Robert A. Wilson
The Eugenic Mind Project
MIT Press 2017
New Books in Genocide StudiesNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in MedicineNew Books in PhilosophyNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books Network October 15, 2018 Carrie Figdor
For most of us, eugenics — the “science of improving the human stock” — is a thing of the past, commonly associated with Nazi Germany and government efforts to promote a pure Aryan race. This view is incorrect: even in California, for example, sterilization of those deemed mentally defective was performed up to 1977. In The Eugenic Mind Project (MIT Press, 2017), Robert A. Wilson critically considers the type of thinking — which he calls eugenic thinking — that drives eugenic sterilization practices: the quest for human improvement that derives from negatively marked differences between “better” and “worse” kinds of humans. Wilson, who is a professor of philosophy at La Trobe University, also recounts his research with living survivors of these practices. The book is an eye-opening philosophically informed discussion of how eugenic thinking is found in prenatal genetic testing, selective abortion, discrimination of those with disabilities, and immigration policy, and why eugenic thinking is so persistent.