Re: Mating Mind (was: Diamond, Miller, Gould, Darwin)

Date: Sat Jul 01 2000 - 14:57:49 MDT

I'd raised a question as to whether Robin's recent essay, "Is Fairness About
Clear Fitness Signals?" correctly describes intuitions about fairness.
Specifically, I noted that leading professional philosophers apparently think
it more fair to redistribute the benefits of breeding (insofar as they can be
liquidated, of course;nobody talks about redistributing height, good looks,
wit, etc. per se) than to redistribute the benefits of character. I further
suggested that "folk philosophy" may well embrace the same view. Robin

> I don't think you read my article (at

I hadn't. I've tried to, just now, but the darned thing won't load
completely. Still, I got several paragraphs and it looks like I got some of
the conclusion.

> Thinking it is unfair for kids to get advantages from rich parents
> ("trust-fund kids") *is* one of the main predictions of my theory.

To be more exact, I think that your theory would predict that we would think
it fair to let rich parents lavish money on their kids (a view I suspect that
most folks hold) but not necessarily fair to let those kids benefit from such
gifts (a view that, paradoxically or not, people also often hold). Throwing
money at your kids very often signals genetic fitness. Getting it from your
parents does so less reliably. You say some things about charity that jibe
with that analysis.

So far, so good. But you could argue that inheriting wealth from the same
source from which you inherit your genes signals genetic fitness. Indeed,
counterintuitively, your theory seems to suggest that *adopted* trust fund
kids should be regarded as somehow less morally deserving than *natural*
ones! The theory thus seems to vary from some moral intuitions. Or maybe
not; as you note, we really need better data about moral intuitions.

I'm puzzled that you say, "It seems unfair to suffer greatly from having one
or two specific bad genes." Granted, that probably seems unfair to most
folks, but doesn't your theory in fact predict that people should regard such
bad genes as clear signals of unfitness, and thus that people should think
that suffering from them is not unfair?

T.0. Morrow

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Oct 02 2000 - 17:33:47 MDT