As contemplated in the philosophy of language portion of sandpebblespodcast.com, studying language is difficult because we are using language to study language and thus we face conceptually the same problem as the “observer effect” of science: do our words affect the words we are studying? To get around this observer effect, we cannot limit ourselves solely to the use of reason as a tool for contemplating the words ‘race’ and ‘racism’. Philosophy of language does give us two truths: there are existentialist words in which the meaning of words is the speaker’s existence; there are non-existentialist words in which the meaning of words is their usefulness. An example of the former is, “I think therefore I am”; “I am therefore I think”; “I am. Therefore, I want more than just to exist”. Examples of the latter are the remaining 90%-95% of the semantics and syntax of language in all its forms be it signs, words, mathematics, or whatever humans use to enforce their will upon reality. To get around this observer effect, in addition to reason, we must use imagination, creativity, analogy, fiction, and most importantly empathy. Also, we must always keep in mind Ockham’s Razor to contemplate either set of truths to avoid the unavoidable consequence of the observer effect if ignored: generating words solely for the sake of generating words. In this contemplation, we must use all these available rational and irrational tools to have a true understanding of the two-way street of racist language: its reality and its created reality of words.
The meaning of non-existentialist words is their usefulness. As stated in Part I, in order to avoid making this contemplation exponentially more difficult by getting into metaphysics, I am not getting into what Dolezal or anyone “thinks” about “race”, we are dealing purely with the use of the words ‘race’ and ‘racism’ in the public language of present day use of those words. For anyone interested in a contemplation of the philosophy of mind, please refer to the recent interview of cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman entitled The Case Against Reality available online in the The Atlantic.
The word ‘race’ has had many uses in history. It is essentially a generalization placing a person into a set of persons based on alleged physical characteristics or traits. The word itself is harmless. As contemplated in a prior writing (Classism v. Racism: Which is Worse? Part I), there is nothing wrong with generalizations when used properly. The word ‘race’ is no longer commonly used as a valid scientific generalization not because the use is unsound or invalid but simply because of its bad insinuations. Other words that mean the same except for lacking the bad insinuations are routinely used both in popular culture and in scientific language. Words such as ‘family’, ‘tribe’, ‘people’, ‘nation’, or ‘kind’ have the same usefulness as ‘race’ in the vernacular and in science except for lacking the adverse inference of racism. The statement “race is the child of racism, not the father” is nice poetic propaganda but a false reality. Using the word “race” as part of a simple, testable hypothesis that can be proven false would be scientific and not related to “racism” except in the way that all public uses of words are related: they are part of the fabric of language we use to enforce our will upon reality.
Science is a technique for predicting future experience based on past experience that uses Ockham’s Razor and the scientific method: simple hypotheses that can be tested and falsified in repeatable, parameter controlled experiments. To the extent ‘race’ is a scientific generalization, scientists avoid the word ‘race’ and use some another word that is more useful due to a lack of racist connotations such as family, ancestry, genes, DNA, population, tribe, natural selection, or whatever. Popular culture forgets or ignores that genetics or DNA is based on statistical generalization, it only gives probabilities or very sound and valid stereotypes not certainty. So, for example, when biologists for a popular audience say that changes in DNA result in evolutionary changes in life, they are not and cannot say there is a cause and effect relationship between DNA and any changes in life nor can they even say there is a correlation between certain DNA and life because there is rarely if ever a direct correlation between a single gene and a single physical feature. Biologists do not even know whether DNA changes individual physical characteristics or whether it is the other way around. When some physical characteristic beats the odds, it is called a “mutation” and they recalculate the odds and call it new DNA or genes.
So, instead of saying the “race” of Ashkenazi Jews has a high frequency of certain genetic diseases, a scientist would say the “population” or an “ancestry” of Ashkenazi Jews has a high frequency of certain genetic diseases. Making this statement by using the words ‘population’ and ‘ancestry’ instead of ‘race’ avoids an accusation of racism against the scientist making it but otherwise the usefulness and thus the meaning of the words is the same. The only difference in the usefulness or the meaning between the words “population”, “ancestry”, or whatever word is used to do the job of ‘race’ without its bad insinuations is a lack of an implication of racism otherwise they have the same meaning.
The word ‘race’ used solely as a scientific word becomes ‘racism’ when the existentialist reality of words gets involved. “I am. Therefore, I want more than just to exist”; we then start fabricating “ought” statements from the non-existentialist words. This is true for all of us including the powers-that-be. We want control over our lives and over the reality out there that is not our lives that is always trying to control us and will eventually kill us. We see a “high frequency of certain genetic diseases” among a “population” or “race” of “Ashkenazi Jews” and we want to predict, treat, or get rid of those diseases for the obvious reason they are a threat to personal and social health and prosperity. As a result of the present quantitative availability of medical science, this usefulness of the words ‘population’, ‘ancestry’, ‘race’ should not be useful for arguing elimination of the Ashkenazi Jew as it was in the less technical and scientific past resulting in the present evil connotations for the word ‘race’.
However, the intention or the qualitative aspects of human nature creating the words ‘population’, ‘ancestry’, ‘race’, or any word have not changed: a will to power. For most of humanity, this will to power is simply a will to survive but with many it is a will for achievement, ambition, and a striving to reach the highest possible position in life. For the powers-that-be, it is a will for power as an end in itself. As contemplated in earlier contemplations, the difference between the vast majority of humanity and the powers-that-be is the powers’ desire and ability to enforce their will for power upon those with less power.