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What is fairness?

  1. Jul 28, 2008 #1
    What is fairness?

    All’s fair in love and war.

    Is everything that is legal also fair?

    What is fairness? Why is fairness important?

    Who wants a fair-minded journalist?

    What is a fair-minded thinker?

    One of the things we learn when we study CT (Critical Thinking) is that we must be critical of our self. We must question and understand what we “believe” in order to begin the process of becoming a fair-minded thinker, the very heart of CT.

    Critical Thinking should be taught in high school, in my opinion. This is a very important learning experience that every high school graduate should have. Since it is not generally taught in high school everyone would be wise to learn it on their own initiative. It is not difficult and any normal person can easily learn this subject. This is not something one learns through social osmosis and it is a mistake to think that it just “comes naturally”. Learning this subject matter is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for developing good critical thinking skills.

    What means do we have to discover, to criticize, and to modify our biases, our prejudices, and our ideologies that guide our everyday performance in the world?

    I think that an analysis of our speaking is a guide to the manner in which our unconscious is structured. Our speaking—the words we use can indicate the nature of the ideas that we have. Speech is a guide to the structure of our ideology, which is the product of our past experiences and understanding, which in many cases is the result of many unconscious developments.

    We use such metaphorical expressions as: Tomorrow is a big day. I’m feeling up today. We’ve been close for years, but we’re beginning to drift apart. It is smooth sailing from here on in. It has been uphill all the way. Get off my back. We are moving ahead. He’s a dirty old man. That was a disgusting thing to do. I’m not myself today. He is afraid to reveal his inner self. You need to be kind to your self.

    All of us use metaphors constantly and we all recognize the meaning of these metaphors when others speak them. This leads me to the inference that our everyday speech is a means for insight into our understanding of what we really believe. Most of these metaphors can be a guide to what our unconscious has stored up in our brain regarding the nature of reality. These metaphors can guide us into an understanding of where we are and perhaps why we are there (notice all the metaphors I use in trying to convey my conceptions). Metaphors provide insight to the self.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2008 #2
    There's actually a disconnect between things like 'metaphor' and intelligence.
    The prodigy portrayed in the movie 'rain-man' (actor was dustin hoffman) was a man who could rattle off basically anything memory wise (phone book like)... but if you said 'get a hold of yourself' he would grab his shirt.

    I don't recall the name of the particular region responsible for abstracting the meaning behind metaphor, but its different from the brain regions responsible for memory and math.

    The brain draws associations between all sensory systems, thats why music moves us in movies.. the thud of a boom excites hair cells in our ear in the same way a jagged shape.. or instant picture.. might excite shape cells in vision devoted regions. The brain is an abstract artist, so metaphor is really picking up on that... and it does have a brain biological basis.. just like art and music, which is beginnig to be explored.

    As for fairness, you can only really investigate the question when you perform studies, and patients with brain deficits will make odd moral decisions, like seeing it as 'fair' to kill his sister to save 2 other strangers, most people won't do this, but this person might have some deficit relating to emotion.

    There's a lot of interesting stuff if your interested in ethics (fairness) and the brain... a guy named Joshua Green studies the relation for a living.
  4. Jul 30, 2008 #3
    Cognitive science, as delineated in “Philosophy in the Flesh” by Lakoff and Johnson, presents a new paradigm for cognitive science. This new paradigm might be called the “conceptual metaphor” paradigm. The theory is that experiences form into concepts and some of these concepts are called “primary metaphors”. These ‘primary metaphors’ are often unconsciously mapped from the originating mental space onto another mental space that is a subjective concept, i.e. abstract concept.

    Physical experiences of all kinds lead to conceptual metaphors from which perhaps hundreds of ‘primary metaphors’, which are neural structures resulting from sensorimotor experiences, are created. These primary metaphors provide the ‘seed bed’ for the judgments and subjective experiences in life. “Conceptual metaphor is pervasive in both thought and language.” It is hard to think of a common subjective experience that is not conventionally conceptualized in terms of metaphor.

    Metaphors can kill and metaphors can heal. Metaphor can be a neural structure that provides a conscious means for comprehending an unknown and metaphor can be a neural structure that is unconsciously mapped (to be located) from one mental space onto another mental space. There is empirical evidence to justify the hypothesis that the brain will, in many circumstances, copy the neural structure from one mental space onto another mental space.

    Linguistic metaphors are learning aids. We constantly communicate our meaning by using linguistic metaphors; we use something already known to communicate the meaning of something unknown. Many metaphors, labeled as primary metaphors by cognitive science, are widespread throughout many languages. These widespread metaphors are not innate; they are learned. “There appear to be at least several hundred such widespread, and perhaps universal, metaphors.”

    Primary metaphors have this widespread characteristic because they are products of our common biology. Primary metaphors are embodied; they result from human experience, they “are part of the cognitive unconscious.”

    Metaphor is a standard means we have of understanding an unknown by association with a known. When we analyze the metaphor ‘bad is stinky’ we will find that we are making a subjective judgment wherein the olfactory sensation becomes the source of the judgment. ‘This movie stinks’ is a subjective judgment and it is made in this manner because a sensorimotor experience is the structure for making this judgment.

    CS is claiming that the neural structure of sensorimotor experience is mapped onto the mental space for another experience that is not sensorimotor but subjective and that this neural mapping becomes part of the subjective concept. The sensorimotor experience serves the role of an axiom for the subjective experience.

    Physical experiences of all kinds lead to conceptual metaphors from which perhaps hundreds of ‘primary metaphors’, which are neural structures resulting from sensorimotor experiences, are created. These primary metaphors provide the ‘seed bed’ for the judgments and subjective experiences in life. “Conceptual metaphor is pervasive in both thought and language. It is hard to think of a common subjective experience that is not conventionally conceptualized in terms of metaphor.”

