# Morality versus Fairness

#### fast

##### Contributor
Just because an act is wrong, it is not therefore unfair, and there are examples to support this, but are there examples to support the inverse? In other words, if an act is unfair, is it therefore wrong? If you have an example of an act that is unfair yet not wrong, I'd be interested in knowing.

#### The AntiChris

##### Senior Member
I think first of all you need to define what you understand by "wrong" and "fair".

#### fast

##### Contributor
I think first of all you need to define what you understand by "wrong" and "fair".

Fairness deals with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike. For example, if a teacher only rewards A-students with a star, then it's not unfair to B-students that they don't get a star. What would be unfair is either a) a B-student got a star or b) an A-student didn't get a star.

A reporter once asked a football coach (who was known for mistreating his players) if he thought it was fair to treat his players so badly. He said it's fair because he treats them all the same. This is an example where he isn't treating anyone unfairly yet treats them wrong.

So, there can be absence of unfairness in the presence of wrongful behavior. What I'm not quite sure is if all cases of unfairness is a case of wrongfullness. If I can be rightfully unfair, I'd be interested in knowing how to do so.

#### spikepipsqueak

##### My Brane Hertz
Probably not the sort of thing you mean because you could make an argument that this is both right and fair, and I would.

A friend of mine has a daughter with 3 children. She gives money presents for birthdays and Xmas, at the daughter's suggestion. She varies them according to age, so that the 8yo gets, say $20, while the 18yo gets$50.

My friend (and I, too) reasons that when the 8yo gets to 18 he will also get 18yo sized presents.

The daughter argues that all her children should get to same sized gift, so from her perspective, it's unfair, but I doubt that she would be making the claim that the disparity is morally wrong.

I suspect "fairness" will often be a function of where you're sitting, while justice, still a fluid concept, is more universal.

#### Bronzeage

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
Suppose two people are suffering a fatal disease and will both be dead in a matter of hours, if not treated with an effective drug. Such a drug exists, but only enough to treat one person.

Is it right to choose one person and give them the full dose, or fair to give each a half dose? The full dose will effect a full cure, while half a dose gives each person an extra day of life. What is the moral choice?

#### bigfield

##### the baby-eater
Suppose two people are suffering a fatal disease and will both be dead in a matter of hours, if not treated with an effective drug. Such a drug exists, but only enough to treat one person.

Is it right to choose one person and give them the full dose, or fair to give each a half dose? The full dose will effect a full cure, while half a dose gives each person an extra day of life. What is the moral choice?
Flip a coin, give the winner the full dose, and comfort the other.

#### Bronzeage

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
Suppose two people are suffering a fatal disease and will both be dead in a matter of hours, if not treated with an effective drug. Such a drug exists, but only enough to treat one person.

Is it right to choose one person and give them the full dose, or fair to give each a half dose? The full dose will effect a full cure, while half a dose gives each person an extra day of life. What is the moral choice?
Flip a coin, give the winner the full dose, and comfort the other.

This solution supposes that longevity of life has value, so the solution which extends life the most is judged right.

What if one patient is 12 years old and the other is 65? Does the greater potential longevity of the 12 year old tip the decision in his favor?

#### fast

##### Contributor
Probably not the sort of thing you mean because you could make an argument that this is both right and fair, and I would.

A friend of mine has a daughter with 3 children. She gives money presents for birthdays and Xmas, at the daughter's suggestion. She varies them according to age, so that the 8yo gets, say $20, while the 18yo gets$50.

My friend (and I, too) reasons that when the 8yo gets to 18 he will also get 18yo sized presents.

The daughter argues that all her children should get to same sized gift, so from her perspective, it's unfair, but I doubt that she would be making the claim that the disparity is morally wrong.

I suspect "fairness" will often be a function of where you're sitting, while justice, still a fluid concept, is more universal.
I'd argue that it is fair. She isn't treating everyone equally, but then again, treating everyone equally isn't the hallmark of fairness. It's treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike. In this case, all young children are treated the same (small gift), and all older children are treated the same (large gift). If two of the three are young, and if one of those two is treated like the older, that would be unfair, both to the younger and older one.

Treating all white people one way, and treating all black people another way is fair under this notion, but it's not generally viewed that way because they are not all treated the same, so either I'm mistaken about fairness, or it really is fair but perhaps simply very wrong.

Treating all criminals one way, and treating all law abiding people another way is fair under this notion, but this ...

Tough subject

#### Eric H

##### Member
Suppose two people are suffering a fatal disease and will both be dead in a matter of hours, if not treated with an effective drug. Such a drug exists, but only enough to treat one person.

Is it right to choose one person and give them the full dose, or fair to give each a half dose? The full dose will effect a full cure, while half a dose gives each person an extra day of life. What is the moral choice?
Flip a coin, give the winner the full dose, and comfort the other.

This solution supposes that longevity of life has value, so the solution which extends life the most is judged right.

What if one patient is 12 years old and the other is 65? Does the greater potential longevity of the 12 year old tip the decision in his favor?

And if the 65 year old is a billionaire, and the twelve year old girl is the daughter of a maid living on minimum wages, there is no contest, unfairness wins.

#### The AntiChris

##### Senior Member
I think first of all you need to define what you understand by "wrong" and "fair".

Fairness deals with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike.
That seems reasonable.

I can'timagine that anyone would argue that that it's not wrong to be unfair. The problem is that different people will have different notions of precisely what constitutes "like" cases (the dispute cited by spikepipsqueak is an example of this).

#### bigfield

##### the baby-eater
Suppose two people are suffering a fatal disease and will both be dead in a matter of hours, if not treated with an effective drug. Such a drug exists, but only enough to treat one person.

Is it right to choose one person and give them the full dose, or fair to give each a half dose? The full dose will effect a full cure, while half a dose gives each person an extra day of life. What is the moral choice?
Flip a coin, give the winner the full dose, and comfort the other.

This solution supposes that longevity of life has value, so the solution which extends life the most is judged right.

What if one patient is 12 years old and the other is 65? Does the greater potential longevity of the 12 year old tip the decision in his favor?
Arguably, the 65 year-old has less to lose (or rather, less living to miss out on), so I would choose the 12 year old.

However if the difference in ages was much smaller, say less than a year, then the difference in potential longevity becomes in significant.

Giving both a mere 1 extra day of life is not a worthwhile option. There is relatively little difference between dying today and dying tomorrow.

