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Why Oppression is Wrong

T. J. Donahue

Institute for Philosophical Research, UNAM

November 4, 2007

It is widely agreed that oppression is wrong. But what, above all, makes it wrong? What is its chief wrong-maker? This paper argues that what chiefly makes oppression wrong is that it violates two principles of political morality. The first is the principle of wrongful benefit: no one should benefit from her own wrong. The second is the principle of institutionalized harm: no social group should be subjected to an unjustified institutionalized harm. Let us call this explanation of oppression's wrongness the two principles thesis. In arguing for this thesis, I give an account of the nature of oppression, explicate the two principles, prove that they both exist, and then show how oppression violates them and thus is wrong. I then defend the thesis on the grounds that it better explains oppression's wrongness than do two rival explanations. First, the view that oppression violates a principle of non-domination. Second, the view that it violates a principle of equal respect. I show that my explanation better satisfies the nine criteria for choice among explanatory theories: evidential adequacy, simplicity, unifying power, falsifiability, testability, neatness, conservativeness, fecundity, and mechanism-informativeness.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: oppression, wrong-maker, wrongful benefit, institutionalized harm, domination, equal respect, theory choice

JEL Classification: D63

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Date posted: November 7, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Donahue, T. J., Why Oppression is Wrong (November 4, 2007). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1027481 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1027481

Contact Information

T. J. Donahue (Contact Author)
Institute for Philosophical Research, UNAM ( email )
Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n
Ciudad Universitaria
Coyoacán, Mexico, Distrito Federal C.P. 04510
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