Thursday, September 3, 2015

Practical Applications of a Theory of Racial Justice

The theories of justice that have traditionally been proposed by Western political philosophy have been incomplete, insofar as they have not included a theory of racial justice. This disregard of the problem of racial injustice by traditional Western philosophy is unfortunate, since racial injustice has historically been one of the most fundamental moral problems confronting humankind. 
      What would it feel like to live in a world in which racial injustice did not exist? Is such a world possible? What steps could be taken to bring about such a world? What would such a world look like?
      What is racial justice? It may perhaps be characterized by a number of principles, including fairness, equity, respect for human dignity, and conformity to standards that are not racially biased or discriminatory. It may also be characterized by such principles as legal recognition of the civil rights of individuals, due process in the conduct of legal proceedings, and fulfillment of the moral, civil, and legal rights of individuals.
      Of course, for those who believe that racial categories do not really exist and that race as a concept of personal or group identity should be eliminated, the term “racial justice” may seem like an oxymoron. If there is something inherently false and misleading about racial categories, then there is no such thing as “racial justice”; there is only “justice.” For those who believe, however, that the concept of race has historically been, and continues to be, a significant and powerful social reality, there is indeed a need to explore the meaning of racial justice, and a need to determine how this kind of justice may best be attained. Even if the viability of the concept of race is questioned, the reality of racial prejudice and injustice is clear.

1. Categories of Racial Justice

What kinds of racial justice are there? There may indeed be a variety, including distributive, corrective, reparative, compensatory, and other kinds. Distributive justice may perhaps be the most basic kind of justice, insofar as corrective, reparative, and compensatory justice must be distributed fairly among all the members of society if the principles of justice are to be fulfilled.
      Distributive racial justice may be determined by the way in which social goods are distributed to various members of society, insofar as the way in which those social goods are distributed is or is not influenced by the racial identity of those members of society. The distributed goods may include rights, privileges, wealth, economic opportunities, educational opportunities, professional and employment opportunities, housing, health care, safety, access to natural resources, and other kinds of social goods.
      Corrective racial justice may involve the rectification of past or present racial inequities and injustices, and it may also involve the initiation of preventive procedures in order to avoid further inequities and injustices. It may also involve an attempt to correct the kinds of misperceptions that produce racially biased attitudes.
      Reparative or restorative racial justice may involve apologies or atonement for past acts of racial injustice, as well as repair of the harms done to those who have been victims of injustice. it may also include restoration of the rights, privileges, and other social goods that have been denied to victims of racial injustice.
      Compensatory racial justice may involve financial or non-financial compensation to the victims of racial injustice for the harms they have suffered. Financial compensation may take the form of "reparations." Some examples of non-financial compensation include public recognition (in the form of legislation, public records, or other documents) that wrongs have been committed, and other kinds of memorials to the victims.
      It should be noted that the concept of retributive justice (the concept that justice may sometimes be served by enabling victims of injustice to take retribution against those who have treated them unjustly) appears to be inappropriate for, and to have no rightful place in, a theory of racial justice. There is no moral justification for retributive punishment of an entire racial group because of the wrong actions of some members of that group. Retributivism based on the race of those who have acted unjustly is itself morally unjust.

2. Possible Approaches to a Theory of Racial Justice

Theories of justice include utilitarian, contractarian, entitlement, libertarian, and egalitarian theories. While utilitarian theories hold that justice is served by actions that have the greatest utility and produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people, contractarian theories hold that justice is served by the fulfillment of a social contract between each individual and the rest of society.
      Entitlement theories hold that justice is served by fulfillment of the rights and entitlements that belong to individuals. The rights and entitlements of individuals to possess social goods may be determined by whether they have acquired or received those goods justly or unjustly.
      Libertarian theories hold that justice is served by rules and agreements that allow individuals the greatest amount of liberty that is compatible with the rights of other individuals. Libertarian theories also hold that justice is served by allowing markets to operate freely, and by not depriving individuals of wealth, goods, or property that they have obtained by rightful means.
      Egalitarian theories of justice hold that justice is served by rules and agreements that assign equal rights and duties to individuals, and that ensure an equitable distribution of social goods.
      A weakness of utilitarian theories is that a racial minority that already suffers a disadvantage with regard to access to social goods may suffer an even greater disadvantage if a redistribution of goods is judged to produce a greater amount of happiness for the racial majority. Moreover, a racial majority that already enjoys an advantage with regard to access to social goods may gain an even greater advantage if a redistribution of goods is judged to produce a greater amount of happiness for that majority.
      A weakness of contractarian theories is that the parties of a social contract must have some incentive to cooperate with each other.1 If a racial majority already enjoys a position of power over a racial minority, then there may be no incentive for it to enter into a contractual arrangement with that minority for their mutual benefit.
      Another weakness of contractarian theories, as explained by Charles W. Mills (1997), is that a social contract may be a means of promoting racial injustice, rather than justice. A social contract may be made between members of a racial majority to subjugate and subordinate a racial minority. This “racial contract” may be formal or informal, and it may have political, moral, and epistemological dimensions.2
      A weakness of libertarian theories is that they may hold that private business owners should have the right to refuse to sell their services to whomever they choose. Thus, libertarians may argue for the right of private business owners to refuse to serve members of racial minority groups.
      Similarly, libertarians may argue for the right of private owners of natural resources to choose those to whom access to those resources will be granted, even if those who are denied access will be forced to undergo undue hardship or suffering.
      Similarly, libertarians may argue that private individuals should not be deprived of their wealth by the imposition of taxes or other means of funding social programs for the poor and needy.
      Some libertarians may also oppose regulation of “hate speech” that targets racial minorities, arguing that such regulation constitutes an unnecessary infringement of the right to freedom of speech.
      However, a possible weakness of egalitarian theories of justice is that they may fail to resolve the problem of whether distributive justice requires that each individual receive an equal share of social goods. Other methods of achieving distributive justice may need to be considered, including the distribution of goods to individuals according to their need, merit, investment of labor and capital, their right to be compensated for risks assumed, and their right to be compensated for sacrifices made.3
      John Rawls (1971) attempts to resolve this problem by introducing the “difference principle” as part of the second of his two principles of justice. Rawls's first principle of justice is that each individual should have an equal right to as much liberty as is compatible with the rights of other individuals. His second principle is that any social or economic inequalities among individuals should be designed to benefit every individual, and such inequalities should be equally available to all individuals.4 The first principle of justice is called “the principle of greatest equal liberty,” while the first part of the second principle is called “the difference principle,” and the second part of the second principle is called “the principle of fair equality of opportunity.”5
      Rawls says that if justice is to be attained, the first principle of justice must be satisfied before the second principle is satisfied, and the principle of fair equality of opportunity must be satisfied before the difference principle is satisfied. This means that infringements of basic liberties cannot be justified by the argument that such infringements may in some cases produce economic benefits for individuals. Similarly, infringements of fair equality of opportunity cannot be justified by the argument that such infringements may in some cases produce economic benefits for individuals.
      Rawls sees constitutional democracy as the kind of political system in which the principles of justice can be fulfilled. However, he notes that a common defect of constitutional democracy is that it may allow greater disparity in the distribution of wealth and property than is compatible with equality of economic, social, and political opportunity. He also explains that another defect of constitutional democracy is that it may allow political power to accumulate in the hands of a single group or party that may misuse the institutions of government for its own political advantage. In order for these defects to be avoided, political equality of opportunity (including equal rights of participation in the political process) must be constitutionally guaranteed.6
      Egalitarian theories of justice may lead to controversy regarding the question of whether distributive justice can best be achieved by capitalism or socialism. They may also lead to controversy regarding the question of whether human rights are better protected by capitalism than by socialism, or by socialism than by capitalism. They may also lead to controversy regarding the question of whether the economic status of all members of society is more likely to be improved by capitalism than by socialism, or by socialism than by capitalism.
      Economic justice is a part of racial justice, and racial justice is a part of economic justice. These two parts of justice are inseparable. Racial justice cannot be attained without economic justice, and economic justice cannot be attained without racial justice.

