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45892Re: In brief

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  • jimstuart51
    Dec 7, 2008
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      I feel the posts in this thread have been thoughtful and
      constructive, especially given the sensitive nature of the subject

      One central issue is the question of whether to engage in a
      philosophical discussion of racism, assuming the concept of race to
      be a valid concept, is itself to fall into racist attitudes. Thus Wil

      "In any case, one could roll one's eyes and accuse me of deliberately
      being difficult, were it not of the fact that the problem here is
      with the actual concept of RACISM ITSELF, and that includes the
      delicate matter of the 'ism' of race. Using race as a thing-unto-
      itself, as a virtual metaphysic, as a natural difference in the great
      chain of being or the tree of life, etc., is a racist act, regardless
      of whether this is done as it were benignly." (45883)

      As against this, Louise calls for philosophers to accept the concept
      of race as valid and to address this matter more thoroughly than

      "Racial instincts, though, manifest in a non-intellectual way all the
      time. I think it would be greatly to the benefit of society if this
      were acknowledged, and an interest in discussing race could flourish,
      instead of the current situation, in which the mention of the topic
      in mainstream quarters tends to evoke immediate embarrassment or
      hostility. And may readily lead straight to the police cell, and the
      courts. The hysterical and offensive outbursts of those with little
      to say that stands up to any scrutiny would soon be eclipsed, if
      serious people were shown due respect." (45874)

      I think both these view can be accommodated if the philosophical
      discussion centres on the question whether or not the concept of race
      is a valid concept.

      On one side, the more scientifically-orientated philosophers may
      argue that race is a `natural kind' term which can be used to pick
      out, in an objective way, individuals who fall under one or other
      racial category.

      On the other side, the more subjectively-orientated philosophers may
      argue that the whole idea of a natural-kind concept is dubious. They
      would argue that the concepts we use answer to our interests, and if
      we view a conceptual distinction as not being in our interests than
      that distinction is to be rejected as invalid.

      Nietzsche argued for this latter view when pouring score on those
      ascetic individuals who put a disinterested `will to truth' above all
      else. He views such individuals as weak and `anti-life'. Of course
      the irony here is that the concept of race was one which featured in
      Nietzsche's writings. Whilst I would not consider Nietzsche a racist,
      he seems to come out as a `benign racist' according to Wil's
      criterion, as he seems to accept the validity of the concept of race.

      Another irony is that for Louise, she wishes the concept of race to
      be discussed for cultural reasons. She is concerned that the British
      white culture is not allowed to die out. Leftists and liberals are
      often keen to defend the rights of minority cultures to survive
      untainted by Western imperialism and capitalism. Western liberals
      like myself feel that the native Indians of America and the
      Aborigines of Australia have a right to protect their own culture
      from extinction, but we feel uneasy when white British people argue
      for the same right of protection.

      I have some sympathy for those traditional cultures who do not wish
      to be subsumed by Western capitalism. I don't want a MacDonalds in
      every primitive village, or the top television companies beaming out
      their lies from a television in every public meeting place.

      On the other hand wishing to preserve one's own culture or race in
      some sort of `pure' form makes me very uneasy as well.

      Louise may say that all races are different but equal, however most
      people who argue that races are different also view them as unequal.
      Those cases where one race has aggressively attempted to destroy
      another race are often case where the aggressor views the individuals
      of their opponent race as not fully human – not even human at all. In
      fact all war and killing seems to involve the combatants as being
      brain-washed to see their enemies as lacking in humanity. (I have
      just seen the excellent film "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" (USA
      2008, director Mark Herman) which illustrates such attitudes very

      The way forward, in my view, if for the philosopher to argue that all
      human beings – whatever their racial or cultural background – are
      fully human, and, as such, are equally valuable in themselves, and,
      because of this, deserve to be treated with benevolence and respect,
      as `ends in themselves, and never as means'. Kant argued for this
      view in theory, but I gather that in practice he was not quite able
      to see some foreigners as fully human.

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