Monday, April 7, 2014

Free from Bias?

"Man is free to the extent he knows himself"
-Alan Watts

Many people feel that they can take an unbiased view of an issue or event. They tell themselves, "let me consider this in an unbiased manner". They may do an experiment or search for some relevant information which comes from outside of them. Therefore as the source of the information is external, they feel its unbiased. So one will hear "its based on math" or "evidence" when hearing rationale behind a claim- done in order to justify it.

But can we ever be free from bias? My opinion is no we can't, if unbiased means we are taking a point of view which does not exclude. All points of view exclude by their very nature. There is no point of view from nowhere. Each point of view takes on a certain perspective in spite of some other perceptive. I look right so I exclude what's on the left. I consider a mathematical perspective which excludes a qualitative perspective. Every perspective is opposed to some other perspective- no perspective can include it all.  

Where does that leave those who want to act in an unbiased manner? This is where the epigraph comes into use and Mr. Watts gives us some advice: we can become unbiased by becoming aware of our biases, rather than attempting to remove them. We will always have our biases- it gives us our identity. Bias may as well be a ontological phenomenon rather than a purely semantic one.

All in all, bias defines our point of view. It is impossible to remove all bias. Each point of view excludes some aspects of reality. Therefore, if we want to become free of our biases we must get to know them. We must familiarize ourselves with the biases that define our motivations and tools; it is only then that we can free our selves from bias by keeping attention on it and regarding other points of view.

The point is not to get rid of our biases, but keep an eye on them, while considering other points of view.