512. Whether our natural Irish are not partly Spaniards and partly Tartars; and whether they do not bear signatures of their descent from both these nations, which is also confirmed by all their histories?
513. Whether the Tartar progeny is not numerous in this land? And whether there is an idler occupation under the sun than to attend flocks and herds of cattle?
514. Whether the wisdom of the state should not wrestle with this hereditary disposition of our Tartars, and with a high hand introduce agriculture?--Berkeley, The Querist.
This post is inspired by a wonderful lecture by Justin Smith on the history of philosophical racism with special emphasis on the logic of living systems in the history of philosophy. In The Querist (first published in 1735), Berkeley offers an ambitious program of political, economic, monetary, educational, and cultural reform for Ireland. Berkeley revised it a few more times through the end of his life. The book has attracted modest attention from historians of economics and scholars of Ireland in the eighteenth century.
In the three queries (which are also found in the first edition) quoted above, Berkeley treats the eighteenth century native population of Ireland (as opposed to the colonial English and Scottish) as a mixture of two stock (Spanish and Tartars) with the Tartar predominating.* According to Berkeley's population theory (or assumptions), these distinct human populations have inherited, enduring dispositions that express themselves in particular behavioral manifestations and occupational traits. This theory is, in part, designed to explain Ireland's backward economic development, which remains stuck in a shepherding stage and has not moved yet to the agricultural stage (not to mention the commercial stage reached by Holland and England). In fact, in these remarks Berkeley anticipates the outlines of the so-called stadial theory of economic development more commonly associated with Hume, Smith, and Marx. Berkeley's theory is also designed to justify colonial policy, that is, to introduce forcibly ("heavy hand") agricultural practices into Ireland.
Berkeley does not explain the mechanism between the inherited "dispositions" that characterize a population stock and the external signs (or "signature") by which these are expressed (and, perhaps, recognized). But strikingly, these dispositions endure over time and after considerable mixing of populations given a certain set of institutions. Unfortunately, he is silent on the mechanism of inheritance, too.
Berkeley does not use the term "race" in The Querist, so you may think I am being not just anachronistic but misleading in the title of this post. But, first, he does use stereotypes to characterize distinct populations whose inherited dispositions and identity endures within a mixed population. Second, he does treat the then-present native, Irish population as a "lazy, destitute, and degenerate race" in his (1749) A Word to the Wise. From context, it is clear that Berkeley thinks that with different incentives and social mores/institutions the Irish could recover ancient flourishing in arts and letters.
So, Berkeley is not a racial determinist who thinks that stereotypical traits can never be modified. Institutions can, in fact, be stronger than inherited dispositions. Moreover, he is uninterested in racial purity. (And, as we have seen, for Berkeley a race can itself be a mixture.) Rather, he advocates increased population mixing between colonists and colonized (recall). This is clear from an earlier set of Queries in The Querist:
206. Whether the Public is more concerned in any thing than in the procreation of able citizens? ...
213. Whether it was Plato’s opinion that for the good of the community, rich should marry with rich? (Laws, I.4)
214. Whether as seed equally scattered produceth a goodly harvest, even so an equal distribution of wealth doth not cause a nation to flourish?
215. Whence is it that Barbs and Arabs are so good horses? And whether in those countries they are not exactly nice in admitting none but nudes of a good kind to their mares?
216. What effects would the same care produce in families?
According to Berkeley population management is a key policy objective of the government. It requires the same kind of skill and practice as horse-breeding. A growing population is (in addition to hard work and frugality) the "foundation" of enduring economic growth (217). Not unlike the Athenian Stranger in Plato's Laws, Berkeley is also an enemy of extreme income inequality and assortative mating. (I think Berkeley has Laws VI, [773a-f] in mind.)*** In particular, for the "good of the community," he promotes interbreeding of economic classes by way of well regulated marriage laws. In practice this means interbreeding among the (Protestant) upperclass English (and Scots) and the native (Catholic) Irish.
At this stage of The Querist Berkeley does not mention his population theory. But given that later in the text he associates the extremely poor shepherding element of the Irish population with the Tartar stock, the net effect of Berkeley's breeding proposal is to dilute the inherited dispositions that he thinks prevent economic growth.
*During the eighteenth century, "Tartars" tends to refer to what we would call central Asia. Here's a map of Tartary as drawn by Nicholaas Witsen, an Amsterdam mayor who corresponded with Leibniz.
** As opposed to rape.
***He thinks that the consumption habits of the very rich (absentee) landlords in Ireland, impoverish the nation.