#### fast

##### Contributor
Suppose two people are suffering a fatal disease and will both be dead in a matter of hours, if not treated with an effective drug. Such a drug exists, but only enough to treat one person.

Is it right to choose one person and give them the full dose, or fair to give each a half dose? The full dose will effect a full cure, while half a dose gives each person an extra day of life. What is the moral choice?
Flip a coin, give the winner the full dose, and comfort the other.

This solution supposes that longevity of life has value, so the solution which extends life the most is judged right.

What if one patient is 12 years old and the other is 65? Does the greater potential longevity of the 12 year old tip the decision in his favor?

And if the 65 year old is a billionaire, and the twelve year old girl is the daughter of a maid living on minimum wages, there is no contest, unfairness wins.

Should anyone in this world earn $2 an hour? A toilet cleaner in the UK can earn about £6 - 7 per hour, a teacher in a third world country earns £2 - 3 per day. Does a toilet cleaner deserve to earn more than a teacher, just because they are privileged to live in a more affluent country? #### Valjean ##### Veteran Member My initial view is that there's little difference between fairness and morality, though morality might be the larger Venn circle. In re the curative drug: sometimes life just throws you a Hobson's choice. There is no good outcome possible. #### PyramidHead ##### Contributor Fairness is subservient to consequences, or hypothetical consequences, in my opinion. If something is unfair, but leads to better consequences than the fairer alternative, I think it's morally preferable (despite being unfair). #### Bronzeage ##### Super Moderator Staff member Suppose two people are suffering a fatal disease and will both be dead in a matter of hours, if not treated with an effective drug. Such a drug exists, but only enough to treat one person. Is it right to choose one person and give them the full dose, or fair to give each a half dose? The full dose will effect a full cure, while half a dose gives each person an extra day of life. What is the moral choice? Flip a coin, give the winner the full dose, and comfort the other. This solution supposes that longevity of life has value, so the solution which extends life the most is judged right. What if one patient is 12 years old and the other is 65? Does the greater potential longevity of the 12 year old tip the decision in his favor? And if the 65 year old is a billionaire, and the twelve year old girl is the daughter of a maid living on minimum wages, there is no contest, unfairness wins. Why? I'm not asking for a cynical comment on society. I am asking what you would and your reasoning. Suppose two people are suffering a fatal disease and will both be dead in a matter of hours, if not treated with an effective drug. Such a drug exists, but only enough to treat one person. Is it right to choose one person and give them the full dose, or fair to give each a half dose? The full dose will effect a full cure, while half a dose gives each person an extra day of life. What is the moral choice? Flip a coin, give the winner the full dose, and comfort the other. This solution supposes that longevity of life has value, so the solution which extends life the most is judged right. What if one patient is 12 years old and the other is 65? Does the greater potential longevity of the 12 year old tip the decision in his favor? Arguably, the 65 year-old has less to lose (or rather, less living to miss out on), so I would choose the 12 year old. However if the difference in ages was much smaller, say less than a year, then the difference in potential longevity becomes in significant. Giving both a mere 1 extra day of life is not a worthwhile option. There is relatively little difference between dying today and dying tomorrow. This still supposes there is a value in longevity. If expected longevity for each patient is equal, what is the tiebreaker? Do we give the choice to chance, with a coin toss, which is to simply dodge the decision, or is there some guideline to what is moral or fair? #### doubtingt ##### Senior Member I think first of all you need to define what you understand by "wrong" and "fair". Fairness deals with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike. That seems reasonable. I can'timagine that anyone would argue that that it's not wrong to be unfair. The problem is that different people will have different notions of precisely what constitutes "like" cases (the dispute cited by spikepipsqueak is an example of this). Not only is there dispute over which cases are "like" others but over what it means to "treat them the same". There is the Rawlsian notion of procedural fairness and justice which entails similar treatment should be allowing equal opportunity to go through the same process that then often leads to differing outcomes based upon merit, effort, and luck. Then there are those that same treatment should mean equal outcomes, such as giving to people according to their needs. #### PyramidHead ##### Contributor I think first of all you need to define what you understand by "wrong" and "fair". Fairness deals with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike. That seems reasonable. I can'timagine that anyone would argue that that it's not wrong to be unfair. The problem is that different people will have different notions of precisely what constitutes "like" cases (the dispute cited by spikepipsqueak is an example of this). Not only is there dispute over which cases are "like" others but over what it means to "treat them the same". There is the Rawlsian notion of procedural fairness and justice which entails similar treatment should be allowing equal opportunity to go through the same process that then often leads to differing outcomes based upon merit, effort, and luck. Then there are those that same treatment should mean equal outcomes, such as giving to people according to their needs. I can imagine that many supporters of progressive taxation, myself included, would concede that it is less than perfectly fair. I'm not bothered by this unfairness, because it helps people who need it more (as implied by your last sentence), at least in theory. Of course, one could devise a definition of fairness that encompasses progressive taxation, but I don't think that's necessary. I would rather live in a society with happier, healthier people enabled by marginal unfairness and restriction of freedom, than a society with lots of miserable people who are all treated equally. #### doubtingt ##### Senior Member I think first of all you need to define what you understand by "wrong" and "fair". Fairness deals with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike. That seems reasonable. I can'timagine that anyone would argue that that it's not wrong to be unfair. The problem is that different people will have different notions of precisely what constitutes "like" cases (the dispute cited by spikepipsqueak is an example of this). Not only is there dispute over which cases are "like" others but over what it means to "treat them the same". There is the Rawlsian notion of procedural fairness and justice which entails similar treatment should be allowing equal opportunity to go through the same process that then often leads to differing outcomes based upon merit, effort, and luck. Then there are those that same treatment should mean equal outcomes, such as giving to people according to their needs. I can imagine that many supporters of progressive taxation, myself included, would concede that it is less than perfectly fair. I'm not bothered by this unfairness, because it helps people who need it more (as implied by your last sentence), at least in theory. Of course, one could devise a definition of fairness that encompasses progressive taxation, but I don't think that's necessary. I would rather live in a society with happier, healthier people enabled by marginal unfairness and restriction of freedom, than a society with lots of miserable people who are all treated equally. I doubt many progressives would publicly admit that they support unfairness in the name of more equal outcomes. That is why progressive rhetoric focuses mostly on discrimination, corruption, abuse of power, and historical unfairness. All of these are attempts to argue that the current process that determines outcomes is inherently unfair, and therefore it is fair to intervene and readjust those outcomes to be more equal based on the assumption that a more fair process would have led to less unequal outcomes. Simply disregarding the value of individual liberty no longer flies in political philosophy. The entire enlightenment that gave rise to the incredible progress (morally, politically, intellectually) is rooted in individual liberty as the core value. Also, liberty is what gives each individual their value. IF they are just another member of a group, then their value as a person is diminished, and thus why does it matter that they are miserable and poor? It matters because each individual has their own value and it is liberty that makes a person an individual. Thus putting equal outcomes above fairness and thus above individual liberty (rather than justifying limits on inequality as protecting liberty and fairness) will tend towards the kind of highly authoritarian anti-humanist and blindly nationalistic group-think worldview that dominated pre-enlightenment societies and efforts to enact Marxist notions of "to each according to his need" that disregard procedural fairness and thus devalue the life and well being of each individual. #### PyramidHead ##### Contributor I generally agree, which is why I call it "less than perfectly fair," or "marginally unfair." If the only way to achieve the best outcome was to enact a VERY unfair policy, I would be persuaded that a slightly worse outcome that balances fairness would probably be better. I was just saying that fairness is not the final arbiter of morality or public policy. #### arkirk ##### Veteran Member Fairness is subservient to consequences, or hypothetical consequences, in my opinion. If something is unfair, but leads to better consequences than the fairer alternative, I think it's morally preferable (despite being unfair). Consequences....there they are again. In your argument you