grounds of discrimination, and why it's only opportunities to work that are so important. In order to equalize opportunities, maybe we need to force employers to hire transvestites and force other people to share bathrooms with them. Maybe we need to force battered women in shelters to live with men who are pretending to be women, so that everyone has an equal opportunity to recover.

You would like 'equal opportunity' to mean something 'definite' and basically sensible, rather than something Leftist and crazy, but the phrase itself is just much too abstract to require the specific interpretation you put on it. After all, if some cosmic Leftist were to claim that 'equal opportunity' requires that everyone has the same DNA and the same IQ and the same ability to play the piano, this would not be any kind of misuse of words.

Thank you, Bill, for your detailed thoughts on these issues as well as hosting this important conversation. We are, of course, in much agreement. But your comments raise a number of very important, difficult, and confusing questions that merit our serious philosophical attention. It would be far too much to attempt to address your entire post in one comment. For now, let me just focus on some of the things that you said about race.

You repeatedly ask whether race should matter, and you ask whether we should identify as certain races. And you seem to be answering, at least tentatively, in the negative. But the questions are highly ambiguous and I think that, if we going to make progress here, we have to clarify what is at issue. Based on several of your remarks, here are some possible interpretations of the idea that race doesn’t matter and that we shouldn’t identify as members of races:

1. We should treat each other as individuals, not as tokens of a racial type or members of racial groups.
2. We should treat everyone simply as _people_ , with no other category being relevant.
3. We should only think of ourselves as people, not as tokens of racial types.
4. We can think of ourselves as tokens of racial types, but we shouldn’t prioritize or seek ways to increase association and affiliation with other people who are also tokens of the same type.

It seems to me that each of these claims is highly problematic. I list 1 because it’s almost verbatim to one of your remarks. As stated, though, I find the claim puzzling. It can’t be saying that we should treat people as bare particulars, ignoring any properties that they have. Obviously a thing’s properties are relevant to how we treat that thing. But to be a token of a kind is a property. The keyboard in front of me is a token of the type “keyboard”, and that is highly relevant to the way that I treat it. This kind of relevance of type properties seems to apply to every kind of object or event that we deal with, no?


I take it then, that you must mean to be saying 2 instead. But 2 seems obviously false. It’s like saying I should treat all animals as simply animals and that the specific kind of animal they are is irrelevant. Obviously I should not treat a wolf the way that I treat a housecat. Similarly, it is not clear that I shouldn’t treat people differently in some ways because of their racial properties.

I should note that this all seems perfectly consistent with thinking that, in virtue of anyone being a person, there are certain forms of treatment that the person should receive (e.g., not being used as a mere means). But just because there are forms of treatment that everyone is deserving of because they are people, it doesn’t follow that everyone deserves equal treatment in _every_ way.

What does it mean to not _identify_ as a token of a racial type? One interpretation is 3, but, again, this seems highly implausible. First, it’s not only psychologically impossible for humans to be race blind; it’s presumably harmful to them as well, as understanding who you are and finding others like you is an important part of human well-being. I know that that taking race into account in this is way is highly alien to contemporary white Americans, at least in terms of what they can consciously acknowledge and articulate. White Americans seem to have very much embraced the idea that we should be “colorblind” and, along with that, adopted the conveniently compatible view that there are no real deep important racial differences. (Prager’s position seems to be an instance of just this kind of thinking.) But I take it that this is one of the serious problems with the current white American thinking. People are obviously _not_ colorblind as much as they pretend to be or try to convince themselves that they should be. And why should we think that being colorblind would even be good in the first place? Race is a real thing. It’s not just skin color and other obvious outward physical features. It is extremely implausible that the differences would be arbitrarily limited to the external features. The differences in behavior and cognition that we observe are plausibly understood as manifestations of the races themselves. Why in the world should we think that ignoring those kinds of things is good? If say, white people are inclined to read and analyze literature and black people aren’t, why in the world would it be good for white people to ignore that when they are, say, setting up schools or looking for people with whom to have a reading group?

4 is perhaps a more charitable interpretation of the idea that we shouldn’t identify as tokens of our race. But if race is composed of a set of dispositions to think or act in certain ways that are evaluable on their own (e.g., level of intelligence and moral capacity), then, again, it seems reasonable for people to prioritize or seek out certain races over others in certain ways.

Now, this is admittedly different from prioritizing a person because of that person’s race _even if a person from another race would be better in all other relevant ways_. Bill, you mention the example of voting for someone just because she’s a woman or just because he’s a man. So, is it morally justifiable to vote for someone just because he’s black or just because he’s white? I think that the answer is that that this bare racial identity can indeed serve partly as a reason, and I think the same thing applies to women and men, and other relevant types. When I say that, I don’t mean to say that other important reasons can’t outweigh this one reason. But it’s a reason that has force and needs to be taken into account with other reasons. Why? Well, partly because people naturally and strongly feel kinship and trust for people of their kinds. They believe that those people will understand their experience and values better than others. And they are often correct! It would be intellectually arrogant for us to pretend that we can understand and articulate the lives and values of creatures different from us in all their subtlety and that a person of that type wouldn’t have a better chance of doing it. Again, this aspect of favoring someone can obviously be outweighed by other considerations. But it’s not a reason to be dismissed lightly. Would you honestly not rather have a white president?

Perhaps you will answer that it doesn’t matter to you. After all, you say:

“I would have no problem with living next door to a Muslim like Juhdi Jasser or blacks like Ben Carson, Juan Williams, Walter Williams, Condoleeza Rice, Shelby Steele, Herman Cain, Jason Riley, et al. and including mulattoes like Colin Powell even though the latter amazingly, and presumably in the grip of tribalism, refused to condemn Black Lives Matters, that thuggish outfit that undermines the rule of law and demonizes police officers.”

But your remarks about Colin Powell are especially telling. Is it really “amazing” that he shows this natural and irrational kinship to blacks, favoring them or giving them a pass just because they are black, even though they are acting horribly? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s quite predictable. How many blacks support Obama? Something like 95%. You charge me and Jacques with tribalism. Well, tribalism is a real and ineradicable aspect of human beings. People naturally feel akin to and trusting of people of their own race more; and, again, I think that there are good reasons for this. This gives us a legitimate reason to favor or prioritize people of our own race in certain situations.

You seem to worry that the kind of view that Jacques and I hold is dangerous. Let me say here that the ideas that we are talking about are at a certain level of idealization. Questions about what types of policies could be realistically or safely implemented are another issue. I do think that the level of idealization at which I’m speaking about here is not some bizarre utopian realm that disregards human nature. To the contrary, I take that my idealization is one that attempts to best take into account actual human nature. But that said, I am certainly not offering any claims about what I think people should actually try to implement or how they should do that.

Anon,

Thanks for the detailed response. I grant you that much of what I have said about race is open to serious question. I admit to not having a worked-out view. This is an ugly topic and I would much rather do metaphysics and phil of rel. But I can't ignore the topic since it is connected with the unraveling of the country.

>>Would you honestly not rather have a white president?<<

I would say what I think Prager would say: I'll take a black conservative over a white leftist any day. So if it came down to Ben Carson vs. Hillary Clinton, I would spring for Carson in a heartbeat. I wouldn't vote for him because he is black, and I wouldn't vote against Hillary because she is female; it is rather that his being black would in no way prejudice me against him.

This illustrates what I mean when I say "I have always held that before we are men or women, white or black, Gentile or Jew, we are rational animals . . . ."

This is not to deny the reality of race or ethnicity or sex. (We agree that talk of race as a social construct is absurd.) It is to affirm the ethical priority of persons. (The capacity to reason is an ingredient in personhood.) Or perhaps: the ethical priority of viewing humans as persons to the extent that that is possible as opposed to viewing them as nothing but tokens of a racial or ethnic or sexual type.

This implies that when I consider Carson, I don't consider only his being an instance of *black male.* For in that respect he is no different than Spike Lee (Ugh!). And when I express my disgust at Spike Lee it is not because he is an instance of *black male* for in that respect he is no different than Ben Carson. My disgust is aimed at his being an instance of more specific attributes.

