David Teira: Racial amnesia in the Spanish Golden Age (with Oriol Vidal)
The amnesia thought experiment is an objection against social constructivism about race. Assuming that race is a classification depending on people observing or imagining bodily features, if these people suddenly suffered a bout of amnesia, their concept of race would vanish, challenging the reality of racial categories. A simple rejoinder against this objection is that it is simply far-fetched: this thought experiment has no bearing on the real world. In this paper, we answer this rejoinder with a case study about racial amnesia in the Spanish Golden Age. Racial categories were based upon religious registries, and membership in a category could be bought and sold according to the candidate’s wealth, so that Jews and Moorish could have their racial ancestry forgotten. On the basis of this case study, we strengthen the case for racial anti-realism.
David Teira is professor of philosophy of science at UNED.