Re: Are There Races?

28 Nov 1996 15:04:13 GMT

In article <572tga$>, G*rd*n <+@+.+> wrote:
>| >No, not at all. One can't write a biological or physical
>| >description of a "race" that fits the social construction.
>| >You're quite welcome to try, though. Start out with your
>| >definitions and your evidence and proceed.
> ():
>| I started up a discussion called, "What Are the Race Deniers Denying?",
>| and it did go into the issue of whether race is a social construction and
>| supposedly therefore that race has no biological meaning.
>Whether race has biological meaning or not is not a result
>of race being a social construction. There's no doubt that
>it's a social construction; this doesn't prevent it from
>being biological, but doesn't require it either.

Would you please explain just what a "social construction" is? Concepts
are not things preexisting *out there* but rather abstractions of the
stuff out there made by men. Sets and numbers are excellent examples. Now,
concepts can be deep or shallow, useful or useless, and so on. Of course,
concepts do originate in individual brains and until it is propagated, a
concept would be private, not social. But other than my own private
concepts (that is, ideas I am chewing over in my own mind), all the
concepts I know about are social.

So saying that race is a social construct seems rather trivial to me.

>| to find out what the race deniers would count as a meaningfully biological
>| race. That thread has degenerated into attacks on Bob Whitaker.
>See above. By the way, some anthropologists have used the
>term "race" to denote various biologically-based groupings.
>The problem is not that one can't define "races" but that
>there isn't a biological definition which corresponds to the
>social definition, especially in North America, where the
>issue is so exciting.

I'm not sure that there is only one social definition of race in North
America, but your assertion means, I take it, that you have examined all
the proposed biological definitions of race and have found none of them
corresponding to "the" social definition.

Also, are biologists social? They write articles, attend conferences, and
so on.

And why is a lack of correspondence a "problem"?

>| But let me just ask this: how many cultures are there in the world?
>It depends on what you call "a culture." It's usually
>a vague term whose meaning has to be taken from context.

I was just bringing this up because one of the arguments against the
existence of races is that anthropologists come up with wildly different
accounts. This supposedly implies that race is just a cultural construct.
If so, then cultures have to be real. But using the same argument against
the existence of races, namely that there is no agreement as to their
numbers, could be against the reality of cultures as well. No cultures, no
cultural (or social) constructs.

Frank Forman
"It is a far, far better thing to be firmly
anchored in nonsense than to put out on the
troubled seas of thought" - John Kenneth Galbraith