Enrique Dussel and Liberation Theology: Violence or Dialogue?

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For centuries, several disciplines have tried to tackle the topic of how legitimate it is to use violence in order to solve social problems. One of the most recent interdisciplinary approaches (and one of the most successful in present-day Latin America) is the so-called “Ethics of Liberation,” designed by Enrique Dussel. Based on the Theology of Liberation, this theory goes beyond the limits of theology as a discipline and pleads for three ethical criteria that every political revolution must fulfill to use violence in a legitimate way. The first is a formal criterion, which basically takes after the ideal dialogue situation endorsed by Karl-Otto Apel and Jürgen Habermas, and purports to be rooted in yet another discipline, linguistics. The second is a material criterion, defined as the upshot of an acceptable welfare for all citizens, thus intimately linked with the discipline of economy and political philosophy. The third is a criterion of feasibility, which makes a revolt legitimate if, and only if, it has a reasonable possibility of succeeding; hence strategic issues take a leading role. This essay contends that each of these criteria is conceptually incompatible with violence. Hence, Dussel’s arguments involve multiple contradictions as he aims to justify the use of violence precisely with these interdisciplinary criteria.
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