3. Practical Problems to which a Theory of Racial Justice May be Applied

In an ideal world, a world of social and economic justice, there would be no racial injustice. In such a world, people of color would not be overrepresented among the poor, and they would not be underrepresented among the wealthy. They would not be overrepresented among prison parolees, and they would not be underrepresented among investment managers and Wall Street bankers.
      Racial inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system have been well documented. Disproportionate numbers of black males are arrested and incarcerated. Disproportionate numbers of blacks are charged with felony crimes that carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. Disproportionate numbers of blacks charged with criminal offenses are subject to discriminatory sentencing guidelines. Disproportionate numbers of black males are sentenced to the death penalty. Disproportionate numbers of people of color are stopped and searched on the street by police officers. Disproportionate numbers of minority youth enter the criminal justice system and are charged as adult offenders.
      Racial inequities in the U.S. educational system have also been well documented. Black students are more likely to be suspended from school, and even black preschool children are more likely to be suspended. Black students are more likely to be enrolled in the lowest performing and most poorly run schools. Black, Latino, American Indian, and Native Alaskan students are less likely to have access to advanced math and science courses. Black and Latino students are less likely to have access to educational programs designed for gifted and talented students.7
      Racial inequities in the U.S. health care system have also been well documented, including disparities in the treatment of such diseases as coronary artery disease, cancer, HIV infection, diabetes, and end-stage renal disease.8
      William J. Talbott (2010) explains that equal opportunity rights include positive rights (to fulfill one’s personal and social capabilities) and negative rights (to not be discriminated against on unjust or arbitrary grounds). Positive opportunity rights include the right to physical security, the right to adequate and affordable health care, the right to an education, and the right to engage in gainful employment. Negative opportunity rights include the right not to be discriminated against in education, employment, housing, health care, public accommodations, and in other areas in which discrimination can be harmful.9
      Martha Nussbaum (2006) describes a “capabilities approach” to social justice, based on the theory that in order to be just, a society must enable its citizens to live with human dignity. She lists ten core entitlements or central capabilities that are necessary to a life of human dignity: (1) the ability to live a normal lifespan, (2) the ability to maintain bodily health, to be adequately nourished, and to have adequate shelter, (3) the ability to maintain bodily integrity and to be secure against bodily assault, (4) the ability to use the senses, to imagine, and to think, (5) the ability to establish and maintain emotional attachments to people and things, (6) the ability to engage in practical reason, (7) the ability to engage in social interactions and to be treated with fairness and respect, (8) the ability to live with concern for, and in relation to, animals, plants, and the world of nature, (9) the ability to play, to laugh, and to enjoy recreational activities, and (10) the ability to exercise some control over one’s environment by participating in political decisions that affect one’s life, as well as by being able to hold property, by being able to seek employment on an equal basis with others, and by being free from unwarranted search and seizure of property.10
      Nussbaum uses the phrase “worthy of human dignity” to describe the condition that meets the threshold requirement for fulfillment of the central capabilities. She explains that the list of core entitlements or central capabilities is the same for all citizens, and that the threshold level of each of the entitlements or capabilities is taken to be a minimum beneath which a decently dignified life for citizens is not available.11 All the capabilities must be guaranteed for all citizens in order for social justice to be achieved. A just society recognizes the equal dignity of all human beings.12
      Iris Marion Young (1990) explains that the problems of oppression and domination should be regarded as the starting point for any theory of justice, since these two problems impose fundamental constraints on the ability of human beings to live together harmoniously. When social groups are advantaged or disadvantaged in relation to each other, group differences in relative advantage must be recognized and attended to if social justice is to be sought, and if oppression of a disadvantaged social group is to be avoided.13
      Young defines oppression as the institutional constraint on self-development, and domination as the institutional constraint on self-determination.14 Oppression consists of institutional processes that prevent individuals from developing their personal and social capabilities, and that inhibit interpersonal communication and intergroup cooperation. Domination consists of institutional processes that prevent individuals from determining their own actions (or the conditions of their own actions), and that prevent them from participating in personal, social, and political decision-making.15
      Young describes race as “a structure of oppression,” and she argues that in the United States, racial minority groups such as blacks and Hispanics are exploited by a capitalist system that tends to reserve higher-paying jobs for whites and lower-paying jobs for blacks and Hispanics.16 She also argues that women are exploited by a capitalist system that tends to reserve greater privilege and opportunity to men. Other groups that are marginalized by capitalist society include the poor, the elderly, and the disabled.

