Bernasconi's essay locates Antenor Firmin's De l'egalite des races humaines (1885) in the context of the discussions of the science of race at the time, and argues that when seen in that light the book should be considered a work of philosophy as well as a contribution to the science of its day. Particular attention is given to the debate between monogenesis and polygenesis, the impact of Charles Darwin on the discussion of the human races, particularly through the work of Clemence Royer, and the role of positivism within anthropology. Although Firmin addressed the contributions of Charles Darwin and Arthur de Gobineau to the understanding of race, they were not his main focus, which was to expose the fallacies employed by the advocates of racial inequality. Firmin's reliance on the Comtean doctrine of progress makes it impossible for us to embrace his overall theory today without considerable reservations. Nevertheless, the ease with which he exposed the prejudices of many of the leading scientists of his day provides an invaluable challenge to all those who want to excuse their failure to promote racial equality on the grounds that they were simply 'children of their time'.
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- Cultural Studies