Thom Brooks, "A Two-Tiered Reparations Theory: A Reply to Wenar," Journal of Social Philosophy 39(4) (2008): 666-69. (subscription-only)
This paper argues that Leif Wenar's theory of reparations is not purely forward-looking and that backward-looking considerations play an important role: if there had never been a past injustice, then reparations for the future cannot be acceptable. Past injustice compose the first part of a two-tiered theory of reparations. We must first discover a past injustice has taken place: reparations are for the repair of previous damage. However, for Wenar, not all past injustices warrant reparations. Once we have first passed the initial test of demonstrating a past injustice has taken place, we then determine whether or not to finally accept reparations based upon forward-looking considerations. What is important to note is that this decision to award reparations is based upon forward-looking considerations, but only after first satisfying the test of a past injustice. Thus, backward-looking considerations make up an important first part of Wenar's two-tiered theory of reparations. It is not my argument that this theory is unsafe and I find Wenar's arguments both novel and highly compelling. However, the view that this theory is forward-looking -- and not backward-looking -- is not entirely accurate. My brief reply corrects this part of an important new theory of reparations in the hope of strengthening its persuasive power.