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  1. Quayshawn Spencer

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee644

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Spencer, Q. 2013. Race. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


The nature and reality of race is one of the most controversial and fascinating issues that philosophy has ever tackled. The topic also has more direct relevance outside of philosophy than most metaphysical debates. In ordinary life, and even in other realms of academia, we typically assume that race is real. For example, pollsters take the reality of race for granted when they record voting behavior by race, sociologists and psychologists take the reality of race for granted when they study institutional, aversive, and other subtle forms of racism (see Racism), and even medical researchers take the reality of race for granted when they measure disease risk or drug metabolizing efficacy as a function of race. However, a small group of philosophers, who we can call “philosophers of race,” have questioned both the reality and nature of race since at least 1775 when Immanuel Kant (see Kant, Immanuel) became the first philosopher to ask, “What is a race?”


  • metaphysics;
  • philosophy;
  • philosophy of science;
  • practical (applied) ethics;
  • race and ethnicity