4. Racial Justice: Phenomenology and Epistemology

Racial justice may have a phenomenology, as well as an epistemology. Racial justice phenomenology may be a study of racial justice as a pure phenomenon (if it is possible to examine it as a pure phenomenon), rather than as an empirical reality. It may also be a study of racial justice as an intentional object (intentionality being a property of mental states whereby they are directed at, or are about, something17). Thus, racial justice phenomenology is to be distinguished from racial justice psychology, which is a study of the subjective, lived experience of racial (in)justice and is concerned with racial (in)justice as an empirical reality. Racial justice psychology may explore the possible motivations for seeking justice and opposing injustice, and it may also explore the psychological meanings and consequences of justice and injustice.
      What kinds of phenomena define the experience of racial injustice? What kinds of phenomena define the racial identity of an individual or group? What kinds of phenomena constitute the experience of racial sameness or difference?
      The phenomenology of race may study all the phenomena that are involved in the experience of race as a sociocultural reality. Such phenomena as the experience of being racially identified, the experience of being racially profiled, the experience of being racially excluded, and the experience of being exposed to racial discrimination may be objects of study for the phenomenology of race.
      Racial justice epistemology may be complementary to racial justice phenomenology, insofar as the way in which racial justice is defined may be socially determined and may be a matter of collective intentionality (and therefore a subject of study for racial justice phenomenology). Racial justice epistemology may be a study of the origins, nature, and limits of racial justice. It may also be a study of the possible definitions of, and criteria for, racial justice. It addresses such questions as: What is the meaning of the term “racial justice”? How do we resolve disagreements about how it should be defined?
      Racial justice epistemology may be normative as well as descriptive. It may propose normative definitions as well as descriptive accounts of racial justice. It may study the origin, nature, and limits of knowledge concerning racial justice. It may also evaluate the truth or falsehood of whatever claims are made about racial justice.
      This epistemology (or study of knowledge) may be combined with an agnotology (or study of ignorance). An agnotology may be able to explore the causes of the “cultural production of ignorance”18 regarding principles of racial justice. It may also be able to identify the sociocultural, political, and historical reasons for indifference to, and disregard of, the principles of justice, fairness, and respect for human dignity.
      A theory of racial justice may aslo find useful the kind of social ontology proposed by John R. Searle in his work on the construction of social reality (1995, 2010). Searle describes collective intentionality as a collective sharing by individuals of their intentional mental states, including their beliefs, desires, attitudes, and emotions.19 Collective intentionality assigns status functions to physical and social facts. Status functions are collectively recognized relational categories to which functions are attached.
      Physical facts are objective, says Searle, but social facts may be both subjective and objective. Brute physical facts, like mountains and valleys, exist regardless of our attitudes toward them, but social facts, like marriages and governments, depend for their existence on our attitudes toward them. However, social facts may become objective if they are generally recognized and accepted as facts. Thus, they may be epistemically objective, if they are not a matter of individual attitude or opinion, but ontologically subjective, if they depend for their existence on being recognized and accepted as facts.20
      Institutional facts, says Searle, are social facts that depend for their existence on institutions. Examples of institutional facts include money, private property, businesses, corporations, schools, sports teams, hospitals, families, partnerships, and governments.21 Institutional facts are also status functions, insofar as they imply or create “deontic powers,” such as rights, duties, obligations, permissions, and entitlements.22 Thus, they create and regulate power relationships throughout society.
      The implications and consequences of this social ontology for a theory of racial justice become evident when we recognize that if the status functions assigned to some institutional facts are illegitimate and unjustified, then so may be the deontic powers created by the assignment of those status functions. There may be no grounds for acceptance of the power relationships established by social institutions if those institutions are illegitimate and unworthy of the status functions assigned to them. We may contest not only the justifiability of the power relationships created by the assignment of particular status functions to institutional facts, but also the justifiability of those status functions themselves (and the fact that those institutional “facts” are regarded as facts).
      Searle describes social facts as collective intentional facts (facts that are generally recognized and accepted by collective intentionality). However, some facts may be recognized by a large number of people, and yet may also not be recognized by a large number of people. Groups of individuals may have differing viewpoints regarding the assignment of status functions to particular social facts, and thus they may also have differing viewpoints regarding the structure of social reality.
      If individuals are assigned, simply on the basis of their skin color or assumed racial identity, a social status that carries rights, privileges, obligations, permissions, etc., then that assignment is unjust insofar as it denies them the opportunity to be judged fairly and impartially as human beings. It is also unjust insofar as it may deny others the opportunity to be assigned the rights, privileges, obligations, permissions, etc. they are entitled to by virtue of their equal citizenship.
      Miranda Fricker (2007) describes epistemic injustice as a kind of social injustice done to a speaker by a listener, as a result of which the speaker’s trustworthiness as a knower is unjustly discredited. For example, listeners who are prejudiced against black people may unfairly discount the credibility of a black speaker, merely because she is black. Fricker thus explains that epistemic injustice may occur when the listener unjustly discounts the credibility of the speaker (testimonial injustice) or when the listener lacks the interpretive resources to adequately understand what the speaker is saying (hermeneutical injustice).
      However, epistemic injustice may also be a kind of injustice done to a listener by a speaker. This may occur when a speaker knowingly misleads or deceives a listener or when a speaker unjustly takes advantage of a listener’s willingness to take her utterances at face value. It may also occur when a speaker unjustly discounts or disregards a listener’s epistemic capacity. Thus, epistemic injustice may be the result of a social interaction or communicative process that is bidirectional.
      An example of testimonial injustice to a speaker might be the assumption by a white audience that a Hispanic law professor’s statements regarding her field of expertise are less trustworthy and authoritative than those of her white colleagues, simply because she is Hispanic and therefore assumed by the audience to be less competent.
      An example of testimonial injustice to a listener (or to a group of listeners) might be the signing of a contract by a party who has no intention of keeping the contract, such as in the case of treaties with Native Americans that were signed and broken by the U.S. government.
      An example of hermeneutical injustice to a speaker (or to a group of speakers) might be the inability of a white college student at a largely white institution to understand why black students might feel that racism or implicit bias might be a factor in the way in which they are perceived as students.
      An example of hermeneutical injustice to a listener (or to a group of listeners) might be a white racist’s statements to the press that black people have surrendered to a state of dependency, and that they should realize that they were better off as slaves.23

5. The Utility of Ideal vs. Non-Ideal Theory

The question, “What is racial justice?” may perhaps be relativized or qualified by asking, “For whom, or in relation to whom, are you trying to define racial justice?” or “Whose concept of racial justice are you talking about?” Is racial justice for white people any different from racial justice for black people? Is racial justice the same for whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other racial groups? Does racial justice for one racial group promote or come at the expense of justice for another racial group?
      Charles W. Mills (2010) has argued that in an ideal society, race would not exist, and that ideal theory may thus be unable to shed light on the nature of racial justice.  He explains that “ideal theory” concerning justice in a perfectly just society must therefore be replaced by “non-ideal theory” concerning justice in an imperfect, unjust, or racialized society.24 He provides a number of very cogent criticisms of ideal theory, including the criticism that it may divert attention from real-world problems, as well as the criticism that we do not necessarily have to be able to envision justice in an ideal world in order to be able to correct injustice in the real world.25
      Tommie Shelby (2013), however, explains that ideal theory and non-ideal theory may be complementary, and that ideal theory may serve as a guide for non-ideal theory. Ideal theory (the study of the principles of justice that guide a perfectly just society) may provide standards of justice for non-ideal theory (the study of the principles that should guide our responses to injustice).26
      Marcus Arvan (2014) distinguishes between three kinds of non-ideal theory: (1) partial compliance theory, in which a society does not strictly comply with principles of justice, even though there are reasonably favorable conditions for social cooperation, and there are conditions under which social cooperation is both possible and necessary (this latter set of conditions is described by Rawls as “the circumstances of justice”27), (2) unfavorable conditions theory, in which a society does not strictly comply with principles of justice, and there are unfavorable conditions for social cooperation, even though there are “circumstances of justice”; and (3) no circumstances of justice theory, in which a society does not comply with the principles of justice, and there are neither reasonably favorable conditions for social cooperation nor “circumstances of justice” (as in the case of a society where there is an extreme scarcity of social goods, or a society where there is systemic violation of human rights and the rule of law, or a society where there is no recognized or functioning government). Arvan thus explains that the distinction between ideal and non-ideal theory is complicated by the fact that there may be more than one kind of non-ideal theory.28
      Theorizing about justice may seem a pointless exercise to those who believe that we should not have to formulate a theory of justice in order to recognize cases of blatant injustice when we see them. Some cases of injustice are so blatant that they are, or should be, intuitively recognizable. But not all cases. Some cases may be more easily recognizable than others. In some cases we may have to defend our claims that particular acts, decisions, arrangements, demands, or requirements are morally unjust. If we have to defend those claims against counterclaims made by some adversary, then we may also have to be able to rationally justify our claims before a third party.
      To argue that all moral truths are intuitively recognizable may also be for us to deny any obligation to rationally justify our moral beliefs, and it may also be for us to forgo any attempt to better explain and understand those beliefs. Intuition alone may not always be a reliable guide to moral truth. Prima facie truths may sometimes be superseded by truths that become evident only after investigation. Some moral duties may be intuitively evident, but others may be evident only after some reflection.
      A logically consistent and rationally defensible theory of justice may therefore enable us to provide our claims about injustice with a firmer and more secure foundation.

