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Radical Courage: Bartolomé de Las Casas and his defense of the American Indians

Author(s): Jesús Jambrina

Journal: Analytic Teaching and Philosophical Praxis
ISSN 0890-5118

Volume: 32;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 48;
Date: 2011;
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In his book Radical Hope. Ethics in the face of cultural devastation (2006) Jonathan Lear elaborates on the importance of studying historical contexts in order to achieve a deeper understanding of ethics(8). Writing on how Native American Chief Plenty Coup (1848-1932) dealt with the devastation of the Crow people’s way of life, Lear goes beyond the classical definitions of concepts like hope and courage, reinterpreting them in terms of their ‘radical’ character.As we all know, “radical” is a very controversial word today. It isoften used to define so- called “anti-establishment activism,” which often includes acts of violence. However, the first meaning of “radical” is not its similarity with “extreme”; on the contrary, radical comes from the Latin word radix(root). This meaning was assimilated into the discipline of Linguistics and is used to refer to the ‘stem’ of words. The term ‘radical’ is also used by scientists in Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics to identify basic principles that allow for different developments within natural processes. I think Lear’s use of the adjective “radical” is meant to convey the older, more ancient sense of the term –its sense as original and fundamental– and not its current political usage and its association with violence. For Lear and his argument about the Crow people, ‘radical’ means the ability to maintain the core values of the community while moving ahead in difficult times.
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