Philosophy of Science and Race

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415941648
ISBN-10: 0415941644
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Philosophy of Science and Race + The Idea of Race (Hackett Publishing Co.)
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Editorial Reviews


An important contribution to current debates on subjects related to race.
–Tommy Lott, Philosophy, San Jose State University

About the Author

Naomi Zack is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. She is known for her work in the philosophy of race and gender. She is the author of Race and Mixed Race (1993) and Bachelors of Science (1996) and has edited several anthologies, including RACE/SEX (1997) also published by Routledge.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (September 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415941644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415941648
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,875,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on December 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a useful and interesting book for anyone interested in philosophical questions about Race, or the philosophy of social science. Zack gives a clear and provocative presentation of the argument that our folk categories of race are scientifically and philosophically unsound. Her argument depends on a more reductive account of the sciences than I hold, but her arguments are clear and need to be considered by anyone working in the area. I highly recommend the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Naomi Zack (born 1944) is Professor Emerita at University at Albany, NY. She has also written/edited Thinking About Race, American Mixed Race: The Culture of Microdiversity, Inclusive Feminism: A Third Wave Theory of Women's Commonality, Race/Sex: Their Sameness, Difference and Interplay (Thinking Gender), Women of Color and Philosophy: A Critical Reader, The Handy Philosophy Answer Book (The Handy Answer Book Series), and Ethics for Disaster (Studies in Social, Political, and Legal Philosophy).

She states in the Preface to this 2002 book, "While the full scientific story about the nonexistence of human races does require some patience and concentration to grasp, it does not require any more preparation and training than other subjects about which educated people feel obligated to know something... That is why, as a philosopher, I decided to compose a detailed conceptual account of how the idea of race fails at this time to have a support in the relevant contemporary sciences...
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Viewer on June 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Zack thinks that unless you have discrete and mutually exclusive categories then you can't have biological races. This argument was shot down years ago. For instance, T. G. Dobzhansky in the sixties warned about the fallacious reasoning of "some new-fashioned writers, who claim that since races are not airtight pigeonholes they do not exist at all."

Research by the likes of L. L. Cavalli-Sforza shows that geographic populations with distinct ancestry and recognizable phenotypic traits also exhibit systematic differences in allele frequencies at a number of genetic loci.

Surprisingly, Zack also quotes Stephen Jay Gould's book 'Mismeasure of Man' with approval. This is despite the book being viewed as almost scientifically worthless by those in the relevant fields. For instance, Zack accepts Gould's claim that the general intelligence factor (g) is just a statistical artifact devoid of psychological reality. However, neuroscience researchers continue to investigate 'g' (see Thompson & Gray - Neurobiological Basis for Intelligence Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5, 471-482 (June 2004).

Zack rejects the hypotheses that there are group differences in cranial capacity and brain size, and that brain size is correlated with IQ ("Gould's debunking of such anthropometry is justifiably acclaimed"), although in reality these hypotheses happen to be well confirmed empirically. For instance, Leigh Van Valen found a statistically significant correlation between brain size and IQ in an important
paper from 1974, and his prediction that the correlation will prove to be
even stronger with better measurements was later corroborated (Deary 2010).

Zack's book would be more interesting if she addressed more contemporary arguments, rather than focussing on 18th century ones.
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10 of 30 people found the following review helpful By H. Montgomery on October 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
A book which purports to prove that there is "no such thing as race", might do well to begin with a good pragmatic definition of race. As Zack has failed to do so let me provide one for her. Race consists of acquired heritable differencs in human groups which evolve in geographical isolation.

Most of the obvious racial differences are environmental adaptions to climactic conditions. There is no scientific reason to assume, however, that these differences can only be superficial.

Whilst it is accepted that the climate of the Eurasian biome (relatively low sunlight) gave a selective advantage to fair skin, it is not accepted that the geographical demands of Eurasia placed a premium on certain non-physical qualities. Why?

It seems obvious that the long winters and difficult terrain of Eurasia required a human population which had an enhanced ability for organisation, co-operation and forward planning. Thus it does not seem outrageous to assume that these qualities have been selectevely "bred" into the peoples of Eurasia over the 40,000 year period of their separation from the mother continent. This would mean of course that race was indeed more than a case of skin colour. This hypothesis seems to be an anathema to the scientific and academic establishment for reasons which are perhaps more ideological than logical.

This is a stuffy and fearful book which hides behind pretentious jargon such as, "invalid taxonomic construct".Despite their scientific veneer, Zack's arguments failed to convince me. Reduced to plain english these arguments would convince no-one.

If race is really such an invalid concept, why do we require near constant reminding of its unreality? The concept of race clearly explains something meaningful to human beings, if not to over indulged academics.
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