delink consideration of fairness from consequences. Another person in attempting to be fair would be trying to consider the consequences of their action in order to determine what would be fair. Fairness would not necessarily be blind to consequences and indeed be geared to perceived consequences. #### PyramidHead ##### Contributor Fairness is subservient to consequences, or hypothetical consequences, in my opinion. If something is unfair, but leads to better consequences than the fairer alternative, I think it's morally preferable (despite being unfair). Consequences....there they are again. In your argument you delink consideration of fairness from consequences. Another person in attempting to be fair would be trying to consider the consequences of their action in order to determine what would be fair. Fairness would not necessarily be blind to consequences and indeed be geared to perceived consequences. Very true. But fairness is often tied to the concept of rights. For example, property rights. There may be rare situations where such rights should be violated in order to produce the best consequences, provided that the violation of rights isn't severe... where to draw that line is anybody's guess. #### bigfield ##### the baby-eater Suppose two people are suffering a fatal disease and will both be dead in a matter of hours, if not treated with an effective drug. Such a drug exists, but only enough to treat one person. Is it right to choose one person and give them the full dose, or fair to give each a half dose? The full dose will effect a full cure, while half a dose gives each person an extra day of life. What is the moral choice? Flip a coin, give the winner the full dose, and comfort the other. This solution supposes that longevity of life has value, so the solution which extends life the most is judged right. What if one patient is 12 years old and the other is 65? Does the greater potential longevity of the 12 year old tip the decision in his favor? Arguably, the 65 year-old has less to lose (or rather, less living to miss out on), so I would choose the 12 year old. However if the difference in ages was much smaller, say less than a year, then the difference in potential longevity becomes in significant. Giving both a mere 1 extra day of life is not a worthwhile option. There is relatively little difference between dying today and dying tomorrow. This still supposes there is a value in longevity. If expected longevity for each patient is equal, what is the tiebreaker? Do we give the choice to chance, with a coin toss, which is to simply dodge the decision, or is there some guideline to what is moral or fair? The coin toss isn't a dodge; it is simply the solution that provides the greatest benefit. #### Tigers! ##### Veteran Member Is the OP equating fairness to equality? #### Unbeatable ##### Senior Member Is the OP equating fairness to equality? This is how the OP explains fairness: Fairness deals with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike. For example, if a teacher only rewards A-students with a star, then it's not unfair to B-students that they don't get a star. What would be unfair is either a) a B-student got a star or b) an A-student didn't get a star. A reporter once asked a football coach (who was known for mistreating his players) if he thought it was fair to treat his players so badly. He said it's fair because he treats them all the same. This is an example where he isn't treating anyone unfairly yet treats them wrong. #### TV and credit cards ##### Veteran Member Just because an act is wrong, it is not therefore unfair, and there are examples to support this, but are there examples to support the inverse? In other words, if an act is unfair, is it therefore wrong? If you have an example of an act that is unfair yet not wrong, I'd be interested in knowing. You own a auto repair shop and the business is not doing well. This is your livelihood. Your mortgage, your bills, your family's well-being is dependent upon it's success, or at least it's survival. Your projection is that the business cannot survive very much longer. You can prolong the inevitable, allowing yourself time to transition to another source of income by padding labor hours a bit, replacing parts that may be worn but not in need of replacement yet. In better times, you would have simply advised the customer of future needs. Surely you are treating your customers unfairly but in the interest of your family's well-being, is this wrong? Is not your first duty to your family? #### Bronzeage ##### Super Moderator Staff member Suppose two people are suffering a fatal disease and will both be dead in a matter of hours, if not treated with an effective drug. Such a drug exists, but only enough to treat one person. Is it right to choose one person and give them the full dose, or fair to give each a half dose? The full dose will effect a full cure, while half a dose gives each person an extra day of life. What is the moral choice? Flip a coin, give the winner the full dose, and comfort the other. This solution supposes that longevity of life has value, so the solution which extends life the most is judged right. What if one patient is 12 years old and the other is 65? Does the greater potential longevity of the 12 year old tip the decision in his favor? Arguably, the 65 year-old has less to lose (or rather, less living to miss out on), so I would choose the 12 year old. However if the difference in ages was much smaller, say less than a year, then the difference in potential longevity becomes in significant. Giving both a mere 1 extra day of life is not a worthwhile option. There is relatively little difference between dying today and dying tomorrow. This still supposes there is a value in longevity. If expected longevity for each patient is equal, what is the tiebreaker? Do we give the choice to chance, with a coin toss, which is to simply dodge the decision, or is there some guideline to what is moral or fair? The coin toss isn't a dodge; it is simply the solution that provides the greatest benefit. This doesn't make sense. If there are two choices and one provides a greater benefit than the other, a coin toss has a 50% chance of selecting that choice. A coin toss is not used to determine the greater benefit. It is used when the outcome doesn't actually matter. #### Bronzeage ##### Super Moderator Staff member Just because an act is wrong, it is not therefore unfair, and there are examples to support this, but are there examples to support the inverse? In other words, if an act is unfair, is it therefore wrong? If you have an example of an act that is unfair yet not wrong, I'd be interested in knowing. You own a auto repair shop and the business is not doing well. This is your livelihood. Your mortgage, your bills, your family's well-being is dependent upon it's success, or at least it's survival. Your projection is that the business cannot survive very much longer. You can prolong the inevitable, allowing yourself time to transition to another source of income by padding labor hours a bit, replacing parts that may be worn but not in need of replacement yet. In better times, you would have simply advised the customer of future needs. Surely you are treating your customers unfairly but in the interest of your family's well-being, is this wrong? Is not your first duty to your family? If your children are starving, is it a moral act to steal bread? #### Juma ##### Gone If your children are starving, is it a moral act to steal bread? If there is no other way. #### Bronzeage ##### Super Moderator Staff member If your children are starving, is it a moral act to steal bread? If there is no other way. Any choice is easy if it's the only choice. This is the reason human nature leads us to eliminate a lot of viable choices from consideration before making our decision. What if your theft would cause someone else's children to starve? #### fast ##### Contributor Just because an act is wrong, it is not therefore unfair, and there are examples to support this, but are there examples to support the inverse? In other words, if an act is unfair, is it therefore wrong? If you have an example of an act that is unfair yet not wrong, I'd be interested in knowing. You own a auto repair shop and the business is not doing well. This is your livelihood. Your mortgage, your bills, your family's well-being is dependent upon it's success, or at least it's survival. Your projection is that the business cannot survive very much longer. You can prolong the inevitable, allowing yourself time to transition to another source of income by padding labor hours a bit, replacing parts that may be worn but not in need of replacement yet. In better times, you would have simply advised the customer of future needs. Surely you are treating your customers unfairly but in the interest of your family's well-being, is this wrong? Is not your first duty to your family? Right or wrong, I will make my family a priority, but I didn't see the unfairness in your example. I see how some may say it's wrong, but I missed the unfairness part. Am I not treating all customers the same when I'm doing good, and am I not treating all customers the same when I'm not? People may 'say' it's unfair, but their saying it is often a consequence of confusing fairness with righteousness. #### TV and credit cards ##### Veteran Member Just because an act is wrong, it is not therefore unfair, and there are examples to support this, but are there examples to support the inverse? In other words, if an act is unfair, is it therefore wrong? If you have an example of an act that is unfair yet not wrong, I'd be interested in knowing. You own a auto repair shop and the business is not doing well. This is your livelihood. Your mortgage, your bills, your family's well-being is dependent upon it's success, or at least it's survival. Your projection is that the business cannot survive very much longer. You can prolong the inevitable, allowing yourself time to transition to another source of income by padding labor hours a bit, replacing parts that may be worn but not in need of replacement yet. In better times, you would have simply advised the customer of future needs. Surely you are treating your customers unfairly but in the interest of your family's well-being, is this wrong? Is not your first duty to your family? Right or wrong, I will make my family a priority, but