Justice: What's The Right Thing To Do? Episode 09: "ARGUING AFFIRMATIVE ACTION" | Summary and Q&A

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September 4, 2009
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Harvard University
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Justice: What's The Right Thing To Do? Episode 09: "ARGUING AFFIRMATIVE ACTION"

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Summary:

This video discusses the concept of distributive justice in relation to the case of affirmative action. The speaker explores arguments for and against considering race and ethnicity as factors in admissions, highlighting the perspectives of various individuals. The discussion delves into the notions of correcting for educational disadvantage, compensating for past injustices, and promoting diversity. The video also raises the question of whether distributive justice should be tied to moral desert or if it should be detached from questions of virtue.

Questions & Answers:

Q: What distinction did Rawls draw in regard to distributive justice?

Rawls distinguished between claims of moral desert and entitlements to legitimate expectations.

Q: How did Rawls argue against the idea of distributive justice as moral desert?

Rawls argued that it is a mistake to think that distributive justice is solely based on rewarding people according to their virtue.

Q: What case was discussed regarding affirmative action in university admissions?

The case of Cheryl Hopwood, who applied for admission to the University of Texas Law School and was turned down.

Q: What admissions policy did the University of Texas Law School have at the time?

The University of Texas Law School had an affirmative action admissions policy that took into account race and ethnic background.

Q: What was Cheryl Hopwood's complaint about the admissions policy?

Cheryl Hopwood argued that she was being turned down solely because she was white, as minority applicants with lower grades and test scores were being admitted in her place.

Q: What arguments were presented in defense of affirmative action?

The arguments presented included correcting for educational disadvantage, compensating for past wrongs, and promoting diversity.

Q: What is the corrective argument in defense of affirmative action?

The corrective argument states that considering race and ethnicity corrects for differences in educational background and provides a more accurate measure of academic potential.

Q: How does the compensatory argument justify affirmative action?

The compensatory argument justifies affirmative action as a way of compensating for past injustices, such as slavery and segregation.

Q: What is the diversity argument in support of affirmative action?

The diversity argument asserts that a racially and ethnically diverse student body enhances the educational experience for all students and contributes to the broader social mission of the institution.

Q: What objection is raised against the diversity argument?

The objection is that individual rights may be violated if admissions decisions are based on factors outside of an individual's control, such as race or ethnicity.

Q: What is aristotle's conception of justice?

Aristotle's conception of justice is based on giving people what they deserve, taking into account their virtues and appropriateness for social roles.

Q: Why does aristotle argue that the best flutes should go to the best flute players?

Aristotle argues that the best flutes should go to the best flute players because the purpose of flutes is to produce excellent music, and those who are best able to fulfill this purpose deserve the best flutes.

Q: How does aristotle's conception of justice differ from modern conceptions?

Aristotle's conception of justice focuses on honoring virtue and moral desert, whereas modern conceptions tend to detach justice from questions of desert and focus on equality and individual rights.

Takeaways:

The video examines the arguments surrounding affirmative action and raises questions about the relationship between distributive justice, moral desert, and virtue. It presents various perspectives on the fairness and effectiveness of considering race and ethnicity in admissions decisions. The concept of teleological reasoning is introduced through an exploration of aristotle's conception of justice, which ties justice to the purpose or goal of the social practice. The video encourages further reflection on the moral basis of justice and the potential consequences of detaching justice from questions of desert.

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