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South African Journal of Philosophy

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Multiculturalism and Equal Treatment: Scope and Limits of the Uniform Treatment Approach

S Courtois

Abstract


In this paper, I examine the scope and limits of Brian Barry’s uniform treatment approach to cultural differences through a critical assessment of its two main arguments. The first maintains that under a regime of institutions serving legitimate public purposes, equal opportunity is an objective state of affairs, and religious or cultural maladjustments to laws and public policies are morally irrelevant to the issue of equal opportunity. The other maintains that unlike physical disabilities, religious and cultural affiliations are the result not of morally arbitrary factors over which one has no control but of life choices for which people must assume responsibility. To the first argument, I respond that equal opportunity is best viewed as an interactive phenomenon encompassing subjective and objective components and that a deliberative approach to cultural claims is more likely than Barry’s uniform approach does to grant religious and cultural minorities equal opportunities and equal treatment. To the second argument, I respond that, even if they arise out of the life choices made by people, religious conducts and cultural practices deserve to be accommodated through law exemption because it is sometimes
the only way our liberal democracies can show respect for citizens as ethical
subjects.



http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sajpem.v28i3.47860
AJOL African Journals Online