In: English and Literature

Submitted By jayjayhono
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Kwame Anthony Appiah’s essay, “Race, Culture, Identity” revolves around the words mentioned in the title, and how each one of their definitions are misunderstood and mistaken for one another. He works his way towards clarifying what each one means, using various concepts, examples and references to the words of historical figures. Two of the concepts used to identify what a race was were the ideational meaning and referential meaning. Out of the two, ideational meaning is one where one cannot get a clear definition about what a certain word or object is, however, all the facts presented about it still hold true.

“The simplest theory would also require that if we collected together all these criterial beliefs about race and took them all together, they could be thought of as defining the meaning of the word, “race.” (This is equivalent to saying that there are things that have to be true of something if it is to be a race – conditions necessary are, when taken together, sufficient for being a race.) We can use a device invented by the English philosopher Frank Ramsey in the 1920s to make this an explicit definition: something is a race just in case all the criterial beliefs are true of it. Lets call this the “strict criterial theory.” (Appiah 104)

Appiah had stated earlier, right before this quotation, that criterial beliefs “define the concept” that one is talking about. For example, if a person was talking about a laptop, certain points or descriptions such as “it needs a power source to function” or “it can be used to send emails” all are true facts about a laptop. When many of these “criterial beliefs” are put together, it can be used to define the word, even if a clear set definition cannot be given. This is the ideational meaning of a word. With this, Appiah also introduces “strict criterial theory”. What philosopher Frank Ramsey stated was that…...

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