Despite the surging interest in the philosophy of race, little has been said about mixed-race identity. Why? One diagnosis is an implicit essentialism operating in the background of much racial theorising. This is not an essentialism that tells us for any given race, there is some natural property the possession of which determines whether one belongs to that race. Rather, it is about the racial taxonomic system itself; a second-order essentialism. This tells us that racial taxonomy is fixed, or tolerates only minor regional variations. We are, more or less, stuck with the categories Black, Indigenous, Asian, White. Second-order essentialism should be rejected. Recognising this reveals a new position in an existing debate. Racial categories should neither be simply conserved nor eliminated completely. Instead, we can revise racial taxonomy by either expanding or contracting its constituent categories. I argue for a revisionist view called expansionism. In the spirit of conceptual engineering, we should aspire to expand racial taxonomy to include categories that accurately depict the complex experiences of mixed-race people. But this must only be done in line with a “responsible” multiracial politics. I spell out what this means and suggest a new, community-first approach to conceptual engineering.


Room 01-E302 and Online, contact Dr Guillermo Badia at for the zoom link.