Would you steal a drug that your child needs to survive?
If you had to choose between (1) killing one person to save the lives of five others and (2) doing nothing even though you knew that five people would die right before your eyes if you did nothing — what would you do? What would be the right thing to do, Sandel asks us to ponder.
He has authored a book entitled Justice: What's The Right Thing To Do? which is also a PBS series with some videos available online.
I heard him speak at Rutgers the night before last. He basically compares philosophers Jeremy Bentham's theory of utilitarianism with Immanuel Kant.
Utilitarianism believes that what is best for the most is what counts. This is commonly known as cost-benefit analysis such as was used by the Ford company in deciding not to fix the Pinto exploding defect, weighing the cost of law suits when people were killed or injured against the cost of fixing it.
Other examples of utilitarian theory are the rationale for killing or torturing one human being to save the lives of more than one or many.
Kant, however, believed that it is morally wrong to use a human being as a means to an end. Objectification - or putting a dollar value on human life - violates basic human dignity. Kant argues that maximizing happiness is not the only thing that matters, Respect for human rights is primary.
Sandel's work is to stimulate discussion on these issues as they relate to real-life situations. He challenges students and those attending his lectures to "listen more closely and argue more explicitly about moral questions of justice."
Seems a no-brainer to me to adopt these philosophic theories to adoption. Challenging us to think about comparisons to slavery or indenture...or who is the "real parent"...are my way of attempting to stimulate such conversation.
As I stated in my Sept 8 post "Adoption Comparisons": Comparative arguments like these - whether you agree or disagree - create lively and thoughtful discussion and debate.
On Oct. 5 I asked "Is Adoption Natural?" and engendered some 85 comments.
I also compared adoption to kidnapping when several adoptees on Facebook were triggered by the Jaycee Duggard kidnapping.
When we look at these comparisons, of course we are not blind to or ignoring the differences.
And so once again, I revisit the question of the connection between adoption and slavery based on two facts:
- both institutions separate families
- both institutions involuntarily change people's names (as opposed to marriage)
Tobias Hübinette notes that “[b]oth the slaves and the adoptees are separated from their parents, siblings, relatives and significant others at an early age, stripped of their original cultures and languages, reborn at harbours and airports, Christianized, re-baptized; both assume the name of their master/parent and, in the end, only retain a racialised, non-white body that has been branded or given a case number. ... These children were objects of rescue fantasies and relief projects for the European homeland populations and especially feminist and Christian philanthropist and humanist groups.” (“Between European Colonial Trafficking, American Empire-. Building and Nordic Social Engineering: Rethinking International Adoption From a Postcolonial and Feminist Perspective.”)
In the Old Testament. the phase "I will blot out their names" (to erase their identity...as though they had never existed) is a more powerful threat even than physical death.
--Dr. Rollo May, Man's Search for Himself