As our guest this episode, philosopher Stewart Umphrey, writes, “Our everyday understanding of natural things presupposes that their reality does not depend on how we regard them, and that the way we ordinarily regard them is heuristically if not cognitively valuable.” Join us as we explore natural kinds in our continued attempt to determine whether “race” is really a thing, and what makes things things in the first place.
Our season is called "Race: Is That a Thing?" What does it mean for a thing to be a thing? What is a thing? We consult Oxford English Dictionary editor and authorized OED historian Peter Gilliver, who updated the entry on “Thing.”
Here are some links to things we talk about in this episode:
How deep do the categories we use to navigate the world go? Are they more transient than we normally think? In episode one of the new season, Ben and Aaron lay the groundwork for the series "Race: Is That a Thing?"
In this episode we meet Armand Marie Leroi, Prof. of Evolutionary Developmental Genetics at Imperial College, London, who caused a stir regarding "race" 13 years ago with a controversial op-ed piece in the New York Times.
Are there types of languages that are unique from other types of languages? Are there newer languages that are formed from other languages, but have less vocabulary, less grammar, less stuff? Is that what we mean by “creoles”? John McWhorter thinks so; Salikoko Mufwene doesn’t. Welcome to the smackdown.
Is race a thing? If so, in what way? If it's not a "thing" in any rigorous linguistic, taxonomic, evolutionary, or genetic way, what do we mean by "race"? Since "racism" definitely is a thing, do the first questions even matter? And just what to we mean by “a thing"? We’re going to do our best to find out.