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date: 15 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Colonialism has shaped the world at a fundamental level. At least some aspects of the philosophical worldviews of the colonizers must have been flawed to allow the violence and fraud of colonialism to occur. But which elements of these worldviews were mistaken, and in what ways? This essay’s goal is primarily typological, to outline four stages of philosophical inclusiveness at which these flaws might be found. They might be found (1) in Western philosophy as a whole, including its conceptions of epistemology and metaphysics, so that for example Western philosophical approaches are unable to recognize the existence of animal beings and spiritual powers; (2) in Western philosophy’s basic moral orientation to the world, which sees morality as burdensome rule-following rather than basic attention to relationships and awareness of others’ interests, or (3) in specific flawed ideas, such as the concept of sovereignty, which allows political institutions to override individual consciences, or the concept of individual “rights,” which encourages individuals to see themselves as more fully separate from others than they are. Or, finally, (4) the problem could primarily be one of dangerous double standards, in which colonizing populations refused to allow Indigenous peoples the same treatment they wanted for themselves. Locating the social dangers of Western philosophical approaches at one stage of inclusiveness rather than another leads to divergent analyses of the roots of colonialism and different ways of responding to it in the present.

Keywords: epistemology, ontology, ethics, sovereignty, political strategy, Vine Deloria Jr., William Apess

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