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Universal Human Liberation and Insurrectionist Ethics or An Excursus Honoring the Guile and Enmity of Leonard Harris

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Lee McBride
The College of Wooster
United States

In this paper I piece together some of the seemingly disparate aspects of Leonard Harris’s political philosophy in an attempt to locate insights that will sophisticate my own pragmatist position. I discuss Harris’s conception of racism and Harris’s commitment to the uplift of the racial underclass, the immisserated who are stripped of honor and assets. I explain how the advocacy of racial groups need not be antithetical to universal human liberation. I also discuss Harris’s insurrectionist ethics, which outlines the types of moral intuitions, character traits (or virtues), and methods required to accomplish the goal of universal human liberation. I argue that Harris’s insurrectionist philosophy offers a compelling view of human liberation and social change, one which allows for righteous indignation and enmity in the face of injustice. While insurrectionist character traits and methods may be at odds with pragmatist character traits and methods in some contexts, I argue that, in particularly brutal and/or hegemonic contexts, a Deweyan pragmatist is not precluded from implementing the character traits and methods described in Harris’s insurrectionist ethic.


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