When I say we should treat people as far as possible as individuals I do not imply in saying that that people are bare particulars. Nothing we encounter is a bare particular. Everything we encounter is an instances of various repeatable types.

What am I saying positively? This is a very difficult topic. Time for lunch! But I'll be back.

Back from lunch. I wrote above, ". . . we ought to try to treat each other as individuals and not as tokens of a type or members of a group."

But of course we are all tokens/instances of various types and members of various groups. And this is necessarily the case. So what could it mean to treat a person as an individual?

I suppose there is no way to discuss this without getting into some heavy duty metaphysics. I maintain that a person is more than a mere instance of a repeatable type (attribute, property, feature . . .) or a mere instance of a conjunction (however long) of types. Take the conjunction of all of Ben Carson's attributes: human, black, male, conservative, pediatrician, neurosurgeon, etc. Is his being or reality exhausted by his being an instance of this huge conjunctive attribute? I would say No although I can't argue this out rigorously now. His haecceity (nonqualitative thisness) cannot be reached in this way. In the deepest depth of his interiority and ipseity he is more than an instance of attributes.

If this is right, then it would be wrong for Carson to identify himself with an instance of black human, black male, black male conservative, black male conservative physician, black male conservative physician who is a neurosurgeon, etc. no matter how specific you make the attribute. If so, then it is wrong for us to reduce him to an instance of a type.

And the gravity of the wrong depends on how non-specific the attribute.

I suppose what I am preaching here is respect for persons, for their dignity and worth, and their irreducibility to their empirical attributes.

But of course noting I have said implies that in the evaluation of Carson for his fitness to be POTUS one can ignore his attributes.

Hillary is an instance of *liar.* But she is much more than that. She has other attributes, some of them good. Her being a liar, however, is an attribute relevant to her fitness for high office.

Back from lunch. I wrote above, ". . . we ought to try to treat each other as individuals and not as tokens of a type or members of a group."

But of course we are all tokens/instances of various types and members of various groups. And this is necessarily the case. So what could it mean to treat a person as an individual?

I suppose there is no way to discuss this without getting into some heavy duty metaphysics. I maintain that a person is more than a mere instance of a repeatable type (attribute, property, feature . . .) or a mere instance of a conjunction (however long) of types. Take the conjunction of all of Ben Carson's attributes: human, black, male, conservative, pediatrician, neurosurgeon, etc. Is his being or reality exhausted by his being an instance of this huge conjunctive attribute? I would say No although I can't argue this out rigorously now. His haecceity (nonqualitative thisness) cannot be reached in this way. In the deepest depth of his interiority and ipseity he is more than an instance of attributes.

If this is right, then it would be wrong for Carson to identify himself with an instance of black human, black male, black male conservative, black male conservative physician, black male conservative physician who is a neurosurgeon, etc. no matter how specific you make the attribute. If so, then it is wrong for us to reduce him to an instance of a type.

And the gravity of the wrong depends on how non-specific the attribute.

I suppose what I am preaching here is respect for persons, for their dignity and worth, and their irreducibility to their empirical attributes.

But of course noting I have said implies that in the evaluation of Carson for his fitness to be POTUS one can ignore his attributes.

Hillary is an instance of *liar.* But she is much more than that. She has other attributes, some of them good. Her being a liar, however, is an attribute relevant to her fitness for high office.

Jacques writes, >>I imagine you'll agree with me that if the employer gets no public funding he should free to hire the person he likes best, even if the reason is just that he doesn't like women or black people.<<

Yes.

>>If you'd agree with me that the private employer has the right to discriminate, wouldn't you also agree that some on your Left may reasonably say that a society where he's free to discriminate in this way is not really one where 'equal opportunity' has been realized?<<

But then the leftist is using 'equal opportunity' in an inflated way.

You claimed that the phrase is vacuous. I say it is not because a reasonably precise meaning can be attached to it. It is surely irrelevant that lefties will attach their own meanings to it.

Suppose I organize a private foot race. I invite only people I know and value. Each entrant has an equal opportunity of winning in this precise sense: nothing will be done to impede any one's performance. And this despite the fact that many of the entrants have zero chance of winning.

Now consider a gov't funded foot race. The following precise sense can be attached to 'equal opportunity': no one shall be barred from entering on the basis of race, sex, or color of T-shirt. But if he shows up naked or on a motorcycle, then he is out like Stout!

So it all comes down to whether we have common sense and basic moral sense.

The sol'n as I have suggested is voluntary segregation: we need to get away from crazy and immoral people and form our own associations and alternative institutions, for example, our own private universities to carry on the great traditions of the West as the publicly funded ones collapse.

>> In the deepest depth of his interiority and ipseity he is more than an instance of attributes ... I suppose there is no way to discuss this without getting into some heavy duty metaphysics ... I suppose what I am preaching here is respect for persons, for their dignity and worth, and their irreducibility to their empirical attributes. <<

Bill, I agree with these points. Moreover, they seem to require something like the traditional metaphysical view that (a) there are substances with natures (essences) that maintain sameness through change; (b) a substance is an individual property-possessor rather than, say, a mere bundle of empirically observable properties; (c) a human person is a substance with a nature; and (d) a human being belongs to a natural class of humans in which he stands in a symmetrical (human-to-human) relation to each other human person. I see no other way of accounting for a human person's value, especially the ontological value and moral rights he shares with all other human persons.

I don't wanna get all metaphysical in this discussion about political philosophy (i.e., I don't want to change this from a pol. phil. to a metaphysical discussion about substances and properties). But I think something like the above must be accepted in a pol. phil. which recognizes universal human value.

>> and form our own associations and alternative institutions, for example, our own private universities to carry on the great traditions of the West as the publicly funded ones collapse. <<

Or, for example, philosophical blogging communities!

Hi Bill.
Two further thoughts, one about equality and the other about race:

(1) If I understand your position, you're claiming that we can "attach" a "precise sense" to the phrase "equal opportunity" and that, therefore, this phrase does represent a valid moral principle. Leftists have "inflated" this principle, and we should just reject their interpretation rather than the principle itself.

I find this argument very puzzling, in the same way that I am puzzled by your defense of 'tolerance' as a general principle. I agree with you on some of the specific kinds of 'opportunities' that, in various specific contexts, should be 'equal' in certain respects. And I agree that some other kinds in other contexts shouldn't be 'equal'. But then, if we agree that there are seven thousands legitimate forms of unequal opportunities, or respects in which it is okay for opportunities to be unequal, why are we supposed to characterize this complicated set of judgments by saying that we believe in 'equal opportunity'? Why not say, on the same kind of basis, that we believe in 'unequal opportunity'?

Suppose I claimed to believe in the principle of 'Killing'. You press me to explain. Do I mean it's good to kill innocent children? Oh no, I just mean it's good to kill unrepentant murderers. Wouldn't it then seem irrational to describe my principle as the principle of 'Killing' rather than some principle of 'Killing people who deserve to be killed'? For that matter, my principle could be the principle of 'Not killing' since I think that we often should not kill, even though there are some special cases where we should.

You say we need to use common sense and basic moral sense. Agreed! The real point here, it seems to me, is that conservatives and normal people have some basic moral principles that have been deleted from Leftism; they use these (more) basic principles to reach sensible conclusions about abstract notions of 'equality' or 'opportunity' (or 'diversity' or 'tolerance'). But then it's really those *other* principles, which need to be spelled out, that are doing the work. The term 'equal opportunity' is shorthand for other principles that are no more about equality than they are about inequality.

(2)You write:

"when I consider Carson, I don't consider only his being an instance of *black male.* For in that respect he is no different than Spike Lee (Ugh!). And when I express my disgust at Spike Lee it is not because he is an instance of *black male* for in that respect he is no different than Ben Carson. My disgust is aimed at his being an instance of more specific attributes"

I wonder if it's really possible psychologically to consider anyone as merely an instance of some racial type. This is how the Leftists like to caricature the positions of 'racists' such as me and Anonymous, but I don't really know how to think that way. The average real-life 'racist' seems quite capable of holding all kinds of negative stereotypes about blacks, for example, while very quickly adapting to the specific properties of some specific black person when those are a-stereotypical.