6. The World of Racial Justice

In a world of racial justice (WRJ), there is procedural justice, legal justice, institutional justice, and justice in public policy. There is no institutional bias or discrimination on the basis of race, and there is no socioeconomic advantage or disadvantage assigned to individuals, groups, or institutions on the basis of racial considerations.
Insofar as there is procedural justice in a WRJ, civil and legal procedures are fair, just, impartial, and non-discriminatory with regard to the racial identity of individuals, groups, and institutions.
      Insofar as there is legal justice in a WRJ, the legal system functions to enact laws, resolve disputes, enforce contracts, protect civil rights, prevent and punish civil and criminal offenses, facilitate redress of grievances, maintain public order, and perform other functions in a fair, just, and impartial manner.
      In a WRJ, individuals are not arbitrarily arrested and detained without charges being brought against them. They are not forced to make false confessions or false admissions of guilt. They are not forced to face charges when evidence against them has been fabricated or evidence exonerating them has been concealed. They are not arbitrarily deprived of adequate legal representation. They are not forced to undergo trial in front of biased judges and juries. They are not subjected to cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5). They do not receive, because of their race, ethnicity, political opinions, religion, or nationality, unduly harsh or unduly lenient sentences for crimes of which they have been convicted. They are not, because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, etc., convicted of crimes that they did not commit, nor are they are exonerated of crimes that they did commit.
      In a world of racial justice, the integrity of the judicial system is uncompromised by such misdeeds as bribery, perjury, witness intimidation, police brutality, manufacturing of evidence, tampering with evidence, concealment of evidence, jury tampering, and other acts of police or judicial misconduct. If such acts occur, they are promptly recognized, corrected, and remediated.
      Insofar as there is institutional justice in a WRJ, all institutions fulfill their social, moral, legal, and economic duties to society. They are also fair, equitable, honest, and socially committed with regard to such principles as membership duties, personnel management, workplace management, corporate governance, provision of services, and treatment of clients or consumers.
      Insofar as there is justice in public policy in a WRJ, laws are administered fairly, justly, and impartially. Legislation and adjudication are not racially biased. Public policy regarding such issues as immigration, taxes, unemployment benefits, the minimum wage, food stamps, public housing, and drug policy is not decided on racially biased grounds. Debates about government spending are not driven by racially biased agendas.
      A world of racial justice may therefore be defined in such a way that if racial injustice occurs in that world, it is promptly recognized, corrected, and remediated. In such a world, the victims of injustice are also promptly and fairly compensated.
      Thus, there may be more than one possible WRJ. There may be an ideal WRJ in which racial injustice never occurs, and a real WRJ in which injustice may occur but is promptly recognized, addressed, and remediated.
      There may also be a plurality of possible worlds of racial justice that differ to varying degrees from the actual world. Racial justice may be a “transworld” property of all such possible worlds. The world of racial justice that is least different from the actual world may perhaps be the easiest to visualize.
      For those who believe (perhaps because of insensitivity or indifference to racial injustice) that we actually live in a present-day WRJ, RJ is not merely possible, but actual. The possible worlds of racial justice may be possible alternatives to the actual world that have not yet been, but could be, actualized. These nonactual worlds may be more or less perfect than the actual world.
      For those who do not believe (perhaps because of despair, disappointment, or cynicism) that a WRJ is possible, the actual world, a world of racial injustice, is the only real world. Possible worlds of RJ are therefore mere fictions or illusions; they are not real worlds.
For those who believe that a WRJ is possible, but that it has not been actualized, its possibility may be logical, ideal, and/or real. Its possibility may also be remote, approximate, or nearly at hand, depending on the personal viewpoint of the observer. Thus, a WRJ may be seen as not merely a theoretical construct or hypothetical situation, but an attainable set of relations between individuals, communities, and nations.
      Indeed, a world of racial justice (WRJ) is no mere thought-experiment. It is a moral exigency requiring our urgent and sustained attention.
      The schools of thought regarding the possibility of a WRJ may thus include the “actualists” (those who believe that we actually live in a WRJ), the “skeptics” (those who are skeptical about the possibility), and the “possibilists” (those who believe that a WRJ is possible, but not yet actual).
      For the “skeptics,” any talk about possible worlds of racial justice may arise from a kind of modal fictionalism. For the “possibilists,” however, any such talk may arise from a kind of modal realism, if it is grounded in the real possibility of at least one WRJ.
      Belief in the real possibility of racial justice does not imply some sort of utopianism. The continuing struggle for racial justice arises from the need to affirm our common brotherhood and sisterhood, and from the need to promote respect for human dignity.

7. The Moral Necessity that the World of Racial Justice be Actualized

A world of racial justice (WRJ) is also a world of global justice (WGR), inasmuch as in order for racial justice to be achieved, global justice must be achieved. Given the high rates of extreme poverty in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia, the correction of racial disparities with regard to access to social goods (such as adequate nutrition, housing, health care, clean air, and clean water) will require a global, as well as targeted, approach.
      Of the approximately 7 billion people in the world today, more than 1 billion live on less than $1.25 a day.  Some of the highest rates of extreme poverty are found in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In 2010, 48% of people in sub-Saharan Africa lived on less than $1.25 a day, and 31% of people in South Asia lived on less than $1.25 a day.30
In 2012, more than 6 million children worldwide died before the age of five. More than half of those deaths were caused by preventable or treatable conditions, such as malnutrition, pneumonia, diarrhea, or malaria.31
      In 2011, more than 700 million people had inadequate access to clean water, and more than 2 billion people had inadequate access to basic sanitation.32
In sub-Saharan Africa, women spend more than 40 billion hours each year walking to get water for their families.33
      In 2013, more than 1 billion people were without access to electricity, including 550 million people in Africa and over 400 million in India.34
      Strategies to promote economic growth and development in developing countries include international trade reforms, removal of trade barriers that hinder access to international markets, reduction of debt burdens of heavily indebted countries, boosting of telecommunications infrastructure, improvement in access to technology, private direct investment, and empowerment of women (Goal 3 of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals). Promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women can be accomplished by encouraging entrepreneurship among women, protecting women’s legal and civil rights, promoting gender equality in education and employment, and promoting opportunities for women to participate in the political process.
      Other strategies to promote economic growth and development in developing countries include partnerships between governments of developing countries and governments of more developed countries, as well as partnerships between developing countries and international trade organizations, international financial institutions, international corporations, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions.
      Some examples of the kinds of specific goals advocated by Jeffrey Sachs et al. (2004) to promote economic growth and development in sub-Saharan Africa include (1) improvement in rural road and highway infrastructure, (2) improvement in electric power generation capacity, (3) improvement in water supply infrastructure, (4) integrated water resources management, with protection and allocation of water resources to agricultural, domestic, and industrial uses, (5) improvement in sanitation infrastructure, (6) improvement in health services, nutrition services, and family planning services, including expanded delivery of vaccinations for preventable diseases, improved access to HIV prevention and treatment, improved access to directly observed treatment of tuberculosis, and expanded delivery of insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria, (7) improvements in education, through improvements in school infrastructure, recruitment and training of teachers, delivery of updated textbooks and other learning materials, implementation of curriculum reform where necessary in order to improve education content, provision of school meals, and expansion of adult literacy programs, and (8) improvement in urban infrastructure, including upgrading of roads, street lighting, storm drainage, communication infrastructure, transport infrastructure, and improved delivery of basic services, such as refuse collection, solid waste disposal, policing and security, fire protection, pollution control, and improved electric power generation capacity.35
      In a world of racial justice (WRJ), there is a just and fair distribution of social and economic advantages to all members of society, regardless of the racial groups to which those members belong. There is also fairness and equality of opportunity with regard to employment, housing, access to health care, access to education, political participation, access to social and cultural resources, and access to other social goods.
      Martin Luther King, Jr. (1957) said that the struggle against injustice must be waged non-violently.  Those who struggle against racial injustice must recognize that the conflict is not between races, but between justice and injustice. The struggle for human dignity must be based on love for others; it cannot be based on enmity toward others.36
      According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), all people are entitled to all basic human rights and freedoms, regardless of their race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion, nationality, or other status (Article 2). All people are equal before the law, all are entitled to equal protection under the law, and all are entitled to equal protection against discrimination (Article 7).37
      Racial, social, and economic justice issues affecting women of color are global in scope and dimensions.  Some of the most significant issues include (1) gender discrimination in employment (including discrimination in hiring, promotion, wages, and benefits), (2) gender discrimination in education (including gender-based cultural barriers to education, lack of accessible and affordable education, and gender bias in the classroom), (3) gender discrimination in legal rights (including barriers to voting rights, barriers to marriage and divorce rights, infringements of property rights, barriers to inheritance rights, and barriers to credit opportunity rights), and (4) gender discrimination in reproductive rights (including barriers to availability of family planning services, maternity care, and preventive health care). Some other equally significant social justice issues affecting women of color include (5) sexual violence, (6) domestic violence, (7) child marriage, (8) child labor, (9) forced marriage, (10) sexual harassment, and (11) human trafficking.
      What duties do we have to try to actualize a world of racial, social, economic, and global justice? John Rawls (1971) distinguishes between our positive duties (to uphold justice, to offer mutual aid, and to express mutual respect) and our negative duties (not to injure or harm one another).38 Similarly, Thomas Pogge (2013) says that we have a (positive) duty to intervene in cases where human rights are not being respected, and a (negative) duty not to contribute to violations of human rights. Thus, we have a duty not to contribute to the design or imposition of social and economic institutions under which human rights foreseeably and avoidably remain unfulfilled.39
      The U.S. Human Rights Fund (2011) has proposed a number of strategies to overcome racial injustice, including (1) legal strategies (such as utilization of international human rights treaties and commissions, utilization of human rights standards in U.S. court rulings, and utilization of local and state human rights laws and commissions), (2) international mechanisms, (3) advocacy campaigns, (4) funder-advocate partnerships, (5) public communications (including media outreach), and (6) community organizing.40
      Another strategy to overcome racial injustice is affirmative action (in job hiring and promotion, university admissions policies, etc.). Although it is controversial, it may be an effective means of remedying the underrepresentation of racial minority groups in various educational and employment settings. Although opponents may describe it as “reverse discrimination,” it should not be defined in the way that its critics attempt to define it, as a policy of giving unmerited, undeserved, and unfair preferential consideration to racial minority groups. It should rather be defined as a means of recognizing that promotion of cultural diversity can benefit various kinds of educational and employment settings, as well as society as a whole.
      Many arguments, which will not be enumerated here, have been made for and against affirmative action. However, many of the arguments against affirmative action have presupposed the inferiority of blacks to whites as applicants for educational and employment opportunities. Many of those arguments have also assumed that there is a necessary conflict between affirmative action and the right of every white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or other applicant to be judged objectively on the basis of his/her individual merit. Such arguments do an injustice to those applicants who have had to overcome cultural barriers to their being able to compete against others on a level playing field, and who have had to confront racial injustice in order to pursue equality of opportunity.
      Racial justice legislation (and adjudication) may deal with such problems as employment discrimination, housing discrimination, racial segregation of public facilities, racial segregation of public schools, infringements of voting rights, racially discriminatory admissions policies of schools and universities, racially biased lending practices of financial institutions, racial discrimination in consumer markets, racial profiling by law enforcement officers, racial harassment, hate crimes, and human slavery.
      The degree to which racial justice has been achieved may be measured by its presence in the political, legal, economic, and social systems of a society, nation, or world order. The WJP Rule of Law Index, developed by the World Justice Project, is an example of a useful instrument for measuring the rule of law, based on forty-seven indicators organized around nine factors: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, criminal justice, and informal justice.41
      According to the WJP Law Index, principles of the rule of law include (1) legal accountability of government and its officials, as well as accountability of individuals and private entities, (2) impartiality of application of the law, and protection of fundamental rights, (3) fairness of the process by which laws are enacted, administered, and enforced, and (4) adequacy of access to the justice system. The rule of law provides a foundation for the political, legal, economic, and social systems of a society to function effectively.42
      The process of attaining racial justice may go hand in hand with the process of reconciliation. As the victims of injustice seek redress for the indignities and harms they have suffered, they may also, in some cases, feel the need to go through a process of healing in order to be able to fully exercise their moral, civil, and legal rights. This process of healing may therefore also entail a process of reconciliation between the victims and the perpetrators of injustice, so that society can be made whole.


1Martha Nussbaum, Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006), p. 263.

2Charles W. Mills, The Racial Contract (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), p. 9.

3Tom L. Beauchamp and James F. Childress, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, Second Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 187.

4John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), p. 53.

5Ibid., pp. 57-73.

6Ibid., pp. 197-199.

7U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, “Civil Rights Data Collection,” March 2014.

8Brian D. Smedley, Adrienne Y. Stith, and Alan R. Nelson, editors, “Summary” in Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care (Washington, D.C.: The National Academic Press, 2003), pp. 5-6.

9William J. Talbott, Human Rights and Human Well-Being (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 260-261.

10Martha Nussbaum, Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 206), pp. 76-78.

11Ibid., p. 179.

12Ibid., p. 292.

13Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), p. 3.

14Ibid., p. 37.

15Ibid., p. 38.

16Ibid, p. 51.

17John R. Searle, The Construction of Social Reality (New York: The Free Press, 1995), p. 18.

18Robert N. Proctor, “Agnotology: A Missing Term to Describe the Cultural Production of Ignorance (and its Study),” in Agnotology: The Making & Unmaking of Ignorance, edited by Robert N. Proctor & Linda Schiebinger (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), p. 1.

19John R. Searle, The Construction of Social Reality (New York: The Free Press, 1995), p. 23.

20Ibid., p. 8.

21John R. Searle, Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 91.

22Ibid., p. 9.

23”A Defiant Rancher Savors the Audience that Rallied to His Side,” by Adam Nagourney, in The New York Times, April 23, 2014, p. A1.

24Charles W. Mills, “Realizing (Through Racializing) Pogge,” in Thomas Pogge and His Critics, edited by Alison M. Jaggar (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010), p. 102.

25Ibid., p. 153.

26Tommie Shelby, “Racial Realities and Corrective Justice: A Reply to Charles Mills,” in Critical Philosophy of Race, Vol. I, No. 2, 2013, pp. 155-156.

