Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mill's Mr. Oreo (Thought Experiment)

Consider the case of someone i will call Mr. Oreo. Mr. Oreo cannot even think of passing, being quite dark with clearly black African features and with known black ancestry. But he is unhappy with his racial resignation, so he fills in "white" on bureaucratic forms, identifies himself as white, and rejects black culture. Will these gestures make him white?

Suppose individuals such as Mr. Oreo whose bodies are not . . . naturally white make us of [Plastic surgery techniques or genetic engineering to make it possible to transform one's skin, hair, and facial features so that one looks completely white] and then go on to assimilate as above. [Would they be white or just look white?] . . . Compare another kind of physical transformation, that of bodily physique and strength. if a machine were invented (Call this the Schwartzenegger Machine) that could transform 98-pound weakling into massively muscled superman capable of pressing hundreds of pounds without the tedium of years of special diets and weight training, would we say that the person only looked strong but had not really become strong? Obviously not: His new body, new physique, new strength are real. So What is the difference?


  1. The thought experiment is designed to "show how flexible we are" with our definition of race. People who took James Todd's cultural anthropology class are probably familiar with this. It also seems that if you begin asking people more and more questions about race, they begin to contradict themselves. (ex: race is determined by origine; race is not determined by origin). Blah blah blah...

    I don't like this thought experiment that much. I mean, I didn't feel enlightened engaging in it. Maybe that's because I'm tired of the topic (well, just in thinking about the ways in which society creates the idea of race).

    Oh yeah, when there are major blog posts I think we should send out emails to everybody. Also, lets include more on here other than thought experiments.

  2. ^Will try, i picked a thought experiment at random, and Mr. Oreo was picked. Ryan probably will email people, just give it a little time.