On the Methodology of the Race Debate: Conceptual Analysis and Racial Discourse

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Abstract

The traditional debate about whether race should be eliminated from public discourse is often conducted in significant part by examining whether race is real. Whether race is real, in turn, often comes down to whether racial discourse purports to refer to social or natural kinds, which means that analysis of racial concepts is crucial to the question of racial eliminativism. The dominate theory of conceptual analysis in the race debate is that racial concepts should be analyzed according to how those terms have been used by historical experts. It is argued here that this dominant theory is misguided, and that we should therefore analyze racial concepts according to how they are used in contemporary, folk discourse. In addition, and in contrast to the main rival to the dominant theory, I argue that we should analyze folk racial discourse not from the armchair, but instead through empirical research.

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