Category: Applied Ethics

Two arguments in defense of affirmative action

Thomas Nagel (1981) distinguishes between two forms of affirmative action. “Weak” affirmative action refers to “to special efforts to ensure equal opportunity for members of groups that had been subject to discrimination”. This can include public advertisement of positions to be filled, active recruitment of qualified applicants from the formerly excluded groups, and special training programs to help them meet the standards for admission or appointment. “Strong” affirmative action refers to “some degree of definite preference for members of these groups in determining access to positions from which they were formerly excluded.” The “weak” vs “strong” distinction has also been referred to as the “minimalist” vs “maximalist” distinction (Beauchamp 1998) or the “procedural” vs “preferential” distinction. As Nagel and Beauchamp note, most people agree that “weak” or “procedural” affirmative action is justified (and perhaps even morally obligatory). However, there is significant controversy regarding “strong” or “preferential” forms of affirmative action. In this post, I will defend “strong or “preferential” affirmative action.

A defense of abortion: bodily integrity, responsibility, and deprivation

The standard pro-life argument against the legalization of abortion is based on the premise that fetuses are persons, combined with the widely held view that it should be illegal to kill persons. Since abortions kill fetuses, it follows that abortions should be illegal. Roughly speaking, the standard pro-life argument can be given in syllogistic form as follows: (1) Fetuses are persons. (2) It should be illegal to kill a person. (3) Abortion kills a fetus. (4) [from 1 and 2] Therefore, it should be illegal to kill a fetus. (5) [from 3 and 4] Therefore, abortion should be illegal. I think a good argument can be given to show that premise 2 is false in the case of abortion. By “good” argument, I mean an argument based on principles that cohere with our shared considered intuitions better than principles supporting any pro-life conclusion. More specifically, I believe that premise 2 can be shown to be false from intuitions that even most pro-lifers hold.