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What Is Race?Four Philosophical Views$
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Joshua Glasgow, Sally Haslanger, Chike Jeffers, and Quayshawn Spencer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190610173

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190610173.001.0001

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Is Race an Illusion or a (Very) Basic Reality?

Is Race an Illusion or a (Very) Basic Reality?

(p.111) 4 Is Race an Illusion or a (Very) Basic Reality?
What Is Race?

Joshua Glasgow

Oxford University Press

Joshua Glasgow argues in this chapter that ‘race’ in the ordinary sense is defined such that races are supposed to be large groups of humans organized according to certain visible traits, like skin color. Biology cannot validate the existence of such groups, even if it can identify other human populations. So Glasgow argues that race is not biologically real. And because the relevant traits do not change when social facts change, race is not a social construction. This suggests that race is not socially real, either. Consequently, it seems that race is not real. However, Glasgow also considers another possibility: that race is real, neither biologically nor socially, but in a more basic sense. According to this view, races are real by virtue of facts that find no home in any of the sciences, biological or social. Their only significance is that which people choose to give them. In the course of making his arguments, Glasgow explores how we should identify the meanings of our terms and how to proceed when scientific and ordinary meanings diverge. He concludes by leaving it open whether race is simply not real, or whether it is real in that basic sense.

Keywords:   race, biology, identity, social construction, basic realism, anti-realism

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