Anyway, it's true that your disgust for Spike Lee is not due simply to his instancing Black-Male-ness. But couldn't it be that some of his more specific, disgusting traits reveal some essence of Black-Male-ness, or your stereotype of Black-Male-ness, in a way that the more admirable traits of Carson (or Lee) do not? Sometimes (to 'racists') a bad black person seems to epitomize something about the type Black (which even the 'racist' knows is not present in all of its instances). In the same way, I know that not all humans are murderers, but it can be rational to feel that some particular murderer epitomizes some essential and repulsive trait built into the type Human.

I accept your emphasis on the value of persons, the need for respecting persons. Absolutely. (Maybe I'm still a Leftist on this point?) But why should recognizing the importance of race be any problem in this respect? I say it's like sex. The differences are real, they have important implications for society and politics, but recognizing all of this doesn't require us to become the haters or oppressors of Leftist (projective) fantasies.

Anonymous,
I agree with everything you say about race. No doubt there's more to be said, but you're laying out the issues in a sane way that's not possible anymore in the mainstream. One thing I'd add: it's not clear why 'tribalism' is generally assumed to be bad, morally different somehow from the attachments people form to their close friends and family, on the one hand, or to the whole human species, on the other hand. It's as if we're told "Feel free to be a 'familist', and also a 'humanist', but don't you ever form any particular attachments of preferences for any group larger than your family but smaller than the human species".

Bill, do you think there's some morally relevant difference between 'familism' or 'humanism' (or 'speciesism'), on the one hand, and 'tribalism' (or 'ethnocentrism' or 'racism')? I'd say what is wrong with black tribalism such as that manifested by 'Black Lives Matter' is not that it's a form of tribalism, but rather that it's a very stupid, violent and unprincipled form of tribalism that can't possibly help anyone, and which is not paired with any moral or rational recognition that whites _also_ have the right to their own tribe. If BLM people were willing to discuss the issue intelligently and with good intentions -- which is impossible for those people, of course -- I'd be happy to work out a deal where everyone gets to be somewhat (and equally) tribal.

Anonymous,
I agree with everything you say about race. No doubt there's more to be said, but you're laying out the issues in a sane way that's not possible anymore in the mainstream. One thing I'd add: it's not clear why 'tribalism' is generally assumed to be bad, morally different somehow from the attachments people form to their close friends and family, on the one hand, or to the whole human species, on the other hand. It's as if we're told "Feel free to be a 'familist', and also a 'humanist', but don't you ever form any particular attachments of preferences for any group larger than your family but smaller than the human species".

Bill, do you think there's some morally relevant difference between 'familism' or 'humanism' (or 'speciesism'), on the one hand, and 'tribalism' (or 'ethnocentrism' or 'racism')? I'd say what is wrong with black tribalism such as that manifested by 'Black Lives Matter' is not that it's a form of tribalism, but rather that it's a very stupid, violent and unprincipled form of tribalism that can't possibly help anyone, and which is not paired with any moral or rational recognition that whites _also_ have the right to their own tribe. If BLM people were willing to discuss the issue intelligently and with good intentions -- which is impossible for those people, of course -- I'd be happy to work out a deal where everyone gets to be somewhat (and equally) tribal.

"This is an ugly topic and I would much rather do metaphysics and phil of rel. But I can't ignore the topic since it is connected with the unraveling of the country."

Yes, I'm glad that you are not absconding to the study to concentrate on only abstract metaphysics. Since there are virtually no philosophers who are serious and clear-headed about these topics, I think we have some responsibility to consider them. And what is partly inspiring me to do this is your suggestions about preserving western culture through dark times. I think that not only should there be an effort to preserve it, but some of us who are seeing the errors should reflect upon them and offer something new, learning from these errors and providing the foundations for a better state in the future.

Anon,

Nothing much can be expected from he vast run of professional philosophers. You may be interested in my post on the politicization of the A. P. A. It include a letter to the editor published in the Proceedings.

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/03/the-politicization-of-the-american-philosophical-association-.html

And here is a link to an article by David Benatar:

http://sbeta.iol.co.za/capetimes/those-who-seek-changes-must-show-they-are-desirable-1886695

>> and form our own associations and alternative institutions, for example, our own private universities to carry on the great traditions of the West as the publicly funded ones collapse. << Are there many institutions of the caliber of Hillsdale College in America today?

Not many.

Good letter to the APA, Bill. I have let my membership lapse as well. The APA is now run by a feminist activist who isn't even a philosopher, and the organization seems primarily devoted to making sure that advantages in the philosophy world are given to women and non-white males. I find that repulsive. But it's interesting to wonder how that squares with the kind of tribalism that Jacques and I think is permissible. I'll have to think about that.

We will have to discuss tribalism further. You guys seem to think that the tribalism of blacks and others needs to be opposed by your own kind of tribalism. But I don't think so. I think we need to get beyond tribalism altogether. But that's what makes me more of a liberal than you.

Splitting up into warring tribal factions can't be good. Can it be avoided?

Are families always just warring factions wrt other families?

Since I said earlier I'd be replying in several posts, I hope no one minds that they continue to trickle in. Bill you ask the following:

"Is it morally justifiable to tie one's very identity to one's race or ethnicity as opposed to tying it to being zoon logikon or imago Dei? Unfortunately, there are women who identify as women above all else; among them are those who will vote for Hillary because she is a woman! That is despicable. It is as if I were to vote for a man because he is a man. And if we do identify racially, ethnically, sexually, how do we live in peace with one another in a world in which distances have been technologically shrunk and buffers removed?"

My view is that (A) we do in fact tie our identities to race and ethnicity, along with many other fundamental dimensions of human life, and (B) there's nothing particularly wrong with having a self-conception that involves any one of these things so long as no one element is given an unjustified priority over all the others (and is not treated in some other way that isn't justifiable). Thus, for example, I can sometimes relate to women and non-whites and non-Europeans in a profound way simply in virtue of our shared humanity or shared rationality or shared divinity. This does not preclude relating to whites in an equally profound but different way, in virtue of certain racial commonalities, or relating to men in virtue of shared understandings and values and feelings grounded in male-ness. Roughly the same point can be made in terms that liberals would understand: I relate to family members in one way, in virtue of certain important commonalities, while relating to fellow philosophers in another way, in virtue of others. It would be wrong for me to conceive of myself _merely_ as a white person, or merely as a male person; but then, there's little danger of that since it seems psychologically extremely difficult if not impossible. The real issue is how these things should be balanced or integrated. It's unhealthy and, ironically, dehumanizing to insist that people deny some or all of these fundamental features of identity -- though in reality it is only straight white Christian men who are expected to do this. In that respect, modern liberalism and conservatism are anti-human in the same general way that Communism or Nazism are. These ideologies try to reduce our multi-dimensional selves to just one or two dimensions, often those that matter least to us.

It is despicable that anyone would vote for Hillary _just_ because she is a woman. One reason why that's so despicable, however, is that women are not naturally suited to political leadership; it's unhealthy and pathetic to consciously pursue some state of affairs where armies and nations are commanded by little old ladies with shoulder pads and dyed hair. In that kind of context, it is not similarly despicable (I say) for me to hope that Trump wins _because_ he is a man. Other things equal it's just better that an alpha male like Trump be President. And in a sane society there would be no real question of any woman being President, unless she were some very unusual token of that type for whom an exception would be made -- not because of her femaleness but because of other facts. In a sane society the traits that make a good political leader just are masculine traits. So it makes good sense to vote for someone in part 'because he is a man', since that means in reality that he has certain features necessary for that kind of role. Obviously this is not to say that in a contest between David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher I'd prefer Cameron to win. Thatcher was ten times the man he is. But if I have a general preference for male leaders, and a general prejudice against female ones, that's justifiable in a way that the inverted feminist preference and prejudice are not. Mine is grounded in a love for my society and a concern for its long-term welfare. The feminist one is grounded in the resentment of people with an immature hatred of their own true natures, who thus want to ruin society to salve their wounded egos; at the very least they don't _care_ about the functionality and health of their society so long as they get to feel 'equal' for some time at the cost of further ruin.