I didn't see the unfairness in your example. I see how some may say it's wrong, but I missed the unfairness part. Am I not treating all customers the same when I'm doing good, and am I not treating all customers the same when I'm not? People may 'say' it's unfair, but their saying it is often a consequence of confusing fairness with righteousness. Suppose I should not have skimmed over the definition so quickly. I'll try and save this. Consider, our proprietor needs to do what is right for his family. He needs his business to remain afloat for eighteen months so he can retrain. He calculates if he pads all invoices 15%, he will meet his goal. This is of course assuming there are no financial hiccups along the way. This is not realistic. Life is an ongoing procession of financial hiccups. One could argue that the proprietor could reassess as necessary and pad all invoices 20% or whatever it takes. Realistically though, given that his family's well-being is on the line, I say, he is likely to do what he needs to do when he needs to do it to whomever he needs to do it to. Perhaps that meets your criteria? #### fast ##### Contributor Just because an act is wrong, it is not therefore unfair, and there are examples to support this, but are there examples to support the inverse? In other words, if an act is unfair, is it therefore wrong? If you have an example of an act that is unfair yet not wrong, I'd be interested in knowing. You own a auto repair shop and the business is not doing well. This is your livelihood. Your mortgage, your bills, your family's well-being is dependent upon it's success, or at least it's survival. Your projection is that the business cannot survive very much longer. You can prolong the inevitable, allowing yourself time to transition to another source of income by padding labor hours a bit, replacing parts that may be worn but not in need of replacement yet. In better times, you would have simply advised the customer of future needs. Surely you are treating your customers unfairly but in the interest of your family's well-being, is this wrong? Is not your first duty to your family? Right or wrong, I will make my family a priority, but I didn't see the unfairness in your example. I see how some may say it's wrong, but I missed the unfairness part. Am I not treating all customers the same when I'm doing good, and am I not treating all customers the same when I'm not? People may 'say' it's unfair, but their saying it is often a consequence of confusing fairness with righteousness. Suppose I should not have skimmed over the definition so quickly. I'll try and save this. Consider, our proprietor needs to do what is right for his family. He needs his business to remain afloat for eighteen months so he can retrain. He calculates if he pads all invoices 15%, he will meet his goal. This is of course assuming there are no financial hiccups along the way. This is not realistic. Life is an ongoing procession of financial hiccups. One could argue that the proprietor could reassess as necessary and pad all invoices 20% or whatever it takes. Realistically though, given that his family's well-being is on the line, I say, he is likely to do what he needs to do when he needs to do it to whomever he needs to do it to. Perhaps that meets your criteria? right or wrong, you're still treating everyone fairly. I want you to treat people unfairly and it not be wrong. #### Angra Mainyu ##### Veteran Member Just because an act is wrong, it is not therefore unfair, and there are examples to support this, but are there examples to support the inverse? In other words, if an act is unfair, is it therefore wrong? If you have an example of an act that is unfair yet not wrong, I'd be interested in knowing. I don't know, but how about one of the following examples? 1. Cases in which people treat others unfairly in order to save their own lives (e.g., they're told to treat someone unfairly or be shot in the head), or to prevent something worse than the unfair treatment (you can construct different scenarios, more or less realistic). 2. Let's say that researchers are trying to find out whether other primates detect and care about fairness and unfairness. So, they set up an experiment, and they deliberately treat some cappuchin monkeys unfailry, to see how they react. Experiments like that are actually carried out on different species of monkeys, apes, and other animals as well (purely for example, http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/02/27/283348422/that-s-unfair-you-say-this-monkey-can-relate , or if you want more details http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/publications/articles.shtml ). Those researchers are clearly being unfair to the monkeys and other animals in their experiments, and deliberately so. Do researchers behave immorally in all cases? #### fast ##### Contributor Just because an act is wrong, it is not therefore unfair, and there are examples to support this, but are there examples to support the inverse? In other words, if an act is unfair, is it therefore wrong? If you have an example of an act that is unfair yet not wrong, I'd be interested in knowing. I don't know, but how about one of the following examples? 1. Cases in which people treat others unfairly in order to save their own lives (e.g., they're told to treat someone unfairly or be shot in the head), or to prevent something worse than the unfair treatment (you can construct different scenarios, more or less realistic). 2. Let's say that researchers are trying to find out whether other primates detect and care about fairness and unfairness. So, they set up an experiment, and they deliberately treat some cappuchin monkeys unfailry, to see how they react. Experiments like that are actually carried out on different species of monkeys, apes, and other animals as well (purely for example, http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/02/27/283348422/that-s-unfair-you-say-this-monkey-can-relate , or if you want more details http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/publications/articles.shtml ). Those researchers are clearly being unfair to the monkeys and other animals in their experiments, and deliberately so. Do researchers behave immorally in all cases? Thank you. Chances are, if people are treated unfairly, it's wrong, but unfairness doesn't necessarily entail or imply immorality. Interesting. Been wondering about that for a while now. #### Angra Mainyu ##### Veteran Member Just because an act is wrong, it is not therefore unfair, and there are examples to support this, but are there examples to support the inverse? In other words, if an act is unfair, is it therefore wrong? If you have an example of an act that is unfair yet not wrong, I'd be interested in knowing. I don't know, but how about one of the following examples? 1. Cases in which people treat others unfairly in order to save their own lives (e.g., they're told to treat someone unfairly or be shot in the head), or to prevent something worse than the unfair treatment (you can construct different scenarios, more or less realistic). 2. Let's say that researchers are trying to find out whether other primates detect and care about fairness and unfairness. So, they set up an experiment, and they deliberately treat some cappuchin monkeys unfailry, to see how they react. Experiments like that are actually carried out on different species of monkeys, apes, and other animals as well (purely for example, http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/02/27/283348422/that-s-unfair-you-say-this-monkey-can-relate , or if you want more details http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/publications/articles.shtml ). Those researchers are clearly being unfair to the monkeys and other animals in their experiments, and deliberately so. Do researchers behave immorally in all cases? Thank you. Chances are, if people are treated unfairly, it's wrong, but unfairness doesn't necessarily entail or imply immorality. Interesting. Been wondering about that for a while now. You're welcome. I wasn't claiming it didn't entail it, though, but it's plausible to me that it does not. However, there are some difficulties. For example, there may be a question of ambiguity here. Let's say that Alice, under sufficient threat, treats - say - Black people in some way, and White people in some other way, favoring the latter, there is a sense of "fair" and "unfair" in which she's being unfair to black people, even though she's not behaving immorally (we can make the threat as big as we want for the purposes of the scenario). However, arguably there might a sense in which she's not being unfair, namely that she would similarly favor Black people over White people if those making the threat told her to do so - so is she being unfair to Black people, or not? Maybe there is more than one sense in which the word "fair" is used, even in colloquial speech, and it depends on what one means. Or maybe there is only one sense, in which case I'm not sure. In the case of monkeys, that's not a case of people being treated unfairly, thought it's clearly a case in which some entities are being treated unfairly. Maybe contribution to our knowledge of the evolution of morality, and the long-term expected consequences of that, are sufficient to justify unfair treatment without particularly serious consequences for the victim of the unfair treatment. Then again, maybe not. It's not easy for me to tell. #### fast ##### Contributor Just because an act is wrong, it is not therefore unfair, and there are examples to support this, but are there examples to support the inverse? In other words, if an act is unfair, is it therefore wrong? If you have an example of an act that is unfair yet not wrong, I'd be interested in knowing. I don't know, but how about one of the following examples? 1. Cases in which people treat others unfairly in order to save their own lives (e.g., they're told to treat someone unfairly or be shot in the head), or to prevent something worse than the unfair treatment (you can construct different scenarios, more or less realistic). 