Collective State Apologies and Moral (Il)Legitimacy

Public Philosophy Journal 4 (1):1-16 (2021)
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Abstract: We live in the age of apology, particularly the age of collective apology. Here, I focus specifically on collective state apologies. In these apologies, political leaders apologize on behalf of an entire collective to another collective, often a racial or ethnic minority. Cynicism and skepticism arise on whether these apologies are morally legitimate. Here, moral legitimacy entails that an apology deserves to be given the authority, seriousness, and consideration that interpersonal apologies usually demand. In this paper, I respond to two groups that doubt the moral legitimacy of such apologies, namely political-realists and moral-individualists. Ultimately, I argue that collective state apologies can be morally legitimate. Political-realists are wrong to think that sincerity is necessary or sufficient for moral legitimacy. Moral-individualists overmoralize the role of the individual to the point of “hyperindividualism.” I end by proposing that at least democratically elected leaders have standing to apologize on behalf of their constituents.
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First archival date: 2021-04-23
Latest version: 2 (2021-07-08)
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