Another Mind-Body Problem: A History of Racial Non-being

SUNY Press

 Demonstrates the profound overlap of philosophy’s mind-body problem and various racist doctrines found in thinkers ranging from Descartes to Kant.
The mind-body problem in philosophy is typically understood as a discourse concerning the relation of mental states to physical states, and the experience of sensation. On this level it seems to transcend issues of race and racism, but Another Mind-Body Problem demonstrates that racial distinctions have been an integral part of the discourse since the Modern period in philosophy. Reading figures such as Descartes, Leibniz, and Kant in their historical contexts, John Harfouch uncovers discussions of mind and body that engaged closely with philosophical and scientific notions of race in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, in particular in understanding how the mind unites with the body at birth and is then passed on through sexual reproduction. Kant argued that a person’s exterior body and interior psyche are bound together, that non-White people lacked reason, and that this lack of reason was carried on through reproduction such that non-Whites were an example of a union of mind and body without full being. Charting the development of this phenomenon from sixteenth-century medical literature to modern-day race discourse, Harfouch argues for new understandings of Descartes’s mind-body problem, Fanon’s experience of being ‘not-yet human,’ and the place of racism in relation to one of philosophy’s most enduring and canonical problems.
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About the author

 John Harfouch is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama–Huntsville and the coeditor (with Leonard Lawlor) of The Cambridge Foucault Lexicon.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
May 23, 2018
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Pages
268
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ISBN
9781438469959
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / History & Surveys / General
Philosophy / Mind & Body
Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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 Demonstrates the profound overlap of philosophy’s mind-body problem and various racist doctrines found in thinkers ranging from Descartes to Kant.
The mind-body problem in philosophy is typically understood as a discourse concerning the relation of mental states to physical states, and the experience of sensation. On this level it seems to transcend issues of race and racism, but Another Mind-Body Problem demonstrates that racial distinctions have been an integral part of the discourse since the Modern period in philosophy. Reading figures such as Descartes, Leibniz, and Kant in their historical contexts, John Harfouch uncovers discussions of mind and body that engaged closely with philosophical and scientific notions of race in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, in particular in understanding how the mind unites with the body at birth and is then passed on through sexual reproduction. Kant argued that a person’s exterior body and interior psyche are bound together, that non-White people lacked reason, and that this lack of reason was carried on through reproduction such that non-Whites were an example of a union of mind and body without full being. Charting the development of this phenomenon from sixteenth-century medical literature to modern-day race discourse, Harfouch argues for new understandings of Descartes’s mind-body problem, Fanon’s experience of being ‘not-yet human,’ and the place of racism in relation to one of philosophy’s most enduring and canonical problems.
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