6 December 2012
Michael Hardimon’s “Ordinary Concept of Race” Over the course of human history, race has been perceived in a variety of ways. Race, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “is an actually or potentially interbreeding group within a species or a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits.” Over time, many efforts have taken place in order to help reduce the power of racism. According to an article from Psychology Today, “Some have spoken to the progress that has been made while others have expressed deep concern for the work that still needs to be done.” Today, it seems evident that African-Americans are more so targeted for racial injustice than other racial groups and societies. Dr. Martin Luther King, known as “a prophet of racial equality,” along with hundreds of other civil rights workers all contributed and put forth their full effort to the Civil Rights Movement. In August 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Dr. Martin Luther King proclaimed:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today (American Rhetoric).
This well-known quote has become a symbol of the unity that King, along with many other activists’ vision for America’s future to end racial injustice. However, discrimination is still sought out on a daily basis, for it affects people’s lives through race, gender, and class. Michael Hardimon illustrates this through his nine theses that make up the ordinary concept of race. For decades, race has not only been a unique word but has an interesting concept behind it. People all throughout society have different interpretations of what the concept of race means to them. “The ordinary concept of race is our concept. It is part of our discourse, our practices, our conceptual repertoire” (Hardimon, 438). Although, it is important to distinguish the difference between concept and conception in order to accurately define what the ordinary concept of race means to one. “It is part of the idea of a concept that one and the same concept can be articulated in a number of different and competing ways. It is part of the idea of a conception that a conception represents but one of a number of possible different and competing ways in which a given concept can be articulated” (Hardimon, 439). In other words, a concept is the basic picture or label for something, while the conception is a specific way of filling out the details for that picture. Logically, race is similar to that of the word “love.” Society agrees on the concept, but has different conceptions.
A contributing sector of the ordinary concept of race is the logical core. The logical core is exactly what it sounds like, the grounding premises and the heart of the ordinary concept of race. The first thesis holds that, “The concept of race is the concept of a group of human beings distinguished from other human beings by visible physical features of the relevant kind” (Hardimon, 442). In other words, Hardimon believes that race is apparent through physical characteristics. Although just because there are physical characteristics that are not so obvious, it does not mean that they do not belong to that certain racial group, such as an albino, which is an organism exhibiting deficient pigmentation. “My point is that racial groups differ from one another along some of these dimensions, and that they do so in varying ways and to varying degrees,” emphasized by Hardimon (444).
In addition to racial groups being defined by visible physical features, Hardimon’s second thesis embraces that, “The concept of race is the concept of a group of human