Quayshawn Spencer (University of Pennsylvania): “A metaphysical mapping problem for race theorists and human population geneticists” (in Remapping Race in a Global Context)

Feb 22, 2023, 4:30 pm6:00 pm
Laura Wooten Hall, Room 301 (Kerstetter Room)
Free and Open to the Public


Event Description

Ira W. DeCamp Bioethics Seminars

ABSTRACT: I begin by identifying a mapping phenomenon that’s almost 20 years old. The phenomenon is that the populations that occur at the fivefold subdivision of Homo sapiens into biological populations correspond one-to-one with the five official races of the Office of Management and Budget in the US government. Next, I show that this mapping phenomenon raises an interesting and difficult metaphysical question, namely, ‘What is the metaphysical relation that’s exemplified by this mapping phenomenon?’ The answer I advance is that the relation is identity. Next, I defend this identity thesis using a four-step deductive argument that explores other candidate hypotheses in the philosophy of race literature, such as the relation being co-exemplification, coextension, or a function of tracking. Nevertheless, I defend the identity thesis against these rival hypotheses.

Respondent: Rina Bliss is Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University and the author of Race Decoded: The Genomic Fight for Social Justice and Social by Nature: The Promise and Peril of Sociogenomics. Her work explores the personal and societal significance of emerging genetic sciences.

Quayshawn Spencer specializes in philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of race.  In philosophy of science, he primarily focuses on metaphysical problems in science, such as what is an appropriate way to define "natural kinds."  In philosophy of biology, he primarily focuses on metaphysical problems in biology, such as whether biological populations can have fuzzy temporal parts and whether there is any way to group organisms into biologically real subspecies.  In philosophy of race, you guessed it, he primarily focuses on metaphysical problems in race theory, such as whether any folk racial classification divides people into real biological groups.

KN-95 masks will be required for audience members and will be provided.