Another point about James Fitzjames Stephen on gender equality.
He’s claiming that Mill is being insufficiently utilitarian (echoes of Bentham and “nonsense upon stilts” here).
First, as to the proposition that justice requires that all people should live in society as equals. I have already shown that this is equivalent to the proposition that it is expedient that all people should live in society as equals. Can this be proved? for it is certainly not a self-evident proposition.
Expedient – but expedient for whom?
Stephen doesn’t say, and what he does go on to say has what ought to be a very obvious problem, but he apparently never noticed it. The problem is that he’s not going to be one of the people who are declared not equal. If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past century or so it’s that people who are in no danger of being declared unequal have a conflict of interest when they declare other people unequal.
The shorthand for this issue is “privilege,” but that word causes some people to go into frothing rages, so maybe it’s better to avoid it. But it’s a terrible idea to avoid the issue, because the issue is important. If gentiles are declaring Jews unequal, there’s an issue. If white people are declaring brown people unequal, there’s an issue. If men are declaring women unequal, there’s an issue. Straight/gay; native/foreign; Brahmin/dalit; European/aboriginal; theist/atheist; Protestant/Catholic or vice versa; you get the idea. That’s why the Original Position is needed.
The main distinguishing feature of the original position is “the veil of ignorance”: to insure impartiality of judgment, the parties are deprived of all knowledge of their personal characteristics and social and historical circumstances.
And without that – the judgment isn’t impartial.