(And note that 'progress' is really an addictive cycle: each destructive social change for the sake of 'equality' salves ego pain for a few months or years, but since the inequalities are fundamental they are always being noticed anew regardless of social engineering; so another 'hit' of 'hope and change' is needed in order to numb the renewed pain of contact with reality... So that's how we go from women wearing pants to women CEOs to women flying jet-fighters to a woman POTUS, and on and on 'til there's nothing left to degrade and destroy... I guess at that point it'll be back to the law of the jungle and the rule of the biggest meanest silverback. Maybe that's what feminists want, deep down, just as white liberals seem to want deep down to be smacked around hard by Men With Beards...)

Jacques,

I appreciate your response, and I'll think about it. But there is some sort of 'disconnect' here. We are not really meeting. The term 'identity' needs clarification.

>>It is despicable that anyone would vote for Hillary _just_ because she is a woman. One reason why that's so despicable, however, is that women are not naturally suited to political leadership;<<

Here I think you go wrong. Men as a group are better suited for political leadership than women as a group. But surely it doesn't follow that Hillary is not suited for political leadership. Nor does it follow that Trump is.

Jews are better at chess than blacks. But it doesn't follow that Shlomo is better than Trayvon.

Hi Bill,
Just to be clear, I do of course appreciate your point that it's a fallacy to infer from generalities to particulars in the ways you describe. What I mean is that feminists desire a _general_ state of affairs such that people who generally are not suited to x, y and z doing x, y and z while those who are generally suited are systematically prevented from doing x, y and z. The point is that my general preferences or defaults are sane in a way that those of feminists and egalitarians are not. I'm certainly not saying that there's no possible world where some particular woman is better at Presidentiality than some particular man, or deriving that (false) claim from the mere fact that on the whole men are better at that kind of thing.

Hope that helps to at least direct us toward a more important disagreement...

>>feminists desire a _general_ state of affairs such that people who generally are not suited to x, y and z doing x, y and z while those who are generally suited are systematically prevented from doing x, y and z.<<

Let's try an example. Women in general are not suited to be Navy SEAL-type commandos. Most men aren't either. But many more men are than women are. In fact, so few women are that it would make no sense to invite any to apply for SEAL-type training.

Do we agree?

Are you saying or saying something that implies that feminists (all? most? many? some?)want to prevent men from becoming commandos while allowing women to become commandos?

And similarly in less extreme cases?

Can you link me to a publication by such a feminist?

What is your position on the equity feminism of Christina Hoff Sommers?

Bill,
I agree with the first part, i.e., given these facts it makes no sense to invite women to apply to be SEALs. I'd go further, for other reasons. (I think it's wrong to offer any encouragement to women to take on these kinds of roles; men have a duty to _protect_ women from fighting and warfare. But that's another issue.)

Under AA, and under the broader pathological ideology that rules the west, women who are in fact not well suited to some job -- SEAL, firefighter, cop, professor, President, etc. -- are given the job so that women will be 'represented', so that the workforce will be 'diverse', to combat 'inequality', etc. So that means that anyone who supports AA is in fact aiming for a situation where people who are naturally well suited to various jobs are denied those jobs -- and even denied 'equal opportunity' in a sense, with respect to those jobs -- whilst people who have no natural aptitude or inclination are forced into these jobs, where they tend to be miserable and make problems for the whole institution. (And which then leads to ever-more-demented theorizing about the 'sexism' at work in society, which must be dealt with by more aggressive AA. Repeat til we are all dead or dhimmified.) Almost all feminists support AA, as far as I know. At least that's obviously the nature of institutionalized feminism and egalitarianism; no institution is left that doesn't bow to the demand for 'diversity', 'representation', 'equality', etc. So feminism as a pathological force in our society aims for this sick and degenerate kind of situation. No?

To be sure, some of them may not realize that this is actually what they are aiming for. Just as the average liberal doesn't realize that open borders will result in more terrorism. But that's the objective nature of feminism, even if there may be some individual feminists (or 'feminists') who don't support such policies or recognize their degenerative thrust. And of course they never explicitly say that men who are well or better qualified will be denied consideration; but of course that's what they actually do. Just the other day I was told by someone on a hiring committee that the successful candidate just has to be a woman, regardless of who applies, because the percentage is too low, etc. This is not even 'feminism' at this point; it's just the normal, official belief system of our weird society.

I suppose I could look up links to publications, but it seems to me the point I'm making is so broad and basic that it can be illustrated by virtually anything that anyone in power ever says about these issues. And if you don't agree, there's probably nothing that you'd count as evidence for my claim :)

I don't know enough about Sommers to say much about her views. I do know that she seems like a far more rational and well-meaning person than the typical feminist. But if she supports some liberal principle of 'equity' in the sense of 'fairness' or 'equal opportunity' or whatnot then I have my general doubts about those (in my view) Leftist principles.

Bill, if I could jump in here, I’d say that feminists don’t seem to want to _bar_ men from positions that men are obviously better at or more inclined towards. (At least, they don’t seem to want that _yet_.) But they do seem to want us to at least actively ignore significant natural advantages or increased inclinations men have for certain positions, and even give women special preference because they are “underrepresented” in those positions. (Interestingly, feminists don’t seem to be complaining about situations where they seem to have natural advantages or increased inclinations.)

I’m OK with Sommers’ position with the following two qualifications: first, the name is atrocious. The word ‘feminism’ is an affront to good sense, both on the plain meaning of the word as well as the culturally understood implications of the term. ‘Equity’ is also an extremely misleading and dangerous term, leading to my second qualification. The idea that people should be judged for their merits is fine (and what I take to be the core of Sommers’ view), but that must be coupled with a clear, explicit statement that there are very important sex differences that will naturally and rightly lead to very _unequal_ distributions of the sexes in many positions and roles when people are judged on their merits. Without that part added and emphasized, we will get a lot of the nonsense that we see.

Jacques has very eloquently and pithily described how ignoring things like sex and race identity is “dehumanizing” and destructive to society.

Anon,

I'm with you for the most part regarding Christina Hoff Sommers, though her book is called "Freedom Feminism" and not "Equity Feminism." She tries to position herself between egalitarian and maternal feminisms. Here she makes the case to get more people to call themselves "feminists":
http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/06/how-to-get-more-women-and-men-to-call-themselves-feminists/277179/

I can see her point, but I'm afraid that "feminism" has gone the way of "social justice" which a number of Catholics/evangelicals have been trying to untangle for years from its more recent leftish heritage: I doubt it can be done.

Here's a similar situation. A guy I know recently told me that he thinks everyone is a racist. This is because his understanding of "racism" is so broad that he thinks it applies to everyone. If you even see someone as being of a different race, you're a racist. But I doubt that if he goes about calling himself a racist that "racism" would change its connotation. Better to use a different word than to adopt a word so entangled with immorality that one has to die a death of a thousand qualifications when using it.

Gentlemen:

What is a racist anyway?

How do you define the term?

If you have the time, tell me whether you agree with this fairly short entry of mine:

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2014/05/the-word-racism-and-some-of-its-definitions.html


Bill,

Makes good sense to me for the most part (and it'd better since I think I've linked to that before.)

This, though, seems both too strong and too weak (though, given things you've said in recent posts I know you'd qualify the "weak" end):
"The view that the genetic and cultural differences between races or ethnic groups justify genocide or slavery or the denial of political rights."

It is too weak unless one takes the definition to mean "...sufficient...[to] deny political rights." We could obviously imagine contingencies which call for temporary denial of political rights based partly on race which aren't racist.

It is too strong, I think, because there are instances of racism short of advocating slavery or genocide based on genetic or cultural differences.

How about this: Racism is an attitude/disposition of disapprobation or an action treating people of another race--because of their race-- as having less value than humans have qua human.

Also, while we're at it, I'm surprised that all of you seem to think that race is not a social construct. To what does the word "black" (in the racial context) refer? There are probably more than 3 options but here are three: (1) Nothing (a non-starter for all of us) (2) a natural kind (3) a social kind. That it refers to a natural, biological kind is riddled with problems. Why not a social kind (a kind socially constructed), even though the truth conditions for (e.g.) "Obama is black" is partly grounded in (e.g.) phenotypical features? Perhaps there's room between "natural kind" and "social kind" typically understood and this is what you have in mind.

