Whose opportunities ? (Colloque, oct. 2009, National Library of Portugal)

Legitimate Parental Partiality

vendredi 23 octobre 2009, par Adam Swift, Harry Brighouse

Thèmes : Inégalités | Famille

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The tension between partiality and equality is widely recognized. Even the most ardent egalitarians acknowledge that individuals have some prerogative to pursue their own self-interest, and the permissibility of some kind or degree of partiality towards particular others—where those others are co-parties to certain types of relationship—seems hardly more controversial, in some ways less so. It is generally accepted that participants in such relationships may exclude others from the mutual benefits their association yields and have responsibilities to one another that give them the right, and sometimes the duty, to further one another’s interests in ways that may interrupt equality. Samuel Scheffler, who offers a sophisticated analysis of the connection between such relationships and the special responsibilities that attend them, describes this as the “distributive objection” : “the problem with such responsibilities is . . . that they may confer unfair benefit. . . . [S]pecial responsibilities give the participants in rewarding groups and relationships increased claims to one another’s assistance, while weakening the claims that other people have on them.” Indeed, participants in these protected relationships benefit twice over. They enjoy the relationship itself, and they enjoy the claims that it enables them legitimately to make on one another, to the exclusion of those not party to the relationship. This article explores the conflict between partiality and equality as it arises in the relationship generally thought to be the most powerfully protected of all : that between parents and their children. Parents may, indeed should, treat their children differently from other people’s children, and in ways that tend to confer significant benefits and to generate significant inequalities between them and those others. Rawls famously says : « It seems that even when fair opportunity (as it has been defined) is satisfied, the family will lead to unequal chances between individuals (Section 46). Is the family to be abolished then ? Taken by itself and given a certain primacy, the idea of equal opportunity inclines in this direction. » Only the invocation of his other principles, which he takes to soften the conflict between the family and “justice as a whole,” prevents this counterintuitive result.

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par Adam Swift, Harry Brighouse

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