Affirmative Action and the Choice of Amends

Philosophia 43 (1):113-134 (2015)

Authors
George Hull
University of Cape Town
Abstract
Affirmative action is often implemented as a way of making redress to victims of past injustices. But critics of this practice have launched a three-pronged assault against it. Firstly, they point out that beneficiaries of preferential policies tend not to benefit to the same extent as they were harmed by past injustices. Secondly, when its defenders point to the wider benefits of affirmative action , critics maintain that such ends could never be sufficiently weighty to permit violating equal treatment. And, thirdly, critics dispute whether the alleged benefits of affirmative action really ensue. I argue this three-pronged assault is flawed at the conceptual level. Firstly, it operates with an impoverished conception of redress. When X wrongs Y, X does not make exhaustive redress to Y by compensating Y for the harm Y suffered due to X’s wrong action. Redress also requires rectification of the wrong: X must put right the wrong done to Y by making adequate amends. While the means of compensation are determined by the extent of the harm for which compensation is due, the adequacy of amends for a wrong is less tightly controlled by the nature of the wrong. So, secondly, it is perfectly right that the choice of amends be informed by the prospect of wider benefits. Whether, thirdly, these benefits are in fact in prospect in the case of affirmative action is an empirical question which philosophy cannot answer
Keywords Affirmative action  Redress  Rectification  Compensation  Harm  Wrong
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-014-9564-4
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References found in this work BETA

Responsibility and Atonement.Richard Swinburne - 1989 - Oxford University Press.

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Racial Inequality.George Hull - 2016 - Philosophical Papers 45 (1-2):37-74.

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