What Is Discrimination and When Is It Morally Wrong?

Jahrbuch für Wissenschaft Und Ethik 12 (1):97-114 (2007)
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Abstract

In this paper I propose to examine the concept of discrimination from an ethical viewpoint. In a preliminary part, I will point out which aspects of the subject matter I will focus on and which I will leave aside (II). On the basis of the Aristotelian principle “treat like cases alike”, I will continue with a very formal definition, according to which discrimination can be understood as acting in a way that implies that like cases are not treated alike. This leads to the difficult question of which cases are to be considered as “alike”, or which traits can serve as morally valid reasons for identifying cases as “unlike” (III). I will argue that this question cannot be answered independently from the specific circumstances and the normative premises referred to for describing these circumstances. My conclusion is that the concept of discrimination derives its “moral strength” solely from these normative premises. As a consequence, the use of the con- cept of discrimination can often be misleading since it falsely presupposes that there is agreement about the underlying normative premises (IV). Finally, I will illustrate the argumentation using “genetic discrimination” in connection with insurance contracts as an example (V).

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Bert Heinrichs
Universität Bonn

References found in this work

Untitled. [REVIEW]Peter Singer - 1993 - Ethics 103:807-810.

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