    The neural network created by the sensorimotor function when an infant is embraced becomes a segment of the neural network when that infant creates the subjective experience of affection. Thus—affection is warmth.

    An infant is born and when embraced for the first time by its mother the infant experiences the sensation of warmth. In succeeding experiences the warmth is felt along with other sensations.

    Empirical data verifies that there often happens a conflation of this sensation experience together with the development of a subjective (abstract) concept we can call affection. With each similar experience the infant fortifies both the sensation experience and the affection experience and a little later this conflation aspect ends and the child has these two concepts in different mental spaces.

    This conflation leads us to readily recognize the metaphor ‘affection is warmth’.

    Cognitive science hypothesizes that conceptual metaphors resulting from conflation emerges in two stages: during the conflation stage two distinct but coactive domains are established that remain separate for only a short while at which time they lose their coactive characteristic and become differentiated into metaphorical source and target.

    I find that this ‘conceptual metaphor’ paradigm is a great means for comprehending the human condition. But, like me, you will have to study the matter for a long time before you will be able to make a judgment as to its value. This book “Philosophy in the Flesh” by Lakoff and Johnson, from which I derived these ideas and quotes, is filled with ideas that are new to the reader and thus studying it will require a good bit of perseverance.

    Have you ever, before reading this post, thought that the brain unconsciously copies the neural structure from one mental space onto another mental space? Those who find this idea compelling will discover, in this new cognitive science paradigm, a completely new way of thinking about philosophy and human nature.

    This new cognitive science paradigm is the best thing to happen to philosophy since Thales!
  5. Jul 30, 2008 #4

  6. Jul 30, 2008 #5


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    "Fairness" is what the world isn't!
  7. Jul 30, 2008 #6
    fairness is when two people or things are treated exactly the same. but what if if two things are treated exactly the same, but are treated "badly"? but bad relative to what?so i guess fairness had a two part definition. does fairness exist in its purest form? i'd say only in certain situations.
  8. Jul 30, 2008 #7
    What is correct thinking? I would say that correct thinking is that quality of thinking which will best help each of us to reach our goals.

    How do we establish our goals, i.e. our values? To establish proximate goals we must have an ultimate goal.

    I think that we must find a ‘value North Star’?

    It appears to me that we sapiens need a ‘value North Star’ upon which to fix our voyage. We need a reference point upon which we can focus our attention when trying to determine what of value we can and should do in life.

    Religion, or God, serves as the ‘value North Star’ for some people; for others it is nationalism; for others, that fix is to own as much good stuff as possible; to others it is power; for some it is family; and I guess there are many other such ultimate values.

    I have tried to examine my inner voices to determine just what my value North Star is and does it need to be changed. I have determined that, by some turn of events, perhaps completely willy-nilly, my value North Star is life on this planet. My guidance for fixing value is ultimately dependent upon its aiding or hindering life on this planet.

    I often speculate that human life is a hindrance to maximizing the ‘good life’, of all life, on this planet. I often speculate that if all life on this planet were given a vote in this matter that they would throw sapiens overboard.
  9. Jul 31, 2008 #8
    Are you sure about that?
    Fairness to me appears to be some kind of result of the processing in the brain of what constitutes fair.
    You can't have objective fairness, you will always have someone who will judge it.

    An example would be a cake, and two siblings about to eat that cake.
    The mother may say, "well tom you had more cake than your sister 3 years ago, so its only fair that she will get more this time."
    There is no qualitative difference between that and saying "yesterday", even though in our minds we may think so.
    The time span between having cakes doesn't have any physical or objective value inherent in it that says, after so and so much time, the fairness decreases and tom should get just as much cake as her sister.

    In other words, you could take into account a whole lot of variables and facts to prove something as fair.

    The sister may say, "well tom got a model airplane for christmas which cost more than my gift, so I should get more of the cake."
    It never ends.

    Similarily one could say the same thing about any situation.
    Imagine two people stranded on a deserted island, and there's a piece of bread there.
    One may think immediately that it's most fair to split it 50/50, but then again, what if one of them says "you ate so much food on the plane, I didn't eat anything, I should get more because I'm hungry." and the plot thickens again.

    These inherent values we have, is only based on subjective judgment of the situation, but I don't think true fairness could ever be achieved..

    I hope this wasn't too off topic either, I noticed you spoke about metaphors and stuff, I'll probably get back to that later just wanted to give my 2 cents on fairness.
  10. Jul 31, 2008 #9


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    One of my high school English teachers tricked quite a few of us into this. When assigned a pro/con paper, she told us writing a paper for opposite point of view than your own usually resulted in improving your grade by at least one letter grade.

    I only say "tricked" because when asked years later how I knew it improved my grade so much, I really had no way to say for sure. I never wrote two different papers just to compare grades. On the one hand, I got good grades on most of the papers I had to write. On the other, pro/con papers were probably my weakest area before her class, which is why I was "gullible" enough to take her up on her suggestion.
  11. Aug 1, 2008 #10


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    Fairness can be taken a step or so too far.

    In one of Vonnegut's books there's an authority in the dance profession named Diana Moonclampers.

    She makes sure all the dancers are equally handicapped based on the dancer with the least ability to dance....

    Vonnegut describes one of the performances and the ballet is performed with each member in the troupe wearing sandbags around their legs and arms and necks.

    Sometimes we see this in real life. The handicapped or "visible minority" are often sought after by employers because as employees they fill a required percentage set by some regulations. So, you might call it reverse discrimination but its done in "fairness".

    Are ethics and fairness the human representation of how we observe balance as being maintained in nature?

    By this I mean, you'll see catastrophic change take place when a system goes out of balance.. then you'll see balance restored. This is only one mechanism and example of how nature maintains its balance.
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