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Über dieses Buch

Some American intellectual traditions, although pristine in appearance, are racist at their core. This book reveals the racism inherent in those Platonist and Enlightenment moral traditions that motivate much contemporary rhetoric. Part One contains five chapters of substantial critique, while Part Two contains four chapters of constructive suggestion explaining how indigenous American traditions of thought about morality avoid the racism of conventional Western moral thought that dominates political rhetoric. This book, because of its focus, thesis, and brevity, will be useful in a number of academic contexts, including political science, American studies, philosophy, sociology, and also to the larger educated public.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Prologue

Abstract
Ideas have consequences, and ideas have origins. Origins are at least as important as consequences, and sometimes more important, as the origin of the automobile illustrates. Likewise, moral ideas have origins equally significant for their content, as does the idea of justice. Our traditional European ideas of justice include the foundations of slavery and genocide. Only indigenous ideas of justice avoid those foundations.
Stuart Rosenbaum

Our Problem, Our Justice, Our Past

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. Justice and Race

Abstract
This chapter begins by describing a philosophy class discussion of a recently enacted Texas Voter Identification law. The class (mostly Republicans, but for one black female who is president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)) is divided by disagreement rooted in cultural difference, the same differences that divide American cultural and political worlds. The same cultural difference finds a home in confrontations between police and black men and boys; these confrontations I describe in some detail. Amadou Diallo appears, as do also Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, along with other instances of police shootings/killings of black men and boys. Justice questions get precise focus in all these situations of conflict. Western traditions of thought about justice find their way into virtually all our conversations about these particular situations that evoke judgments of justice and injustice.
Stuart Rosenbaum

Chapter 3. Western Justice

Abstract
I begin with a brief account of Platonism and explain how it lives in current Western, especially American, culture. Plato’s thought infuses our respect for authorities, even though our authorities are not (as Plato would prefer) an intellectual elite. I return to the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson confrontation and try to find some analogue of the respect for authority that pervades our culture in their confrontation. I then give a brief account of The Republic to see how its search for justice yields something similar to, though different from, our own understanding of justice. Our difference from Plato appears, for example, in our respect for characters regardless of their intellectual ability; Forrest Gump is the prominent example here. The chapter concludes by raising questions about Plato’s account of justice in the context of our current needs for justice in racially freighted confrontations like that between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson.
Stuart Rosenbaum

Chapter 4. John Stuart Mill and the Liberal Tradition

Abstract
This chapter begins with a brief account of how we get from Plato’s idea of reason, through Aristotle and the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, to a slightly different and Enlightenment-inspired idea of reason. Reason, during the Enlightenment, took on again the autonomy from culture that it had for Plato. Mill is the character who expresses most vigorously the individualism prominent in Western intellectual culture, especially in American culture. Mill’s On Liberty is a definitive expression of the Enlightenment ideal of individual autonomy. Mill, unfortunately, turns out to be a thorough-going racist; his thought about India expresses that racism. Mill’s attitude toward residents of India resembles the attitude of Paula Ramsey Taylor toward Michelle Obama and Ms. Obama’s then-impending replacement by Melania Trump. (“It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a (sic) Ape in heels.”)
Stuart Rosenbaum

Chapter 5. Milton Friedman, American Economist and Liberal (1912–2006)

Abstract
Milton Friedman is the twentieth-century incarnation of John Stuart Mill. Friedman was a Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist who argued all of his professional life that Mill’s liberalism should pervade the American moral, social and political worlds. Friedman’s laissez-faire views about the economy lead him to object to the “war on drugs,” one contemporary symptom of the racism pervasive in the American world. But Friedman’s commitment to pure capitalism as the only legitimate way to address the racism pervasive in American culture is so naïve as itself to be racist. I argue that Friedman is as racist as Mill—and precisely because of his intellectual commitment to the liberal tradition rooted in Mill. In this chapter, as in the others, I recur frequently to controversy in the contemporary American social and political world.
Stuart Rosenbaum

Chapter 6. John Rawls, American Philosopher (1921–2002)

Abstract
John Rawls is the most important American philosopher who works with the idea of justice. Rawls departs definitively from the liberal tradition of Mill and Friedman and looks more like a democratic socialist in his understanding of justice. Rawls’s problems with justice are twofold. (1) Rawls tries for Plato-style rational legitimation of his principles of justice. In this effort, Rawls fails. (2) Rawls, like Plato, Mill and Friedman before him, is likewise a racist. Making this case about Rawls is a bit more difficult, probably because of Rawls’s intense focus on theory. Nevertheless, his focus on theory does not relieve Rawls of responsibility to confront real injustices of daily life. Rawls’s focus on theory is no excuse and, like Mill and Friedman before him, Rawls too is a racist.
Stuart Rosenbaum

Chapter 7. Retrospect and More

Abstract
This chapter is a summary account of the content of previous chapters and reinforces the point that Western intellectual culture, especially in its American incarnation, is thoroughly racist. I augment the summary dimension of this chapter with brief historical comments on ideology, race and genocide. The genocide carried out against Natives of “the New World” was founded on the intellectual, religious and moral traditions of the Western world discussed in preceding chapters.
Stuart Rosenbaum

Our Problem, Our Responsibility, Our Future

Frontmatter

Chapter 8. Michael Sandel’s Insight

Abstract
Michael Sandel sees that justice has little content of its own apart from some understanding of the good. Sandel sees that the mistake of previous thinkers—including Rawls—was thinking justice had a content all its own that could be discerned and acted upon. This insight of Sandel was already a staple of indigenous American thought and philosophy long before Sandel wrote. Sandel does see, however, the serious vulnerabilities of current American social reality and knows that conventional appeals to justice itself are useless. Sandel focuses on wealth inequality and the American need for “a politics of moral engagement.” (The idea of a politics of moral engagement is too vague to be helpful, and Sandel does little to fill it out.)
Stuart Rosenbaum

Chapter 9. W.E.B. DuBois and John Dewey

Abstract
Each of these thinkers—interestingly of the same generation—has an understanding of justice and the good that are indigenous to the American world and, more importantly, are not racist. This chapter explains the thought of DuBois and Dewey about these things and emphasizes their definitive differences from the conventional understandings of justice discussed in Part I. Both DuBois and Dewey seek an American democracy of brotherhood and sisterhood.
Stuart Rosenbaum

Chapter 10. Some Contemporaries

Abstract
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Bryan Stevenson and Michelle Alexander are some contemporary thinkers and activists who follow in the conceptual footsteps of DuBois and Dewey. This chapter considers each of those contemporaries and explains how each is a conceptual descendant of DuBois and Dewey. These contemporaries contribute distinctive ways of thinking about current issues of race in the American world, ways that follow the indigenous path blazed by DuBois and Dewey. The continuity in this indigenous American tradition of thought about justice is striking. Consequently, these contemporaries gain strength from realizing their continuity with those earlier—and pragmatist—traditions. This chapter concludes with comments about Coates’s reflections about reparations as he presents them in his well-known Atlantic essay.
Stuart Rosenbaum

Chapter 11. Our Future

Abstract
This chapter concludes by offering a specific diagnosis of contemporary American conundrums about race as well as specific constructive suggestions for addressing those conundrums. Paul Krugman, David Brooks and Sheryl Cashin are prominent characters in the discussion of this last chapter. The suggestions require us to move beyond fundamentalist, Enlightenment ideologies of society and politics and to embrace fully the indigenous intellectual traditions of our American world. These indigenous traditions enable a move beyond ideological opposition into a brotherhood and sisterhood of citizenship.
Stuart Rosenbaum

Backmatter

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