Debating Race, Ethnicity, and Latino Identity

Debating Race, Ethnicity, and Latino Identity: Jorge J. E. Gracia and His Critics

EDITED BY IVÁN JAKSIĆ
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/jaks16944
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  • Book Info
    Debating Race, Ethnicity, and Latino Identity
    Book Description:

    The philosopher Jorge J. E. Gracia engages fifteen prominent scholars on race, ethnicity, nationality, and Hispanic/Latino identity in the United States. Their discussion joins two distinct traditions: the philosophy of race begun by African Americans in the nineteenth century, and the search for an understanding of identity initiated by Latin American philosophers in the sixteenth century. Participants include Linda M. Alcoff, K. Anthony Appiah, Richard J. Bernstein, Lawrence Blum, Robert Gooding-Williams, Eduardo Mendieta, and Lucius T. Outlaw Jr., and their dialogue reflects the analytic, Aristotelian, Continental, literary, Marxist, and pragmatic schools of thought.

    These intellectuals start with the philosophy of Hispanics/Latinos in the United States and then move to the philosophy of African Americans and Anglo Americans in the United States and the philosophy of Latin Americans in Latin America. Gracia and his interlocutors debate the nature of race and ethnicity and their relation to nationality, linguistic rights, matters of identity, and Affirmative Action, binding the concepts of race and ethnicity together in ways that open new paths of inquiry. Gracia's Familial-Historical View of ethnic and Hispanic/Latino identity operates at the center of each of these discussions, providing vivid access to the philosopher's provocative arguments while adding unique depth to issues that each of us struggles to understand.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53772-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. VII-XVI)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-26)
    IVÁN JAKSIĆ

    From the very beginning, the philosophical understanding of race and its relation to ethnicity has been murky, and unclarity, confusion, and misinterpretation have been frequent. As late as the eighteenth century, Immanuel Kant and David Hume made appalling claims about race (Bernasconi 2001b; Rosen Velásquez 2008). And even as late as the first half of the twentieth century, such pioneering thinkers as Alain Locke and W. E. B. Du Bois proposed theories in which race and ethnicity were mixed sometimes indiscriminately. Moreover, although some philosophers in Europe and the British colonies that later constituted the United States paid some attention...

  5. PART I. Race, Ethnicity, Nationality, and Philosophy
    • 1. WRITING A CHECK THAT PHILOSOPHY CAN’T CASH
      (pp. 29-37)
      LUCIUS T. OUTLAW JR.

      It was while absorbing this declaration, set out near the end of hisSurviving Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality(2005b), that Jorge J. E. Gracia’s agenda came together for me in a forceful way such that I appreciated, much more fully than I had before during my reading, his passionate concern with the task of working out a clarifiedphilosophicalunderstanding of race, ethnicity, and nationality. At issue for Gracia is the very survival of humankind in light of the long and bloody histories of conflict, domination, fratricide, and genocide motivated by valorized investments in notions of race, ethnicity, and nationality....

    • 2. MAPPING THE BOUNDARIES OF RACE, ETHNICITY, AND NATIONALITY
      (pp. 38-47)
      LINDA M. ALCOFF

      Jorge J. E. Gracia’sSurviving Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality(2005b) makes a major contribution to the debates over the meaning and political implications of race, ethnicity, and nationality. He strives to bring clarity and even precision to muddied concepts that are used inconsistently, and that are subject to a confused plethora of cross-disciplinary treatments. The book is helpfully detailed in its arguments and in its scholarly overview of the existing debates, though I found myself wishing that he had been at times more explicit about whom he is arguing against. Gracia suggests that part of the reason why there is...

    • 3. RACE, ETHNICITY, AND PHILOSOPHY
      (pp. 48-55)
      K. ANTHONY APPIAH

      I am not a big fan of attempts to defi ne philosophy (or, as you will see, anything else at all interesting), but if you asked me for a definition, I would probably send you to something that Wilfred Sellars (1963) wrote inScience, Perception and Realityfifty years ago: “The aim of philosophy, abstractly formulated,” he said, “is to understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term” (1). And if there is anyone I know who has had a career in philosophy and lives up to...

    • 4. RACE, ETHNICITY, NATIONALITY, AND PHILOSOPHY
      (pp. 56-64)
      LAWRENCE BLUM

      Jorge J. E. Gracia develops his metaphysical accounts of race and ethnicity (i.e., accounts of racial and ethnic membership) against a background in which both notions have been challenged on several distinct grounds—conceptual, metaphysical, epistemic, moral, and political. He takes up these challenges systematically and argues that race and ethnicity are coherent and consistent concepts that apply to the world and reveal features of the world that would be invisible without these concepts. The accounts are meant to “be descriptive in that they reflect the most fundamental principles that underlie the ways in which we think about race, ethnicity,...

