Fairness is Irrelevant

I've recently been reading the classic tome Philosophy for Dummies.

In the chapter on morality, I came upon a sentence discussing the importance of "kindness, fairness, sensitivity and self-giving."

Of course, in essence I agree with this sentiment but something about that list felt wrong. It took me sometime to realize that it was fairness.

Fairness is something we strive for and encourage. It's something we wish others would give us and something we associate with good people.


I think fairness is a trojan horse. It seems important on the surface but can be mentally destructive once you let it into your core values.


"Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control and some things are not." - Epictetus

The trouble with fairness is that it implies something about the rest of the world, about things that are simply not under our control.

Look at the other items on the list:

  • Kindness - In any circumstances, we can always choose to be kind. Emotionally, it may be a hard choice to make, but it is a choice.
  • Sensitivity - We can always choose to be empathetic to others and aware of their needs.
  • Self-giving - We can always choose to give ourselves in our work, relationships, etc.

All of these are ultimately within our absolute control. No matter the situation.

But fairness? Fairness means one of two things:

  • Demanding the world be fair to me - What if the world isn't fair to you, but one of your core values is fairness? Do you wallow with unsatisfaction? Many do.
  • Reciprocating what the world has given to me - Now that the World has been unfair to you, does the law of fairness allow you to treat others in the way you've been treated? Is it ok for you to give someone what was coming to them?

From this perspective, doesn't fairness allow situations not in your control to override that which is in your control, like kindness and sensitivity?

Valuing fairness reduces your power to make conscious decisions based on your complex circumstances and instead reduces the World to simple, mindless reciprocation.


But, hey, I'm not trying to be a hater here! My message is to stay in control of your thoughts and actions. To give your best as often as you chose to and mean it.

Don't let fairness decide for you, decide for yourself to give or not to give - both are perfectly acceptable.

Either way, there's a certain magic in just accepting that the World, much of which you have no control over, often is not fair.

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