2. Let's say that researchers are trying to find out whether other primates detect and care about fairness and unfairness. So, they set up an experiment, and they deliberately treat some cappuchin monkeys unfailry, to see how they react. Experiments like that are actually carried out on different species of monkeys, apes, and other animals as well (purely for example, http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/02/27/283348422/that-s-unfair-you-say-this-monkey-can-relate , or if you want more details http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/publications/articles.shtml ). Those researchers are clearly being unfair to the monkeys and other animals in their experiments, and deliberately so. Do researchers behave immorally in all cases? Thank you. Chances are, if people are treated unfairly, it's wrong, but unfairness doesn't necessarily entail or imply immorality. Interesting. Been wondering about that for a while now. You're welcome. I wasn't claiming it didn't entail it, though, but it's plausible to me that it does not. However, there are some difficulties. For example, there may be a question of ambiguity here. Let's say that Alice, under sufficient threat, treats - say - Black people in some way, and White people in some other way, favoring the latter, there is a sense of "fair" and "unfair" in which she's being unfair to black people, even though she's not behaving immorally (we can make the threat as big as we want for the purposes of the scenario). However, arguably there might a sense in which she's not being unfair, namely that she would similarly favor Black people over White people if those making the threat told her to do so - so is she being unfair to Black people, or not? Maybe there is more than one sense in which the word "fair" is used, even in colloquial speech, and it depends on what one means. Or maybe there is only one sense, in which case I'm not sure. In the case of monkeys, that's not a case of people being treated unfairly, thought it's clearly a case in which some entities are being treated unfairly. Maybe contribution to our knowledge of the evolution of morality, and the long-term expected consequences of that, are sufficient to justify unfair treatment without particularly serious consequences for the victim of the unfair treatment. Then again, maybe not. It's not easy for me to tell. I'm still having difficultly with the notion of fairness. If I am a business owner and serve white people and refuse service to black people, then under the notion that fairness is a function of treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike, then as wrong as it may be, I am treating the groups fairly so long as I don't refuse service to a white person or, ironically, serve a black person. However, there does seem to be a sense of "unfairness" (and not just unrighteousness) as indicated when people use the word "to" when they say the refusal of service in this scenario is unfair to blacks. Wrong perhaps, but how is it unfair? The answer is that they aren't being treated equally, but I'm not so sure unequal treatment is indicative of unfair treatment. After all, we don't treat criminals as we do law-biding citizens. We don't treat them equally, but we do treat them fairly when all criminals are treated like all other criminals ... And when we treat all law-abiding citizens like all other law-abiding citizens. So, perhaps the refusal of service to blacks is fair yet wrong and with no regard to equality. Or, perhaps "fairness" is one of them emotional terms like " bullying"and "lying"'where people simply abuse them and increase the scope of them with no regard to their accurate meaning. Hence, I know people that will regard any form of deception as a lie, and I know people (here on this forum even) that would regard the denial of fertility treatment to lesbians as bullying. Maybe the mere fact that something is wrong is just being called unfair whether or not the act accurately reflects what the term actually means. #### Angra Mainyu ##### Veteran Member fast said: I'm still having difficultly with the notion of fairness. If I am a business owner and serve white people and refuse service to black people, then under the notion that fairness is a function of treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike, then as wrong as it may be, I am treating the groups fairly so long as I don't refuse service to a white person or, ironically, serve a black person. That looks like an unusual usage of “fairness”. At least, using the word as I intuitively grasp its meaning, I wouldn't say you're being fair. But I guess there may be more usages, so in that case, what's the criteria for “alike”, and “unlike”, under such a conception? Is it any property? Let's say that I serve only people whom I feel like serving, but I refuse service to those I feel like refusing service. Then, in a sense I'm treating like cases (e. g., cases of people I feel like serving) alike, etc. But would that be fair under the conception you have in mind? If so, it seems anything might be fair. So, it seems to me that the kind of properties that can be used to pick whether something is like or unlike is not any property. Maybe what you have in mind is that it's any property of those people that does not depend on the agent's state of mind at the moment of assessing whether to serve them? We can still test that too. As you understand “unfair” (i. e., in the usage you have in mind), would the following be cases of fair treatment? a. Jack serves people whose national identity card (let's say it's a country where there is one) ends in 8, 4, or 7, and refuses service to everyone else. He knows all of the numbers because he illegally accessed the government's database. b. Jack refuses service to all people whose name begin with “S”, and serves everyone else (he asks before). c. Jack serves everyone, but if they pay in cash and at least the serial number of one of the dollar bills of greatest denomination they use, has two sevens, or four fours, he punches them in the face. We may further stipulate that Jack does not tell anyone in advance how he decides whom to serve, whom to punch, etc. fast said: However, there does seem to be a sense of "unfairness" (and not just unrighteousness) as indicated when people use the word "to" when they say the refusal of service in this scenario is unfair to blacks. Wrong perhaps, but how is it unfair? The answer is that they aren't being treated equally, but I'm not so sure unequal treatment is indicative of unfair treatment. After all, we don't treat criminals as we do law-biding citizens. We don't treat them equally, but we do treat them fairly when all criminals are treated like all other criminals ... And when we treat all law-abiding citizens like all other law-abiding citizens. So, perhaps the refusal of service to blacks is fair yet wrong and with no regard to equality. Or, perhaps "fairness" is one of them emotional terms like " bullying"and "lying"'where people simply abuse them and increase the scope of them with no regard to their accurate meaning. Hence, I know people that will regard any form of deception as a lie, and I know people (here on this forum even) that would regard the denial of fertility treatment to lesbians as bullying. Maybe the mere fact that something is wrong is just being called unfair whether or not the act accurately reflects what the term actually means. Maybe, but there are alternatives. a. There is more than one usage of “fair” in colloquial speech. b. Fairness is a function of treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike, but the properties that can pick “like” and “unlike” are not any properties, but are a proper subcategory of the category (or class, or whatever you call it) of all properties. Fully assessing which properties are in the subset is a very difficult matter in general – as it is in all cases; I'd say vagueness might prevent it -, but at least, one can tell that some properties are excluded by intuitively assessing hypothetical scenarios. c. A combination of a. and b. (b. would apply to one or more of the meanings). #### fast ##### Contributor All 3 examples concerning Jack is fair. In elementary school, I remember a class where a bonus was added to students grades based on their improvement. I remember thinking it was unfair to those with very good grades, as there was no chance of improvement. Those that previously had bad grades were the only ones with the opportunity for a good bonus. If my newfound sense of fairness is accurate, then the students were being treated fairly so long as exceptions weren't made, and it's the exceptions that clues us in to what is fair or not, not the actual righteousness of separating the cases. If Jack always serves people with national identity cards that ends with the numbers 8, 4, or 7, and if he refuses service to everyone else, then right or wrong, it's only a case of being unfair when there is an exception. For instance, if he serves his good friend who's number ends with a 5, that serves as an exception to one of the cases and therefore becomes an instance of unfairness. Another instance would be if he refused service to someone (and the reason doesn't matter) who's number was a 4. If you complicate the cases by stipulating incorporated exceptions to further distinguish the cases, the hallmark of deciding fairness or not still lies with the presence of exceptions to the like and unlike cases. #### Angra Mainyu ##### Veteran Member That sounds really odd to me. I didn't expect that you would say that all tree cases are cases of Jack's being fair. Now maybe the monkeys were being treated fairly by that understanding of the term. For example, let's say that the researchers said that monkeys #1, #2, and #3 were to be given cucumbers as rewards, but monkeys #4, #5 and #6 were to be given grapes (a much better reward). Since they're treating monkeys with different numbers differently, they're treating different cases differently, so where is the unfairness? Motivated by the "friend" example, how about the following? d. Jack serves everyone, but if they pay in cash and at least the serial number of one of the dollar bills of greatest denomination they use, has two sevens, or four fours, and they're not friends of Jack's, then he punches them in the face. Is he not treating like cases alike, and unlike cases alike? I'm trying to figure out how broad your conception of "like" and "unlike" is. #### fast ##### Contributor That sounds really odd to me. I didn't expect that you would say that all tree cases are cases of Jack's being fair. Now maybe the monkeys were being treated fairly by that understanding of the