Sophia Moreau (UToronto): Discrimination and the Relevance of Deliberative Freedom

Abstract:  This talk is based on one chapter of my forthcoming book, Faces of Inequality: A Theory of Wrongful Discrimination.  The book as a whole defends a pluralist theory of when and why discrimination is wrong: I argue that there are a number of different reasons why discrimination can wrong people.  In the particular chapter that this talk is based on, I focus on what I call “deliberative freedom.”  I examine a number of recent cases of wrongful discrimination --cases such as Masterpiece Cake Shop and Chand v. I.A.A.F.— and I argue that in these cases, we can’t adequately understand the claimant’s complaint unless we think of it as a complaint about the lack of a certain kind of freedom, a freedom that I call “deliberative freedom.”  Deliberative freedom is the freedom to deliberate about one’s life, and to decide what to do in light of those deliberations, without having to treat certain personal traits, or other people’s assumptions about them, as costs, and without having to live with these traits always before one’s eyes.  Of course, people do not always have a right to particular deliberative freedoms. But there are circumstances in which they do; and when a particular discriminatory practice denies people such a freedom in circumstances where they have a right to it, it wrongs them.  I shall relate the idea of deliberative freedom to ideas of “white privilege,” explaining that deliberative freedoms, like the privileges we have in mind when we speak of “white privilege,” are most often noticed by those who lack them, and are often taken for granted by those who have them.  I shall also show how both direct and indirect discrimination can deprive people of deliberative freedoms, in circumstances where they have a right to it.  Lastly, I shall argue that, given the importance in our society of treating others as beings capable of autonomy, infringing someone’s right to deliberative freedom is a way of failing to treat them as an equal.

Date & time

Thu 25 Jul 2019, 3:30pm to 5:30pm


Coombs Ext Rm 1.04


Sophia Moreau

Event series


School of Philosophy


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