Simone Sommer Degn

Discrimination of the People, by the People, against the People: Exploring Ordinary Usage and Individual Anti-Discrimination Duties

Discrimination is a central concept for understanding and addressing social inequality. This dissertation inspects some of the most under-explored aspects of discrimination: what discrimination means to and for people – ordinary folks, in contrast to theorists, laws and states. First, the concept of discrimination is notorious for lacking a common definition. Since researchers often aim to reflect common usage, it is a pressing matter to investigate what the folk concept of discrimination is. The first part of the dissertation studies ordinary usage of discrimination through the experimental-philosophical method. It does so in respect to three aspects of the discrimination concept: whether minorities can discriminate against majorities, whether minorities can discriminate against minorities, and whether the concept is comparative. The empirical results suggest that the folk concept of discrimination is symmetric, that is, minorities can discriminate against majorities; group-reflexive, that is, minorities can discriminate against minorities; whether the folk concept is comparative remains a puzzle. Another urgent philosophical question regarding discrimination is what individuals should do about the discrimination that occurs in the private rather than the public sphere. I argue, in contrast to the common position, that individuals have a moral anti-discrimination duty even in their dating life and advance a plausible outline of a minimal, deliberative anti-discrimination duty. As a whole, the dissertation illuminates new aspects about discrimination and ordinary folks: the folk concept of discrimination and individuals’ moral duty to counteract discrimination in the private sphere.


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