term. For example, let's say that the researchers said that monkeys #1, #2, and #3 were to be given cucumbers as rewards, but monkeys #4, #5 and #6 were to be given grapes (a much better reward). Since they're treating monkeys with different numbers differently, they're treating different cases differently, so where is the unfairness? Motivated by the "friend" example, how about the following? d. Jack serves everyone, but if they pay in cash and at least the serial number of one of the dollar bills of greatest denomination they use, has two sevens, or four fours, and they're not friends of Jack's, then he punches them in the face. Is he not treating like cases alike, and unlike cases alike? I'm trying to figure out how broad your conception of "like" and "unlike" is. It's not the numbers but rather the group to which the numbers belong. For instance, each case in the control group is being treated just like every other member in the control group; furthermore, each case in the experimental group is treated like each case in the experimental group. You might agree with me if you didn't compare treatment across groups. Looking at intragroup treatment, all are treated the same. If I sit back and decide to splash water on every other unsuspecting person that walks through my door, I'm being fair until I mess up the order and skip the girl I decided not to splash water on. #### Angra Mainyu ##### Veteran Member fast said: It's not the numbers but rather the group to which the numbers belong. For instance, each case in the control group is being treated just like every other member in the control group; furthermore, each case in the experimental group is treated like each case in the experimental group. You might agree with me if you didn't compare treatment across groups. Looking at intragroup treatment, all are treated the same. You mean that in that case, the monkeys were treated fairly? Given that there were two groups, based on that one would have to conclude that researchers systematically fail to come up with a good experiment, since they fail to treat the monkeys unfairly. Personally, I don't agree that that's the common usage of the word “fair”. I don't agree that they were being treated fairly, either, because going by my intuitive grasp of the word “fair” - which seems to be similar enough to that of those researchers, at least when applied to the matter at hand - , their actions are clearly unfair. On the other hand, your definition of “fairness” does not seem to capture either my usage, or theirs, or as far as I can tell, any common usage I'm familiar with. That said, I'm still trying to figure out how you're using the word “fair”, and to test the consistency of that usage as well. On that note, I would still like to ask whether, in case d., Jack is being fair. By the way, how about a trial in which the testimony of a man counts as much the testimony of 4 women if they're the same religion, and the testimony of a Muslim counts as much as the testimony of 4 non-Muslims (for example), or Black people are not allowed to testify in their own defense, etc., would you consider those trials to be fair, as long as the rules are followed? Or are you using “fair” in a way different from the way in which the word “fair” is normally used in the expression “fair trial”? #### fast ##### Contributor fast said: It's not the numbers but rather the group to which the numbers belong. For instance, each case in the control group is being treated just like every other member in the control group; furthermore, each case in the experimental group is treated like each case in the experimental group. You might agree with me if you didn't compare treatment across groups. Looking at intragroup treatment, all are treated the same. You mean that in that case, the monkeys were treated fairly? Given that there were two groups, based on that one would have to conclude that researchers systematically fail to come up with a good experiment, since they fail to treat the monkeys unfairly. Personally, I don't agree that that's the common usage of the word “fair”. I don't agree that they were being treated fairly, either, because going by my intuitive grasp of the word “fair” - which seems to be similar enough to that of those researchers, at least when applied to the matter at hand - , their actions are clearly unfair. On the other hand, your definition of “fairness” does not seem to capture either my usage, or theirs, or as far as I can tell, any common usage I'm familiar with. That said, I'm still trying to figure out how you're using the word “fair”, and to test the consistency of that usage as well. On that note, I would still like to ask whether, in case d., Jack is being fair. By the way, how about a trial in which the testimony of a man counts as much the testimony of 4 women if they're the same religion, and the testimony of a Muslim counts as much as the testimony of 4 non-Muslims (for example), or Black people are not allowed to testify in their own defense, etc., would you consider those trials to be fair, as long as the rules are followed? Or are you using “fair” in a way different from the way in which the word “fair” is normally used in the expression “fair trial”? It should be understood and known that the view I'm expounding upon is not the view I'm espousing, just in case that isn't apparent. However, I'm still trying to entertain the notion that fairness (independent of tying it to just actions) has to do with "treating like cases alike an unlike cases unlike." At any rate, that conception of fairness is the view I'm exploring, as it has been stated by someone trustworthy and reliable in the previous forum, and although I gleaned enough to suspect it true that fairness can be present in spite of immorality, I'm still not sure how to properly interpret the previously quoted notion that fairness has to do with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike. The further removed from distinguishing groups upon which to append cases get from moral behavior, the more distant your general view (I suspect) from fairness gets. Has fairness to do with being unbiased, and if so, then does such unbiasedness transcend the groups? It would seem that you think so, as perhaps you ought, and if so, then the notion that fairness has to do with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike, may be nothing more than a necessary condition (but not sufficient condition) of fairness. I don't know, so let me ask you, do you agree with the claim than an act can be fair yet simultaneously immoral? #### Angra Mainyu ##### Veteran Member fast said: It should be understood and known that the view I'm expounding upon is not the view I'm espousing, just in case that isn't apparent. However, I'm still trying to entertain the notion that fairness (independent of tying it to just actions) has to do with "treating like cases alike an unlike cases unlike." At any rate, that conception of fairness is the view I'm exploring, as it has been stated by someone trustworthy and reliable in the previous forum, and although I gleaned enough to suspect it true that fairness can be present in spite of immorality, I'm still not sure how to properly interpret the previously quoted notion that fairness has to do with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike. I see. Maybe the definition he gave does match the most common usage – if he gave a definition, or did he only say that fairness “has to do” with that? -, given some characterization of “like” and “unlike”, but you're not interpreting those terms as he did, and he didn't specify how to construe them. fast said: The further removed from distinguishing groups upon which to append cases get from moral behavior, the more distant your general view (I suspect) from fairness gets. I don't understand that sentence. Could you rephrase it, please? fast said: Has fairness to do with being unbiased, and if so, then does such unbiasedness transcend the groups? It would seem that you think so, as perhaps you ought, and if so, then the notion that fairness has to do with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike, may be nothing more than a necessary condition (but not sufficient condition) of fairness. I don't know, so let me ask you, do you agree with the claim than an act can be fair yet simultaneously immoral? I'm not sure what you mean by “transcend the groups”, but with regard to your question, I'm not sure – and maybe there is more than one more or less common conception of fairness at play. Maybe some version of an “eye for an eye” law, under which, say, people who rape others for fun are punished with the same number of rapes as they committed, also trying to match the conditions (e. g., if they broke a victim's arm, then they get an arm broken, etc.). The law is widely publicized, so that everyone who is not significantly negligent will know about its existence, trials are also fair in the usual conception of the term, etc. Passing or enforcing (at different levels of enforcement) that law seems immoral to me, at least under some (most) conditions. But it seems at least on the surface fair. Then again, that requires that it's fair not to punish those rapists who rape in the context of inflicting legal punishment. #### fast ##### Contributor I just lost my detailed explanation which I think would have cleared up a lot. Grrr! #### Angra Mainyu ##### Veteran Member Yeah, that's annoying. I usually prefer to use a word processor (which saves the document every two minutes) to write long posts, to prevent that from happening. #### fast ##### Contributor I used to, but I'm typing one letter at a time on an iPad mini #### fast ##### Contributor Let's examine two different conceptions of fairness. The first is the simpler comparison of how a person is treated in comparison to all people. For instance, if a restaurant charges everyone$5 for a buffet lunch, then everyone being charged $5 is being treated fairly. An instance of unfair treatment would be if someone was charged an amount different than$5--be it lower or higher. It might be argued that a waitress charging her best friend a lower price is being unfair to the other patrons, and a waiter overcharging a customer because of a prior social conflict might be charged with treating that patron unfairly. Pretty straight forward ... Treating them the same is fair and treating them differently is unfair.

