TRINPsite, 56.16.5-56.16.5 




The ideas on typification and the relevance of descriptions are interesting from quite another standpoint, especially when it is argued that any name 'includes a typification' and that to 'find a thing or event relevant enough to bestow a separate name upon it, is the outcome of the prevailing system of relevance'. When talking of "types" the traditional theorist may think of plants and animals, of human beings of various races, of men and women, of people of various religions, and so on, but on a different level attitudes and practises drawing on these typifications can themselves be subjected to a typification as well. Traditional language has only believed a few of these attitudes and practises to be 'relevant enough to bestow a separate name upon them', namely rac(ial)ism, ethnocentrism, tribalism, sexism, ag(e)ism, nationalism, plutocracy in a sense, and a few more. A more recent introduction has been speciesism but traditional language has no separate name for types of discrimination which -- one would say -- have abounded in most (or all?) parts of the world, such as the making of nonrelevant distinctions on the grounds of class ('classism'), political or denominational ideology adhered to ('religionism' if on the basis of religion), language spoken or written, educational or marital status, sexual propensity, mental or physical disablement, and so on and so forth. The question whether these forms of discrimination are not as bad, as bad, or worse than, say, racism and sexism, is itself an empirical question (given the right normative postulates, or if defining bad in purely eudaimonistic terms). When suggesting, tho, that only certain types of discrimination have been identified by name because they have been (believed to be) more important, this must be understood as 'more important in a certain respect'. If this is in respect of people's happiness or well-being or freedom, then one introduces a certain kind of determinant which is not essential to a systematic typology of discrimination itself.

Central to the whole question of discrimination is that a nonrelevant distinction can be drawn on the basis of any factor or cluster of factors, real or imaginary. When saying "cluster of factors", one should think of something like race and gender, if it is maintained that they encompass several characteristics combined, rather than a single one. We definitely must object to what some people do, when they mix up various entirely dissimilar types of discrimination based on different factors or clusters of factors. One theorist has argued, for example, that racists would identify people by 'national, religious or physical characteristics (such as skin color)'. And certainly, if a group of people identified by physical characteristics like skin color is looked upon as innately inferior, or superior for that matter, to others, this is racism (or ethnocentrism). But if they are identified by national characteristics, this is nationalism (or some cultural variety of ethnocentrism). And if they are identified by religious characteristics, this is religionism, whether abnegational (if treated as inferior and excluded) or aggrandizemental (if treated as superior and made exclusive).

It cannot be denied, of course, that in practise the diverse forms of discrimination often go together. They may even be anchored to each other by homonyms in the language. Several terms in traditional parlance can either denote a member of an ethnic group or an adherent of a particular religion. Now, a person who is hostile to or discriminates against people defined by one of these terms probably does not care at all whether the victims of 'er hostility are the members of an ethnic group or the adherents of a particular religion. If this is the case, an expression of the form anti-...ism may suffice to denote these types of exclusionism. But the same applies, or would apply, to the aggrandizemental, '' forms of discrimination in which an exclusive or favored status is or would be given to one of these 'ethno-religious' groups. For a systematic classification it is essential to keep all these categories apart as their combination is often (or always?) itself the result of the prejudice that all people of one ethnic group or nation would or should all adhere to (the same) religion or to the same political ideology. Those who have the effrontery, for example, to call other human beings "members of a particular religion" or "religious community", altho those human beings do not believe in the tenets, nor in the god(s) and/or demon(s) of that religion, often invoke the faith by birthdogma. This dogma is -- as we know already -- nothing else than the materialist invention of those who only hold relevance, and especially truth, in contempt.

Until now we have merely looked at distinctions made on the basis of a single factor or a real, or purported, cluster of factors, that is, infrafactorial distinctions. But the act of singling out a limited number of types of discrimination, bestowing a separate name on them with a negative connotation, and not mentioning and not caring about all other forms of discrimination, is itself an instance of exclusivism from the point of view of the relevance principle proper. In place of being infrafactorial however, it is interfactorial, that is, made between the factors (or clusters) themselves. One or more factors are, then, overvalued with respect to (all) other factors which are undervalued, or vice versa. This is what one theorist is concerned with when saying that it is 'a challenge to every human to recognize his attitudes to nonhumans as a form of prejudice no less objectionable than racism or sexism'. And this is also what another theorist has in mind when saying that 'sexual equality is only part of justice in general and not a priori more important to establish than other forms of justice'. ('E calls this itself a 'sort of sex discrimination', but such use of discrimination is wider than ours as we will reserve this term in accord with everyday language for infrafactorial nonrelevant distinctions, made in this case between females and males.) Thus, it would itself be a manifestation of making a nonrelevant distinction to be exclusively concerned with nonrelevant distinctions drawn on the basis of race, of gender, of sexual orientation, of class, of political or religious ideology adhered to, and so on, and not with discrimination per se. Of course, it is not possible for one person to fight all discriminatory attitudes in practise, but it is possible to take them all into consideration, and not to indulge in any kind of discrimination oneself. As a matter of fact, not treating all types of discrimination alike (or the factors on the basis of which discrimination takes place) requires a material distinction to be drawn, whereas treating them alike requires nothing in this respect.

Each type of discrimination may be manifested in different ways, for example, in an 'intermediary' or 'nonintermediary' way, and in an 'affirmative' or 'exemplary' way. In an intermediary manifestation the object concerned is not directly excluded or made exclusive, but the nonrelevant distinction is found in an intermediary system such as the language spoken or written, the symbolism of a denominational doctrine (religious or not) or in that of a political doctrine endorsed by a government. An example of its antithesis, an (affirmative) nonintermediary manifestation, is that people are bodily excluded from entering certain places. The following instances of intermediary manifestations are not less discriminatory, however:

  • the existence and use of derogatory expressions to denote members of certain groups
  • the belief that the (only) supreme being and its/'er incarnation(s) (if believed in) are exclusively male or exclusively female, or are a member of only one particular race or people
  • the display of religious or party-political symbols by the state or another nondenominational (or interdenominational), nonparty institution or person representing such an institution.

In the case of an exemplary manifestation of discrimination it is the frequency distribution of examples given, or used to illustrate a particular point, which is unequal or disproportional. Its antithesis, an affirmative manifestation concerns distinctions which are nonrelevant even when made only one time. Discrimination in the use of someone's examples is much more difficult to prove, as people often maintain that each example separately is 'completely arbitrary'. Thus, if a commercial or a primary school book shows a married couple of which the man works outdoors and earns the money, whereas the woman keeps house for her husband and the children, this one commercial and this one example in a children's book does not yet prove anything: 'it could have been the other way around'. However, if all commercials and school books in a certain country or subculture fit this same pattern, there can be no doubt about the occurrence of an exemplary form of discrimination (on the basis of gender, marital status, having a job, children, and so on). This is not to suggest that exemplary discrimination is easy to prevent. Maybe, we, too, can be blamed for a choice of examples of determinants of relevancy and types of discrimination which is also (too) one-sided. But then, we are clearly less partial in the choices we make than any traditional theorist usually has been or still is; that is, any traditional theorist on discrimination, justice and human or natural rights.

To eventually reach a state of impartiality in which even in our choice of examples no type of distinction is under- or overvalued, a classification of all forms of violating the relevance principle as systematic as that of plants and animals might be very helpful. The basics of such a classification system we will discuss in the next chapter.

©MVVM, 41-56 ASWW

Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
Book of Fundamentals
The Norm of Inclusivity
Discrimination and Attitudinal Consistency