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Political Theory

H07(b) - Rights and Duties II

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 03:15pm to 04:45pm | Location: SWING 110

Chair/Président/Présidente : Peter Lindsay (Georgia State University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Peter Lindsay (Georgia State University)

Non-Indigenous Citizen Responsibility for the Redress of Historic Injustice: Three Approaches to Grounding Duties of Repair: Nicholas Murphy (University of Western Ontario)
Abstract: This paper develops a view of why it is incumbent upon non-Indigenous citizens of settler-colonial states to participate in state redress for historic injustices perpetrated against Indigenous peoples. Proponents of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens in transgenerational communities face the challenge of demonstrating why forward-looking responsibility for redress should be assigned to non-Indigenous citizens born after historic wrongdoing. The transmission of responsibility across generations must be justified to those who argue that one cannot be responsible for something one did not do. The paper first espouses a view of collectivities as subsisting entities that retain their identity over generations. This theoretical platform demonstrates both why states can incur enduring moral duties, and why Indigenous groups are owed reparation for crimes not directly suffered by their contemporary constituents. The paper then considers two ways to ground the duty of non-Indigenous citizens to participate in the fulfillment of the responsibilities of the state: the ‘benefits-received’ approach and the theory of associative political obligations applied to this context. The rejection of both highlights several desiderata necessary to any successful approach to grounding this duty. The paper then defends the ‘complicity’ view, which grounds duties of repair in virtue of non-Indigenous citizens’ perpetuation of ongoing injustices resulting from historic wrongs. This approach pays appropriate attention to the importance of collective memory while simultaneously promoting forward-looking measures of repair. This approach should serve to help combat skepticism concerning the responsibility of non-Indigenous citizens of settler-colonial states to participate in national reconciliation processes.


Not So Imperfect: The Duty to Provide Asylum to Refugees: Jeremy Geddert (Assumption College)
Abstract: Migrants often claim the human right of asylum. Yet as O'Neill, Wellman, and Meckstroth have each pointed out, migrants lack a perfect claim-right that corresponds to another’s duty of fulfillment. Indeed, any perfect right belongs to host societies to control their borders. In response, migrants might better appeal to an older rights tradition arising from the early modern concept of adiaphora, translated (imperfectly) as "indifferent things". 17th-century thinker Richard Hooker (best known through Lockean misappropriation) uses this concept to establish a realm of individual liberty (or rights) in which one may licitly choose from a plurality of options. However, such rights are granted only to permit the individual the latitude to make the best choice in the situation. The right-holder thus has an imperfect duty, or responsibility, to choose a greater good. This permits a rights-protecting polity to legislate responsibilities – such as those of asylum – over the objections of some of its rights-holding citizens, thus turning the imperfect duty into a perfect one. In other words, this alternative approach to human rights shows how host societies both can and should provide asylum to refugees, and helps to overcome the rights-based objections of immigration restrictionists.