Allan Kardec’s Views on Race Revisited. Part 2

innate interdependence between Spiritism, whose object is the study of the laws that govern spiritual principles, and conventional science, whose object is to study the laws of matter. According to him, the knowledge of one cannot be complete without the knowledge of the other [2], and his effort to re-examine some of the current scientific theories under the viewpoint of Spiritism is in complete alignment with this principle. Consequently, when Kardec attempted to explain the existence on Earth of the different human races and the reason for their differences, his rationale was based on the well established scientific fact of his time that there were races considered to be superior to others.

The primary goal of this article is to revisit Kardec’s writings about human races focusing on how they were influenced by the race theories then currently in vogue. A description of some of these theories is presented in the next section.

2 – The science of race in the 18th and 19th century

The first time the concept of race was examined from a scientific point of view was in 1735 by the Swedish biological taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus, who grouped human beings into the skin color varieties red, yellow, white and black, referring to the American Indians, Asians, Europeans and Africans, respectively. He also attributed a set of personal traits that were specific to each group: the whites, for example, were described as keen minded and innovative, the blacks as lazy and careless [5].

Linnaeus’ race classification was modified and expanded by the German physiologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, considered to be the father of physical anthropology, in the work published in 1776 entitled “On the Natural Varieties of Mankind”. His classification of human races consisted of Caucasians, Mongolians, Ethiopians, Americans, and Malays, reflecting the prevailing physical types found on the different regions of the known world. Contrary to Linnaeus’, Blumenbach’s classification was based solely on the general physical characteristics of the individuals of different races and it did not rank the races according to the intellectual abilities or moral standards displayed by those individuals. However, being a white European, his ethnocentric bias was revealed when he associated the white race with the region of Caucasus, due to the alleged beauty of its population. He actually stated that Caucasians were the original race from which the others have originated or degenerated. They were the most handsome and becoming, having the most beautiful form of the skull [8].

But at the end of the 18th century there were ethnological thinkers that insisted on the existence of a natural ranking of the various human races. The French naturalist GeorgesLouis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, assumed that Europeans were intellectually superior to Africans [9] and, in 1798, the German philosopher Christoph Meiners published the “Outline of the History of Humanity” establishing a racial correlation between physical beauty and intelligence, declaring that “fair” people were superior in both respects, while the “darker colored peoples,” he deemed both “ugly” and at best “semi-civilized.” [10]  Continue Reading —>