© Copyright 2010 NewFoundations


Edward G. Rozycki, Ed. D.

edited 08/14/10


Problem: 1. When is a difference in treatment an injustice? Consider the following model: Smith applies treatment X to members of group A; he does not apply treatment X to members of group B. We could "flesh out" the bare bones of this model in three very different ways:

a. Dr. Smith gives medicine X to members of group A, who suffer from the ailment that medicine X was developed for. Group B members do not have that ailment, so Smith does not give them the medicine.

b. Director Smith refuses to give teaching licenses to members of group A, convicted felons who have served their time, despite their having completed all educational requirements. Members of group B, who are non-felons with the proper educational credentials are granted their licenses.

c. President Smith blocks the admission of members of group A into his social club, because he and his friends despise the ethnic heritage of group A's members. Members of group B, which is anyone belonging to ethnic groups different from those of group A, he will accept.

In every case treatment was based on group membership. But clearly, other considerations determine whether that discriminatory act was fair, neutral, or unfair. Using the cases above as test cases, spell out the considerations which tend to establish such treatment as an injustice


First: Compare and contrast the cases given. Which is morally justifiable (fair) ; which is morally irrelevant (neutral) ; which is morally wrong (unfair)? Do this by intuition to get started. (I chose cases on which I believe there will be high consensus.)

Second: Consider why each case is what it is Try to construct new cases parallel to the first set to make sure you have got appropriate criteria to generate new cases like the original ones.

Third: after you have each original case matched with two parallel cases of the same moral value,
that is, three sets of cases, The Justifiables (set J), the Indifferents (set I) , and the Wrongs (set W),
try to formulate a generalization as to what the difference in criteria might be that distinguishes between J, I and W.

Fourth: there should be a set of criteria, Cj, for J, and a set, Cw, for W, that when conjoined with to (+) or removed from I (-) , make an example of I into a J or W. Or you might find criteria which if removed from J make it an I, etc.

Fifth: Talking (writing) through your deliberations and considerations to your conclusions constitutes a response to the question.


a. Generate three sets of cases, J, I and W which contain two new cases besides your original three, correctly placed.

b. For each set of cases, J, and W, construct sets of criteria, Cj and Cw which help you generate (think up, concoct, imagine) new members of J and W.

c. Describe the differences between Cj and Cw.

d. Test Cj and Cw by reformulating examples from I (or J or W) removing or conjoining criteria from items in one group to see if they shift uniformly into another group.

e. Describe what you take to be the important distinctions between Cj and Cw.

f. A carefully written "journal" of the process from steps a through e constitutes an answer to the problem.


(For further explanation and development along these lines, click this hyperlink)

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