What does the Court’s decision on affirmative action mean?

Posted June 24th, 2013 by
Category: Living consequences Tags: , ,

The U.S. Supreme Court has finally issued its ruling in this year’s affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, voting 7-1 to send the case back to the Court of Appeals for further review.

The Court’s decision upholds, at least for now, the use of race as a factor in admissions, while applying a more skeptical analysis than the lone dissenting justice, Justice Ginsburg, believes is appropriate. (Justice Kagan recused herself and took no part in the case.)

The majority opinion, authored by Justice Kennedy and supported by the other six justices, holds that the Fifth Circuit failed to properly ask whether the university’s use of race in its admissions policy meets the standard of “strict scrutiny,” the especially demanding standard which applies to the use of race in governmental actions.

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The argument against fairness

Posted January 14th, 2013 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: , , ,

Stephen T. Asma, Against Fairness (2012)Philosopher Stephen T. Asma is causing quite a stir these days with his new book, Against Fairness.

The crux of Asma’s argument is that favoritism, and not fairness or egalitarianism, ought to guide our morality and our civic life. His philosophy welcomes such modern, democratic values as compassion and the fight against prejudice, while urging us to reject liberalism’s belief in meritocracy and the equal worth of all persons. Instead, Asma would have us embrace our instinct to prefer, and to preferentially support, the members of our “tribes”—those we feel close to by reason of blood, social relationships, or such markers as religion, social class, or cultural affinity.

This philosophical approach represents a major challenge to those who believe that our society can, and should, work to overcome bias of all kinds, expanding the circles1 of those we consider “us” until we become, as Asma puts it, “one giant tribe.”

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  1. See Peter Singer, The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress (1981). []

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