Impartiality is Impossible

Impartiality is a principle holding that decisions should be based on nothing but objective criteria, instead of using bias, prejudice, or personal preference to influence a decision. Impartiality is a high virtue, especially in the era of fake news and identity politics. Impartiality is also flat-out impossible. It is maybe the highest of virtues, because none of us have any chance at achieving it.

It would be great if we could be impartial, but that is beyond the powers of us mere mortals with our limited perspective and pesky emotions. You can only be impartial if you know everything and don’t care about anything. I’ve never met anyone who knows everything, and while I have met some very apathetic people, I bet even the most uncaring among us care at least a little about something.

True impartiality is impossible for us. If you meet someone who says they are completely unbiased and impartial, then you have met a liar. If you believe you are capable of being completely impartial, then you are lying to yourself. And everyone else. Either way, people who talk about impartiality like it is an achievable thing aren’t doing anyone any favors.

Impartiality is impossible and it gets us nowhere close to truth or reality. In lieu of impartiality, we must choose honesty. True honesty. Naked-in-front-of-everyone honesty. Honesty is something we can achieve. If we start with honesty we can actually get somewhere.

A person who is honest will never claim to have no bias. That’s impossible. Instead, they will be aware of their bias, and therefore capable of doing something about it.

Its like a city street system. A city that says its streets are in perfect shape all the time is going to have a lot of roads in disrepair. You can’t fill potholes if you don’t know where they are, or even admit they exist.

A person who is aware of their biases, their emotional/intellectual potholes, is the only person who has a chance of filling them. Those who are able to recognize and overcome their biases can then achieve a sort-of approximation of impartiality. And that is the best we can do.

True impartiality would make things easier, but so would teleportation. Complete honesty is a difficult thing, to be sure, but is something that can actually be done.

We should all chose honesty over impartiality, but you can’t have both, because anyone who says they are impartial isn’t being honest at all.