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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 16, 2000
Race, Social Identity, and Human Dignity

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1. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Cheryl Hughes

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2. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Cheryl Hughes

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part i: the politics of difference

3. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Sharon Anderson-Gold

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For decades American sociologists maintained that due to the elimination of their ancestral heritage under slavery, African-American shad no ethnic culture. Social segregation was due to poverty rather than racial prejudice. Social theorist Robert Blauner contests this view. The theory that black culture is only a lower class life-style is flawed because it ignores the culture-producing effects of racism which is the basis for a distinctive African-American culture. Following Blauner, this paper argues that racism is a more complex phenomenon than discrimination because it asserts a type of inferiority that is not diminished by economic participation in the dominant culture. Racism encourages recurring social separations that set limits to assimilation. This paper also draws upon the work of Davis, Hacker and Winant to demonstrate how the bipolar construction of racial identity characteristic of racial relations in the United States precludes full social assimilation.
4. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
C. Colwell

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This paper examines identity politics from a pragmatic stand point. Setting aside the contentious philosophic issues of constructivism and naturalism, it arguesthat individuals are already fragmented by the bureaucratic in stitutions of contemporary life. A politics that conceives of individuals as collections of characteristics, rather than as bearers of inherent natures, is necessary to confront and overcome the multiple forms of discrimination we face. I argue that the traditional forms of identity politics that have been deployed to overcome racism, patriarchalism, and homophobia have outlived their usefulness and must be replaced by a politics of characteristics.
5. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Margaret Betz Hull

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German political philosopher Hannah Arendt offers a distinctive, sometimes controversial, understanding of her Jewish heritage through her use of the notion"conscious pariah" and the role she allowed her Jewishness to play in her identity. Based on her interactive theory of unique human identity as constructed through political action, Arendt envisioned public acknowledgement of her Jewishness as a performative, political act of allegiance, not a statement of fixed identity. Arendt's insistence that the personal facticity of human identity only be given strategic public acknowledgement is also found in contemporary feminist theory that rejects essentialism in favor of strategic uses of "woman."
6. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Cornelius Kampe

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Recent studies have revamped the conceptual geography of nationalism and posited the new "cultural" conception of the notion that avoids the two stools of theethnic and civic conceptions. Cultural nationalism is distinct from ethnic nationalism and is morally innocent of the evils perpetrated in the name of nationalism. Indeed, it is a positive form of social organization that recognizes social identity and individual dignity very much in line with Charles Taylor's thought. The paper illustrates such theoretical studies of nationalism with reference to the concrete manifestations of nationalism in Canada and the Baltic States and argues that there are strong elements of cultural nationalism that can be identilied in the cultural policies and the political life of these nations.

part ii: social justice

7. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Kevin M. Graham Orcid-ID

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This paper analyzes the political and legal context in which the 1999 Omaha (Nebraska) Public Schools bond issue was proposed and approved, and the conception of social justice that underpins it. I argue that the 1999 bond issue marks a shift from an ideal of social justice centered on integration toward another ideal of justice centered on fair distribution of resources. I indicate some of the limits of this distributive conception of justice from both a theoretical and a practical point of view. I argue that distributive justice must be carried out in a context of participatory democracy in order to achieve social justice in public education in present-day Omaha.
8. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
George Carwe

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In order to dismantle the racial and social hierarchy that is the legacy of apartheid, South Africa has followed the lead of Western liberal democracies andappropriated the discourse of affirmative action. This paper argues that current affirmative action policy fails in significant ways because it paradoxically ignores the concrete social and historical conditions of race and racism in South Africa and simply aims to normalize competition among abstract individuals by using a principle of racial neutrality The author argues that social justice will only be achieved in South Africa in a context of deliberative democracy, where effective affirmative action aims at social cooperation, full participation of non-whites in decision-making, and the elimination of race as a relevant social category.
9. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Clarence Sholé Johnson

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This essay examines Cornel West's position that social justice for the socially marginalized, especially African Americans, can only be obtained through, among other things, a synthesis of Marxian critique of capitalistic culture and hegemony, and Black prophetic theological outlook. I bring out certain limitations in West's position, in particular, what I construe as his tendency to reduce all forms of oppression to the economic. Furthermore, even as I agree with West that capitalism needs to be examined, I argue, on the contrary, that social justice can still be effected within a reformed liberal capitalist system.
10. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Alistair Macleod

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Taking for granted that there is a strong connection between respect far human dignity and endorsement of institutional arrangements that protect individual liberty, I ask whether this can be cited in support of a free market approach to the organization of the economy. The answer, it might seem, must be Yes. Prominent defenders of a free market system commonly assume that an important part of the rationale for the free market is that it protects individual liberty. Appearances are misleading, however. The free market ideal is not a mere corollary in the economic domain of the ideal of individual liberty. It stands, rather, at some distance from it, in both content and rationale. Indeed, conflict between these ideals in certain contexts can not be ruled out. The possibility has to be reckoned with, consequently, that an unqualified commitment to the free market system is not consistent with respect for human dignity.

