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Edna Ullmann-Margalit Family Fairness THIS PAPER IS THE LAST PART OF A THREE-PART PROJECT. THE LARGER picture is important for the proper framing of the present paper. Here then is an abstract of the three-part paper, which is about considerateness. Focusing on two extreme poles of the spectrum of human rela­ tionships, the paper argues that considerateness is the foundation upon which relationships are to be organized in both the thin anony­ mous context of the public space and the thick intimate context of the family. The first part of the paper introduces the notion of considerate­ ness among strangers and explores the idea that considerateness is the minimum that we owe to one another in the public space. By acting considerately toward strangers—for example, by holding a door open so it does not slam in the face of the next person who enters—we show respect to that which we all share as people, namely, our common humanity. The second part explores the idea that considerateness is the foundation underlying the constitution of the exemplary family. I hypothesize that each family adopts its own particular distribution of domestic burdens and benefits and I refer to it as the “family deal.”The argument is that the considerate family deal embodies a notion of fair­ ness that is a distinct, family-oriented notion of fairness. The third part of the larger paper—which is the part I present here—takes up the notion offamily fairness and contrasts it with justice. In particular, I take issue with Susan Okin’s notion of the just family and develop, instead, the notion of the not-unjust fair family. Driving a wedge between justice and fairness, I propose that family fairness is social research Vol 73 : No 2 : Summer 2 006 575 partial and sympathetic rather than impartial and empathic, and that it is particular and internal rather than universalizable. Furthermore, I claim that family fairness is based on ongoing comparisons of prefer­ ences among family members. I finally characterize the good family as a not-unjust family that is considerate and fair. I. FAIRNESS IN THE FAMILY In forging the family deal, considerations of fairness apply. They apply as well in the subsequent process of continually readjusting the deal in response to changing circumstances. Members of the “good” or exemplary family will want to be fair to each other and will attempt to ensure that their family deal, as it evolves and changes, is guided by considerations of fairness.1 However, family members’ idea of family fairness is likely to reflect an understanding of fairness that is different from the way fairness is understood in the context of other social insti­ tutions. In particular, “fair” within the family tends not to be equated with “equal.”2 A basic intuition about justice is the idea that similar cases ought to be treated similarly. What is to count as similar and when do differ­ ences make a difference that would justify departure from similar treatment—these are questions of both principle and interpretation, on which different theories of justice differ. Now, the flip side of this “justice coin” states that dissimilar cases allow for, or indeed require, dissimilar treatment. I take this as the clue for the notion of fairness in the family. Treating similarly placed family members similarly is a hollow precept: each member of the family is uniquely placed. The considerate family deal embodies the concept of treating the dissimi­ larly situated members of the family dissimilarly, yet fairly. To appraise the fairness of my family deal Imust take into account my spouse or partner in his or her fullest particularity. Furthermore, I must engage in a comparison of our preferences and of their inten­ sities: the econom ists’ myth notwithstanding, in the context of the family we do this all the time. Ifmy family consists of more than myself and my partner, I must take into account all the members of my family 576 social research in their fullest particularity, too, and engage in similar inter-personal comparisons among all of us. “Fullest particularity” comprises more than needs and desires. It must comprise all aspects of the personality, such...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 575-596
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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