The paper "Merit: Why Do We Value It? by L. Pojman " is a delightful example of an article on philosophy. Pojman stresses the importance of pursuing and digging deeper into the concept of merit and desert. He differentiates merit from the desert by defining merit as something that depends on a characteristic or quality that one has. Thus, one gets the merit or preferential treatment for one's height, skin color, or race. On the other hand, the desert is based on doing or attempting to do something. People are rewarded based on their hard work and perseverance.
Pojman presents various points of views on the subject matter and allows us to get a wide perspective of merit and desert. At first, I did not place much value overtaking the subject of merit as one with primary importance. I agreed more with Norman Daniels, Michael Young, Kai Nielsen, and Thomas Nagel who hold that merit is only a secondary concept in terms of importance, and that it should be overridden for utilitarian reasons or need. I was more concerned with the results and what would be best for society as a whole, and less on finding out more about one’ s merit or desert.
But after reading through Pojman’ s essay, I realized that the concept of merit is also of primary importance. After reading the essay, I realized that merit and desert are important because it is the foundation for justice and equality. In the ideal world, the good should prosper in proportion to the good that they do, and the evil should suffer in proportion to the evil that they do.
But in the real world, this is not happening. In many cases, good and innocent people suffer, and in other cases, evil people prosper. I found that having a deep understanding of merit and desert is prerequisite to judging properly who is to be rewarded, and the proportion of reward to be given. Currently, we still lack that level of understanding, and so it is important that this subject matter is pursued. I agree with Pojman when he said that we should strive to make this world where justice is more closely approximated, where the virtuous are rewarded, and the evil punished in proportion to their goodness or their crime.
I begin to see that my first impression, that merit is only secondary and utility or need is more important, was wrong. Merit is of primary importance, however, since we currently do not possess the knowledge and capacity to ascertain the true merit of a person, we have to act on what we do know, and thus prioritize utility or need. Merit is so important, that, since we do not have the knowledge and capacity for it, we can only leave it to be judged by the divine.
Why Meritocracy is So Complex How much do we appropriate for the person doing good? Where do we base it on? These questions are of primary importance in determining the rewards for a person. In the real world, people are rewarded for possessing characteristics that they did not do anything to deserve. Being handsome, being tall, and other physical endowments are some of these examples. Being born in a noble or rich family can also be placed in this category.
On the other hand, we can choose to reward people for their hard work. However, this is not that fair either. Consider that one’ s hard work and perseverance may not be up to one’ s choice entirely. It is also influenced by one’ s upbringing, environment, and training, over which an individual doesn’ t have full control over. Thus, the natural lottery of endowments still has some influence even on perseverance, hard work, and character. Rawls makes a good point when he said that “ even the willingness to make an effort, to try, and so to be deserving in the ordinary sense is itself dependent in practice upon happy family and social circumstances. ” However, I believe our focus should not be on the past of a person, but on what can be done today.
Even if the past history of a person was of an unhappy family and unfavorable social circumstances, the current situation can be changed. As people who wish to do what is morally good, we, if not the person himself, can make something to create the favorable social circumstances that will serve as the foundation for developing a good character with the “ willingness to make an effort, to try, and to be deserving” .
Another thing to consider is one’ s intention. Would you punish or withhold reward for the person with good intention but who fails to produce a pleasant output? Kant stresses the value of goodwill, and it is a prerequisite to our worthiness to be happy. Although I agree with this, the problem is that we do not have the capacity to measure a person’ s goodwill since we do not really know what another person is actually thing about.
For me, however, since we can’ t measure a person’ s goodwill directly, then we rely on other measures such as one’ s output. Goodwill is not enough. It is also important to have the dedication, decisiveness, and commitment to make that goodwill take form and have good results. Conclusion All in all, I agree with Pojman’ s point that we should pursue and dig deeper into the concept of merit.
I agree that understanding merit and the desert is important. I realized that it will serve as the foundation for building a world that is as just as we can approximate it. However, we must also realize that there are some factors that are beyond our control and our capacity. For example, we cannot change the past of a person who has experienced living in an unhappy family or social circumstance, however, we can build a new social environment for that person to develop. Doing so will help the person to acquire positive traits such as motivation, perseverance, and persistence.
Also, although we may not be able to see whether the intent of a person is really good, we can base it on his actions and even ask him about it. We do not possess the power of omnipotence to be able to judge fairly, but we should do the best within our capacities.