The Roots of Racial Categorization

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 13 (1):151-175 (2021)
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I examine the origins of ordinary racial thinking. In doing so, I argue against the thesis that it is the byproduct of a unique module. Instead, I defend a pluralistic thesis according to which different forms of racial thinking are driven by distinct mechanisms, each with their own etiology. I begin with the belief that visible features are diagnostic of race. I argue that the mechanisms responsible for face recognition have an important, albeit delimited, role to play in sustaining this belief. I then argue that essentialist beliefs about race are driven by some of the mechanisms responsible for “entitativity perception”: the tendency to perceive some aggregates of people as more genuine groups than others. Finally, I argue that coalitional thinking about race is driven by a distinctive form of entitativity perception. However, I suggest that more data is needed to determine the prevalence of this form of racial thinking.

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Ben Phillips
Arizona State University


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