Race and Reification in Science

Race and Reification in Science

Science Magazine
Volume 307
pages 1050-1051

Troy Duster, Professor of Sociology
New York University

Alfred North Whitehead warned many years ago about “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness” (1), by which he meant the tendency to assume that categories of thought coincide with the obdurate character of the empirical world. If we think of a shoe as “really a shoe,” then we are not likely to use it as a hammer (when no hammer is around). Whitehead’s insight about misplaced concreteness is also known as the fallacy of reification. Recent research in medicine and genetics makes it even more crucial to resist actively the temptation to deploy racial categories as if immutable in nature and society…

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