27Rawls, A Theory of Justice, p. 109.

28Marcus Arvan, “First Steps Toward a Nonideal Theory of Justice,” in Ethics and Global Politics, Vol. 7, No. 3 (2014), pp. 95-112.

29John Divers, Possible Worlds (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 211.

30The World Bank Group, 2014,

31World Health Organization, Fact Sheet 178, September 2013,

32WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation, 2013

33UNICEF – Press Centre, “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene,” 2014,

34The World Bank Group, 2013,,,contentMDK:22855502~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:4114200,00.html.

35Jeffrey D. Sachs, et al., “Ending Africa’s Poverty Trap,” in Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 2004, No. 1, 117-240.

36Martin Luther King, Jr., “Nonviolence and Racial Justice,” in Christian Century (The Christian Century Foundation, 1957), pp. 120-121.

37Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations General Assembly, 1948),

38Rawls, A Theory of Justice, p. 94.

39Thomas Pogge, “Global Justice: What are the Responsibilities of Citizens?” (Lecture at the University of Scranton, Sept. 21, 2013),

40U.S. Human Rights Fund, 2011,

41The World Justice Project, The WJP Rule of Law Index 2014 (Washington, D.C., 2014), p. 1.

42Ibid., p. 4.


Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Philosophy as Performance

Philosophy as performance may take the form of reading, interpreting, discussing, arguing about, and responding to philosophical ideas and texts. It may involve a single performer or multiple performers, and it may take place in a library, in a classroom, on a stage, behind a lectern, in a lecture hall, in a café, in a theater, beside a water fountain, in the midst of a crowd, on a park bench, or on a rooftop.
      Philosophy as performance may incorporate aspects of not only the performing arts, but also the visual arts and literary arts. Examples of performance philosophy include the public lectures and readings of the philosopher Alphonso Lingis, which have included a stage performance in which he read a philosophical text while dressed as a Geisha (in an art gallery in Kyoto, Japan, January 20, 1997).1 Another example of performance philosophy is the work of the artist and philosopher Adrian Piper, whose conceptual art projects have included “The Mythic Being” (1973), a photo and film documentation of a street performance in which she disguised herself as a man (donning an Afro wig, fake mustache, and sunglasses) and recited mantras such as “I am the locus of consciousness” as she  walked through crowds of onlookers.2
      To describe philosophy as performance is to describe a discipline whose potential to become a widely recognized art form may not yet have been fully realized. Performance philosophy may involve the use of multiple media, such as text, audio, video, background music, and background lighting. It may also involve the wearing of makeup, wigs, and costumes, the use of hand-held or stage props, the use of mobile stage platforms, the use of lighting and sound effects, and the use of special effects (such as optical and atmospheric effects) if they enhance and do not distract from the presentation of philosophical ideas and texts.
      More traditional performance philosophy may include public readings of philosophical texts, panel discussions of philosophical issues and problems, philosophical dialogues, philosophical debates, and public conversations, colloquia, and symposia concerning philosophical matters and subjects.
      Whenever a philosopher addresses an audience, teaches students, shares her work with colleagues, writes an essay, publishes a book, interprets the work of another philosopher, or answers the questions of an interviewer, she is in some way delivering a kind of performance, insofar as she is presenting herself, her ideas, and her work in a particular form or manner. She is in some way presenting, staging, framing, or displaying aspects of herself (such as her personal and professional habits, her conversational style, her writing style, her research methods, and her philosophical interests and concerns). Her performance of herself and of her ideas or work may be more or less spontaneous or deliberate, committed or uncommitted, self-conscious or unselfconscious, intentional or unintentional.
      The way in which a philosopher presents her ideas, thoughts, and impressions to a reading, listening, or viewing audience involves a kind of performance of those ideas, thoughts, and impressions in order to connect with, and engage, the audience. It also involves a kind of performance of herself in the role of philosopher, in order to gain the audience’s acceptance, attention, engagement, trust, and respect. It also involves a kind of performance on the part of the audience, insofar as it must interpret and determine how to respond to the philosopher’s ideas, thoughts, and impressions. Each of these three kinds of performance may be relatively felicitous or infelicitous, successful or unsuccessful, skillful or unskillful.
      Philosophy as performance may be planned, memorized, scripted, and rehearsed, or it may be unplanned, unmemorized, unscripted, and unrehearsed. It may be linear or non-linear, monologic or dialogic, interactive or non-interactive.
      To see philosophy as performance may be to see that philosophy must recognize its own performativity. The performativity of philosophy may arise from the kinds of social roles that philosophy performs, and from the kinds of social roles that philosophers play when they do philosophy. The act of doing philosophy may be both performative and constative in nature.
      Philosophy may theorize performance, and it may analyze the relation between performance and performativity. To explore philosophy as performance, we may need to explore not only the discursive and representational, but also the non-discursive and presentational modes of philosophical speech and language.
      Performativity may be defined as the state of being a performance. It may also be defined as the ability to perform an action, role, duty, purpose, or function. The degree to which something (such as an utterance, segment of discourse, mode of behavior, or mode of language) is a performance (or is performative) determines the degree of its performativity.
      Performativity may also be defined as the quality of being a performative utterance. A performative utterance is an utterance that does not describe or report anything, but that nevertheless performs some social role or function.3 Performative utterances include acts of apologizing, thanking, ordering, promising, welcoming, warning, admitting, approving, and disapproving. For example, the utterance, “Be careful” performs the role of an admonition, and the utterance “Excuse me” performs the role of a request for pardon.
      Performances may be live or recorded. While a recorded performance may look or sound the same each time it is repeated, a live performance may never look or sound the same each time it is repeated. Each time a philosopher presents a live performance of her work to an audience, she may be performing that work in a somewhat different manner, and each time an audience sees or listens to that work, it may be responding to it in a somewhat different manner.
      Performance and philosophy may be two sides of the same coin. Thus, we have on one side of the coin/and on the other side of the coin:

      Performance as Philosophy/Philosophy
      as performance
      The performer as philosopher/The
      philosopher as performer
      The philosophy of performance/The
      performance of philosophy
      The philosophy of art/The art of philosophy
      Art as philosophy/Philosophy as art
      The artist as philosopher/The philosopher as
      Conceptual art as philosophy/Philosophy as
      conceptual art
      The comedy of philosophy/The philosophy of
      The tragedy of philosophy/The philosophy of
      Philosophy as jazz/Jazz as philosophy
      Philosophy as the blues/The blues as
      Poetry as philosophy/Philosophy as poetry.

