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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 17, 2001
Communication, Conflict, and Reconciliation

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1. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Cheryl Hughes, James Wong Preface
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2. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
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part i: public discourse and rational politics
3. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Joseph Betz The Definition of Massacre
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Examining the reasons for the conventional application of the term 'massacre' to some sorts of killings but not others, I arrive at this definition of the term. A massacre is the mass murder and mutilation of innocent victims by an assailant or assailants immediately present at the scene. This is a conventional and not a stipulative definition. Many standard definitions are imprecise for several reasons. They might say the killing is unnecessary or indiscriminate or at a distance or they might confuse it with terrorism. lmprecise definitions do not grasp the etymological connection to the slaughterhouse, the limited space at the scene, or the cruelty required of the assailants. The difference between weak and strong, descriptive and evaluative uses of the term 'massacre' allows for dishonesty and propagandistic uses of the term.
4. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Richard M. Buck Sincerity and Reconciliation in Public Reason
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In Political Liberalism and the essay "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited" John Rawls argues that citizens must refrain from introducing sectarian values intopolitical debate over fundamental political questions unless the positions they are endorsing can be supported by public reasons. I will argue that this duty allows for a more limited use of non-public ideas and values than is suggested in Rawls's discussion. ln addition, I will argue that reconciliation between citizens and the reinvigoration of free exchange and debate both call for an extension of this duty to debate over issues that are of immediate concern to citizens. I argue that public reason requires citizens to support only those public policies which can be defended by appeal to liberal political values (values such as comity, social stability, equality, happiness), and to sincerely affirm liberal political values as the ultimate justification of the use of state power to implement the public policies they support.
5. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Sylvia Burrow Reasonable Moral Psychology and the Kantian Ace in the Hole
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Rawls's political constructivism in Political Liberalism maintains that the two principles of justice will be accepted and endorsed by persons who are both reasonable and rational. A Theory of Justice explains the motivation to endorse the political conception on the basis of a Kantian moral psychology. Both Leif Wenar and Brian Barry argue that despite Rawls's claims to the contrary, the later work still supposes a Kantian moral psychology. If so, political constructivism fails to account for stability in society among a plurality of reasonable conceptions of good. This paper draws on Rawls's distinction in Political Liberalism between the political and nonpolitical moral sell characterizing each citizens' moral identity in claiming that the two parts of the sell correlate to two sets of motivation, political and moral motivation. This account explains resolution of conflict in the agent in favor of the political conception without invoking a Kantian moral psychology.
6. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Stephen Finn Geometry and the Science of Morality in Hobbes
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In the central chapters of Leviathan, Hobbes offers a demonstration of the "true doctrine of the laws of nature," which is identified with the "science of virtue andvice" and the "true moral philosophy." In his deduction of the laws of nature, Hobbes attempts to mimic the science of geometry, which he says is the "only science God had hitherto bestowed on mankind. "In this paper, I discuss some of the problems associated with Hobbes's application of the method of geometry to civil philosophy. After locating the root of these problems in Hobbes's in ability to recognize the distinction between formal and applied sciences, I discuss a possible solution. According to this solution, Hobbes's "science of morality" is considered to be a formal science that is applied to the world by an act of human creation.
part ii: mediating conflicts
7. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Lou Marinoff The Geometry of Defection: Cascading Mimicry and Contract-Resistant Structures
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This paper examines a social contractarian model in which an actor cooperates by mimicry; that is, cooperates just in case there is majority cooperation in his orher vicinity. A computer simulation is developed to study the relation between initial and final proportions of such cooperators, as wel l as to chart the population dynamics themselves. The model turns out to be non-linear; item bodies a quintessentially chaotic threshold. The simulation also yields other unforeseen results, revealing a "geometry of delection" that unites delecting cells into robust molecular formations which persist with in overall cooperative domains, or which under certain conditions undermine cooperativeness entirely. The model thus sheds so me light on the structura l dimension of mimicry that underlies social communication, conflict and its resolution.
8. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Jan Narveson Communication and Human Good: The Twentieth Century's Main Achievement
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The invention of computers, and especially their communication capabilities is revolutionary in several ways. They show the paramount importance of communication in human life, as well as facilitating revolutionary improvements in virtually all areas of social life: business, the arts, agriculture, and others. They put in perspective the erroneous outlook of "materialism" -the idea that human well-being is a matter of accumulating material objects, with a corollary that we must be using up the material resources that make such life possible. In fact, we use fewer and fewer material resources to make life better. Given human ingenuity, natural resources simply do not pose any basic restriction on human potential. Humanity can be in for a great future, provided our politics can be kept from wrecking it all. Will we have the wisdom to leave people to their devices and continue to forward all this progress?
9. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Nancy Potter Is There a Role for Humor in the Midst of Conflict?
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Theories of humor tend to neglect the role that humor plays in situations of conflict. This paper explores epistemological and political dimensions of humor as it is used by members of disenfranchised and otherwise marginalized groups. Not only can this kind of humor I call "oppositional" aid members of oppressed groups in preparing for conflict; it can also help people's beliefs shift in politically significant ways. Although I think the use of oppositional humor can be very constructive both politically and epistemologically indealing with conflict, I am skeptical about the use of oppositional humor in situations of direct conflict resolution. Nevertheless, I suggest that a type of humor called banter can be productively engaged in by the relatively disempowered when certain parameters are drawn.
10. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Alex Wellington Professional Ethics for Mediators: Tensions Between Justice and Accountability
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In this paper, I examine the development and application of codes of ethics for alternative dispute resolution practitioners, specifically mediators. I discuss thecommon vocabulary that one linds in model codes of conduct, and address the various dilemmas that arise for the "ethical" practitioner who wishes to model their practices on the standards found in such codes. I assert that some of the most intriguing and trenchant work on ethical dilemmas for mediators concerns the tension between accountability to participants, and aspirations to ensure just outcomes. The latter invokes norms pertaining to social justice in society at large. I suggest that it can be helplul to conceive of such dilemmas in terms of a contrast between obligations a rising from the "role" of an ADR prolessional and the "policy" dimensions of evaluating the impacts (intended and unintended) of the work of ADR professionals on society at large.
part iii: social criticism and communication
11. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Gaile Pohlhaus Diversity and Communication in Feminist Theory
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When diversity ligures in ways that insulate women's differences from one another rather than theorizing about them together, it is difficult to see how interactionamong women that recognizes their differences is possible. In turn, the possibility of communication may seen inordinately difficult when taking place among diverse groups about their differences. While not denying these difficulties, I want to avoid approaches and practices that may draw us into a stalemate in considering possibilities for communication. In the following, I bring together Maria Lugones's reflections on cross-cultural understanding with some of the ways of articulating understanding highlighted by the later Wittgenstein, which are open to the possibility of communicating differences.
12. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Heidi Nelson Hochenedel, Douglas Mann On the Impotence of Cultural Post-Feminism
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In this paper, we argue that the Cultural Left and what we call cultural post-feminism has done little to alleviate conditions of subjugation and oppression of girlsand women outside of academia and has in fact been complacent with patriarchal social structures. Cultural post-feminism, with its focus on difference and identity and its fear of speaking on behalf of the down-trodden for fear of "colonizing" them with Western ideologies, has made few serious attempts to evoke a real alternative to super-tolerant liberal pluralism. Further, we argue that academic feminism's traditional involvement with textual analysis rather than pragmatic social and political action has cooperated with the conservative academic climate in colleges and universities, giving students an overly abstract and elitist view of the feminist project. We call for a more active and progressive form of academic feminist thought, one that focuses less on difference, identity, and textuality, and more on social and political equality and justice.
13. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Letitia Mercia Meynell Dredging the Third Wave: Reflections on the Feminism of the Nineties
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In this paper I examine third wave leminism in the hopes of shedding light on its relationship to the concurrent contemporary backlash against leminism . I investigate this by attempting to answer two questions. First, given the nature of the first and second waves, is the third wave appropriately so called? I tentatively conclude that it is not. Second, I ask whether the issue of identity, which is central to third wave analysis, is addressed well by third wavers. I suggest that there are serious problems with the rejection of identity politics that characterizes much third wave feminism, particularly in the repudiation of second wave feminism that seems to accompany it. I conclude that, at best, the third wave seems unprepared to light the present backlash and, at worst, it appears to be a part of it.
14. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Sally J. Scholz Resurrecting Language through Social Criticism: Toni Morrison's Paradise as Insurgent Political Discourse
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Social criticism can take on many forms ranging from theoretical exposition to non-violent protests. This paper considers literary art as a form of social criticism and uses Morrison's novel Paradise as the exemplary case to show that the confrontation of unjust ideas through social criticism is essential in building non-oppressive relations open to diversity. In this sense, social criticism is a paradigm of communication that, although often entailing conflict, ultimately aims at reconciliation. I begin with a discussion of social criticism followed by a short synopsis of the novel. I then examine the novel as social criticism focusing on a process I call "twinning." The paper ends with a critical evaluation of the power and possibilities of literary art as social criticism.
15. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
John R. Wright Understanding Racism as an Ethical Ideology: An Approach to Critical Communication in a White Supremacist Society
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To be fully understood, contemporary forms of racism must be grasped as ethical ideologies rooted in an independent system of value classification. Racism does not merely result from an intrusion of strategic action on communicative action, as discourse ethicists might argue. In contemporary racism, the minority group is seen as perversely incapable of developing a capacity for the behavior that would constitute just moral reciprocity as decided in the contractual situation. Their standing as members of the moral community is thereby qualilied To address racism discursively, the racist must be met with more than an abstract moral demand. Rather, racists must be confronted with the needs and capacities of the racial outsider, so that they might perceive her acts as virtuous and recognize the aptness of her use of value-concepts.
part iv: critical communication and the task of social philosophy
16. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Nikolas Kompridis On the Task of Social Philosophy: A Reply to Axel Honneth
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Axel Honneth has recently proposed a reformulation of the task of social philosophy as the 'diagnosis of social pathologies'-i.e. as the critical diagnosis ofprocesses of social decline, fragmentation, and alienation. In this paper I evaluate Honneth's proposed reformulation, supplementing my criticisms with an alternative of my own.
17. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Jordy Rocheleau Communication, Recognition and Politics: Reconciling the Critical Theories of Honneth and Habermas
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Axel Honneth has outlined a critical social theory in terms of recognition. He has recently argued that his theory is superior to the communications framework ofHabermas in that it better achieves the goals of providing normative criticism of society's ability to foster genuine and full sell-realization and explaining how emancipatory social movements can emerge within existing society. After exploring these arguments and their implications for critical theory, this paper concludes that Honneth's criticisms of Habermas fail and that the former's recognition theory cannot provide an adequate free-standing alternative critical framework. lnstead, it is argued that recognition theory is best seen as a complement of a critical theory for which the normative basis remains Habermasian discourse ethics.
18. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Irina Predborska Toward a New Paradigm in Social Philosophy
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The new social reality of the end of twentieth century has created the need to reexamine our social theories. This paper is devoted to the methodological andtheoretical aspects of a new paradigm for social philosophy. The author formulates the main features of the paradigm: restricted rationalism, pluralism, variability, multi-dimensionality, stochasticity, the human dimension of social processes, alternativity, non-predictability, catastrophicity, and self-organization. The author then uses the methodological tools of this paradigm to reconstruct and examine the socio-cultural reality in post-communist Ukraine.
19. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
Juris Rozenvalds The Role of Intellectuals in the Reconciliation Processes in Post-Communist Latvia
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The role of intellectuals in the reconciliation between Latvians and Russians in postcommunist Latvia is analysed in the context of the traditional philosophicalproblem of the social role of philosophers and based on the ideas of Plato, Kant and Foucault. In accordance with Kant's understanding of the political role of philosophers, the main political functions of the intellectuals a repointed out. Despite the important role played by Latvian intellectuals in the so-called "singing revolution," they did not fullill their critical potential in opposition to the mass consciousness after the renewal of independence. Nowadays the establishment of dialogue between Latvian and Russian communities, based on mutual understanding and respect for otherness, is a crucial presupposition for the long-term stability of Latvian society. Whether this dialogue arises is to a great extent a question of moral choice made by intellectuals from both sides.
20. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 17
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