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Elighty philosophers--including eight Harvard professors--recently signed a petition requesting President-elect Ronald Reagan to withhold military aid from eight Latin American countries that they feel have violated human rights.
The petition, circulated at a meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Boston in late December, urges the government to withhold aid from Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Colombia.
The people of these nations "have been terrorized by a wave of arbitrary detentions and arrests, murders and 'disappearances,' rape and torture," the petition states.
The recent killing of American nuns in El Salvador, coupled with the election of Reagan, prompted the petition, Thomas Pogge, a philosophy graduate student and one of the petition's co-authors, said yesterday.
"The fact that most of the major philosophers in the country signed the petition is significant," Pogge said, adding that the petition marked the first time since the Vietnam War that philosophers seemed to take a political stand.
"Over and over we are supporting governments that we shouldn't," Stanley Cavell, Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value, and one of the petition's signers, said yesterday. The petition is a "worthy caution" to the new administration that our relations with Latin America are in disarray," he added.
I Second That Emotion
Roderick Firth, Alford Professor of Aesthetics, said yesterday he signed the petition as "a matter of conscience," adding, "I would like to think my country has as moral a foreign policy as possible."
Firth said he doubts that the petition will affect Reagan's foreign policy, but that it is "important to urge action, no matter how doubtful the effect."
Don Garrett, assistant professor of Philosophy and another signer, was even more dubious about the petition's impact.
"The people who signed the petition are not people Reagan is going to be listening to," Garrett said.
He speculated that the Reagan administration's reaction to the petition would probably be, "Those academics, what do you expect?"
Pogge said only two Harvard professors, Henry Goodman, professor of Philosophy Emeritus, and Robert Nozick, professor of Philosophy, refused to sign the petition.
Nozick refused comment yesterday, and Goodman could not be reached for comment.
Other signers of the petition include John Rawls, Conant Professor of Education and Philosophy, and Noam Chomsky, professor of Philosophy at MIT.
Pogge said he sent copies of the petition to several U.S. senators and asked them to attend a news conference on the petition.
But his only response came from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54 (D-Mass.), who wrote that he supports the petition, but he could not attend the news conference because he was skiing in the Midwest.
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