"It isn't fair."

Ask someone to what "it" refers, and they'll generally be shocked by the notion that their words should have referents. When the shock wears off, it will be that "the situation" is unfair, which is a category error. The state of the universe is unfair? Is gravity unfair too? How about the fact that it rained yesterday?

Fairness is a quality of a moral being or rules enforced by moral beings. But there is rarely any particular unfair being or rule enforced by beings behind "it isn't fair".

"It isn't fair" empirically means "I don't like it and I approve of and support taking something out of someone's hide to quell my discomfort."

"It isn't fair" empirically means "I don't like it and I approve of and support taking something out of someone's hide to quell my discomfort."

It quite often means "I don't like it and will attempt to change it by the application of social pressure and other means as deemed necessary".

5RomeoStevens7yI have no problem with referring to states of the universe as unfair.

Bad Concepts Repository

by moridinamael 1 min read27th Jun 2013204 comments

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We recently established a successful Useful Concepts Repository.  It got me thinking about all the useless or actively harmful concepts I had carried around for in some cases most of my life before seeing them for what they were.  Then it occurred to me that I probably still have some poisonous concepts lurking in my mind, and I thought creating this thread might be one way to discover what they are.

I'll start us off with one simple example:  The Bohr model of the atom as it is taught in school is a dangerous thing to keep in your head for too long.  I graduated from high school believing that it was basically a correct physical representation of atoms.  (And I went to a *good* high school.)  Some may say that the Bohr model serves a useful role as a lie-to-children to bridge understanding to the true physics, but if so, why do so many adults still think atoms look like concentric circular orbits of electrons around a nucleus?  

There's one hallmark of truly bad concepts: they actively work against correct induction.  Thinking in terms of the Bohr model actively prevents you from understanding molecular bonding and, really, everything about how an atom can serve as a functional piece of a real thing like a protein or a diamond.

Bad concepts don't have to be scientific.  Religion is held to be a pretty harmful concept around here.  There are certain political theories which might qualify, except I expect that one man's harmful political concept is another man's core value system, so as usual we should probably stay away from politics.  But I welcome input as fuzzy as common folk advice you receive that turned out to be really costly.