UPDirectory Highlighted Philosopher of September 2017: Quayshawn Spencer

Quayshawn Spencer

Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania


AOS: Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Race, Philosophy of Science

My research focuses on topics that lie in the philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of race. The overlapping theme is that I work on philosophical issues having to do with classification. In philosophy of science, I have worked on the issue of what is the nature of a natural kind (understood as a real kind in the natural sciences). The theory I have developed is that natural kinds are plausibly thought of as “genuine kinds,” where a genuine kind is a metaphysically neutral competitor to traditional natural kinds, at least with respect to the scientific realism debate. This work has been published in Catherine Kendig’s (2016) “Natural Kinds and Classification in Scientific Practice.”

In philosophy of biology, I have worked on the issue of what is the nature of a biological population in evolutionary biology. In this work, I have defended “population pluralism” in an indirect way by articulating “K population theory,” which is a theory about what ‘population’ means when population geneticists talk about “continental populations” of humans. This work is in a 2016 issue of Philosophy of Science.

Last, but not least, in philosophy of race, I have worked on various issues in the metaphysics of race. In particular, I have defended a particular view of what ‘biological racial realism’ should mean, which appeared in Philosophical Studies in 2012. But also, I’ve advanced an actual defense of biological racial realism, which appeared in a 2014 issue of Philosophy of Science. Finally, I am working on three books in the philosophy of race. The first is The Race Debates from Metaphysics to Medicine (under contract with Oxford University Press), which is an edited volume that gets metaphysicians of race and scholars in the biomedical race debate to engage with one another. There will be many fantastic contributors, such as Naomi Zack, Joshua Glasgow, Robin Andreasen, Noah Rosenberg, Dorothy Roberts, Sarah Tishkoff, and many others. The second is Four Views on Race (under contract with Oxford University Press), which is a dialogue between myself, Joshua Glasgow, Sally Haslanger, and Chike Jeffers on the nature and reality of race.  The last is tentatively titled, A Radical Solution to the Race Problem, which is an attempt to defend “radical racial pluralism” as the correct metametaphysical position to take about the structure of the correct race theory for US race talk.