Thursday, August 20, 2015

Perplexed About Equality

I keep circling around how "equality" is used in everyday speech and in political opinionating. My own political biases tend toward the left. I've read way too much Nietzsche for way too long to be at ease with Social Justice based on appeals to Fairness and Justice. I'm not clear to myself about my unease with social and political equality as an ideal. Maybe it's a question of not being clear on the concept. There are no doubt many ways of thinking about Equality and Justice, failing to separate these different ways of thinking leads to confusion. Part of it is what am I after? What's my problem? There seem to be two swarms of issues:  one buzzing around "what are Equality and Justice?" and the other around "Why do people want Justice and Equality? What is behind the irresistibly hypnotic charm of Equality and Justice?"

It is my typical experience to flounder about in my ignorance. When I am perplexed like this, I do not know what questions to ask. If I were able to set boundaries to my ignorance with a question, it would be a simple matter to get answers or at least determine that the question is unanswerable.

My primary criterion for evaluating my understanding of something is one I picked up in grade school. Can I explain a concept in my own words without using the conventional terminology and phrases? What I have found to be true much more often than not is that when I am not I find myself trapped in a circle of words each defined in terms of one another with only rote connections to the world at large. We've all had the experience of looking up an unfamiliar word in a dictionary only to find another unfamiliar word. Then, when we look that word up we are led back to the first word. Hardly a satisfying situation.

It's a good test of one's understanding to limit explanations to the 1,000 or so most common words. If this seems doubtful,  take a look at Randall Munroe's Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words or Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. Nothing leads more quickly to an acute awareness of one's ignorance and the klutziness of one's feelings and thoughts than being denied those definitions and turns of phrase to which one turns from unthinking trained reflex.

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