Philosopher Quayshawn Spencer on "How to Be a Biological Racial Realist"
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October 06, 2012, 12:11 AM
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Philosophy is a field that moves slowly, but tends to have some long term impact on the climate of thought because philosophers eventually get around to thinking very carefully about questions.

On the other hand, philosophers tend to be limited by not knowing — or at least not caring to know — a lot of facts. Personally, for example, I find that having a big mental grab bag of facts and noticed tendencies that I can juxtapose into novel analogies is useful to the way I like to think, but that`s too anarchic for philosophy.Philosopher Quayshawn Spencer

So far, the quality of philosophical thinking about race as been mediocre, with lots of credulous Race Does Not Exist jabber, but a young African American philosophy professor at USF named Quayshawn Spencer is setting out to improve it. Here`s an invitation to a talk he`s giving at UCSD:

Dear Friends of Philosophy,

You are invited to the next Friday, October 12th, colloquium with Professor Quayshawn Spencer, University of San Francisco, who will be giving a talk entitled "How to Be a Biological Racial Realist ." His colloquium will take place from 4:00 – 6:00p in the Seminar Room, H&SS 7077. Reception to follow.

In this talk, I will show that the case for biological racial realism is more formidable than philosophers have thought, provided that one adopts the right semantic, metaphysical, and biological assumptions.  Specifically, I will argue that given a referentialist account of the meaning of ‘race’, a genuine kind account of biologically real kindhood, a fuzzy graph-theoretic account of populations, and the landmark results from Noah Rosenberg et al. (2002; 2005) on human population substructure, one can fashion a respectable account of race as the “B-partition” of metapopulations in a species (or “BPM race theory”).  After developing this nuanced biological theory of race, I defend it against popular criticisms, such as semantic objections (e.g. Feldman 2008), metaphysical objections (Gannett 2003; Kaplan and Winther 2012), and sampling and other methodological objections (Kittles and Weiss 2003; Kalinowski 2011).  I finish by discussing how BPM race theory fares with racial constructivism, and how it might inform issues that social and political philosophers care about.
Keep in mind that "realism" in philosophy isn`t used the way I use "realism" (i.e., urbane impatience with lies, ignorance, spin, and wishful thinking). In philosophy, "realism" just means you are arguing that something is real.

But, this looks to be an important starting point. Here`s Dr. Spencer`s home page.

Personally, I`ve long argued that the usual race realist standpoint of thinking of races as subspecies in the Linnaean framework has reached diminishing returns. Instead, there is much to gained by my new framework where we think of racial groups as big extended families given more and longer coherence by some degree of inbreeding.

Here`s a short article demonstrating that bettors at the Kentucky Derby think more like I do than they think like the great Linnaeus.