On Race and Philosophy is a collection of essays written and published across the last twenty years, which focus on matters of race, philosophy, and social and political life in the West, in particular in the US. These important writings trace the author's continuing efforts not only to confront racism, especially within philosophy, but, more importantly, to work out viable conceptions of raciality and ethnicity that are empirically sound while avoiding chauvinism and invidious ethnocentrism. The hope is that such conceptions will assist efforts to fashion a nation-state in which racial and ethnic cultures and identities are recognized and nurtured contributions to a more just and stable democracy.
A leader in the black philosophy movement, Outlaw (philosophy, Fisk) doesn't want the concept of raceor races themselvesto disappear. Indeed, he wants to make the idea of race respectable and to define races in terms of a combination of biological inheritances and cultural elements embodying values. Arguing that we need an African-oriented philosophy and a social science aimed at facilitating the articulation of African culture, he envisions "more than housecleaning" for philosophy in America. "Renovations are in order." Outlaw will be taken seriously, but philosophers are not likely to buy his arguments against Anthony Appiah, who thinks all notions of race are ultimately vague and dangerous (In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, Oxford Univ., 1992). Surely, W.E.B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, and Outlaw himself show us that there is African American philosophy, but the belief that it gives someone in Cleveland Heights a philosophical tie with someone in Dakar because they share the same skin color or a remote ancestor needs more argument. In fact, Outlaw once concedes (against the grain of his book) that "it remains to be seen" whether "the search for unities or commonalities as a ground for speaking of Africana philosophy [is] a case of romanticism and political adventure." Readers will find Outlaw amiable, and those with a taste for philosophy and sociology should have no trouble with it. It is bound to be cited wherever the issues it raises are discussed.Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa