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Old April 8, 2013, 11:20 AM   #22
Vanya
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Join Date: July 7, 2008
Location: Upper midwest
Posts: 3,803
It might be useful to define what kinds of ethics we're dealing with in this thread.

Jammer, if I'm understanding you correctly, you're talking about a very broad ethical stance: that people should be treated equally, and that on the scale of society as a whole, it's unethical not to do that.

But I think Kathy is more concerned with professional ethics, which should follow from one's general beliefs, but which deal specifically with one's responsibilities as member of a much smaller society.

I think it's important not to conflate the two.

But even on the level of ethics writ large, it's worth analyzing what counts as equal treatment. I'd argue that for most purposes, a concept of fairness is actually more useful than rigid ideas about equality.

Here's an example: as a society, we're committed to the principle that people should be treated equally under the law. Among other things, the right to a fair trial is central to that. The legal system has historically conducted its business in English, but what constitutes equal treatment within that system for someone who doesn't speak English well? Do we want to say that equal, or fair, treatment consists of assuming that everyone should speak English, and carrying on regardless of whether a defendant understands what's being said? I don't think many people would be comfortable with that notion of "justice."

The rational alternative is to provide a translator. On the surface, that might look like "special treatment," but on another level, it's treating the individual in a way that's intended to make sure his (or her) right to a fair trial is protected.

We also see nothing unethical in treating people with disabilities differently from others, to the extent that's necessary to ensure that they have equal access to things able-bodied people take for granted, from entry to buildings to education. All of this is about recognizing individual needs, in order to ensure that people are treated fairly.

It's also a matter of fairness to recognize that women have different needs from men when it comes to self-defense. It's fine to want to change society, but in the meantime, women deserve access to training that actually works for them -- and they get to decide what that is.
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