Tully,

So all human beings have equal value qua human, and it is racist to treat any race of humans as having less value than any other race?

Is race a social construct? Depends on what a social construct is. Money is a social construct: it is something conventional in nature. Is race a social construct in this sense? I should think not.

Blacks are 'overrepresented' in the NBA and NFL. Do you think that is just a matter of socialization and acculturation? I would say that it has to do with hard biological facts that lie deeper than the social and the cultural.

Jews have made contributions to high culture (music, physics, chess, . . .) way out of proportion to their numbers. This has a lot to do with Jewish culture and family structure. But nothing to do with biology?

I'm just asking.

So all human beings have equal value qua human, and it is racist to treat any race of humans as having less value than any other race?

Well, I tried to word that in such a way so as not to beg any questions against the subjectivist about value. Presumably, a subjectivist thinks there are racists even if there is not objective human value. A racist could treat someone of another race like, for example, a family dog which is treated as having less value than a human but not as mere property. It seems to me that a racist could treat someone like a family dog but not promote killing or enslaving him.

"Is race a social construct? Depends on what a social construct is. Money is a social construct: it is something conventional in nature. Is race a social construct in this sense? I should think not."

I agree that race is not a social kind of thing like money. If I have time I'll say more later; but I have to run. Because of an NDPR review I've recently been reading Jeremy Pierce's book on the issue and so far it has been worthwhile:
http://www.amazon.com/Realist-Metaphysics-Race-Context-Sensitive-Retentionist/dp/0739175602

You mention that Christianity is the greatest religion (on which your discussion partner agrees) Could you explain (or link me to a post) in which you explain in what way it is the greatest?

(As an aside, in reference to a post in the crusades linked in the related posts box, which does not allow comments)

You defend the crusades as a just war defending Europe against Islam. Didn't the crusades also include the Rhineland massacres which were against Jews and not Muslims and therefore included significant injustices in the name of Christianity?

Bill,
I like your comment very much. The key point, as you say, is that "racism" is always assumed to be something morally wrong, and therefore we can just accept that this is a constraint on the meaning of the word in our (weird) language and point out that x, y and z are not "racist" since they involve nothing that is morally wrong. One thing I would disagree with, as Tully says above, is the proposal that "racism" be _defined_ as some kind of view such that those who hold the view take racial facts to justify slavery or genocide. That's one form of racism, but I think there are less extreme morally wrong attitudes or behaviours that also count as "racist" given how the word is used or understood. (Though I disagree with Tully that the correct definition has to do with human worth across races.)

On the other hand, I think it would be better, if possible, to convince people that "racism" and "racist" as used in our language are just not good analytical tools. I'm pretty sure that if we try to catalogue all of the ways that these terms are used we'll find that there is no single well definable concept that underwrites these uses. It's interesting to note that the term was never used, so far as I know, prior to the subversion of our intellectual traditions and language by communists and others; people always had beliefs about race, but no one ever thought to try to pathologize these by constructing them as an "ism". Anything that is actually true and coherent that we might want to say in objection to some form of "racism" can be said in other, better ways that don't help our enemies to pathologize normal reasonable beliefs and attitudes.

Tully: The word "black" refers to a large group of people who tend to have significantly more shared ancestry of a certain kind, relative to each other, than they tend to have relative to people outside that group. (That ancestry is most sub-Saharan African.) The reference of "black" is no more problematic than the reference of "human" or "Irish" or, for that matter, the reference of "the McAllisters of County Kildare" or "my mom's family". At least I can't see any problem, whatever Naomi Zack or other such worthy bien pensants may find so puzzling :) Is there a problem?


Jacques,

I knew you wouldn't like Tully's definition. I rather like it myself. Except I think (and he may too) that it needs a metaphysical foundation. The intrinsic dignity and worth of every human qua human makes sense if we are imago Dei. But remove that theological support and all you have is a bunch of clever animals who are manifestly not equal by any empirical measure, either individually or by group.

Put the Kenyan marathoners up against the Jewish marathoners and the Jews will lose. But if we are talking about contributions to high culture, I'll take a Jew over an Arab or an African any day.

I agree with your second paragraph. Ideally, 'racism' and 'racist' should be banished to semantic Siberia. But this won't happen. So we need to force the lefties to define what they mean by these terms.

Jacob,

I certainly wouldn't want to defend everything about the Crusades. Nor would I wish to paper over the crimes committed by Christians against Jews.

As for the superiority of Xianity that is not a topic that can be addressed here, and I have no entry on it. I should write one!

"Tully: The word "black" refers to a large group of people who tend to have significantly more shared ancestry of a certain kind, relative to each other, than they tend to have relative to people outside that group. (That ancestry is most sub-Saharan African.)... Is there a problem?"

I think the empirical facts are such that this is just not true. One could have mostly European ancestry and very little African ancestry; but if the African ancestry accounts for hair/skin color and perhaps nose shape, one would be considered black by most people. When almost everyone uses the term, what counts is phenotypical features and not ancestry ("The Jerk" and Bill Clinton aside). If an alien race of Will Smiths came to earth, U.S. Southerners would be astonished: "Holy Shit! Outer space is full of blacks!"

Is Obama white or black? Or half black? I don't think we're carving nature at the joints.

Tully,

Being considered black by most people does not make one black. Obama is mulatto -- is that a politically incorrect word these days? -- he is just as much white as he is black. He is not black, he is half-black.

He's one diverse dude: he is self-diverse! So why does he take the side of blacks over whites?

Are you maintaining that race is simply a matter of how one identifies oneself and how others identify one? So that biological factors have nothing to do with it? Rachel Dolezal case . . .

"Are you maintaining that race is simply a matter of how one identifies oneself and how others identify one? So that biological factors have nothing to do with it? Rachel Dolezal case . . ."

I definitely do not think that if race is a social construct that it is simply a matter of how one identifies oneself. If a social construct view is true, social practices could be such that Dolezal is not black, since it could be a part of our concept of black that someone who is deemed black by society and who is born lacking certain biological traits can't become black simply by identifying as black or undergoing a few superficial changes.

And I should add that I'm not sure that the social kind view is correct...at all. Maybe it's not; it just doesn't seem to me obviously false. I've just recently started thinking about this so I have no strong (or well thought out) view on the matter. However, I think race is less like felinity, humanity, & bovinity than it is eye color. If blackness is a natural kind, it's not the sort biologists are typically interested in when it comes to classifications.

If races exist independently of our social practices, perhaps races are sets or mereological sums of people who share certain phenotypical traits such as hair and skin color and bone structure. Our social practices then give already existing races social significance but don't bring races into existence. Races would then be similar to a set or sum of blue eyed people which exists prior to social practice but is given social significance for whatever reason. (Alternatively we create races by social practices which in part draw attention to certain already existing features.)

"Obama is mulatto -- is that a politically incorrect word these days? -- he is just as much white as he is black. He is not black, he is half-black."

If to be mulatto is to have a mixed racial ancestry than that begs the question against my denial that race is determined by significantly common ancestry, that is, if "mulatto" is meant to pick out a race sui generis from the white and black races. If mulatto is its own race, then our racial ontology is presumably going to be very promiscuous.

Regarding Obama I'm inclined to say something like the following: Let's suppose that there are races prior to social practice such as the black race. One is black if one has certain features such as skin color, bone structure, etc. (and maybe races are metaphysically vague--I'll ignore that for now). Then presumably Obama is black.

Still, racial words like "black" have various semantic ranges. In a context where we are talking about the "one drop rule", it's correct to say that Obama is black. In a context where we are talking about recent ancestry, Obama is half black because one of his parents is black (i.e. the parent has the features sufficient for being in the set or sum of blacks in the ontological category). In a context where we're talking about the ontology of race, Obama is black (since he's a member of the group with the black features like his father.)