      When we study performance as philosophy, we must ask ourselves: Is there a philosophy that produces the performance, or does the performance itself produce a philosophy? What makes a performance a work of art? What makes a performance philosophical?
      Other questions that must be considered include: Can a philosophical text, reading, or interpretation be considered a work of art? Can Plato and Aristotle be performed in some way that is analogous to the way in which Mozart and Shakespeare can be performed? Is Plato’s interpretation of Socrates in some way analogous to Bernstein’s interpretation of Mahler or Gould’s interpretation of Bach? Is philosophical interpretation in some way analogous to literary, musical, or dramatic interpretation?
      And still other questions that may need to be considered include: Is there a performance philosophy that is analogous to performance poetry? Can performance philosophy take the form of spoken word poetry? Is performance philosophy a philosophy of performance, or is it philosophy as performance? 
      Some adjectives that may be used to describe a performance, when it is praiseworthy, include “impressive,” “outstanding,” “remarkable,” “extraordinary,” “powerful,” “moving,” “amusing,” and “entertaining.” Some adjectives that may be used to describe a performance, when it is not so praiseworthy, include “average,” “mediocre,” “amateurish,” “overwrought,” “annoying,” “tedious,” “mechanical,” “stiff,” and “boring.” The kinds of adjectives that may be used to describe praiseworthy or unpraiseworthy performances indicate the kinds of performances that performers may want, or may not want, to give.
      There may be a philosophy of each of the performing arts, i.e. a philosophy of music, a philosophy of dance, a philosophy of drama, a philosophy of performance art, a philosophy of public speaking, and so on. However, all these philosophies may share a concern with such questions as: How should art be defined? How is art created? What makes art inspiring or uninspiring? What kinds of truth does art reveal? What kinds of meaning does art express? What kinds of response may art evoke in an audience?
      Conceptual art may be philosophical in its themes and content. Examples include Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs” (1965), Jenny Holzer’s “Truisms” (1984), and Barbara Kruger’s “Belief+Doubt” (2012). Performance art may also be philosophical in its themes and content. Examples include Pope.L’s “Tompkins Square Crawl” (1991), Maren Hassinger’s “Women’s Work” (2006), and Marina Abramović’s “The Artist is Present” (2010).


1Clark Lunberry, “The Philosopher and the Geisha: Alphonso Lingis and the Multi-Mediated Performance of Philosophical Discourse," in Discourse, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Spring 2000), pp. 92-103.
2Robin Cembalest, “Adrian Piper Pulls Out of Black Performance-Art Show,” in ArtNews, Oct. 25, 2013, online at
 3J.L. Austin, How to do things with Words (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962).

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"Selling" Ourselves: The Ethics of Self-Marketing

