Higher Seminar in Practical Philosophy: Stina Björkholm (IFFS)


Date: Tuesday 31 January 2023

Time: 13.15 – 15.00

Location: D700

Error Theory of Race


When people think and talk about race, they seem to use race concepts such as ‘black’ and ‘white’ as if they refer to biologically real categories. However, there are not enough biological similarities (and differences) between groups of human beings that warrant dividing us into different biological races. In this paper, I defend an error theory of race. Error theories of race maintain that people purport to refer to biological categories when they use race concepts but that that these biological categories do not exist. I will distinguish between two different types error theory of race by drawing from the literature on moral error theory. Moral error theories standardly maintain that moral beliefs and assertions cannot be true since there are no moral properties; and in much the same way, the existing error theories about race contend that our beliefs and assertions about race cannot be true since there are no races. I will argue that for race, this type of error theory is too radical. Instead, we should accept moderate error theory according to which ordinary thought and discourse about race involves the false assumption that races are biological kinds, but that our beliefs and assertions about race can nevertheless be true since race is socially real.