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The movement toward the abolition of the system of enslavement has been remembered as one of the great humanitarian initiatives in modern history. Occurring as it did in a world that was rent by the slaveholding republics and empires of America and Western Europe, abolition was in some ways “anti-modern” in that in sprung from those intellectuals and moralists who denied that progress benefits us all if it comes at a human cost. Therein lies the paradox. How could a system so responsible for the modern world’s economic progress, like enslavement, be ended by those who enjoyed its benefits?
'''The Moral Argument'''
The evolution of the moral argument dates back to the long conversation around the question of human nature. What Sylvia Wynter and others frame as the “genre of the human” provides a roadmap to the nature of the conceptual arguments advanced by Western philosophers. Clearly, who gets constituted as human determines who is offered the protections offered by a social contract that confers rights upon those humans that belong to a particular society. The foundations of enslavement, then, are based upon the denial of the humanity of those that are enslaved. Importantly, this precedes the enslavement of Africans, but it is also true that it was already racialized, if we take the arguments of Cedric Robinson to heart.