    • 5. RACE, ETHNICITY, NATIONALITY, AND PHILOSOPHY: a response
      (pp. 65-88)
      JORGE J. E. GRACIA

      The issues raised in part I of this volume have for some time been a central concern of those interested in philosophical discussions of race and ethnicity. At the outset, the question that looms large is the role that philosophy can play in these discussions. Some philosophers question this role, whereas others find it essential to their understanding. Given the significance of race and ethnicity in the contemporary world, it is not surprising that they have been the subject of discussion in most disciplines. The social sciences have taken a leading role in the investigation of their social dimensions. The...

  6. PART II. Hispanic/Latino Identity
    • 6. IS BEING HISPANIC AN IDENTITY?
      (pp. 91-105)
      J. L. A. GARCÍA

      Jorge J. E. Gracia’s bookHispanic/Latino Identity(2000c) is a rich and pathbreaking exploration. It is a model of how to apply the methods and approaches of philosophy, especially contemporary conceptual analysis, to topics that philosophers usually ignore and social scientists often mishandle. The book is also a model of how to treat with an admirable calm, and with touches of humor, matters that sometimes touch on deeply personal feelings. Though suitably dispassionate, Gracia’s analysis is not impersonal; it is frequently marked by personal anecdotes, observations, and reflections. We hope that Gracia’s book marks the beginning of a fruitful new...

    • 7. THE BOUNDARIES OF HISPANIC IDENTITY
      (pp. 106-113)
      RICHARD J. BERNSTEIN

      In the concluding remarks of his splendid book, Jorge J. E. Gracia (2000c) tells us, “I feel as if the theses I have proposed raise more questions than they answer, but that is as it should be” (189). The aim of his book is to provoke fresh thinking about the issues he explores. It is in this spirit that I want to offer my criticism. Gracia’s book is filled with insights, provocative claims, and valuable information. It is a courageous book, because Gracia takes on difficult and thorny issues—and he does this with verve and lucidity. I admire his...

    • 8. HISPANIC IDENTITY, ITS ORIGIN, AND HISPANIC PHILOSOPHERS
      (pp. 114-121)
      ROBERT GOODING-WILLIAMS

      Jorge J. E. Gracia’sHispanic/Latino Identity(2000c) is a valuable contribution to contemporary philosophical discussions of racial and ethnic identities. In my commentary here, I will more or less ignore chapters 1 and 2 of Gracia’s book, the first of which reviews in detail some arguments against using the expressions “Hispanics” and “Latinos/Latinas” “to name us,” as Gracia puts it, and the second of which analyzes the relation of names to ethnicity and identity. Rather, I begin my remarks with a look at chapter 3, which is Gracia’s positive account of Hispanic identity. I then proceed briefly to consider three...

    • 9. THE ROLE OF CULTURE IN HISPANIC IDENTITY
      (pp. 122-130)
      GREGORY PAPPAS

      InHispanic/Latino Identity, Jorge J. E. Gracia (2000c) argues that “there is a way to understand the concept of Hispanic that allows us to speak meaningfully of, and refer effectively to, Hispanics, even when the people named by it do not share any property in common at all times and places” (48). The kind of unity behind the justified use of ‘Hispanic’ is historical and not one of commonality. Gracia explains that “King John II of Portugal has nothing in common with me, but both of us are tied by a series of events that relate us and separate us...

    • 10. THE LANGUAGE PRISM
      (pp. 131-137)
      ILAN STAVANS

      This chapter is based on impromptu remarks I made while participating in a debate with K. Anthony Appiah and Jorge J. E. Gracia in September 2012 at the University of Buffalo on Gracia’s own oeuvre.

      I started by surveying my own career as a reader of his work, then pointing to specific texts by him I have found pleasing over time, among them his reflections on Jorge Luis Borges as a “visual” thinker as well as his discussions on ethics. I also talked of a collaboration he and I had just completed, a volume of conversations calledThirteen ways of...

    • 11. THE SECOND RECONQUISTA
      (pp. 138-146)
      EDUARDO MENDIETA

      I would like to begin by paraphrasing and summarizing a review that I wrote of Jorge J. E. Gracia’sHispanic/Latino Identity(2000c). Gracia is without question one of the best-known Hispanic/Latino philosophers in the United States and abroad. He was a founding member of the American Philosophical Association committee on Hispanics, and its first chair. This book of his is not only unique but also peculiar, for the kind of philosopher Gracia is and has made his reputation as. He was trained as a medievalist and has written extensively on metaphysics and the philosophy of history. His areas of expertise...

