6.13.2002

Let me reflect on a couple of examples that I may incorporate into the chapter I am writing. For years now I have made the argument that race is a term so misused we would do best to drop it. Phrases like "race relations" "race consciousness," "racial stereotyping," even when used to fight racism, still present us with an image that there is a plurality of races composing humanity. But this is a category error, is it not? There is but one race among humans. The distinctions we draw between people are really ethnicities. The lines are cultural, not biological. My thought has been that if we can hammer away at this point, then the idea of biological difference underlying racism would disappear.

Now I wonder if this is an academic argument too far divorced from the language-game of racial politics. People have fought long and hard to assert their difference -- expressed in racial terms -- as a matter of pride and independence. Do I turn my back on this real struggle in order to make an ethical claim?

You write, "A while back I invoked the doctrine of nominalism in an attempt to shoot down what I saw as a series of overly-broad political assertions." I answered that Wittgenstein was not a nominalist. There are two different language-games in question here, one political and the other meta-philosophical. We can see some commensurability in the use of nominalism as examination and celebration of particularity, but the consequences of that similar use in the different language-games are distinctive.

Now the problem: Even as I work at illuminating the points of contrast between the language-games in question, I straddle those boundaries. It does not even require a gymnast's flexibility. Look now at remark 71 in the Philosophical Investigations (mainly a note to myself).

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