October 7, 2013

Does Race Exist (part 49)?

Here are a couple of professors of philosophy debating the existence of race.

Adam Hochman explains "how to be a social constructionist about race in the post-genomic era."
In his recent article Race: a social destruction of a biological concept, Sesardic argues that social constructionists have been ‘refuting’ a straw-man characterisation of racial naturalism, the view that ‘race’ is a legitimate biological category (Sesardic, 2010). Social constructionists have burdened the concept of race, he claims, with clearly unacceptable essentialist connotations; all with the aim of dismissing it outright. In light of the modern synthesis, with its rejection of species essentialism, we are committed to the rejection of racial essentialism. The task for race naturalists, then, is to develop a “biologically informed but non-essentialist concept of race” (Sesardic, 2010, p. 146). 
But what are race naturalists made of, if not straw?

Neven Sesardic responds to Hochman in Confusions about race: A new installment.

14 comments:

McGillicuddy said...

Much better argument, much better writing.

Sesardic 2 Hochman 0

Anonymous said...

I like to think I'm reasonably bright, but can someone translate that paragraph into English?

OK, I think I get that a "social constructionist" thinks that race is a social construct. But what's this "essentialism"?

I'd have thought the only question worth asking is "is the (admittedly imperfect in an increasingly diversified world) concept of "race" of any practical use in describing the world, and does it have any predictive validity?

John Derbyshire said...

"Your essence is what you are; your existence is that you are."
(Mid-20C English schoolmasters.)

Luke Lea said...

OK, I think I get that a "social constructionist" thinks that race is a social construct. But what's this "essentialism"?

Perhaps this quote from Wittgenstein will help:

"Consider for example the proceedings that we call "games." I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all?

—Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games' "—but look and see whether there is anything common to all.

—For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don't think, but look!"

The belief that there must be something that is common to all members of a class and that every thing that shares that common something is a member of the class, corresponds, I think, to the idea of essentialism. But there may be more to it than this. I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

As the blogs resident Millikan fan, I like to jump in and mention Millikan's realist views. Millikan discusses what she, after Aristotle, calls substances. A substance is anything that retains properties across time because of the operation of natural forces. So you know what to expect when going to see a Romanesque church because the style was copied in various instances. This copying of stylistic elements produced a similarity between the individuals. Besides copying (of genes or properties) she mentions 2 other natural forces that produce similarities between members: the environment, and homeostasis (I won't go into these). She doesn't discuss race but mentions cultural and ethnic groups as examples of substances she calls historical kinds. But it is easy to see race as a Millikan substance as the genes for skin pigmentation and so on are copied between individuals, and how the historical environment produced and maintained similarities between members.

Bill said...

Wait, is Hochman's argument "race, like species, doesn't exist?"

AMac said...

"Who are you gonna believe, social constructionists or your lyin' eyes?"

Part 50: Steve Hsu post from 2009 reprinting a 1966 Cafalli-Svorza figure demonstrating racial clusters by principal component analysis of five genetic loci.

Part 51: Razib Khan's January 2013 post reprinting a 23andMe PCA analysis showing obvious clustering by race.

Parts 52-on: Google Images search for "princpal component analysis" human ethnic.

Your Lying Eyes.

pat said...

The first video for which I wrote a script was inspired by a Steve Sailer posting on education. The second script was on 'Race as a Social Construct'.

I posted other videos on other topics but I'll get back to these.

I got stuck on the Social Construct topic. Most of this so-called theory is just errant nonsense but there is a math oriented argument from Richard Lewontin. I could just quote the refutation of Lewontin by Harpending, but I wanted to really understand the math first. I still haven't done so.

The 'Social Construct' approach seems to hold a lot of appeal for Marxists. That doesn't seem to be well appreciated. I didn't want to just give ad hominem arguments ( i.e. "They're all a bunch of commies") so I have to discuss the philosophical roots of Marxism. I got bogged down.

Albertosaurus

Harry Baldwin said...

Key quotes from the Sesardic article:

"If you think in terms of taxonomies of race, you will make the dangerous conclusion that race will explain violence," says Dr. Troy Duster, a sociologist at New York University. . . "Anything that invites the perception of African Americans as biologically different is a huge worry," said Dr. Gregg Bloche, a Georgetown University physician who studies racial disparities in health care."

That's basically what this whole debate is about. Science must be sacrificed in order to resist acknowledging that the wrong people might have been right about something fundamental.

Anonymous said...

Race is more like a Social Recognition.

There are enough noticeable group differences that can be recognized into a social category. People have eyes and ears and notice things.

If we were to blank out everyone's minds of the notion and start from scratch, some concept of 'race' will arise all over again since people can't help but to recognize patterns.

Granted races can be categorized differently. And the 19th century science of race cannot be accepted today. But just because an earlier theory has been rejected doesn't mean that all theories should be rejected.
I mean much of 19th century views of chemistry and physics have been rejected too, but they were replaced with new and better ones. It would be be stupid to reject the entire theory of chemistry.

Btw, why stop at 'social construct'? Why not just say all of reality is a mental construct since the only proof that reality exists happens to be in our consciousness. If we didn't have consciousness, we wouldn't know about reality, which might as well not even exist.

And I suppose the concept of life is a social construct since it is living beings that differentiated themselves from non-living things. For non-living things, no such concept of 'life' exists since no concept of any kind exists as awareness itself doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

"Anything that invites the perception of African Americans as biologically different is a huge worry"

Yes, it must be a huge worry since even white liberals flee from black areas based on the knowledge that blacks are stronger and more aggressive.

Harry Baldwin said...

Yes, it must be a huge worry since even white liberals flee from black areas based on the knowledge that blacks are stronger and more aggressive.

I don't think "stronger" is key. I think aggressiveness and indifference to consequences are key. The fact that a man is willing to become extremely violent over minor issues and doesn't care that he will end up in prison as a result is what's so hard to deal with. A strength differential can be equalized with a firearm. The problem is you really don't want to be put in the position of having to shoot someone. It may save your life, but at tremendous cost.

Anonymous said...

"A strength differential can be equalized with a firearm. The problem is you really don't want to be put in the position of having to shoot someone. It may save your life, but at tremendous cost."

Yeah. Look at Zimmerman. It's better to move away from blacks.
But section 8 is spreading them all over the place.

Anonymous said...

[Re: blacks] I don't think "stronger" is key. I think aggressiveness and indifference to consequences are key.

Indifference to consequences = having nothing to lose. Having something to lose is not so much a white trait, but a middle-class one. It could be savings, house, family, career (which is far more than just a job), reputation, or clean criminal record.

People tend to underestimate that any sort of criminal record, or even suspicion of illegal activity, is quite the career-killer. For the street thug floating from welfare to donut-shovelling jobs, it matters little.