Monday, April 1, 2019


Samanseidhu seerthookkumkol pol amaindhorupaal kodamai saanrorukkani - Tirukkural

Like the needle of a balance, the wise should be impartial in judgment - Loose translation

The thing about Tiru is that he expects the impossible from people. Well, in this case he probably is right to expect the impossible. After all, to expect wisdom from an outright irrational species like humans IS to expect miracles.

There was some chap whom I read recently who sort of claimed that objectivity is impossible for humans - or did he go so far as to say that it was not even desirable? Yet, THAT is precisely what Tiru says is the hallmark of wisdom. That a wise man assesses things impartially without regard to his own biases.

The problem, though, with people like that chap is that they tend to mix up things. I mean, yeah, it is sort of impossible for you to disregard all your biases in setting up the standards for assessment. Like, given two courses of action, one of which would decimate the human population but would be greatly to the benefit of cockroaches, and the other that would benefit humanity at the cost of our unwelcome multi-legged house-guests, a human being is bound to be unable to see that the Universe could well be better off with more roaches than more humans. THAT, though, is a bias inherent in setting up desirable GOALS based on which you intend assessing options.

Bias in setting up the yardsticks based on which you evaluate different courses of action is, probably, impossible to eliminate. So, yes, someone may feel that losing Freedom of Expression in pursuit of a Society aligned with the morality of the past is worthwhile; someone else may feel that the morality of the past needs to be modified to suit the present; and a third person may see FOE as a prime constituent of any morality.

Your personal belief system could well be the reason for a bias in determining the desirability and priority of goals. THAT is a given and that is not even due to the irrationality of the species. It is precisely those differences in individual value systems which make humanity so creative though, yes, the creativity can sometimes be cruel.

But to confuse bias in setting yardsticks  and bias in assessing options even by your own yardsticks, and to consider the latter impossible or undesirable to aspire for - that is stupidity. I mean, it is one thing to say that a course of action is incorrect because it sacrifices right to property in pursuit of economic growth (when the other may feel it is worth it because such is HIS yardstick). It is quite another to say that the course of action is incorrect merely because so-and-so proposes it without even bothering to assess it by your own yardsticks OR despite the fact that it serves the purpose for a goal that you yourself find desirable. THAT is not even worth calling a biased analysis, it is just knee-jerk reaction.

The Tiru-style wise man would probably go a step further in his impartiality. He would say, 'I assess it this way BECAUSE my yardsticks are such. Others may see the priorities differently and, for them, this would seem a good option.' But, then, as I have often said, Tiru is possibly dated. AND, of course, he was setting up a standard to shoot for, a standard which people could aspire to reach even if there were none who had actually reached it.

But, then, 'Nobody can be like that' was probably not a statement which excused people from not even trying to reach those standards in his day. Thank God we live in more lax days. It would be SO difficult to outrage on Social Media otherwise!

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