chapter  7
12 Pages

Conclusion: Looking to the Future—Quo Vadis?

The focus of this book has been on how arguments for universal equality can lead to policies that exclude the Other. By exploring the impact of the discovery of the New World on the evolution of European philosophy, I have examined the various arguments used to grapple with the otherness of the Indians. These arguments shed light on the tensionladen claims about human nature and the dilemmas regarding the political rights of the Other developed across the West’s intellectual heritage, and resonate with contemporary challenges raised by cultural diff erences perceived to be radical, threatening, or incompatible with the liberal thread of modernity. I have called these dilemmas and challenges the tensions of modernity. In exploring the arguments and legacy of one of the cherished defenders of the Indians, Bartolomé de las Casas, I have shown how imposing cultural othercide on the Other eventually led, in the case of the Indians, to the legitimization of their physical othercide. Looking retrospectively then, the philosophical narrative of modernity I have told reveals an inherent paradox-the modern conception of the human I have described, embedded in claims to moral superiority, promotes the equal rights of the Other to choose its view of the good but can also accommodate various levels of exclusionary rhetoric because the concept of rights is linked to a specifi c (Western) view of the good which the Other might refuse. This paradox generates tension between claims to moral superiority and continuing alterity, thus opening the philosophical space for various levels of inegalitarianism that permeate political dealings with the Other. Exclusionary arguments are thus not necessarily a contradiction to the egalitarian principles of modernity, but are built into some of the philosophical underpinnings of modernity itself: the universal scope of the Western constellation of values, the belief in the benevolence of assimilationist politics as the means to ensure the dignity and rights of the Other, and faith in the capacity of the Other to recognize these universals and assimilate to them. This paradox does not mean the modern project should be abandoned to moral relativism or post-modern nihilism. And while one could hold a Las Casasian faith in the capacity of the Other to eventually come to recognize the

benefi ts of the Western constellation of values and assimilate, this faith is a short-term and perhaps overly naïve solution to the tensions of modernity, and not indefi nitely tenable. When faith in the assimilability of the Other runs out, then understanding the logic behind excluding the Other becomes all the more salient. Managing diversity is not just about fi nding a place for diff erence within modernity through some form of multicultural pluralism, but also necessitates understanding and coping with the impulse to turn to exclusionary rhetoric when facing the defi ant Other. This requires understanding and resisting the impulse to follow the logic of the inegalitarian, other side of modernity found in Sepúlveda’s dialogue, De Pauw’s dark conclusions about the unassimilated Other, and the Coup d’Oeil’s legitimized illiberalism.