PHIL 401 A: Advanced Topics in Philosophy

Meeting Time: 
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm
SAV 130
José Mendoza
José Jorge Mendoza

Syllabus Description:

Course Description

This course provides students with a broad introductory survey of the ideas, authors, and texts that have come to define the philosophy of race. This course will be broken down into weekly units. Each unit will have its own Canvas module where students can find the viewings, readings, and assignments for the week. The course itself will be structured around the metaphysical, ontological, and epistemological questions surrounding race and racism. These sorts of questions include the following: What is race? Do races exist? If races exist, in what sense are they real? What is racism? What sorts of things can be racist (e.g., persons, acts, beliefs, feelings, places, or institutions)? Is it possible to be unintentionally racist? Is it better to define racism in a narrow or broad sense?


Meeting Times

This class will meet in-person Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-2:20pm, in Savery Hall 130


 Office Hours

Office hours will be held Tuesday and Thursday, 2:30-3:30pm, in Savery Hall 385


Readings for the Course

All readings will be available online. So, there are no books to buy for this course.


Course Grading Scale

(roughly each 1% increment between grades is equivalent to 0.1)

A          95% = 4.0

B          85% = 3.0

C          75% = 2.0

D         65% = 1.0


Assignment Guidelines for Undergraduates

1. Reading Quizzes (30% of course grade or 1.2 of the 4.0 total)

Each quiz will consist of about 5-20, mostly multiple-choice, questions. There is no time limit and the questions chronologically follow the reading. You are therefore strongly encouraged to take the quiz as you complete the readings. Quizzes will be available for only 14 days. So, do not fall too far behind and keep in mind there is no way to make up the quizzes once the quizzes are closed.


2. Short Writing assignments (30% of course grade or 1.2 of the 4.0 total)

There will be two short writing assignments (about 1,000 words in length) throughout the term.


3. Class participation (10% of course grade or 0.4 of the 4.0 total)

Attendance is required for this class but not sufficient for participation.    


4. Final Paper (30% of course grade or 1.0 of the 4.0 total)

This assignment should take no less than 6 pages to complete, but it should also be no longer than 10 pages. The format for this paper is as follows: double-spaced, 12-point font, in Times New Roman or something similar, and margins should be at least one inch wide but no more than 1.25 inches wide. Citations should follow either APA, MLA, or Chicago style. Papers should be turned in through Canvas and NOT by email.


Assignment Guidelines for Graduate Students

Term Paper

No less than 10 pages, but be no longer than 25 pages.

Please meet with instructor about a topic by week 9.


Course Reading Schedule:

Week One (Sept 30th): The Story of Race

Required Readings: 

No required reading for this week but keep in mind we will have THREE required readings for next week, so start on those.

Supplemental Readings:

(The readings below are optional but are strongly recommended for grad students)

Francois Bernier: “A New Division of Earth”

Immanuel Kant: “Of the Different Human Races”

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach: “On the Natural Variety of Mankind”

Arthur de Gobineau: "The Inequality of Human Races"

Required Viewing:

Race: The Power of an Illusion: “The Difference Between Us” (Episode 1)

Race: The Power of an Illusion: “The Story We Tell” (Episode 2)


Week Two (Oct 5th & Oct 7th): The Concept of Race 

Required Readings:

Oct 5th (Tuesday): K. Anthony Appiah: "Why There Are No Races"

Oct 5th (Tuesday): W.E.B. DuBois: “The Conservation of Races”

Oct 7th (Thursday): K. Anthony Appiah: “The Uncompleted Argument: DuBois and the Illusion of Race”

Supplemental Readings:

W.E.B. DuBois: “Races”

Ashley Montagu: "The Concept of Race"

Required Viewing:

Race: The Power of an Illusion: “The House We Live In” (Episode 3)


Week Three (Oct 12th & Oct 14th):  "Race" as a Social Kind

Required Readings:

Oct 12th (Tuesday): Sally Haslanger: "A Social Constructionist Analysis of Race"

Oct 14th (Thursday) Joshua Glasgow: "A Third Way in the Race Debate"

Supplemental Reading:

Michael Omi and Howard Winant: "The Theory of Racial Formation"

Lucius Outlaw: "Conserve Races? In Defense of W.E.B. DuBois" 

