Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Affirmative Action: A Seesaw for the Ages, by Stanley Fish

Stanley Fish recently published a most interesting essay on on affirmative action--a topic he has written extensively on. In "Revisiting Affirmative Action with Help from Kant" (Times' Select required for full view) Professor Fish predicts one of the finest rationalist philosopher's, Emanuel Kant's, take on a policy like Affirmative Action (AA) in light of recent events in Michigan and elsewhere. Fish reasons that the debate surrounding AA is analogous to any discourse on constitutionality--a battle for a living, breathing document, or a set of standards set in stone and applicable to any time under any circumstances.

In this essay Fish openly wrestles with himself, and former self, and uses Kant as the dartboard to catch arguments he flings at reason and morality. Scathing and supportive, intelligent and witty responses follow his remarks. My comment is that AA compels us to look in the wrong places on purpose. Rather than reach for the constitution, AA should impel us to treat it with temporal favor and reach down to redress opportunities for young people who as Kant said "must go through a long apprenticeship before he can enjoy anything for his own sustenance."Why fix a leaky roof when the floor is too splintered to walk on? Fish would do well to realize it's both the chicken and the egg, AA addresses only part of the problem. But who am I to suggest that Professor Fish should do anything? It's refreshing he would come down to our level and share his intellectual struggle.

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