In Search of the Rational Anti-Racist, part 4: Schopenhauer

Next in my survey of what the wise men of the past have written on race and intelligence should be Hegel. However, what Hegel has to say about race is largely tangential to the issue, because he is concerned with spiritual rather than physical/biological properties of people. His writings on Africa nevertheless make for interesting reading, and I will be quoting from them extensively in coming posts, but they fall outside the main line of this series. I therefore jump ahead to this passage from Arthur Schopenhauer’s Parerga and Paralipomena, originally published in 1851, and therefore pre-Darwinian.

The highest civilization and culture, apart from the ancient Hindus and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste or race is fairer in colour than the rest and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmins, the Incas, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands. All this is due to the fact that necessity is the mother of invention because those tribes that emigrated early to the north, and there gradually became white, had to develop all their intellectual powers and invent and perfect all the arts in their struggle with need, want and misery, which in their many forms were brought about by the climate. This they had to do in order to make up for the parsimony of nature and out of it all came their high civilization.

Despite appearing before Darwin’s work on evolution, Schopenhauer’s explanation sounds strikingly modern in its evolutionary character. Note that when Schopenhauer says white, he really does mean skin color, and that he writes white races. Thus Schopenhauer is not trying to justify European supremacy, but rather light-skin-tone supremacy.


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A Hero of Our Time
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