    • 12. HISPANIC/LATINO IDENTITY: a response
      (pp. 147-180)
      JORGE J. E. GRACIA

      Under the rubric “Hispanic/Latino identity” are included several topics. The roots of their discussion go back deeply into the history of Latin American thought but have recently become controversial among philosophers in the United States. Other disciplines also have addressed these topics, as one would have expected, particularly disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, literature, and art, but in increasing numbers philosophers have added their voices to these exchanges.

      Hispanic/Latino Identitywas the first systematic philosophical attempt at coming up with a theory that is not descriptive of the views of Latin Americans on these topics, and for this reason has...

  7. PART III. Hispanics/Latinos and Philosophy
    • 13. HISPANICS/LATINOS, LABELS, AND LATINO PHILOSOPHY
      (pp. 183-194)
      RENZO LLORENTE

      Jorge J. E. Gracia’sLatinos in America(2008b) is a spirited, informative, immensely enjoyable work, and a remarkably successful combination of applied philosophy, metaphysics, and metaphilosophy, to name just a few of the many fields covered in Gracia’s exploration of Latino identity. The overall thematic cohesion that Gracia achieves in treating a formidable range of topics—for example, the nature of identity, the meaning of ethnic labels, the sociology of American philosophy, individuation, and linguistic rights—is likewise remarkably successful, as is his attempt to treat these and other topics in a way that will engage and satisfy professional philosophers...

    • 14. ETHNIC PHILOSOPHY AND LATIN AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY
      (pp. 195-202)
      SUSANA NUCCETELLI

      Jorge J. E. Gracia’sLatinos in America(2008b) offers insightful discussions of philosophical issues involving the rich experiences of Latin Americans and their descendants abroad. Of special interest to readers will be the book’s novel proposal for categorizing Latin American philosophy, according to which it should be classified as a form of “ethnic philosophy” (140ff.). This way of understanding Latin American philosophy might resolve a number of questions concerning the discipline’s name and boundaries that have been at the center of current discussions. But how does the proposal square with thescopeof Latin American philosophy: that is, with the...

    • 15. LATINO AND LATIN AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY
      (pp. 203-214)
      MARÍA CRISTINA GONZÁLEZ and NORA STIGOL

      InLatinos in America(2008b), Jorge J. E. Gracia, a philosopher with Latino roots, longtime member of the academic professional community, and resident of the United States, expresses concerns involving three queries: What is it to be Latino? What is the place of Latinos in America?¹ And how do Latinos think about themselves and their identity? These questions constitute the core of the so-called Latino challenge. In his response, he develops and uses a theoretical tool to identify Latinos that he dubs the Familial-Historical View. He examines various conspicuously controversial issues related to Latino identity such as their linguistic rights,...

    • 16. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR LATINOS
      (pp. 215-218)
      HOWARD MCGARY

      Jorge J. E. Gracia’sLatinos in Americais a clear and analytical account of Latino identity, the situation of Latinos in American life, and how Latinos see themselves. Using the skills characteristic of the analytical philosopher, Gracia tackles each of these issues with great sensitivity to the culture dimensions of the thorny philosophical problems that he encounters. In the first part of the book, he evaluates the two labels ‘Hispanic identity’ and ‘Latino identity.’ With great care, he explores the very idea of identities, general and particular. He points to the difficulties associated with lumping Latinos together under one label....

    • 17. HISPANICS/LATINOS AND PHILOSOPHY: a response
      (pp. 219-246)
      JORGE J. E. GRACIA

      The existence and character of a Latin or Hispanic American philosophy has been in one way or another a topic of discussion in Latin America for a good part of its history and has been a debated and controversial topic for nearly a century. It should not be surprising, then, that with the growth of the Hispanic/Latino population in the United States, and the increasing number of Hispanic/Latino philosophers, this topic has been taken up, mutatis mutandis, in this country.

      For the past forty years I have participated in these discussions in Latin America and more recently in the United...

  8. CLOSING THOUGHTS
    (pp. 247-250)
    JORGE J. E. GRACIA

    Dialogue is of the essence in philosophy. In the West, philosophy began in Greece, and it was the Greek commitment to dialogue that gave it birth. We have the finest example of philosophizing in the dialogues of Plato, where a teacher, Socrates, engages young minds in the pursuit of a solution to a problem. And yet seldom does a Platonic dialogue end with an answer to the problem posed in it, for the essence of dialogue is to remain open; what counts is the inquiry, not the solution. Enlightenment results from a deeper understanding of a question explored, not from...

  9. APPENDIX. ORIGINAL PANELS AND DISCUSSIONS
    (pp. 251-252)
  10. REFERENCES
    (pp. 253-262)
  11. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 263-266)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 267-274)