Now, let's examine a more complicated conception of fairness where people are treated according to what group they belong to. For instance: group 1) customers 3 years old and older and group 2) customers under 3 years old. If the restaurant charges the first group $5 and the second group$2, then fair treatment is no longer a function of treating every customer the same; instead, it's a function of treating every customer as they would every customer in the group to which they belong. For example, it would be unfair to charge a child under three years old something differently than what the other children that age are being charged.

What are you going to say when a 35 year old starts complaining that he isn't being treated fairly when he argues that not all customers are being treated the same (as some are charged one thing and others are charged something else)? Well, you might latch on to the moral notion that it's only right that he is charged the $5 since adults often consume more than young children. The problem with that argument isn't for its lacking reasonableness. The problem is that it may not be applicable since the issue isn't whether it's right or wrong but rather if it's fair or not. The 35 year old is being treated fairly when you compare how other members of the group to which he belongs is being treated. Now, this is where things start to get tricky. What happens when we turn the tables and start charging children under three$5 and start charging those three and over $2? Some are going to argue that it's wrong, and it might very well be, but the issue isn't whether it's right or wrong. The issue is whether it's fair or not. If fairness has to do with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike, then the simple conception of the notion first discussed is usually their line of defense, and people will start saying things like everyone is not being treated the same and conclude that people are being treated unfairly. See, there was no problem earlier about not treating everyone the same when there was no sign of wrongful behavior when children under three were charged less. #### Angra Mainyu ##### Veteran Member fast said: Let's examine two different conceptions of fairness. I'm not sure either conception is common. But let's take a look. fast said: The first is the simpler comparison of how a person is treated in comparison to all people. For instance, if a restaurant charges everyone$5 for a buffet lunch, then everyone being charged $5 is being treated fairly. An instance of unfair treatment would be if someone was charged an amount different than$5--be it lower or higher. It might be argued that a waitress charging her best friend a lower price is being unfair to the other patrons, and a waiter overcharging a customer because of a prior social conflict might be charged with treating that patron unfairly. Pretty straight forward ... Treating them the same is fair and treating them differently is unfair.
Under that conception, it's easy to find a case that is unfair but not immoral. For example, let's say they owners decide to give a homeless person a free meal, just to help her out. It's not immoral for them to do that.

