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Rethinking the legitimacy of truth commissions: ” I am the enemy you killed, my friend”.

Eisikovits, Nir
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) Metaphilosophy. 37(3-4): 489–514.

The most contentious aspect of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation
Commission (TRC) concerned its amnesty-granting powers. In return for
perpetrators providing full disclosure about their crimes, the TRC was authorized
to release them from both criminal responsibility and civil liability. This essay
takes up the thorny question of how such a commission might be morally justified.
Part 1 discusses the political circumstances that led to the creation of the TRC.
Part 2 provides a critical survey of some previous attempts to justify the
commission’s work. Part 3 offers a new justification, grounded in Adam Smith’s
notion of sympathy; after outlining some of the benefits of sympathy for political
reconciliation, I argue that the work of a South African–style truth commission
can promote sympathy between former enemies. (Author’s abstract)


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