Open-Minded Approach, Not Right or Wrong, Benefits Affirmative Action Debate

Cape Times (South Africa), July 11, 2007 | Go to article overview

Open-Minded Approach, Not Right or Wrong, Benefits Affirmative Action Debate


BYLINE: YAZEED FAKIER

A debate, recently also hosted by the Cape Town-based Centre for Conflict Resolution, on the pros and cons of "affirmative action" (AA) has received a thorough airing in the media these past weeks. The question of logic, reason and emotion in this equity discussion has provided a challenging dimension.

As represented by Professor David Benatar, head of the University of Cape Town's department of philosophy, opposition to AA has it that the policy is neither the effective nor appropriate means to rectify past injustice. The argument is that in its controversial forms, the policy favours people of a designated "race", whereas rectification requires bestowing a compensatory benefit on those who have been treated unjustly regardless of race, class or other criteria.

Proponents of AA have been able to draw on a range of counter-arguments, just one of which, published on these pages not so long ago, is that the objective behind these policies is to address the long history of racialised differential access to opportunities, and its impact on the present. The past must thus be corrected before one can have hope in the present and the future.

This is the broad view presented and supported by Zimitri Erasmus, senior lecturer in UCT's department of sociology, when she debated with Benatar at the seminar "The Ethics of Affirmative Action", ably chaired by Charles Villa-Vicencio, executive director of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

While Benatar has addressed AA at the level of logic and the importance of reason, his detractors have drawn on the need to take into account the historical and social context when talking about AA in the creation of a more equitable and less prejudiced future.

Benatar, starting his address, was mildly put out that the chair had been what he called "tendentious" in raising the issue of whether the exercise to be engaged in was "purely reason", or whether emotion had a role to play in this debate.

In other words, was the gathering going to be arguing in the "reasonable" sense of the word since "reason" was provided as some kind of conclusion by the chair?

Benatar hastened to add that he was not trying to suggest that emotions were not important when they so clearly are in the assessment of any ethical issue, and particularly in any issue as emotionally charged as AA.

Furthermore, if we were to make progress towards a right conclusion, then clear heads were needed for thinking as lucidly as possible, and this meant overcoming emotions in order to provide sound reasons for whatever viewpoint was being put forward.

In her article, "The Language of Race cannot be Discarded", published in the Cape Times on May 22, Erasmus challenges Benatar's approach, noting that the best arguments about political matters are located in "lived reality" rather than "abstract logic".

This was the point that Benatar took the opportunity to counter at the seminar. He was not engaging in the "pure logic" alluded to by Erasmus, Benatar said, but was, rather, applying logic or standards of reasoning to real, everyday issues, using the tools of reasoning employed by all who aspire to use them in grappling with such issues. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Open-Minded Approach, Not Right or Wrong, Benefits Affirmative Action Debate
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.