Du Bois, Pratt on Race/Ethnicity

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While analyzing and discussing the issues of epistemology, determinism and consciousness in relation to Du Bois’ thoughts on race and ethnicity, an attempt to answer the questions of whether or not these relationships alter or add to the standard philosophical conceptions of the Self and Personhood from the epistemological standpoint of my own gender, ethnic background, and personal identity. Du Bois’ theories on race/ethnicity adjacent to American society still touch base with the minority community today and have a tremendous impact on our lives both individually and collectively. According to Pratt, race undermines equality. On one side, emphasizing individuality distinguishes one person from the other, but having to recognize race then leaves out the individuality part. Pratt believes that recognition of race runs the risk of becoming identified with racism. When thinking of race, many attribute the idea with racism, prejudice, violence and dehumanization. Du Bois disagrees with this idea. The problem of the 20th century according to Du Bois was the color-line. But that did not mean the solution was to eliminate the color-line. Du Bois believed that race should be conserved. Du Bois insisted that thinking about race should be a benefit to society. Moreover, he believed that setting aside race would hurt the whole. Du Bois disagreed with those who wished to reduce race to ethnicity.

Du Bois’ notion of race consisted of three main points. First being that race pertained to a physical embodiment. Second, race being attributed to a social history and lastly, an aspiration for the future or common end-goal. Du Bois thought features that defined race also defined individual identity. Du Bois points to an interesting point concerning double-consciousness, he explains it through the Negro experience by stating that throughout history, the Negro tradition has been lived intermediately through other civilizations. Furthermore, Negroes as a whole were never given a true self conscious. According to Du Bois, “… the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil ...” and through that veil they are allowed to view oneself, their soul, their body and so forth. In The Souls of Black Folks, Du Bois draws from his own experiences to develop this work on being African-American in American society. In his first chapter entitled, “Of our Spiritual Strivings” Du Bois begins with a question, “How does it feel to be a problem?” According to Rauhut, determinism is defined as a theory holding that the future is fixed by the past. Rauhut asks in Ultimate Questions: Thinking About Philosophy, “How much power does the past have over the future?”(Rauhut, 86) He determines that if the link between the past and the future is very strong, and if there is only one past, then the possibility arises that there is also only one future. A hard determinist believes that the past completely determines the future. Since all future events are caused by past events, the future is casually determined. It is not within a person’s power to shape the future. Free will is an illusion. An indeterminist denies that the past has a strong effect on the future. According to indeterminism, at least some events in the future are not caused by events in the past. The future is somewhat random and unpredictable. This avoids the threat of determinism. A libertarian insists that human beings are agents and that

agents have special casual powers. They can initiate events on their own account and are therefore free to shape the future. A soft determinist holds that we can have free will even if the future is determined. A person is free and responsible for our actions as long as these actions are caused in the right way. A person can distinguish two different forms of soft determinism. The first of the two has to do with traditional compatibilism. A traditional compatabilist holds that actions are free if they are caused by the will of the agent and they are not...
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