Feb 16, 2011

Philosophical Phun- Discrimination

Discrimination wrongfully imposes relative disadvantages or deprivations on persons based on their membership in some salient social group. But which salient groups count for the purpose of determining whether an act is an act of discrimination? This question is at the heart of many heated political and legal disputes, such as the controversy over gay marriage [not intended to marginalize the extreme racial discrimination that has occurred over centuries in this country]. 

The concept of discrimination picks out a kind of moral wrong that is a function of the salient social group membership of the person wronged: persons are treated as though they had diminished or degraded moral status on account of their group membership, or they are, because of their group membership and the relative disadvantages that they suffer due to that membership, made vulnerable to domination and oppression. But why have such a concept? Why not simply have the concepts of domination, oppression, and degrading treatment, abstracting from whether or not the reasons for such wrongs involve group membership?

Judgments about discrimination can and do reveal genuine wrongs that persons suffer due to their salient group membership and expose actual patterns of disadvantage and deprivation that amount to systemic injustices against the members of certain salient groups. It is not necessary to take account of everything relevant to a phenomenon in order to understand and represent important aspects of it. 

The concept of discrimination provides an explicit way of thinking about a certain kind of wrong that can be found in virtually every society and era. The wrong involves a group-based structure that works in combination with relative deprivations built around the structure. The deprivations are wrongful because they treat persons as having a degraded moral status, but also because the deprivations tend to make members of the group in question vulnerable to domination and oppression at the hands of those who occupy positions of relative advantage. 

We should never treat others as having "degraded moral status."  It is shameful that people can take such a position and look down upon another because of their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, religion, or disability.



  1. Discrimination is a reaction out of fear of a loss of cultural and genetic identity. I don't know how you would be able to collectively create a state of mind where people are comfortable with themselves as well as with others.

  2. In order to fix this, people have to feel comfortable and not threeatened. Historically, the cause of unrest in societies is when the wealth of society is not distributed fairly. Notice I did not say equally. People will clearly accept the idea that some people will naturally have more money than others. They don't have a problem with wealthy people. What does cause unrest and discomfort, is when the wealthy, or more appropriately, the greedy, insist on taking more and more and leaving less and less for the rest of us. People look for someone to blame, and the greedy have enough money to divert the blame onto other groups. SO, it is not that Corporate America are withholding jobs to hold the country hostage, it's really those immigrants that are taking our jobs. And it's not Big Business that is making our paychecks less and less because they don't want to pay their fair share of taxes, it's that the government is supporting the poor. Unrest is stimulated by Corporate money (eg: Teabagger movement) in order to create a smoke screen that prevents us from dealing with the actual problem. Corporate America/Big Business wants special favors, and they are willing to buy Congressmen to get them. And they have in the past and present, and will lin the future.

  3. I see the rise of teabaggery and expect things to only get worse.

  4. This is a real problem ... and not at all easy to fix.

  5. At one time I thought it a joke, but ignorance can only be 'fixed' with proper education. Not just teaching, but educating.


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