Conflict among peoples and common moral ground

Political Theory 35 (5):550-597 (2007)


Defenders of Aboriginal rights such as James Tully have argued that members of majority populations should allow Aboriginal peoples to argue within their own preferred intellectual frameworks in seeking common moral ground. But how should non-Aboriginal academics react to claims that seem insufficiently critical or even incoherent? This essay argues that there are two reasons to be especially wary of attacking such errors given the historical injustices perpetrated by settler states against Aboriginal peoples. First, attempts to root out error will often be misplaced, because they will fail to consider the full range of possible reasons for particular kinds of social practices. Second, such attempts will often have counterproductive social effects in disrupting conversations and prolonging Aboriginal alienation. This essay thus argues that non-Aboriginal academics should be willing to exercise considerable self-restraint toward apparent intellectual errors, because such a strategy will be most conducive to realizing justice over the long term.

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Jeff Spinner-Halev
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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