Philosophical Studies

, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 181–204

What ‘biological racial realism’ should mean


DOI: 10.1007/s11098-011-9697-2

Cite this article as:
Spencer, Q. Philos Stud (2012) 159: 181. doi:10.1007/s11098-011-9697-2


A curious ambiguity has arisen in the race debate in recent years. That ambiguity is what is actually meant by ‘biological racial realism’. Some philosophers mean that ‘race is a natural kind in biology’, while others mean that ‘race is a real biological kind’. However, there is no agreement about what a natural kind or a real biological kind should be in the race debate. In this article, I will argue that the best interpretation of ‘biological racial realism’ is one that interprets ‘biological racial realism’ as ‘race is a genuine kind in biology’, where a genuine kind is a valid kind in a well-ordered scientific research program. I begin by reviewing previous interpretations of ‘biological racial realism’ in the race debate. Second, I introduce the idea of a genuine kind and compare it to various notions of natural and real biological kinds used in the race debate. Third, I present and defend an argument for my view. Fourth, I provide a few interesting consequences of my view for the race debate. Last, I provide a summary of the article.


Race Natural kind Genuine kind Biological racial realism The race debate Cladistic race 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA

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