Biological Theory

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 114–120 | Cite as

Biological Theory and the Metaphysics of Race: A Reply to Kaplan and Winther

  • Quayshawn SpencerEmail author
Long Article


In Kaplan and Winther’s recent article (Biol Theory. doi: 10.1007/s13752-012-0048-0, 2012) they argue for three bold theses: first, that “it is illegitimate to read any ontology about ‘race’ off of biological theory or data”; second, that “using biological theory to ground race is a pernicious reification”; and, third, that “race is fundamentally a social rather than a biological category.” While Kaplan and Winther’s theses are thoughtful, I show that the arguments that their theses rest on are unconvincing. In order to be constructive, I go on to show exactly how one can use biological theory and data to legitimately infer an ontological view of race, to infer a biological view of race that is not a reification, and to argue that race is both socially constructed and biologically real.


Biodiversity Biological theory Genetics Kinds Ontology Race 



I would like to thank Joshua Glasgow, Manuel Vargas, and Rasmus Winther for helpful discussions that led to the creation and revision of this article. I would also like to thank the Bay Area Philosophy of Race (BAPR) reading group for organizing the talk by Rasmus Winther that generated the idea to write this paper. This research was funded by a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a University of San Francisco Fellowship Matching Stipend.


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Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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