Racism and Philosophy

Racism and Philosophy

Racism and Philosophy

Racism and Philosophy


By definitively establishing that racism has broad implications for how the entire field of philosophy is practiced-and by whom-this powerful and convincing book puts all members of the discipline on notice that racism concerns them. It simultaneously demonstrates to race theorists the significance of philosophy for their work. A distinguished cast of authors takes a stand on the importance of race, focusing on the insights that analyses of race and racism can make to philosophy-not just to ethics and political philosophy but also to the more abstract debates of metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and epistemology. Contemporary philosophy, the authors argue, continues to evade racism and, as a result, often helps to promote it. At the same time, anti-racist theorists in many disciplines regularly draw on crucial notions of objectivity, rationality, agency, individualism, and truth without adequate knowledge of philosophical analyses of these very concepts. Racism and Philosophy demonstrates the impossibility of talking thoughtfully about race without recourse to philosophy. Written to engage readers with a wide variety of interests, this is an essential book for all theorists of race and for all philosophers.


The ideological dependence on racialism is intact and, like its metaphysical existence, offers in historical, political and literary discourse a safe route into meditations on morality and ethics; a way of examining the mind-body dichotomy; a way of thinking about justice; a way of contemplating the modern world.

—Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark:
Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

Racism must be of concern to all philosophers in all areas of philosophy. Racism is not just a topic for ethics and political philosophy. The existence of systemic racism—its consequences for the structures of the societies in which philosophy is done, as well as for how philosophy has been done and by whom—has deep implications for epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophical methodology.

The contributors to this volume attempt to identify and clarify important structures of meaning through which Western philosophy has both evaded acknowledgment of racism and has, at the same time, offered influential conceptual schemas that have helped produce the destructive racializations of contemporary society.In rethinking the implications of philosophical accounts of the social contract; the great chain of being; the idea of history; the liberal analysis of harm, of persons, and of rationality, this volume suggests that acknowledging the importance of racism can effectively inform the development of questions in all areas of philosophy.

There is an urgency to this task. Although Olufemi Taiwo and Nkiru Nzegwu point out that it is a mistake to understand racism uniquely in terms of a U.S. model, the racial situation of the United States has a particular significance for philosophy.One consequence of U.S. economic, military, and ideological power is that it is increasingly assumed that one philosophical world view has triumphed.Not only must philosophers understand the varied forms and expressions of racism, we must also come to grips with particular racial contexts in which certain philosophical understandings . . .

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