Paul Taylor: "Appiah's Uncompleted Argument"


Week Four (Oct 19th & 21st) :  Race Passing and Race Traveling

Required Readings:

Oct 19th (Tuesday): Adrian Piper: "Passing for White, Passing for Black"

Oct 19th (Tuesday): Walter Benn Michaels: "The No-Drop Rule"

Oct 21st (Thursday): Ron Mallon: "Passing, Traveling and Reality: Social Constructionism and the Metaphysics of Race"

Supplemental Reading:

Charles Mills: "But What Are You Really? The Metaphysics of Race"

Robert Gooding-Williams: "Race, Multiculturalism and Democracy"


Week Five (Oct 26th & 28th): The New Biology of Race

Required Readings:

Oct 26th (Tuesday): Robin O. Andreasen: "A New Perspective on the Race Debate"

Oct 28th (Thursday): Joshua Glasgow: "On the New Biology of Race"

Supplemental Readings:

Richard Lewontin: "The Apportionment of Human Diversity Evolutionary Biology"

Ernst Mayr: "The Biology of Race and the Concept of Equality"

Philip Kitcher: "Race, Ethnicity, Biology, Culture"


 Week Six (Nov 2nd & Nov 4th): Racism: Discursive, Systemic, and Doxastic

Required Readings:

Nov 2nd (Tuesday): K. Anthony Appiah: "Racisms"

Nov 2nd: (Tuesday): David Theo Goldberg: “The Social Formation of Racist Discourse”

Nov 4th: (Thursday): Judith Lichtenberg: “Racism in the Head, Racism in the World”

Supplemental Readings:

Kwame Ture and Charles V. Hamilton: "White Power: The Colonial Situation"

David Theo Goldberg: "The Semantics of Race"


Week Seven (Nov 9th): The Volitional Account of Racism

Required Reading:

Nov 9th (Tuesday): Jorge L.A. Garcia: "Current Conceptions of Racism"

Supplemental Reading:

Jorge L.A. Garcia: “The Heart of Racism” (strongly recommended)*

Jorge L.A. Garcia: "Philosophical Analysis and The Moral Concept of Racism"

Jorge L.A. Garcia: "Three Sites for Racism: Social Structurings, Valuings, & Vice”


Week Eight (Nov 16th & Nov 18th): Responses to Volitional and Individualistic Accounts of Racism     

Required Readings:

Nov 16th: (Tuesday): Charles W. Mills: “Heart Attack: A Critique of Jorge Garcia's Volitional Conception of Racism"

Nov 18th (Thursday): Clevis Headley: "Philosophical Approaches to Racism: A Critique of the Individualistic Perspective"

Supplemental Readings:

Tommie Shelby: "Is Racism in the Heart?"

Thomas Schmid: "The Definition of Racism"


Week Nine (Nov 23rd): Narrow and Deflated Definitions of Racism

Required Readings:

Nov 23rd (Tuesday): Lawrence Blum: "Racism: Its Core Meaning"

Supplemental Readings:

Robert Miles: "The Unity of Racism: A Critique of Conceptual Inflation"

Robert Miles: "The Diversity of Racism: A Critique of Conceptual Deflation"


Week Ten (Nov 30th & Dec 2nd): Racism as Ideology and Disrespect

Required Readings:

Nov 30th (Tuesday): Tommie Shelby: "Racism, Moralism, and Social Criticism"

Dec 2nd (Thursday): Joshua Glasgow: "Racism as Disrespect"

Supplemental Reading:

Sally Haslanger: "Racism, Ideology, and Social Movements"

Michael Hardimon: "Should We Narrow the Scope of Racism to Accommodate White Sensitivities?"


Week Eleven  (Dec 7th & Dec 9th): Institutional Agency and Civic Vice

Required Readings:

Dec 7th (Tuesday): Andrew J. Pierce: "Structural Racism, Institutional Agency, and Disrespect"

Dec 9 (Thursday): Jeremy Fischer: "Racism as Civic Vice"

Supplemental Reading:

Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin: "A View of Racism: 2016 and America's Original Sin".


Catalog Description: 
A study of philosophical topics at the advanced level. Topics vary.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
April 16, 2021 - 11:54pm