While discussing Rawls’s argument on egalitarianism, we considered the need to assess basic ideas of the social contract from the vantage of the “veil of ignorance.” As we learned, Rawls thinks that doing so would place ourselves — hypothetically, of course — in an “original position of equality.” Only then can we legitimately consider which type of distributions of goods would retain moral worth.

However, maybe you were thinking while studying the last module: Well, what are we supposed to do about the fact that, historically speaking, it has not always been the case that the distributions of goods have followed egalitarian principles of morality? Even if we agree that “equality” is an important aspect of morality, isn’t it possible that “equality” behaves “differently” in different scenarios? What are we supposed to do about historical injustices that have disenfranchised groups of people? Doesn’t our commitment to equality require rectifying past wrongs? If so, doesn’t this mean that, in the interest of equality, we ought to compensate for past inequalities? And, if so, doesn’t this mean that “equality” might require the increase of opportunity for those groups of people who have historically suffered the brunt of past inequality?

This is the moral case for Affirmative Action.

For our purposes, we are not going to debate whether affirmative action should or should not be a thing. Instead, we are going to evaluate the policy for its moral components and use it as an example to study Rawls’s egalitarianism, its possible limits, and the ethics of equal opportunity.


For this module, you will watch the video below. Please stop the video at 42 mins., since it turns at this point to another subject. (This other subject is Aristotle, who we will be reading in this course next week, but we will be reading a different book of Aristotle’s than the one Sandel discusses at the end of this video).

After watching the video, please write a discussion board post that does the following:

Write a paragraph that identifies and summarizes an argument from the video that you feel best supports a moral principle in favor of affirmative action.
Then write a follow-up paragraph that identifies summarizes an argument from the video that you feel best supports a moral principle that objects to affirmative action.
Then, using these two arguments you’ve just summarized, pick the argument you most agree with and elaborate on it by defending it (staying on topic!) against the other argument you’ve summarized.
(Be careful to stick within the confines of the arguments you’ve identified. Avoid the tendency to “riff” on whatever you happen to think on the subject. This is an exercise fo identifying the principle of an argument, how that principle gets argued, and how to defend it against counterarguments).
You’re also more than welcome to respond to each other’s posts. You’re welcome to be argumentative and challenging, but always be respectful. Particularly when dealing with sensitive topics like this.

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