part iii: dignity

11. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Ernesto V. Garcia

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Most scholars describe Kant’s idea of dignity as what I term his “vertical” account—that is, our human dignity insofar as we rise above heteronomous natural inclinations and realize human freedom by obeying the moral law. In this paper, I attempt to supplement this traditional view by exploring Kant’s neglected “horizontal” account of dignity—that is, our human dignity insofar as we exist in relationship with others. First, I examine the negative aspect of this horizontal account of dignity, found in Kant’s discussion of public heteronomy perpetuated by unjust social institutions. Second, I explore Kant’s idea of public dignity realized via social interaction: both (1) at the interpersonal level of education and friendship, and (2) at the societal level, in terms of moral education in the public sphere and a communal moral striving towards the highest good. I argue that we cannot realize our full human dignity for Kant outside of the context of concrete social relations with other moral agents.
12. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Jessica Prata Miller

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This paper explores the ways in which trust and distrust, especially among relative strangers, are connected to social identities and locations. It begins by sketching an account of interpersonal trust, emphasizing the role that socially salient identities, based in part upon cultural figurations, play in their development. It then contends that these cultural figurations both foster and result from distrust of specific social groups, including African Americans, the poor, and (some) women. Treating social roles and relations as central to moral analysis enables an understanding of the injustice of some forms of social distrust which does not imply that one individual’s distrust of another is culpable in a straightforward way. The paper then develops the claim that one’s social location can affect the moral desirability of trust and distrust, concluding that social distrust can sometimes function as a kind of dissident attitude, a political stance with emancipatory potential.
13. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Jan Narveson

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This general discussion asks just what social identity is and to what extent race, gender, and ethnicity contribute to it—the answer being, basically, very little. Social identity is how we are seen and classified by others, involving, in part, classifications that are empirically checkable; but there are also attitudes at work that are not wholly subject to testing. A major concern here is respect for and maintenance of human dignity, which in turn is analyzed into a fundamental “core” notion, and a more “special” notion. It is argued that the core notion stems from general humanity and that respecting it is basic to all good social relations. The “special” notions, on the other hand, are more variable and we need to be careful not to subordinate the core conception to special ones; doing this might have the ill effect, say, of taking it that someone’s right not to be murdered is due to race or gender.
14. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
John R. Rowan

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This paper is an analysis of the reasoning behind Megan’s Laws, which pertain to the notification of communities when convicted sex offenders move into the area, especially those offenders who have carried out crimes against children. Liberals tend to criticize these laws and often point to the value of privacy, which they claim would be unacceptably compromised by allowing them. Communitarians tend to endorse these laws and often point to the value of safety, which they claim would be unacceptably compromised were it not for such laws. Both sides also rely on the notion of human dignity in support of their arguments. In this paper, I offer a common foundation for these values and suggest implications regarding the moral acceptability of Megan’s Laws.

part iv: language and belief

15. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Kory Schaff

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At the center of the hate speech controversy is the question whether it constitutes conduct. If hate speech is not conduct, then restricting it runs counter to free speech. But even if it could be shown that it is a kind of conduct, complicated questions arise. Does it necessarily follow that we restrict speech? Practically speaking, can speech even be restricted, either through new legislation or the enforcement of existing laws regulating conduct? Are measures such as hate crimes legislation both useful and appropriate in protecting individuals and groups from violence? The present paper aims to address these questions by reconstructing and assessing Judith Butler’s important treatment of speech-acts and hate speech in her book Excitable Speech: The Politics of the Performative
16. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Shaireen Rasheed

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Living Dangerously: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Difference, Henry Giroux critically examines the emphasis on “clarity” in educational discourse, the best known advocate for which is Michael Apple. Giroux points out that a new generation of social critics, particularly in feminist theory, literary studies, post-colonial analysis, and Afro-American cultural criticism, has broken with traditional conventions that call for writing in a clear, unambiguous discourse. In contrast to Apple’s interpretation of “clarity” in language, the present paper will emphasize Giroux’s claim that educators need to center their discussion of language around a politics of difference that allows teachers and students to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to govern and shape society rather than be relegated to society’s margins. This paper will argue for the development of methods of articulating how social locations shape various social and intellectual perspectives. Education for critical consciousness should focus on the links between the historical configuration of social forms and how these links work subjectively.
17. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Yeager Hudson

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This paper argues that, despite the widespread assumption that everyone has an absolute right to hold any religious belief whatever, no matter how bizarre or irrational, there are limits to responsible belief. Epistemic responsibility means that we are not entitled to hold beliefs that, by recognized epistemic methods, have been discredited. The paper distinguishes epistemic responsibility from legal and from moral responsibility. Because our beliefs tend to affect our behavior, epistemically irresponsible beliefs become morally irresponsible when they conduce to discrimination or harm. To insist that scripture and religious doctrine must be believed literally and in every detail is epistemically irresponsible, because they have been shown to be, at many points, inconsistent with well-established scientific and historical knowledge. Such beliefs are morally irresponsible when they encourage racism or discrimination against women, gays and lesbians, ethnic groups, the poor, or any other individual or group.

part v: 1999 nassp book award

18. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Ulf Nilsson

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19. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Barbara S. Andrew

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20. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 16
Christopher B. Gray

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