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Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 92, 2018

Philosophy, Catholicism, and Public Life

Gaston G. LeNotre
Pages 301-320

‘In the Human Heart’
A Premodern Philosophy of Race and Racism in Thomas Aquinas

A premodern philosophy of race and racism in Thomas Aquinas resolves some seeming oppositions between the three most current theories of race. Thomas’s generational account of race is primary. It affirms the racial naturalist view that there are biological differences between people, and some of which stem from a characteristic genotype and geography. Thomas’s individual account of race is secondary but nevertheless a necessary clarification of the generational account. It affirms the racial skeptic view that these racial characteristic properties are individual properties, not essential or specific properties, and as such cannot lead to a definite, essential being that is a ‘race.’ Thomas’s intersubjective account of race is tertiary, insofar as it presumes the generational and individual accounts, and yet crucially explains a peculiar social reality. It affirms the racial constructionist view that the intention by which we understand the notion of race is a socially constituted object, a mind-dependent reality informed by experience.

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