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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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Toward a Historical Ontology of Race

Toward a Historical Ontology of Race

(p.56) Chapter 2 Toward a Historical Ontology of Race
Nature, Human Nature, and Human Difference

Justin E. H. Smith

Princeton University Press

This chapter highlights the following problem: if race is acknowledged to not exist in any transhistorical sense, and to have a vague and constantly mutating referent throughout history, then how can we know we are picking out the right textual sources that will tell us what people thought about race and when? It also argues for the necessity of a sort of casuistical approach, which does not eschew the study of particular cases, anecdotes, offhand examples or remarks that occur in the course of making other philosophical arguments. All of these, it will be argued, should be taken seriously in any attempt to give a general account of the functions race fulfills in the history of modern philosophy.

Keywords:   textual sources, transhistorical sense, casuistical approach, race, modern philosophy

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