Affirmative action can generally be described as preferential
treatment for minorities and women in jobs, educational
opportunities, and receipt of other benefits. However, its origin
and meaning remain relatively obscure. This study is designed to
provide clarity and to strengthen the position of affirmative
action amidst the controversy that surrounds it. Under attack
across the nation, affirmative action is at a nadir. Gray contends
that the grounds for defending affirmative action are based in
ideas of social justice and can be found in the writings of
philosophers, polemicists, and judges. One can organize these ideas
according to four modes of thought which allow exhaustive treatment
of the subject.
Each mode of thought is concisely explained and then developed
through the analysis of current philosophical thought; next, it is
applied to the case law. This study boldly defines affirmative
action as part of the quest for social justice. It takes
affirmative action away from the tort law of causation by going as
far back as Aristotle to show that private corrective justice is
not an apt model for affirmative action. Gray concludes that such
action is best promoted by the voices of diversity and rhetoric.
Thus, dialogue and debate remain the best support for affirmative
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