Courses in the Spotlight Fall 2024

PHIL 217: Philosophy of Race and Racism - Eli Lichtenstein, Fall 202

Eli Lichtenstein

My scholarship seeks to explain how we can use history to critique present forms of state and social violence. I argue that genealogical research may become an instrument of emancipation when it is guided by the normative commitments that are immanent to social struggles. My broader research interests lie in 19th and 20th century continental philosophy, critical theory, social and political philosophy, and critical philosophy of race.

When not reading or writing philosophy, I like to go to the cinema, cross-country ski, and (try) to learn new languages.

Course Description:

What is race and how is it related to racism? How are racial identities constituted, transformed, and challenged? This course examines race and racism from six related philosophical perspectives. First we’ll examine the epistemology of race, to determine if and how one’s standpoint affects our knowledge of race, along with the different sorts of ways one might be said to know something about race. Second, we’ll consider the metaphysics of race, asking if race is a biological phenomenon, or else if (and how) it is socially constructed. Third, we’ll consider genealogies of race and racism, to examine the complex and plural processes by which different racial identities emerged in modernity, and to question the relevance of history to an understanding of racism today. Fourth, we’ll read phenomenological accounts of race, which describe how race is an embodied phenomenon, which can impact our perception of social reality, below the level of conscious awareness. Fifth, we’ll consider how race has been excluded from much Western political philosophy, and weigh the broader causes and consequences of this exclusion. Sixth, we’ll read works that propose models for antiracist action, which theorize complex intersections of race, class, and gender, and which chart paths towards collective emancipation. Throughout the course we will approach these themes by surveying the work of past and present philosophers, theorists, and historians of race.