Tully I spoke of a tendency, allowing for some exceptions and borderline cases (as with family or species or subspecies) not a set of necessary and sufficient conditions. Biological "nature" has no joints of that latter kind for us to "carve". Still it is a very strong tendency rooted in evolution so we carve the appopropriate ways in distinguishing blacks from other similarly loose natural kinds. Obama is far more black than I am, and share far more ancestors with blacks than almost all whites.

"Still it is a very strong tendency rooted in evolution so we carve the appopropriate ways in distinguishing blacks from other similarly loose natural kinds. Obama is far more black than I am, and share far more ancestors with blacks than almost all whites."

I think it is a matter of scientific fact that some who we refer to (correctly, in the context of race ontology) as "black" have more European than African heritage; and some without the black features/traits have more African heritage than some who lack the traits. Do you disagree? If those empirical claims are granted, I think it suggests that our concept of race is about groups with certain phenotypical features and not to people with genes of a certain lineage (which isn't to say of course that genes don't play a causal role).

Common sense judgments about blackness and whiteness are very strongly correlated with major differences in evolutionary history going back at least 60,000 years. [For example, when I say that Clarence Thomas is black, and Bob Marley is half-black, I am sorting humans in ways that correspond to these differences.] I don't understand how this can be denied. If it were not true, modern evolutionary biology and studies of "population genetics" would make no sense. [For example, scientists estimate the percentage of Neanderthal ancestry in specific "populations" that can be mapped nicely on to "folk" racial categories.]

No normal person in our society considers someone to be simply "black" in virtue of having "one drop" of "black blood", e.g., a single great-great-great-great-great-grandparent who was black. Everyone agrees, surely, that _Obama is biologically or ancestrally _half_ black, regardless of whether he may just be "black" in some other sense, or Bill Clinton was "America's first black president" in some even more tenuous or figurative sense. If we are talking about the "ontology" of race, this is how the folk ontologize. (Hence the old-fashioned terms "mulatto", "octaroon", etc.)

Unless Tully would disagree with these claims, it seems to me that they are enough to establish a perfectly defensible ordinary concept of "biological race" that is adequate for the purposes of the kind of moral-political discussion we've been having. There may be some "social construction" of this concept, whatever exactly that means, but surely it is not credible that the concept is "socially constructed" in anything like the way that we might "socially construct" a notion of natural human kinds based on eye color or political affiliation or whatnot. Unlike these other individuating principles, the race concept plainly applies to underlying evolutionary facts.

Tully, you write:

"If a social construct view [of race] is true, social practices could be such that Dolezal is not black, since it could be a part of our concept of black that someone who is deemed black by society and who is born lacking certain biological traits can't become black simply by identifying as black or undergoing a few superficial changes."

Imagine that Lassie the Talking Dog had managed to pass herself off as human for a few years somehow. Then we might say:

"If a social construct view of humanity is true, social practices could be such that Lassie the Talking Dog is not human, since it could be a part of our concept of humanity that someone who is deemed human by society and who is born lacking certain biological traits can't become human simply by identifying as human or undergoing a few superficial changes."

The point of the speech seems to be that our "social construction" of the concept of humanity results in a concept _of_ some kind of non-superficial, biological property. Which is of course true: that's the kind of concept we constructed when we came up with the concept of (biological) humanity. But on this interpretation of the "social construct view", the "social construction" part seems merely to emphasize the fact that humans tend to create or discover concepts of things (socially). This seems trivial, and does nothing to encourage the view that the _extension_ of the concept is not a real natural biological kind.

Jacques,
"Unless Tully would disagree with these claims"

I do disagree with the empirical claims. I think the common sense judgments (about black, white, Caucasian, latino, asian (in the race sense), etc.) don't map well with evolutionary lineage of people groups. They map better with phenotypical features and recent country of origin. But I'm open to correction on this score.
And I think the folk probably "ontologize" differently.
Take the following case: "A Black Girl Born to White Parents"
https://abagond.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/sandra-laing-a-black-girl-born-to-white-parents/
A lot of people apparently considered her black or mixed-race. Of course one example doesn't by itself prove anything. If you know of any surveys about what the folk think I'd be grateful if you passed them along.

Again, I'm not insistent that the black and white races are social kinds; it's just not obvious to me that they aren't. Perhaps they are kinds similar to the kind of people with blue eyes.

Hi Tully,
The link you provide doesn't seem to support your skepticism about ordinary racial concepts. This woman who looked sort-of-black and not-very-white was considered black or mixed race. Okay. Likewise there are cases where people mistake a dog for a wolf. Does that show that the dog/wolf distinction has no biological basis, or that the concept 'dog' fails to "map" on to a biological kind? Of course not. The fact that people may be mistaken sometimes, or even fairly often, tells us nothing to that effect.

If a pair of Chihuahuas produced a puppy that looked just like a Great Dane, we'd naturally assume that they must have some Great Dane ancestry (or something like that). And if we were sure that was not the case, it would be natural to conclude that sometimes -- in some very rare, freak cases -- some tiny number of Chihuahuas happen to have just the same phenotypes as Great Danes. We would surely not conclude that there is no "significant" genetic difference between Chihuahuas and Great Danes, considered as whole populations. Now I grant that _if_ Chihuhuas began to regularly produce puppies that grew up to look and behave just like Great Danes, and vice versa, we would _then_ have grounds to seriously question our dog-breed taxonomy. But that's not the case, and the same goes for human races.

I don't know the story of this South African woman. I assume (as the blogger you cite also assumes) that she must have some black ancestry. But even if she didn't, and people mistakenly considered her black or partly black when she really wasn't black at all, so what? This weird story just shows that people may be fallible in their application of racial concepts. But it may not even show that; if lots of people thought she was mixed-race, they might well have been right about that.

When you suggest consulting "surveys about what the folk think" I'm truly puzzled. Why on earth would we need surveys? We are the folk. Like other humans on earth we know that Bill Cosby and Queen Latifah are black, that Obama is half-black, that Rembrandt was not black, that Julianne Moore is white, and so on. And we have a bit of education so we know that these kinds of judgments correspond to facts about "phenotypes" that are themselves biological in origin: hair, skin, eye color, facial morphology, musculature, bone density, a zillion other things. I just can't imagine what it is that you think we don't yet know about this stuff. It's as I were to say "Maybe men and women are just social constructs; maybe our concepts 'man' and 'woman' don't correspond to any natural kinds; why don't we do some studies to find out more". I hope you wouldn't be willing to take that seriously. But then why is race any different? It's all very obvious, common sense. That's why no one ever questioned it until a bunch of communists tried to subvert western civilization a few decades back.

You suggest that racial concepts track "phenotype" and "recent country of origin" better than evolutionary history. First of all, most of the obvious racial phenotypes -- hair texture and facial morphology, skin and eye color, musculature and bone density, etc. -- are based in genotypic differences that vary by race. So this is not an alternative to the realist view of race; if you are mapping racial concepts on to _those_ phenotypes you are mapping them on to biological groups of humans. As for "recent country of origin" I don't know what you mean. Any normal person would recognize that Clarence Thomas and Marcus Garvey and some randomly chosen Bantu girl belong to one broad race, and that Julianne Moore and Vladimir Putin belong to another. In what way would this folk classification reflect two distinct "countries of origin"? If we had a time machine and we could travel back 30,000 years we'd find that humans back then were differentiated into white-ish and black-ish groups. What "recent country of origin" would we be picking out for either group? I don't get it.

It's clear from the scientific literature that racial concepts map _best_ on to groups individuated by their evolutionary histories and genetic distances from other groups. If you want to look at an example -- one among many -- here's a link to a Cavalli-Sforza paper:

http://faculty.washington.edu/charles/562_f2011/Additional%20Readings/Cavalli%20Sfroza%201997.pdf

He individuates these populations in familiar ways, e.g., "Caucasoid", "Mongoloid", "Amerind", and also talks about the "Black ancestry" of "Black Americans"; he says that about 30% of their "gene pool" comes from "European (White American) genes" (p.7724). Look at his charts of genetic distance; they depict continua that are very nicely in line with folk racial classifications. (He's not saying that some Bantus and some Italians go in one group, most Zulus and a quarter of highland Scots in another, etc. It's all just as any normal uneducated person a few decades ago would have assumed, and just a bit more complicated and fine-grained.)

