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A Theory of Race Hardcover – December 4, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0415990721 ISBN-10: 0415990726 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (December 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415990726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415990721
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,989,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Glasgow’s book is a lucid, measured, and extremely valuable contribution to current discourse about race. It will go into the canon of serious analysis of race which has to be consulted by careful scholars."
-Naomi Zack, University of Oregon

"Joshua Glasgow’s blend of argumentation, analysis, and experimental philosophy is deeply engaging and thought-provoking. His arguments about the conservation of race, its reality, the meaning of ordinary racial terms, and the folk conception of race will be a reference point for debates within the philosophy of race for years to come."
-Ronald Sundstrom, University of San Francisco

"Glasgow has written a very readable and useful book on race theory. This is an important book for introducing the concepts, theories, and methodologies involved in race discussions. . . . Highly recommended."
-L. L. Lovern, Valdosta State University, CHOICE, August 2009

"There is much in Glasgow's discussion that deserves close attention for he engages recent work in philosophy of language, philosophy of science, and ethics at a high level.  His arguments deserve careful consideration and discussion."
-Sally Haslanger, MIT

"Joshua Glasgow has written a wonderful book on race.  Thoughtful, clear, and provocative, it advances the discussion in significant ways."
-Michael O. Hardimon, UC San Diego

"Joshua Glasgow's A Theory of Race is a knowledgeable, insightful and well written treatment of a sweeping range of topics concerning race and racial classification.  It is, as a result, a book that everyone interested in race or in the metaphysics of a socially significant human category should read."
-Ron Mallon, University of Utah


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University of California, Berkeley, USA

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Quayshawn N. Spencer on April 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
Anyone who is open to thoughtful and thought-provoking philosophical analysis on the metaphysical status of race should read this book. I personally found myself disagreeing with quite a bit of the author's views, but I also believe that the worth of a good philosophy book does not depend on whether I agree with the author's views. Rather, I believe that the worth of a good philosophy book rests in its creativity, thoughtfulness, provocativeness, informativeness, and rigorous argumentation. This book has all of that, and as a result, I was glad to have read it. Here's a summary of what the book contains.

Glasgow begins in chapter 1 by clarifying the race debate. He distinguishes the normative, conceptual, metaphysical, and methodological questions that all need to be answered in order to engage in the race debate in a sophisticated way and in a way that connects to the history of the debate. In short, the normative question concerns whether we should conserve ordinary racial discourse, the conceptual question asks what 'race' means, the methodological question asks how we should figure out what 'race' means, and the metaphysical question asks whether race is real, and if so, how. In chapter 2, Glasgow provides his original answer to the conceptual question. He finds that there is what he calls a "non-negotiable" morphological connotation to 'race'. In chapter 3, Glasgow provides a defense of his methodological approach, which is a combination of experimental study and conceptual analysis. Chapter 4 involves a summary of the results from Glasgow's original empirical research on the meaning of 'race'. The result is supposed to be that empirical analysis corroborates the meaning of 'race' articulated in chapter 2.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence M. Hinman on June 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was superb: lucid, beautifully organized, and strongly argued. glasgow has a truly impressive command of the empirical as well as philosophical literature in its many branches (e.g., not just literature specifically about race, but also philosophical work on natural kinds, etc.) and he has the ability to always remain in command of the details rather than be overwhelmed by them. The result is that the reader can follow his argument step-by-step with a clear sense of what's already been accomplished and what still lies ahead. In the end, I still have much sympathy for the account that Boxill and others advance, but Glasgow makes the strongest possible case for his rejection of various possible forms of biological realism in regard to race and, in addition, sheds considerable light on the conceptual landscape along the way. Whether you agree with Glasgow or not, your thinking will be clearer as a result of reading this book.
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8 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Viewer on January 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
Although people are pretty accurate at assigning people to different racial groups, there is an influential argument purporting to show that any such phenotypic categories are actually arbitrary and lack objective validity. This so-called ``independent variation argument'' is one that Glasgow makes. This is similar to the argument made by Jared Diamond in 1994:

"There are many different, equally valid procedures for defining races, and
those different procedures yield very different classifications... Faced with
such differing classifications, many anthropologists today conclude that one
cannot recognize any human races at all. (Diamond 1994, 84)"

However, these this goes against the entrenched common sense belief that racial recognition is not actually based on a single trait (like skin color) but rather on a number of characteristics. This makes classification fairly reliable (something Diamond acknowledges at the end of his article). Also, forensic anthopologists are able to identify a persons race very effectively. Recently it was found that it is sufficient to use as few as 13 characteristics to have the posterior probability of the correct classification attain the value of 99% (Konigsberg et al. 2009).

Despite this, Glasgow writes: "multiplying phenotypic racial traits has the result...that...they correlate with one another in no particular order, throwing the alleged features for biological racial reality into an unorganized mess."

Actually, as recently pointed out by Nevan Sesardic, this is completely backwards. In fact, multiplying relevant phenotypic racial traits brings more order and structure, and indeed lays ground for an objective biological classification (Biol Philos 2010 - see pdf in comment below).
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