Healthy Conflict in an Era of Intractability: Reply to Four Critical Responses

Journal of Religious Ethics 48 (2):316-341 (2020)

Abstract

This essay responds to four critical essays by Rosemary Kellison, Ebrahim Moosa, Joseph Winters, and Martin Kavka on the author’s recent book, Healthy Conflict in Contemporary American Society: From Enemy to Adversary (Cambridge, 2018). Parts I and II work in tandem to further develop my accounts of strategic empathy and agonistic political friendship. I defend against criticisms that my argument for moral imagination obligates oppressed people to empathize with their oppressors. I argue, further, that healthy conflict can be motivated by a kind of “secular” love. This enables my position to immanently criticize and mediate the claims that one must either love (agapically) one’s opponent in order to engage them in “healthy conflict,” on one hand, or that one must vanquish, exclude, or “cancel” one’s opponent, on the other. In Part III, I demonstrate how my account mediates the challenge of an alleged standing opposition between moral imagination and socio-theoretical critique. I defend a methodologically pragmatist account of immanent prophetic criticism, resistance, and conflict transformation. Finally, I respond to one critic’s vindication of a strong enemy/adversary opposition that takes up the case of white supremacist violence in the U.S. I argue that the time horizon for healthy conflict must be simultaneously immediate and also long-term, provided that such engagements remain socio-critically self-reflexive and seek to cultivate transformational responses.

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