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A Realist Metaphysics of Race

A Context-Sensitive, Short-Term Retentionist, Long-Term Revisionist Approach

Jeremy Pierce

A Realist Metaphysics of Race: A Context-Sensitive, Short-Term Retentionist, Long-Term Revisionist Approach, Jeremy Pierce defends a social kind view of racial categories. On this view, the biological features we use to classify people racially do not make races natural kinds. Rather, races exist because of contingent social practices, single out certain groups of people as races, give them social importance, and allow us to name them as races. Pierce also identifies several kinds of context-sensitivity as central to how racial categorization works and argues that we need racial categories to identify problems in how our racial constructions are formed, including the harmful effects of racial constructions. Hence, rather than seeking to eliminate such categories, Pierce argues that we should also make efforts to change the conditions that generate their problematic elements, with an eye toward retaining only the unproblematic aspects.
A Realist Metaphysics of Race contains insights relevant not just to professional philosophers in metaphysics, philosophy of race, social philosophy, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science, but also to students and scholars working in sociology, biology, anthropology, ethnic studies, and political science.

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Lexington Books
Pages: 178Size: 6 x 9
978-0-7391-7560-6 • Hardback • December 2014 • $85.00 • (£54.95)
978-0-7391-7561-3 • eBook • December 2014 • $84.99 • (£54.95)
Jeremy Pierce teaches philosophy at Le Moyne College.
Chapter 1: Natural Kinds and the Analogy of Species
Chapter 2: Natural Kinds and Race
Chapter 3: Classic Anti-Realism
Chapter 4: Glasgow’s Anti-Realism
Chapter 5: Social Construction and Biological Constructionism
Chapter 6: Races and the Metaphysics of Objects and Groups
Chapter 7: Context-Sensitive Features of Racial Classification
Chapter 8: The Ethics of the Metaphysics of Race
Chapter 9: Colorblindness, Implicit Bias, and Essentialized Categories
Pierce . . . discusses how more recent ways of classifying people racially are incompatible with the one-drop rule and that rule's dependence on a clear-cut U.S. black-white binary. . . .I respect Pierce for hoping that future generations can accomplish some measure of racial justice. I would recommend this book to analytic metaphysicians, philosophers of race, philosophers of biology, philosophers of language, and anyone else who might be interested in how contemporary analytic metaphysics can help us conceive of race and how racial classifications work. . . .Pierce's philosophical prose gracefully weaves together . . . apparently disparate topics.
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Jeremy Pierce masterfully applies contemporary analytic work on the metaphysics of natural kinds to the question of the existence of races. He argues that races are social constructions rather than biological kinds; while this makes talk of races problematic in some ways, Pierce claims that we should continue to use race-talk while correcting some of its problematic features, as to stop talking about races would be to overlook important historical injustices. This book will be of great significance to anyone interested in philosophical questions about race.
Ben Bradley, Syracuse University

In A Realist Metaphysics of Race, Jeremy Pierce clearly lays out the terrain of the leading theories about what races are (that is, if they ‘are’ at all) and gives a compelling argument that they are social constructions. Races, in his view, are real; they are not natural kinds, but social kinds—and social kinds with important context sensitivities. While primarily a work in ‘applied metaphysics’, Pierce’s treatment ranges broadly—and competently—across a wide range of philosophical sub-disciplines: philosophy of science, philosophy of language, experimental philosophy, contextualism. The result is a nuanced and informative coverage of important issues that philosophers—and the discipline of philosophy—cannot afford to ignore.
Kevin Timpe, Northwest Nazarene University

Philosophy of race is a vibrant, maturing field and Jeremy Pierce's book is a cutting-edge addition to the literature. He offers perhaps the most thorough critique of Joshua Glasgow's anti-realism thus far and his defense of social constructionism is novel in a number of respects. Most notably, he pushes us to take seriously the idea that social practices can be generative of racial difference as an experienced reality without thereby creating the groups we call races. His suggestion that these groups pre-exist the social constructions that make them significant is a fascinating metaphysical proposal.
Chike Jeffers, Dalhousie University