You can find scientists who don't like these terms, but you can't find a respected scientist who works in this area _denying_ that Amerinds and Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans are "populations" or "sub-populations" of some kind. All of this has already been studied deeply and extensively and comes up in a zillion ways. Take a look at medical research on sickle-cell anemia or Tay Sachs or lactose intolerance; they are obviously working with categories co-extensive with racial concepts like "Black", "Jewish", etc. Look at the recent discoveries about Neanerthal and Denisovan ancestry in Europeans. None of this makes sense without appeal to racial concepts (however the scientists may prefer to call them). If you aren't aware of any of these discoveries you need to read more about the science and less politically correct philosophy of race.

Bill,
A few comments about other earlier topics we haven't yet taken up:

1. You write: "if it is salutary to have a dialog with Buddhism and Hinduism and Taoism and perhaps even witj some of the more respectable strands of Islam such as Sufism (its mystical branch), then we cannot be blood-and-soil nativists: we need to be open-minded and 'liberal.'"

This seems wrong to me. A blood and soil nativist opposes the large-scale immigration of racial and cultural aliens, but why should he reject dialogue with the alien philosophers? That would seem to depend on the nature of the nativist's own culture. I don't see why nativists couldn't have (coherently) very open minds and closed borders. Since you've brought up fascists and Nazis, it's worth noting in this connection that many of those guys were very interested in Eastern traditions (though I guess maybe that's not a clear counter-example since they regarded Indian high culture as Aryan) and it seems they were quite friendly with Muslims too. It's psychologically/culturally possible; is it rationally incoherent somehow?

2. "We need a believable, action-guiding narrative. To be believable it must be coherent and rationally supportable. To arrive at such requires the examination and evaluation of competing worldviews. But bitter and protracted disagreement is inevitable. We won't able to agree on the best overall action-guiding narrative. We will splinter apart into a plurality of positions. This weakens us over against the Muslim fascists who would impose a worldview by force and a crappy one at that. Same with the Left: they have no compunction about using the awesome coercive power of the State to bring people into line with their destructive agenda."

This does seem to be a serious worry. I don't have a solution, but I'm not sure about the premise that the narrative must be rationally coherent to be action-guiding. If the question is about narratives that most people in the west could accept as a basis for political life -- say, for taking real measures to protect ourselves from cultural dispossession -- then it seems to me that the narrative doesn't need to be rationally coherent or defensible in any deep way. People used to be Christians, and many of them probably understood the Christian narrative in such a way that their beliefs about it would not hold up under philosophical scrutiny. Leftist beliefs about race and sex are plainly irrational, but people with high IQs and training in philosophy hold these beliefs passionately and try to live according to them. Maybe you mean that "we" right-thinking philosophers need a narrative that is at least more rationally coherent than that, if it is going to be action-guiding for us? If that's the issue, I am tempted to appeal to the preconditions for caring about rational coherence or justification. A necessary condition for having a rational narrative or worldview N, on reflection, is that N is not the kind of narrative that makes it impossible to justify valuing, caring, willing, etc. But we couldn't be engaged in the search for an acceptable narrative unless we were already engaged in valuing, caring, willing, etc. My hunch is that Leftism and liberalism (and Nazism, and probably most forms of Islam and Judaism) fail this test: on reflection they are self-defeating because it is impossible for the reflector to explain to himself why he is reflecting or seeking a rationally coherent worldview. Thus, if the question is about what could motivate right-thinking philosophers, I would hope to stave off the kind of splintering that worries you by appealing to these preconditions. If our dialogue across worldviews and philosophies is minimally rational, we will end up agreeing that Leftism and atheism and secularism are nihilistic and thus disqualify themselves from serious consideration, by precluding any credible story about why we are considering anything or why any results of our considering would matter even to us. And I'd speculate that any of the narratives that pass this test will provide reasons for rejecting at least the worst features of the current cultural and political order. Maybe some are Christian and others are Hindu or pagan or animist, for example. Maybe some are Islamic. But if any of these provides the right kinds of reasons, there can be a Rawlsian overlapping consensus that works well enough for practical purposes; I guess the consensus is based on a meta-narrative or ur-narrative in that case rather than any one of these specific narratives. But that might be enough. For example, proponents of these various narratives will tend to agree that women and men are fundamentally different, that races are fundamentally different, etc. Or at the very least, they would have no principled objection to these empirical claims and could then deal with the relevant differences in a rational rather than ideological way. (Of course this is only the vaguest sketch of a possible answer to your aporetic argument.)

Jacques,

Thanks for the response.

"When you suggest consulting "surveys about what the folk think" I'm truly puzzled. Why on earth would we need surveys? We are the folk. Like other humans on earth we know that Bill Cosby and Queen Latifah are black, that Obama is half-black, that Rembrandt was not black, that Julianne Moore is white, and so on. And we have a bit of education so we know that these kinds of judgments correspond to facts about "phenotypes" that are themselves biological in origin: hair, skin, eye color, facial morphology, musculature, bone density, a zillion other things. I just can't imagine what it is that you think we don't yet know about this stuff."

Well, YOU might not need a survey--your bank of experience might be sufficient, but not for me. I'm not even sure given (which you'll grant) all of the left's obscurity and obfuscations about race and race terminology that we have a communally coherent concept of race. At any rate, what I had in mind was something like the following questions posed to people:
1. If two white people with little or no "black ancestry" gave birth to someone who looked, talked, and acted like Kanye West (call him Kanye East) would Kanye East (a) be white and seem black or (b) would he be a black man born to white parents?
2. If two white people with little or no "black ancestry" gave birth to someone who looked, talked, and acted like Kanye West (call him Kanye East) would Kanye East (a) be a member of the white race and seem black or (b) would he be a member of the black race but born to white parents?

You suggest that we all know the answer is (b). Not me.
3. Someone could be white if society classifies him as white due in part to certain characteristics (white skin, etc.) whether or not his genes which account for his features have European/Anglo lineage.
Etc.

Thanks for the link of the paper. I'll check it out and add it to my mental evidence bank. If I have time and have thoughts/questions I'll get back to you about it.

"If you aren't aware of any of these discoveries you need to read more about the science and less politically correct philosophy of race."

I'm aware but haven't had time to process all the data and competing claims/evidence. I claim no expertise on the issue. After a graduate class on race--one-sided, PC of course, I'm not looking to read continually more of the same.

But aside from the intrinsic good of getting to the truth of race ontology, race-constructivism or eliminativism don't seem to me wholly bad politically from a conservative point of view (on the assumption that either were true.) If eliminativism were true, there are no races. If constructivism were true then there are social practices we can engage in to eliminate races. But then it's plausible that we can eliminate racism by changing the way we practice classifying people (or there are no races to begin with--just people groups which don't correspond well to our racial categories). Neither of those positions, however, appear to be acceptable to race-baiters who make a living off of race division and warfare who talk out of two sides of their mouth on the issue. (Of course I'm not advocating pragmatism here when it comes to how one should decide the correct ontology of race.)

"Any normal person would recognize that Clarence Thomas and Marcus Garvey and some randomly chosen Bantu girl belong to one broad race, and that Julianne Moore and Vladimir Putin belong to another. In what way would this folk classification reflect two distinct "countries of origin"?"

Surely most normal people think that Obama belongs to the black race even though he had a white mother and they know this. Perhaps he belongs to two (or three or four) races or another sui generis race and they are deluded, but if you ask most people whether Obama belongs to the black race they'll say "yes." And if someone comes from Mexico they are considered by normal people in the U.S. to fit in the "racial" category of "latino"; whether they have more indigenous or European lineage doesn't matter. Do they speak Spanish and come from grandparents born in Mexico? Yes? They're "latino"!

Hi Tully,
You seem to be confusing two issues here. It's true that Obama "belongs to the black race" if racial belonging doesn't preclude belonging to "two (or three or four) races". But it's also true that he belongs to a large biological or ancestral group individuated by our best science, corresponding to the folk category "black". The relevant question is whether he belongs _only_ to the black race. Obviously not. And I can't imagine that any well-informed sensible person would say that he belongs only to the black race. So this isn't a case where folk categories depart from biology.

