A Hideous Monster of the Mind: American Race Theory in the by Bruce Dain

By Bruce Dain

The highbrow historical past of race, some of the most pernicious and enduring rules in American historical past, has remained segregated into stories of black or white traditions. Bruce Dain breaks this separatist trend with an built-in account of the emergence of contemporary racial attention within the usa from the Revolution to the Civil warfare. A Hideous Monster of the brain unearths that principles on race crossed racial obstacles in a strategy that produced not just famous theories of organic racism but additionally countertheories that have been early expressions of cultural relativism, cultural pluralism, and latter-day Afrocentrism. From 1800 to 1830 particularly, race took on a brand new truth as american citizens, black and white, reacted to postrevolutionary disillusionment, the occasions of the Haitian Revolution, the increase of cotton tradition, and the entrenchment of slavery. Dain examines not just significant white figures like Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Stanhope Smith, but additionally the 1st self-consciously "black" African-American writers. those quite a few thinkers reworked late-eighteenth-century ecu environmentalist "natural historical past" into race theories that mixed tradition and biology and set the phrases for later controversies over slavery and abolition. In these debates, the ethnology of Samuel George Morton and Josiah Nott intertwined conceptually with very important writing by means of black authors who've been mostly forgotten, like Hosea Easton and James McCune Smith. clinical racism and the belief of races as cultural structures have been therefore interrelated facets of a similar attempt to give an explanation for human transformations. In retrieving overlooked African-American thinkers, reestablishing the ecu highbrow heritage to American racial idea, and demonstrating the deep confusion "race" brought on for thinkers black and white, A Hideous Monster of the brain deals a fascinating and enlightening new standpoint on glossy American racial concept. (20041001)

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His views of race little resembled those the Scots philosopher Henry Home, Lord Kames, who had famously espoused polygenism and whose work Jefferson admired. According to Kames, the races were self-evidently distinct species, for they differed from one another much more than many closely allied animal forms that all naturalists agreed were distinct species; and such species, like hares and rab- 36 ´ A Hideous Monster of the Mind bits or goats and sheep, could produce fertile crosses, so Buffon’s fertility definition of species had to be rejected.

Like Europeans, educated Americans read the Histoire. Next to Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae the most popular natural historical work of the day, the Histoire was brilliantly written, often sensationalist, and the model for the genre of natural description and also for French prose style. )39 Buffon’s reputation as a thinker fared less well, especially in North America. In Europe, the late eighteenth century saw a trend among European naturalists away from generalization and nebulous, essentially untestable hypotheses like “organic molecules” and toward concrete, smaller-scale studies of discrete organisms or types of organisms or ecosystems.

This gives me motion. Where there is an absence of matter, I call it void, or nothing, or immaterial space. 62 Jefferson seems to have discussed the abstract problem of natural classification only once, thirty years after writing Notes, in a letter to Dr. John Manners concerning gardening. He here expressed a strong nominalism, the view that natural classifications are arbitrary names, mere categories of human language and thought not in any way inscribed in the nature of things. “Nature has, in truth, produced units only through all her works.

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