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Equal Opportunity in a Just Society

Question 1. Do you think that there should be equal opportunity in a just society? What would you mean by this phrase? Do you think that it is a realizable ideal? Describe John Stuart Mill’s concept of utilitarianism. Do you see any advantages or disadvantages of applying this to our society?

In a just society and in the society which is attempting to be just, there should be equal opportunity. In this context, equal opportunity means equal treatment for all people without specific prejudices or discrimination, unless the focus on certain distinctions between people is vitally important in this situation. For example, it is not fair to refuse hiring a loader because of his race, but it is reasonable to reject a loader who does not have one hand, because this fact will prevent him from fulfilling job responsibilities in a proper way.

Equal opportunity should be integrated into all social spheres. Most commonly, the question of equal opportunities emerges in the situations when employment or educational status, or certain social benefits are considered. Equal opportunity is a realizable ideal, and the idea of equal opportunity is gradually introduced into all spheres of the society. However, time is needed for this idea to become part of the social culture. The idea of equal opportunity will help to promote the happiness of all members of the society. This concept is aligned with the idea of utilitarianism outlined by John Stuart Mill.

John Stuart Mill developed an in-depth concept of utilitarianism. He stated that utilitarianism has a moral value, and that actions should be considered moral (right) to the extent to which these actions promote happiness (Archie & Archie, 2003). Happiness in this context is viewed as the absence of pain and the presence of pleasure (Archie & Archie, 2003). Moreover, Mill stated that there were different types of pleasures: basic pleasures and higher faculties. He believed that pleasures associated with higher faculties were more important (had more weight in utilitarian “calculus”) compared to base pleasures (Archie & Archie, 2003).

The presence of equal opportunity in the society will increase the pleasure for all its members because no people will be treated unfairly, and more people will occupy social roles and places matching their talents and aspirations. The disadvantage of this approach is the complexity of distinguishing between just and unjust discrimination (whether the discrimination is really needed because the particular qualities are vitally important, or due to stereotypes); one more possible disadvantage is adverse discrimination – discriminating against the dominating social groups by supporting the needs of minor social groups.



Archie, L. & Archie, J.G. (2003). Introduction to Ethical Studies: An Open Source Reader. Retrieved from http://philosophy.lander.edu/ethics/ethicsbook.pdf