Alternatively, a group of many people may show up together, and offer to eat there for $4 per person. It may be in the interest of the restaurant's owner to agree (let's say business is slow that day), and not immoral to do so. fast said: What are you going to say when a 35 year old starts complaining that he isn't being treated fairly when he argues that not all customers are being treated the same (as some are charged one thing and others are charged something else)? Well, you might latch on to the moral notion that it's only right that he is charged the$5 since adults often consume more than young children.
But 3 years, 1 day old people are usually far closer in terms of how much they consume to 2 years, 364 days old people than to 20 years old people...

fast said:
The problem with that argument isn't for its lacking reasonableness. The problem is that it may not be applicable since the issue isn't whether it's right or wrong but rather if it's fair or not. The 35 year old is being treated fairly when you compare how other members of the group to which he belongs is being treated.
And under this conception, groups can be picked in any way the person making the rules chooses?
In that case, then Jack was being fair even in case d. Is that correct?
But there is a difficulty: if groups can be picked in any way the agent wants, there is always a way of picking groups that will differentiate between different people.

For example, how about the following: Jack charges $X to those in the group “Jack feels like charging them$X”. How would you prevent things like that from implying everyone is always fair?

fast said:
Now, this is where things start to get tricky. What happens when we turn the tables and start charging children under three $5 and start charging those three and over$2? Some are going to argue that it's wrong, and it might very well be, but the issue isn't whether it's right or wrong. The issue is whether it's fair or not.

If fairness has to do with treating like cases alike and unlike cases unlike, then the simple conception of the notion first discussed is usually their line of defense, and people will start saying things like everyone is not being treated the same and conclude that people are being treated unfairly
I'm not sure what they'll do, but there are alternatives.
For example, even if fairness has to do with treating cases alike and unlike cases unlike, there may be conditions on what counts as “like” and as “unlike” which do not match either conceptions. Or maybe there is more than one common conception. Or maybe both.

#### fast

##### Contributor
You have given examples of unfair behavior that is not immoral. Thanks.

But there is a difficulty: if groups can be picked in any way the agent wants, there is always a way of picking groups that will differentiate between different people.

For example, how about the following: Jack charges $X to those in the group “Jack feels like charging them$X”. How would you prevent things like that from implying everyone is always fair?
This bothers me, and it goes to show that taking something to an extreme can be problematic, but what bothers me more is the post hoc changing of criteria to argue fairness.

To illustrate, let me change examples. Let's say a business opens up for the purpose of providing fertility treatment to all women. If a woman is denied treatment because of sexual orientation, then that's unfair.

If the business changes it's position and decides to exclude fertility treatment to homosexual women across the board, then it's not unfair to deny fertility treatment to homosexual woman--if it's across the board.

Now, let's say one of the healthcare workers starts denying fertility treatment to black women. That would be unfair if any of them were heterosexual, for it's unfair to deny treatment to a heterosexual just because she's black, but it would be fair to deny treatment to a black homosexual but not because she's black but because she's homosexual.

She argues that's she's being fair because she's denying treatment to all heterosexuals and all blacks, but her argument doesn't hold up because she is alone in her endeavors. It only holds up if everyone is on the same page. Everyone else is treating black women, so her isolated sense of fair treatment still makes it so that everyone in the group of heterosexual women aren't being treated the same, so it is unfair to deny treatment on the basis of race alone.