Friday, February 28, 2020

From Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Equality vs. fairness

 
Dear Friends,
 
This Sunday we are discussing: Equality vs. fairness
 
Ignacio kindly sent us his thoughts about the subject which I hope you mange to read. In my short essay I approach the issue more from the language perspective and the difficulties these concepts present us. The links are below:
 
Ignacio: Equality vs. fairness
https://www.philomadrid.com/2020/02/ignacio-equality-vs-fairness.html
 
Lawrence: Equality vs fairness
https://www.philomadrid.com/2020/02/equality-vs-fairness.html
 
Best Lawrence
 
tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/  OR  PhiloMadrid.com
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid
 
 
From Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Equality vs. fairness
 
 






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Equality vs fairness


Equality vs fairness

Equality is certainly a topic that has been at the fore front of philosophy. We are mostly familiar with the concept of equality through the political idea that we are all equal, we are born equal and, even more important, we are all equal in front of the law.

The key necessary conditions of equality are not to discriminate and applying the same rules and criteria in matters of judgement equally to everyone. In practice such an ideal is never achieved: discrimination is rife in all societies and lack of money excludes many people from being treated equally. The most serious instances of this inequality are access to legal justice, access to education and access to health care. Although there are other services that a person needs to have a fulfilling life.

The English word, fairness (fair), has a very wide use in everyday language and no doubt native speakers of English know how to use the word correctly.  However, unlike equality, fairness does not have a political or legal standing as equality does. This does not mean that law courts or politicians do not use this term in their language. Indeed fairness does have a role to play in both disciplines only that fairness is not a high frequency term or word.

Fairness is well documented in philosophy for example by John Rawls writes extensively on the subject but I will not be discussing the literature here. What I am interested for now is the use of the word fairness in everyday life.

But first, dictionaries tend to interpret fairness on the lines of justice, impartiality, no discrimination or no favouritism.  In effect these reference books use the same terminology as equality.

Other language translators tend to use the terms justice and equity. Unfortunately equity in English is a more restrictive term: we use it as a legal concept or branch of law, or something that requires a high sense of moral standing. I would argue that fairness is much closer to equity rather than justice. Something might be just and according to the law but it might not be fair, equitable or moral.

I would argue that fairness ought to be interpreted as "the right thing to do" or "the correct thing to do" or the opposite “not the correct thing to do” but without the legal or moral background of justice or equity.

This interpretation makes it possible for us to use the term fairness in everyday situations without involving ourselves with high level morality or judicial condemnation. For example, it is only fair that the first person in a queue is the first person to be served. There is nothing moral or legal about this example.

Another issue for us is whether our sense of equality and fairness are acquired from the norms of our society or innately available to us through genetics.

I am not totally convinced that these concepts are inherited although it is clear that we do use the terms correctly and usually based on a gut or instinctive feeling to a given situation.  Many societies discriminate against select members of that society, discriminate against females and even males and we still condone behaviours that we know to be unfair.

If society does not guarantee its member’s equality and fairness, the latter in a broad sense of the word, it should not be a surprise that inequalities happen within the family structure as well. Although we are led to believe that the next of kin are somehow different than other people and it is altruistic and morally correct to protect our next of kin, inequality and unfairness still happens with many families.

Favouritism by parents of one of their children is very common. This favouritism goes beyond the natural attraction of girls being attracted to their father and boys to their mother. Although this is natural this shouldn't create any long term issues if managed properly by the parents. It's when the parents favour one child at the expense of their other children that things can progress from the parents being unfair to the parents being immoral or even criminal.

Nepotism is an extension of favouritism within the family. Sometimes nepotism makes sense within a certain context. We can understand a successful business person to favour their children and we can even acquiesce for the crown to pass on to the elder child of a king/queen. It is when an employee of an institution who has the power to employ people and they employ a relative that nepotism turns from understandable to unfair and maybe even illegal.

When equality and fairness fail completely we might move from illegal nepotism to racism and closed-shop. Closed-shop being when members of a union in a place of work who prevent non members from joining the enterprise.

A traditional approach to issues of equality and fairness is to create some form of categorical imperative (Kant) or a veil of ignorance (Rawls). The idea is that our actions are based on the assumption that we might have to experience the fate of our decisions. This is all well and good, but inequality suggests that no one is better off than the others. As I keep repeating myself on the subject, the problem is how to persuade those who are better off already to stop being better off and be like everyone else. The Russian revolution did not succeed to solve this dilemma anymore than fascism did in Europe.

Fairness and fair behaviour in everyday life is even more complex. The way we use these terms are related to the spontaneous events in life. Someone jumping a queue is certainly being unfair until we discover they have to deal with an emergency at the time. In effect it is difficult to moralise about issues such as dilemmas and random spontaneity.


Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/  OR  PhiloMadrid.com
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid
 

Ignacio Equality vs. fairness


Hi Lawrence,

Bellow I include not an essay, but just a few thoughts about the proposed topic.

Equality vs. fairness

Equality and fairness are criteria to characterize social behaviour.

In a one to one interaction, maybe reciprocity is the key and just the fairness criteria apply.

In the case of interacting with a group, the result will depend on the group considered. An equal or fair inheritance will be equal or fair for the inheritors, but not if we also consider people out of this group.

Beyond that, equality seems to be an objective criteria, fairness is inherently subjective and Justice should be some kind of fairness socially agreed.

In my opinion in most of the cases subjective fairness is closer to "ideal" fairness, if any, than equality. Besides we don't know when it's not so. Does it also encourages good behaviour?

Being unfair in a good sense could be even better in some cases. No reason to limit it to just equality.

It's true also that equality has some advantages:
- When we are the ones to be treated with fairness or with equality, maybe we would prefer the second option some times (most of? least of?).
- If equality is the rule, then there is no doubt, no personal responsibility in the decision taken.
- It's also in line with the idea of no personal responsibility, no personal freedom, just fate. Being all born equal our differences are not our responsibility.
- With equality there's no reason for envy.


Best,
Ignacio

Friday, February 21, 2020

From Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Who is the winner: reason or emotions?

 
 
Dear Friends,
 
This Sunday we are discussing an old issue:  Who is the winner: reason or emotions?
 
Who is the winner: reason or emotions?
https://www.philomadrid.com/2020/02/who-is-winner-reason-or-emotions.html
 
In my short essay I argue that there are no winners but do imply that there are many victims.
 
best Lawrence
 
tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/  OR  PhiloMadrid.com
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid
 
 
From Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Who is the winner: reason or emotions?
 
 
 






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Who is the winner: reason or emotions?


Who is the winner: reason or emotions?


Our question or questions of this genre are an old problem in philosophy and as we would expect a lot has been written about it. Thus any self respecting search engine on the internet should come up with a decent representation of the reason-emotions problem. Indeed, any references of the problem written these past few years would accept that there is no real problem at all between the emotions and reason. In effect one needs the other not to mention that both have their distinct function in human beings. Over and above this scenario researchers in neuroscience are making inroads into how the brain functions, especially in the context emotions.

In the context of modern day use of emotions and reason we accept that somehow reason is by far a higher order ability than simply reacting to events through the emotions. Emotions are the vulgar uncivilized motivating causes. No one disputes that emotions have a causal effect on our actions and today it is accepted that emotions also have a causal effect on reason. We work harder to buy the latest sports car.

Indeed for many centuries in modern history we find the rationalist philosophers and the empiricists battling it out for the high ground of philosophy. And rational philosophy was supposed to be a higher order philosophy: at least in the propaganda war. Rational philosophy was the quest for true solid permanent knowledge that did not change with the weather, with the state of our eyesight and so forth. So the emotions lived in the body and reason (also rational reasoning) lived in the mind.

But this duality was not destined to hold forever despite the efforts of renaissance philosophers ad beyond. How could there be two separate entities of different forms and yet they are found in the same historical tempo-spatial body each characteristic with its own identity? It is not that emotions and reason are of different forms but that these are or supposed to be diametrical different. So it is not that emotions and reason are different but these renaissance philosophers suspended their reason in the face of the changing empirical nature of emotions. Let me try and repeat this idea: these philosophers used reason to create this new "entity" they called reason (rationality) to reject the status of emotions and empirical evidence.

However, these past philosophers were correct in assuming that reason was a higher order form of causing or motivating action when compared to say emotions. It is not that reason, and to remind you we also mean rationality, generates automatically or by its very nature superior knowledge, but that the methodology we use for reason can result in more advantageous knowledge in many cases.

The methodology for activating the emotions and thence action is physiological, instinctive, of the here and now. This is important for events happening now to avoid danger; when we encounter a snake in our path we instinctively want to avoid it, a cat would, a horse would and a normal human being would. Unless that is the human being "knows" that this type of snake is harmless and that it makes a good dinner when poached with certain herbs.

The difference between us trying to avoid the snake and the hunter trying to catch the snake for dinner is that the hunter knows the snake is harmless, knows how to handle the snake and most important of all knows how to cook the snake or knows someone who can do it for him or her. Whereas we know nothing useful about the snake: only the bare survival minimum, run away from it. Thus the same empirical information activated different parts of our brain because we have different sets of knowledge related to snakes. This does not mean that we are always right but that we never act without the necessary set of information relevant to a situation. But when we don’t know the emotions tend to kick in.