Do we inevitably do ourselves an injustice when we try to “sell”1 ourselves? Can there ever truly be an ethics of marketing or “selling” ourselves? Is the phrase “the ethics of self-marketing” an oxymoron?
      Is it ever morally right for us to place a price tag on, or assign a monetary value to, ourselves? When we “sell” or market ourselves, do we inevitably risk demeaning and devaluing ourselves? By putting a monetary value on our time, labor, skills, and abilities and expecting to be financially compensated for them, are we thereby confirming the justness and appropriateness of their monetary valuation?
      When we market or “sell” ourselves, we may be offering to provide others (in exchange for their money, assistance, approval, or sponsorship) a variety of things, such as our labor, skills, expertise, advice, ideas, experience, personal services, personal endorsement, personal spokesmanship, or personal image rights.
      We may try to “sell” or market ourselves in a variety of ways. For example, we may try to "sell" ourselves by telling others about ourselves, by talking with them, by listening to them, by developing personal relationships with them, by building friendships and partnerships with them, by trying to respond to their interests and concerns, by engaging them in our own interests and concerns, by educating them, by entertaining them, and by trying to inspire them.
      Methods of self-marketing may include handing out business cards, mailing out brochures, sending out emails, creating a website, blogging, writing magazine or journal articles, writing books, giving talks, conducting seminars, creating online videos (e.g. on YouTube, Veoh, or Vimeo), using social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn), appearing as a guest on a radio talk show, becoming a professional coach or mentor, becoming a professional consultant, becoming a member of a professional society, and doing volunteer work for a nonprofit organization.
      Self-marketing may also include “personal branding” (e.g. Donna Karan Fragrances, Martha Stewart Home Decor, Hilton Hotels, and Oprah Magazine), “self-packaging” (e.g. developing a signature style or creating a look) and “image management” (e.g. personal, social, professional, and political image management)
      The ethics of self-marketing may presuppose that there is an external market governing transactions between buyers and sellers, and that there are market rules regarding buyer and seller behavior. Violations of marketing ethics may therefore trigger external (market-imposed) as well as internal (self-imposed) sanctions.
      “Selling” or marketing ourselves may consist of demonstrating our aptitude, ability, knowledge, competence, trustworthiness, and reliability to others. It may also consist of making others aware of, or making others believe in, our merit and value.
      “Selling” ourselves may also consist of promoting our ideas and demonstrating their meaningfulness, significance, and relevance. It may also consist of demonstrating the value of our physical, mental, social, or professional traits and assets. It may therefore be a kind of performance that can be judged according to ethical as well as aesthetic criteria.
      In order to properly investigate the ethics of self-marketing, we may need to recognize that there is an art (including a visual, auditory, and performing art), as well as a science (including a cognitive, behavioral, and social psychology) of self-marketing.
      The ethics of self-marketing may define not only our duties to ourselves (including the duty not to surrender or compromise our own human dignity and moral integrity), but also our duties to others (including the duty not to make intentionally false or deceptive claims about ourselves).
      Our duties to ourselves may include the duty not to “sell” or market ourselves in a manner that is harmful to our physical and mental well-being. Thus, we may have a duty not to “sell” or market ourselves in a manner that is harmful to our sense of self-worth and self-respect.
      Our duties to others may also include the duty not to “sell” or market ourselves as something we are not. Thus, we may have the duty not to exaggerate or embellish our personal accomplishments. We may have the duty not to misrepresent the level of our technical expertise, practical knowledge, and professional training. We may have the duty not to intentionally create false impressions about our educational, academic, or professional backgrounds. There may be moral limits as to how we market ourselves, and as to what we say about ourselves.
      We also have the duty not to accept bribes or unethical inducements for “selling” ourselves, and for selling our time, labor, services, personal companionship, personal property, or privacy.
      The ethics of self-marketing also demand that we not participate in illegal markets, including markets in illegal drugs, markets in illegal weapons, markets in smuggled goods, and markets in stolen or pirated goods.
      We have the duty not to sell our knowledge, expertise, skills, services, etc. to unlawful or criminal enterprises. We also have the duty not to let ourselves become the knowing or unknowing instruments of corrupt business or political interests.
      If there are ethical ways for us to “sell” ourselves, then how do we avoid selling ourselves short? How do we avoid misjudging our value to others? If we “sell” ourselves to others, then we may need to be mindful of, and try to avoid, “underselling” or “overselling” ourselves.
      “Selling” or marketing ourselves may be a part of ordinary work skills. A teacher, counselor, attorney, architect, engineer, or professional speaker may have to “sell” herself in some way to her students, clients, customers, or audience in order to be recognized as a reliable and credible authority in her field of training or expertise. A salesperson, shopkeeper, vendor, broker, or entrepreneur may also have to “sell” herself in some way to a prospective client or customer in order for that client or customer to consider buying a product from her or using her professional services. If a marketer or vendor fails to “sell” herself properly, then the prospective customer may consider buying the same product or the same services from some other marketer or vendor.
      One reason that we may fail to get a job promotion or be recognized for our job performance is that we may fail to “sell” ourselves properly to a supervisor or employer. We may fail to make an impression on a supervisor or employer or make her aware of our value and importance to the organization we are working for.
      We may also sell ourselves short by failing to "sell" ourselves tactfully and effectively. We may fail to identify and personally connect with our prospective employers, clients, customers, or audience. We may fail to develop a strategy for reaching, appealing to, and mobilizing a particular market sector, customer base, readership, viewing audience, or listening audience. We may fail to utilize a variety of methods in order to develop a marketing platform and communications network. We may fail to recognize our own strengths and virtues, and may fail to make others aware of how those strengths and virtues could be helpful or useful to them.
      Some of the disadvantages of selling ourselves short are that we may miss out on opportunities (personal, social, professional, and financial) that we would otherwise have had, and we may reinforce negative feelings that we have about ourselves. We may also promote negative images that we have of ourselves. We may also subject ourselves to mistreatment or abuse if we feel that we don’t deserve to be treated any better. We may try to find various reasons to continue dysfunctional or unsatisfying personal relationships. We may also accept being told that we are inferior and undeserving.
      Some other disadvantages of selling ourselves short are that we may settle for a lower level of financial compensation than we deserve for having fulfilled a professional obligation, and we may settle for less recognition than we deserve for having performed a particular service. We may even settle for being discriminated against and being denied privileges that have, under similar conditions, been granted to others.
      On the other hand, the ethics of self-marketing require that we not demand excessive reward or compensation for providing our goods and services. We have a duty not to make false and deceptive claims about our skills, expertise, professional background, and work history. We have a duty not to claim intellectual property rights over intellectual property that does not rightfully belong to us.
      In order to comply with an ethics of self-marketing, we must also avoid “selling out” (compromising our moral principles for the sake of personal reward or financial gain). We must also avoid making a Faustian bargain with a supposed benefactor, by sacrificing our moral principles and “selling” ourselves to that supposed benefactor in return for temporary personal gain (in the form of power, fame, or success). We must also avoid taking unfair advantage of others for the sake of our own personal gain.
      Techniques for “selling” or “packaging” ourselves may include wearing particular styles of clothing (“dressing for success”), grooming ourselves in a particular manner, trying to make a good first impression, being relaxed and outgoing, being courteous and friendly, establishing eye contact with whomever we are talking to, trying to be considerate and kind, and trying to appear calm, assured, confident, knowledgeable, and competent.
      The ethics of selling ourselves (or of selling various parts of ourselves) may also apply to such practices as paid blood donation, paid bone marrow donation, paid sperm or egg donation, paid hair donation, paid organ donation, paid breast milk donation, paid surrogacy, paid participation in scientific research trials, paid companion services, paid escort services, paid sex work (such as stripping, lap dancing, adult film performing, and prostitution), and selling ourselves into bonded labor or slavery.
      A moral question raised by the selling of our bodies or body parts is whether we have the moral right to sell them, even though no one other than ourselves has the moral right to claim ownership of them. How can it be morally wrong for us to voluntarily sell our own bodies or body parts, if we are not harming anyone else by doing so? Those who affirm that it is indeed morally wrong to sell our own bodies or body parts may argue that it is inherently harmful to our own moral or psychological well-being, They may also argue that our own bodies or body parts cannot rightfully be regarded as buyable or sellable commodities. They may also argue that by claiming the right to sell our own bodies or body parts, we are contributing to the development of markets in bodies or body parts, and thus to human trafficking.
      Arguments against legalization of the selling of body organs or body parts include (1) that it is morally wrong, (2) that it is a violation of human dignity, (3) that it treats body organs or parts as if they were commodities, (4) that it promotes an inequitable system of organ distribution, with access to available organs granted to those who can afford to pay, and access to available organs denied to those who cannot afford to pay, (5) that it promotes a system of organ distribution in which the wealthy will be the recipients and the poor will be the donors, treating the poor as sources of organs to be distributed to the wealthy,2 (6) that it might not alleviate the present shortage of available donor organs, since donations might decrease if selling were allowed,3 and (7) that it might lead to the kidnapping and murder of children and adults in order to harvest their organs.4
      Arguments for legalization of the selling of body organs or body parts include (1) that legalized selling of body organs might help to alleviate the present shortage of available donor organs for medical patients who need organ transplantation, (2) that voluntary donation of body organs allows the donors to help those in need, (3) that legalized selling of body organs might encourage more people to donate their organs, and (4) that human beings should have the right to treat their bodies as they desire and should be able to voluntarily sell their own body organs or body parts if they are not harming anyone by doing so,
      Arguments for legalization of prostitution include (1) that prostitution is a “victimless crime,” (2) that legalization would reduce health risks for sex workers by requiring them to be tested regularly for sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), (3) that it would reduce violence against women, by providing safer environments for sex workers, (4) that it would enable greater regulation of the sex trade, in order to prevent human trafficking, (5) that it would prevent child prostitution, (6) that it would save law enforcement resources, (7) that it would be a source of tax revenue, and (8) that it would allow sex workers to obtain labor rights, such as minimum wage, health care rights, safety rights, and protection from discrimination.5
      Arguments against the legalization of prostitution include (1) that prostitution is morally wrong, (2) that it is inherently dehumanizing, (3) that it promotes the abuse and exploitation of women, (4) that it promotes the victimization of children, (5) that it promotes human trafficking, (6) that it promotes the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, (7) that legalization does not protect sex workers from exploitation, and (8) that it promotes the spread of prostitution.
      Perhaps the two most basic requirements of self-marketing ethics are (1) that we have the right to market or sell whatever we are marketing or selling, and (2) that we do so in a truthful, honest, and socially responsible manner. Thus, the ethics of self-marketing informs us of the duty to engage in ethical advertising  and promotional practices, regardless of what kind of marketing strategy we are employing (e.g. mass marketing, multi-segment marketing, targeted marketing, or niche marketing).
      Self-marketing ethics also includes an ethics of self-disclosure, i.e. an ethics governing the nature, kind, and amount of personal data we release to others in our “selling” of ourselves. To the extent that release of our personal data affects the well-being of others, we have an ethical duty not to unnecessarily harm, offend, trouble, or inconvenience them by unnecessarily releasing such data. We also have an ethical duty not to be selfishly attention-seeking and exhibitionistic in our self-promotion or self-marketing. We also have an ethical and legal duty not to engage in such acts as breaching the peace, creating a public nuisance, infringing on the privacy rights of others, and using public resources, property, or communications without proper authorization.
      In some cases, we may have to “sell” ourselves to ourselves (convince ourselves of our own merit and value). We may also have to “sell” ourselves on the act of “selling” ourselves (convince ourselves that we are doing the right thing by “selling” ourselves to others). Self-marketing may therefore in some cases involve marketing ourselves to ourselves as well as to others.


1The word “sell” is here placed in quotation marks to distinguish the metaphorical from the literal sense of selling. We often try to “sell” ourselves to others in everyday life by trying to convince others of our intelligence, sophistication, resourcefulness, attractiveness, sense of humor, and other admirable qualities, but this metaphorical sense of selling is to be distinguished from the literal sense of selling that is exemplified by the selling of human beings into bondage or slavery, the sex trade, and the selling of human body organs or body parts.

2Debra Satz, Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 198.

3C.J. Dougherty, “Body Futures: The Case Against Marketing Human Organs,” in Health Progress, Volume 68, Number 5, June 1987, p. 51.

4R.R. Kishore, “Human Organs, Scarcities, and Sale: Morality Revisited, in Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 41. 2005, p. 362.

5Erin Fuchs, “7 Reasons Why America Should Legalize Prostitution,” in Business Insider, No. 13, 2013, online at