I grew up around a fair number of black and mixed race people and they all thought this way about race. (Question: why do we even have this term "mixed race"? Where does the term come from? What is it that is supposed to get "mixed", and how does that happen? Obviously this is a concept of a biological kind.) My closest friends in junior high were half-black and quarter-black, and they were very aware of not being fully black. Bob Marley's father was white; if you watch the movie "Marley" you can hear from friends and relatives about how he felt he was never fully accepted by blacks because he wasn't "really" or "fully" black. It's clear from Obama's own writings on race and identity that HE thinks of race in this way. Suffice it to say, there is a concept out there that has the features I claim for my "common sense" concept of race. Perhaps there are some folk who have some other concept. If so they should be informed of this very useful way of thinking about race as a biological concept.

Has there ever been a case where people with "little or no" sub-Saharan ancestry gave birth to someone who looks like Kanye West? I'm going to be very (very!) surprised if you can provide even one example of anything along these lines. In any case it doesn't seem important. If there could be some reason for judging this person to be black despite his entirely European ancestry, or if most of the "folk" would stick to that judgment even on reflection, so be it. Imagine that there actually are a few people like this. I spoke of a tendency to share ancestry, and that would still be true in the actual world of almost all whites and almost all blacks regardless of these very rare (and in fact merely possible) cases. Alternatively, it would be true of all whites -- even your imaginary Kanye -- that they belong to a group with a very strong tendency of that kind, grounded in biology. Our ordinary concepts evolved to represent all kinds of contingencies in the actual world; they may not be useful or determinate in their application to far-fetched possible worlds where things are totally different. This is not a reason to conclude that our concepts are incoherent.

The category of "Latinos" is not a racial category in my sense, for the reasons you note.

Jacques,

This will be my last reply; I have a busy next few days ahead so feel free to have the last word.

Maybe it would be best for me if you gave a definition of "black" in the racial sense. Mine is roughly a set or mereological sum of individuals with such and such phenotypical features; or perhaps there's no definition but Kanye is paradigmatic. :) That's the basic idea. I'm inclined to think that's the folk idea, but you disagree and I'll try not to belabor the point. That idea is consistent with people also thinking that those features are determined by genes which trace all the way back to a people group in Africa...or not.

"Bob Marley's father was white; if you watch the movie "Marley" you can hear from friends and relatives about how he felt he was never fully accepted by blacks because he wasn't "really" or "fully" black. It's clear from Obama's own writings on race and identity that HE thinks of race in this way. Suffice it to say, there is a concept out there that has the features I claim for my "common sense" concept of race. Perhaps there are some folk who have some other concept. If so they should be informed of this very useful way of thinking about race as a biological concept."

Maybe that's right. In contexts of racial discussion, there are at least two and maybe more meanings of (to stick with our stock example) "black." There's the phenotypical one I've been pressing, there's the one-drop-rule one (I know you don't like that one but surely you'll agree that there's at least a stipulative meaning of "black" with that meaning), there's the evolutionary people group one (yours), the "I identify as such one" (Rachel D.), etc. "Latino" is a racial term according to the folk, though, even if not in your sense. And this is why talking about race is often a dog's dinner. Perhaps instead of debating the ontology of race we should first be clear about what sense of "race" we're employing.

So I take it on your view, there are 5 pure races (is that right?) and everyone today is mixed to some extent, belonging to one race more than others if one has more evolutionary history with one of the original people groups. As such, without a biological sample to be tested, we can't determine the extent to which one belongs to one race or another, although we can hazard some decent guesses based on appearance. We say Obama is 1/2 black and 1/2 white, but that's not right if he has more African lineage than European or he has some East Asian. Suppose he's +50% genetically of African heritage (the originating people group that is). Is he rightly considered black or still mixed? Well, if we mean by "black" having identical genetics with the African population, he's not black; if we mean having enough to "look black," he is; if we mean have pure genes he's not--he's part black; if we mean "how he identifies" read the book or pick the day of the speech.
Again, I doubt the folk typically make such fine distinction. The default understanding today (I think) is that if you appear a certain way even if you're 30% black in your sense and both of your parents and grandparents look that way too, that's sufficient for being black and correctly calling oneself "black."

Well, I'll be disappointed if this is really the last word, though I can understand why maybe it should be :)

It seems to me I've already offered a definition of "black" in the racial sense: a group of people such that they tend to share significantly more (sub-Saharan) ancestry with each other than they share with other similarly defined groups.

So it is a family resemblance concept, like 'human' or 'dog' or 'Great Dane'. To be clear, my "definition" is meant to clarify the conditions under which this ordinary concept applies to people. It might be that some people, now or in the past, were not operating with a Fregean 'sense' along the lines of this definition (or weren't aware of doing so). My point is that all of our ordinary conceptual behavior with respect to 'race' concepts is nicely explained if we suppose that these are the truth/application conditions for such concepts, and not otherwise.

Consider just how inexplicable many traditional and currently normal uses of the concept would be if, instead, these conditions were purely phenotypic, as you claim. Old-fashioned anthropologists classified 'races' by ancestry. In old history books you find references to (e.g.) the "English race" and the "Irish race" which are plainly meant to apply to ancestry lines. In the old days Christians believed that some "races" were descended from Ham rather than Japeth, and that this was the basis for the "racial" difference. People used to distinguish 'mulattos' and 'octaroons' and 'half-bloods' in terms of their parentage. Indian tribes to this day use a 'blood quantum' criterion for membership in the band. The widely accepted idea that someone might 'pass' for white was premised on the idea that a person is fully or truly white only if that person has the right kinds of ancestry, regardless of how they might look or behave. I could go on. In order to make sense of all this racial talk, we have to suppose that people have long taken ancestry to be one condition (at least) for racial identity or membership. If there are multiple race concepts, I claim that the one I'm proposing is the most central, the most common and widely accepted, the most useful... So in any case there's no problem with using this one for political or philosophical purposes.

I think you are conflating truth conditions for racial claims with verification conditions. When we classify people as human in ordinary life, we usually rely on phenotypes, but it doesn't follow, surely, that the concept of a human being = the concept of something with those phenotypes. Rather, the phenotypes are a generally reliable way of judging humanity because they are so deeply and systemically correlated with human ancestry.

I don't know what a "pure" race is. Since race is a family resemblance concept, purity has only a relative or contextual meaning. Thus, being black couldn't be a matter of "having identical genetics with the African population" since there is no particular set of "identical" genetics across all Africans. Obama is "half black" in some rough comparative sense. Just as a McGregor with a MacDonald mother is "half MacDonald". There is no unique set of "pure genes" that MacDonalds share, in virtue of which they are MacDonalds. Of course we can _make_ all of this really complicated and confusing if we try hard enough. Maybe in some scientific context we might want to say that Obama is 60% black or African. It doesn't matter; there is an underlying biological reality here that we approximate pretty well with our ordinary judgments about racial identity, most of the time. So the concept is no worse in that respect than ordinary concepts of human beings, mammals, living things, etc.

You may be right that nowadays people are willing to say you're "black" provided that (1) you're 30% black in my sense and (2) you and your parents and grandparents look black. Granting this for the sake of argument, I don't see how it bears on my proposed definition of blackness or race.

If we make the question precise by asking "Is this person _only_ a member of the black race, even though 70% of his ancestry is Swedish?" I can't imagine why any normal person would answer "Yes, only a member of that race and no other one". People just do very commonly distinguish between those who are members of only one race (however individuated in the context) and those who have high degrees of ancestry from very different races (however individuated). Again, it's very common for blacks themselves to point this out and even to emphasize this point for political reasons. In any case, even if people generally answered that the person is "purely" black or African, that would only show that in some fairly rare borderline cases their judgments fail to track the biological properties that interest me. Well, in that same way, folk judgments about mass or velocity sometimes come apart from the physical facts; it doesn't follow that folk physics fails to correspond pretty well to some real and important physical properties.

As I say, I hope it's not the last word. I've enjoyed the back-and-forth...

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