Cornel West, born in 1953, has distinguished himself during the 1980s and 90s as a public intellectual and powerful spokesman for the African-American community. A professor of both Afro-American studies and the philosophy of religion at Harvard University, West has ranged broadly over the scholarly terrain in order to map out a course of thought and action for American blacks. His writings speak to the widest possible audience. More an essayist than a writer of treatises, West uses philosophy to root contemporary issues in a conceptual matrix. Coming under the influence of philosopher Richard Rorty while a graduate student at Princeton, West has taken in the postmodernist perspective without yielding to its linguistic emphasis. In this selection drawn from his first book, Prophecy Deliverance! An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity, West embeds Western European thinking about race in the very foundations of the scientific tradition that triumphed with the Enlightenment.