Equal Opportunity And Self-Respect
The primary purpose of equal opportunity is to see to it that certain factors do not play a role in determining our life chances. More specifically, equal opportunity is a principle of justice that draws a line between those factors that should and those that should not determine how well we do in life. Yet, despite the fact that this principle is widely regarded as a vital part of a complete theory of justice, efforts to draw such a coherent distinction have failed. This dissertation aims to provide the framework for a solution. The basic justificatory method deployed throughout centers on the importance to justice of facilitating and not undermining self-respect. From this starting point, I show that wanting to develop, exercise, and improve our abilities is a constitutive feature of self-respect such that people must be given the space to engage in activities that they find fulfilling. I further advance that we reliably find fulfilling those activities that provide a suitable challenge. From this it follows that the state has a compelling interest to promote multifarious worthwhile work activities so that there are clear paths whereby citizens can pursue interests in ways fitting to their abilities. These considerations, fully grasped, supply the basis for a recognizable account of fair opportunity, one that draws the principled distinction so sought after. The insights gained from using self-respect as the underlying rationale are then shown to also provide substantive guidance on two additional issues that need worked out for a complete theory of equal opportunity. First, I address the question of what requirements our account imposes on education. Between those who claim justice requires merely an adequate education and those who claim it instead requires an equal one, I argue it effectively requires both. In addition, against the claim that the full implementation of equal opportunity conflicts with the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit, I show that this obstacle can largely be avoided with our richer understanding of fair opportunity in hand.
Justice; Education; Family
Miller, Richard William
Taylor, Erin; Sturgeon, Nicholas Lee
Ph.D. of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis