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Nature, Human Nature, and Human DifferenceRace in Early Modern Philosophy$
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Justin E. H. Smith

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691153643

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691153643.001.0001

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From Lineage to Biogeography

From Lineage to Biogeography

Chapter:
(p.140) Chapter 6 From Lineage to Biogeography
Source:
Nature, Human Nature, and Human Difference
Author(s):

Justin E. H. Smith

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691153643.003.0007

This chapter turns to François Bernier's contribution to the history of racial thinking. This French physician and traveler is often credited with being the key innovator of the modern race concept. While some rigorous scholarship has recently appeared questioning Bernier's significance, his racial theory is seldom placed in his context as a Gassendian natural philosopher who was, in particular, intent to bring his own brand of modern, materialistic philosophy to bear in his experiences in the Moghul Empire in Persia and northern India. The chapter argues that Bernier's principal innovation was to effectively decouple the concept of race from considerations of lineage, and instead to conceptualize it in biogeographical terms in which the precise origins or causes of the original differences of human physical appearance from region to region remain underdetermined.

Keywords:   François Bernier, biogeography, modern race concept, racial theory, lineage, human physical appearance, racial thinking

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