Race as an Institutional Fact

11 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2008

Date Written: September 5, 2008


According to Ron Mallon (2004), any adequate account of race must meet three constraints: passing, no-traveling, and reality. "Passing" describes the fact that persons who are treated by others as belonging to one race, may "actually" belong to a different race. "No traveling" refers to the fact that racial concepts such as "white" may pick out different sets of persons in different cultures. "Reality" refers to the fact that racial designations enter into explanations of how people's lives go. However, Mallon argues that no account can simultaneously satisfy all three constraints. I argue that an account of race as an institutional fact, based on Searle's theory of constitutive rules, can satisfy all three constraints. Furthermore, the institutional account provides an enlightening explanation of these three features of race.

Keywords: race, metaphysics, Ron Mallon, social ontology, John Searle, social facts

Suggested Citation

Mathiesen, Kay, Race as an Institutional Fact (September 5, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1264202 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1264202

Kay Mathiesen (Contact Author)

Kay Mathiesen ( email )

Boston, MA
United States

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