Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Socrates Meets Elton John

This is quite an entertaining dialogue (HT: Victor Reppert). It makes a good point about the concept of tolerance, namely, that to be tolerant of something is not to accept it, but to graciously put up with it while rejecting it.

Another important issue that comes up near the end is that of discrimination. What, exactly, is wrong with it? The dialogue ends short of answering that question, and I hope the "to be continued" promisory note is delivered on. Offhand, I would say that there is nothing morally wrong with discrimination per se. It only becomes morally wrong when either (a) one's reason for discriminating is immoral in the first place (e.g., a group of terrorists is deciding who to behead next), or (b) the criteria or grounds used to discriminate are insufficient to justify differential behavior toward different people (e.g., an employer rejects a job candidate simply because of racial reasons when race is irrelevant to the job in question).

To see that discrimination, even racial or gender descrimination, are not invariably wrong, consider a movie producer casting for the title role in a serious drama on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Suppose that the best actor to apply for role is white and female. Would the producer be justified in giving the role to a black male instead? Of course, I would think. The nature of the role demands an actor who can convincingly play a black male. Since race and gender are relevant in this case, discrimination on such a basis would be justified.


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