Original Articles

How does anybody live in this strange place? A reply to Samantha Vice

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 31, issue 4, 2012 , pages: 619–631
DOI: 10.1080/02580136.2012.10751797
Author(s): David BenatarPhilosophy Department, South Africa c/o


Samantha Vice has argued that ‘white’ South Africans are so tainted by the history of racial oppression in their country that they are incapable of attaining a great degree of moral virtue. She recommends that they should live in humility and political silence. There are a number of flaws in her argument. First, none of the characteristics of ‘white’ South Africans that she says provides the basis for these conclusions can distinguish (almost) all ‘white’ South Africans from (almost) all ‘black’ South Africans. Second, because it is not only ‘white’ South Africans but everybody in the world who either perpetrates serious injustice or is tainted by others’ perpetration of it, her argument, if sound, would imply that nobody is capable of great virtue and that everybody ought to be politically silent. Finally, her recommendation that ‘white’ South Africans should be politically silent is a very dangerous one.

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