What is “racial realism”? This question could be raising social issues as well as, or instead of, biological ones. The paper is concerned only with biological issues. (So, it is not concerned with the sad history of notions of race being used as instruments of discrimination and oppression.) In addressing the biological issues, I emphasize the distinction between alleged race taxa – for example, Amerindians - and the category Race. I take both the taxon and category issue to be about whether kinds are explanatory. I argue that realism about alleged race taxa is clearly true. Some biological species have intraspecific kinds, differing in minor ways, that biologists often call “races”. These kinds are biologically explanatory in virtue of having part intrinsic and part historical essences. The human species is one that has such intraspecific kinds. Turning to the issue of realism about the category Race, I reject the objection that alleged biological races are not “worthy of the name” ‘race’. The more serious objection is that the category Race is not explanatory. If it is not, it is in the same boat as the higher Linnaean categories. I argue that all of these categories are “minimally” explanatory in marking out, in a rough and ready way, levels in the taxon hierarchy. I emphasize that neither the biological taxon doctrine nor the biological category doctrine gives credence to obnoxious racist theories of race.

Presented by: Prof Michael Devitt

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