I am inclined to argue that both the emotions and reason require a certain set of information and knowledge to be activated. The hunter that does not see the snake is not elated that he found dinner for the evening, and we who saw the snake are filled with fear. Thus the key factor for us is not emotions or reason but information-knowledge or no information-knowledge.

Now in the savannah or jungle it makes sense that the first to see the snake or the human would have a better chance of survival if one of the two reacted quicker. Today in Western society we do not preoccupy ourselves much with snakes, but cars are as dangerous as a snake. Except today our proverbial hunter does not cook a car for dinner but sells the car to someone who is not afraid of cars, or not that afraid of cars, and with the profit buys dinner.

The reason why rationality is still today highly regarded and considered a higher form of motivation is because reason is more in tune with long term planning; precisely finding ways and means to avoid danger in the future and thus have more time to be happy. But the idea that reason and rationality can somehow lead us to a superior form of morality and ethics is off course a load of nonsense. There is no evidence to suppose that being rational will lead us to being good or morally good anymore than reacting from an emotional impulse is less a moral being.

Someone who instinctively pulls a child away from a coming car is no less performing a morally good act than someone who spent the nights thinking about some magic creatures on how to be good. But it is all about the information and knowledge sets we have in our brain: if the person did not see the car the child would be dead, and if the person contemplating during the night was happy they wouldn’t seek justice for unusual sources.

Economists, psychologists, sociologists and philosophers have a hard time creating real life experiments to study but sometimes politicians oblige. In 1929 German nationalists (including the Nazi party) managed to organise a referendum against the enslavement of Germans: the context being the Treaty of Versailles; they failed. It wasn't until the majority result of the referendum in 1933 to leave the League of Nations that opened the way for the Nazi party to become the monster we now know about. Basically a rational instrument (referendums) led to one of the most evil periods on this Earth.

The modern equivalent of a situation where reason was used to the maximum effect to emotionally influence the electorate was the departure of the UK from the European Union. The genesis of this event goes back to the late 60s and  early 70s when the UK economy was practically bankrupt and the international financial institutions forced the British governments of the day to either let these institutions manage the British economy or join the then European Common Market. Those on the left objected that this would reduce the protection of employees by privatising nationalized industries and those on the right object because this would introduce rules and discipline in the financial market something they were not used to before.

Like Hitler (which I use as shorthand for German right wing nationalists) the politicians in the UK had a legitimate point. Hitler was right to object to the Treaty of Versailles which was probably one of the worst treaties ever created. An in Britain the loss of empire, the cost of the Second World War and the intransigence of management and workers created an inequitable situation for people and instability for the economy. Except that the situation of the UK in 2020 is a product of using reason to influence xenophobic emotions and arrive at the result of the 2016 referendum and 2019 general elections.

The irony is that in 1929 and 1933 Hitler did not and did not try to cheat in the referendum; but it is now legally accepted that the Leave campaign criminally cheated to arrive at a leave vote in the 2016 referendum. And at the time of writing we are still waiting to find out how Russia helped influence the 2016 referendum result and subsequent elections in the UK.

So yes, reason does causally affect emotions, rational justification does not necessarily lead to justice and morality, and emotions can be the mindless slaves of reason. Thus as far as who won between emotions and reason, none have won for the simple reason that those, in my examples from the UK and Germany, who succumbed to emotional xenophobia believe they are right and those who used reason to influence people emotionally won because they got what they wanted, the protection of off shore tax havens in the case of the UK.

But this is not the end of the story. I would argue that today the race is not really over but that the race is now whose rational methodology works best to influence emotionally the largest number of people to help the few get what they want from the many. We can use reason to avoid mindless revolutions or wars by accepting the principles of democracy or we can use emotions to spend our income frivolous on things. The methodology does not have the right or wrong answer, it’s just a methodology.

By the way have you noticed that this ratcheting up of reason and rationality is very similar to the evolution of religion? One sect proclaims to have better powers to heal and fix sins and another can reward believers in more desirable style than another sect. The methods are the same it’s what we put in the methods that matters.


Best Lawrence


best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/  OR  PhiloMadrid.com
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

  

 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

From Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The emotional value of things

 
 
Dear Friends,
 
This Sunday we are discussing: The emotional value of things.
 
As we all know emotions are an important issue in philosophy but our subject is a perspective on the topic that we are mostly preoccupied with about people and not things. You can find my short essay here:
 
The emotional value of things
https://www.philomadrid.com/2020/02/the-emotional-value-of-things.html
 
 
best Lawrence
 
tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/  OR  PhiloMadrid.com
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid
 
 
From Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The emotional value of things
 
 
 

 







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