LuckyR wrote:You are, of course, free to deny the existence (and thus the importance) of groups. And if groups didn't exist, no one could argue with your commentary.
Now, now. I certainly did not deny that groups exist. Of course they exist --- by definition: "The group consisting of all bald-headed men with Nordic ancestry born in the US since 1950." There, I've just defined a group, which certainly exists. But I cannot proceed to reify it into a moral agent with interests and goals, which can suffer harms or reap benefits, except to the extent those attributes are true of at least some of its members.
Propositions imputing an attribute of personhood to a group must be reducible to a set of propositions about members of the group, or it is meaningless. Assuming otherwise is called the "fallacy of composition," or what Gilbert Ryle called a "category mistake" --- assuming that a subject belonging to one ontological category belongs to another. Groups belong to a different ontological order from individuals, and take on a different set of properties. For example, if we say, "Utah has a population of 3 million," we are making a statement about the group (consisting of the citizens of Utah), not its members --- no citizen of Utah has a population of 3 million. But if we say, "Utah is a Mormon state," then we are speaking of the members of that group, and the proposition is true only if it is true of at least some of its members.
So to claim that a certain policy is "unfair" to a group, you must show that it is unfair to Alfie, Bruno, Chauncey, or some other member(s) of that group, and explain why it is unfair to each of them. Unless you can do that reduction your claim is incoherent and thus meaningless. If you do the reduction, and it turns out the policy is not unfair to any of the members, then your claim is false.
Alas, outside of Philosophy Forums, they kind of exist and actually occupy a not insignificant amount of time and energy among various entities (government, corporations, communities etc).
Indeed they do. That is an artifact of populist democracy, in which politicians define and pander to groups in order to win votes. But I'm not sure of your point: Are you suggesting that if a certain type of fallacious reasoning becomes common enough, it ceases to be fallacious?
And yes, University admissions as you correctly state have an element of subjectivity to them. Sorry, that's the way it is. Your use of the word should is kind of cute, though.
Hmm. I don't think I'm using that term any differently than anyone else participating in this debate. The question is, "Should governments force universities to practice 'affirmative action'?" Is it not? That question is, of course, a moral question, and moral propositions are characterized by "shoulds" and "oughts."
I think there are a couple of misconceptions that drive this subject away from logical evaluation. The first is that becoming a lawyer, doctor, or a Harvard or Stanford graduate, is so darn difficult that the fact that say only 4% of applicants get accepted, means that over 90% of applicants are "unqualified". The opposite is true. A substantial minority of applicants are perfectly qualified, say 35 - 45%, about ten times more, than the size of the first year class. Huge amounts of perfectly qualified applicants get rejected . . . Let me put it a different way, if the med school magically got funding for double the number of students, they would not have to dip into the "unqualified" pool to fill the class.
You're begging the question again. You're setting some arbitrary criteria for being "qualified," then pointing out that not all "qualified" applicants are accepted. That is irrelevant; your "qualified" threshold is meaningless. If the number of student slots is limited, then the school should select the best qualified, based on objective criteria. Ultimately, the criterion for determining whether an applicant was deemed "fully qualified" by the school is whether or not he was admitted.
The other misconception is that high GPAs and test scores, the darlings of shallow evaluations of the subject matter because of their ability to be stratified easily, predict success in higher learning, once the first weeding out process has been performed. Or to describe it numerically, you can show a difference in success between the top quintile and the last, but not between the first and the second . . . Given these two realities, it is completely reasonable that an applicant with acceptable but second tier numbers (gpa and test scores) could legitimately outrank (due to superior research, essay, letters of recommendation and especially interview) a second student with better numbers. And we all agree that the higher ranked applicant deserves to be accepted first, right?
Yes, it is possible that a "second tier" applicant may prove to be a better student and, eventually, a more talented or productive professional than some "first tier" students. But the odds are against it. I.e., if you admit 100 "second tier" applicants and thereby exclude 100 "first tier" applicants, you will, almost certainly, end up with a less talented and productive cohort of professionals. BTW, test scores and GPAs are not the only objective data available to admissions offices. Letters of recommendation from teachers or other qualified professionals are reasonably trustworthy, and such things as awards won (at science fairs, writing competitions, art exhibits, etc.) and publication of stories, poems, essays are also predictive of academic success. Interviews are not only subjective, they're useless. Shy students don't do well in them, and clever students will know how to tell the interviewer what he wants to hear. They are unlikely to reveal any relevant information about the student not evident in the objective record.