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The trouble with 'positive discrimination'

And the backlash has kicked in in Sweden, at what we might call the second level - it is not a historically 'privileged' group that is on the attack, but rather three women denied places at Örebro University which "...told the Örebro district court that it had applied affirmative action rules because it wanted to increase the number of male students in the programme as men were underrepresented". The men, one might note, had lower grades than the rejected women. If they had had similar grades, the 'discrimination' would have stood, under current Swedish law.

I have always been less than happy with 'positive discrimination', which might not be hugely surprising given that I am A/ - A Tory, and B/ - A white male. However, I consider that my opposition to it is based on rather more substantial philosophical grounds than crude self-interest. Thousands of years ago I wrote a university essay on the topic where I prayed in aid Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative: "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means"(1).

In the case of
Örebro University, they were signally failing to treat the people concerned as both means and as ends, but digging up the first formulation of the categorical imperative - "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law" - and shining a small light on it makes the wrongness of the university's act all the clearer. Who would think it wise to have a universal law whereby the more talented are always rejected in favour of the less talented? Although it would raise my prospects of winning a Nobel prize, captaining England at cricket, or persuading local angel investors that the best possible use of available venture capital was to fund my scheme for extracting moonbeams from cucumbers.

As a footnote, also way back lost in the mists of time, I rang up a bookshop in response to a job ad seeking a part time shop assistant, to which the respondent (male) replied, 'to be honest, we're looking for a middle-aged woman'. I was a bit taken aback, but he did me a favour by short circuiting what would have been a wholly pointless application.

1 - The second formulation of the imperative, but my preference.
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Anonymous nick drew said... 10:04 am

Moonbeams from cucumbers? sign me up!  

Anonymous nick drew said... 10:05 am

BTW, did you see the airliners playing noughts & crosses above Croydon yesterday evening?  

Blogger Croydonian said... 10:12 am

In Swift's original, I do not think it had succeeded after eight years. Still...

Can't say I saw that, no. A good sojourn in Florence, I trust?  

Anonymous nick drew said... 10:27 am

Excellent, thanks. I shall email you a couple of photos (one of the noughts & crosses)  

Anonymous omar khyam said... 11:33 am

Ah, the good old categorical imperative. You can't beat it!  

Blogger Croydonian said... 11:40 am

"The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it".

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