Stain Removal: Ethics and Race

Hardcover | December 15, 2016

byJ. Reid Miller

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Martin Luther King, Jr. famously declared his dream that his children would "one day not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." In his vision, a person's moral qualities would be understood in spite of his or her body, rather than through it. In general, we understand moral judgments as based on a person's disembodied, internal will. On the other hand, we see judgements related to race as socially-generated, external evaluations of a person's body. But Stain Removal argues that such assumptions are limited in their scope. Instead itquestions modern moral theory's premise that a subject's deeds and not its bodily traits count as the primary objects of moral evaluation. Drawing on modern and pre-modern accounts of how ethical knowledge originates, from the Biblical story of Ham, to Socrates, Immanuel Kant, Alain Locke, OnoraO'Neill, Frantz Fanon, Langston Hughes, and Louis Althusser, the book shows that contemporary theories of morality and race are built on the same structural logics. Consequently, it is impossible to separate the two. Using the metaphor of stain, J. Reid Miller shows that there is a long history of thought suggesting that race can and does signify ethical qualities. He argues that evaluations of an individual's actions are always made with respect to a person's social identity (which includes race). In otherwords, racism and ethical deliberation are linked. In failing to account for this linkage we, obviously, risk perpetuating it. Miller argues that contemporary ethics can't just stop at whether race and racism are good or bad but needs to rethink ethics as something other than what "attaches" tobodies and deeds after the fact of race. Without rethinking our approach to ethical deliberation, he suggests that King's vision never will be achievable.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. famously declared his dream that his children would "one day not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." In his vision, a person's moral qualities would be understood in spite of his or her body, rather than through it. In general, we understand moral judgments as based on ...

J. Reid Miller is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Haverford College.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:216 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:December 15, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190280972

ISBN - 13:9780190280970

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