Racism and the Disciplinary Differentiation of Science and Philosophy
800 W. Campbell Rd
- Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies
Talks at this conferenceAdd a talk
This workshop seeks to weave together three historical threads that have each separately received significant attention in recent years, but which have not so far been followed together, perhaps due to the siloing of different sub-disciplines of and approaches within the History of Ideas: (1) the role of racism in the formation of the philosophical canon, (2) the role of racism in the emergence of science as a distinct pursuit, especially the life and social sciences, and (3) the disciplinary and professional differentiation of philosophy and science from one another from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
We know from recent work in intellectual history that there are deep connections between the development of racist thought and the emergence of the modern concept and canons of philosophy, influenced especially by Kant and certain of his followers. In this process, Asian and African thinkers were read out of the canon, and philosophy was reconceived as a specifically western intellectual formation beginning in Ancient Greece.
Recent work has also shown that Kant’s work on race is also deeply imbricated with the development of biology and race science / scientific racism. We also know from various historians that the emergence of science, especially biology, physical anthropology, and psychology, is also deeply involved with the development of racist thought in the 19th century into the early 20th. In fact, the process starts earlier, with 18th-century changes in the field of natural history as it starts the transition that results in the contemporary biological and human sciences, and which is also tied up with the emergence of the modern research university (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen being a key nexus).
Taking place throughout the same period is the slow process of differentiating science and philosophy, which in a way also begins with Immanuel Kant, who is also central to the story of science & race and philosophy & race. Kant’s distinctions are one important influence over the process of differentiating and separating of institutions and professional identities, in the 19th century Anglophone world represented in the diverging terms of “scientist” from “natural philosopher” or “natural historian” or “moral philosopher” (thanks to Whewell). This process culminated in the early 20th century with the institutional extrication of philosophy and psychology, and the influence of anti-psychologism in philosophy. (This framing privileges the English language version of this trajectory, but similar changes were going on throughout early modern Europe.) In turn, the philosophy / psychology split and the anti-psychologism movement in philosophy was central to the founding figures of *both* analytic and continental philosophy, as well as the split between the two (many of the main figures being in one way or another neo-Kantians).
What happens when we read all of these processes together? How do they impact/inform contemporary science, philosophy, and our understand of the relation between the two (or lack thereof)? These will be the questions explored in this workshop. Our aim is to start a conversation that explores these tangled threads, with the ultimate aim of weaving a narrative that illuminates the connections between these so far separate inquiries.
May 1, 2018, 5:00am CST