Kim O'Hara wrote:...every single one of the references you provided was about comparing oneself with others, and in (almost?) every case the conceit this could lead to was cited as the problem.
My reading of those quotes is that comparing is
conceit, not a cause of it. It's conceit in the same way superiority of inferiority are conceit. They're delusional and/or hateful and/or greedy.
In your OP you use the terms "guiding principle" and "rule" implying you hold "fairness" to be a categorically imperative or necessary standard. But your language in this post is contingent. Each of your questions starts with "if."
Cittasanto's post reveals that the Buddha did not treat fairness as a "guiding principle" or "rule" in any categorically imperative or necessary way.
Kim O'Hara wrote:A teaching against conceit is not a teaching against fairness or equality. If I give Adam a dollar, it would be fair for me to give Ben a dollar too. Where's the conceit?
Too vague to be pragmatic.
Kim O'Hara wrote:If I charge Adam a dollar for a Coke, it would be unfair to charge Ben ten dollars for the same thing. Where's the conceit?
That's a little less overgeneralized. But following Hume, we might ask, "Is Ben a seditious bigot?"
Hume's theory of justice...says that the moral status of an action depends entirely on the goodness or badness of the motive that lies behind it, so that, e.g., it is only because certain helpful actions were intended to be helpful (were motivated by the natural virtue of benevolence) that we morally approve of them or judge them to be right and good. However, it is difficult to apply this virtue-ethical assumption to the artificial virtues, because the good motive operative in their instance is the conscientious desire to do one's duty or what is right or obligatory. According to Hume, if I return what I owe to the seditious bigot
, my only just motive is the desire to do what is right and obligatory, but, in that case, the morally good motive that is supposed (according to Hume's virtue ethics) to explain the rightness or goodness of returning what I owe to the seditious bigot already makes essential reference to the rightness or goodness or obligatoriness of doing so. As Hume himself tells us, this seems to be arguing (explaining) in a circle, and Hume makes the same point (perhaps even more forcefully) about fidelity to promises. Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy "Justice as a Virtue"
Kim O'Hara wrote:If I think I should pay for my theatre ticket, I think it's fair if my neighbour pays for his theatre ticket. Where's the conceit?
Even a little more concrete. Maybe Nietzsche can help us with this one.
Origin of Justice
.—Justice (reasonableness) has its origin among approximate equals in power, as Thucydides (in the dreadful conferences of the Athenian and Melian envoys) has rightly conceived. Thus, where there exists no demonstrable supremacy and a struggle leads but to mutual, useless damage, the reflection arises that an understanding would best be arrived at and some compromise entered into. The reciprocal nature is hence the first nature of justice. Each party makes the other content inasmuch as each receives what it prizes more highly than the other. Each surrenders to the other what the other wants and receives in return its own desire. Justice is therefore reprisal and exchange upon the basis of an approximate equality of power. Thus revenge pertains originally to the domain of justice as it is a sort of reciprocity
. Equally so, gratitude.—Justice reverts naturally to the standpoint of self
preservation, therefore to the egoism
of this consideration: "why should I injure myself
to no purpose and perhaps never attain my end?"—So much for the origin of justice. Only because men, through mental habits, have forgotten the original motive of so called just and rational acts, and also because for thousands of years children have been brought to admire and imitate such acts, have they gradually assumed the appearance of being unegotistical. Upon this appearance is founded the high estimate of them, which, moreover, like all estimates, is continually developing, for whatever is highly esteemed is striven for, imitated, made the object of self sacrifice, while the merit of the pain and emulation thus expended is, by each individual, ascribed to the thing esteemed.—How slightly moral would the world appear without forgetfulness! A poet could say that God had posted forgetfulness as a sentinel at the portal of the temple of human merit!Human, All Too Human 92
Kim O'Hara wrote:Conceit can be (must be? usually is?) founded upon comparisons but I can't see how it can be founded on equality or fairness.
Again. Not "founded on." It is
conceit. It's conceit in the same way superiority of inferiority are conceit. They're delusional and/or hateful and/or greedy, as DAWN put very concisely and accurately.
THE ORIGIN OF JUSTICE.—Justice (equity) has its origin amongst powers which are fairly equal, as Thucydides (in the terrible dialogue between the Athenian and Melian ambassadors) rightly comprehended : that is to say, where there is no clearly recognisable supremacy, and where a conflict would be useless and would injure both sides, there arises the thought of coming to an understanding and settling the opposing claims ; the character of exchange is the primary character of justice. Each party satisfies the other, as each obtains what he values more than the other. Each one receives that which he desires, as his own henceforth, and whatever is desired is received in return. Justice, therefore, is recompense and exchange based on the hypothesis of a fairly equal degree of power,—thus, originally, revenge belongs to the province of justice, it is an exchange. Also gratitude.—Justice naturally is based on the point of view of a judicious self-preservation, on the egoism, therefore, of that reflection, " Why should I injure myself uselessly and perhaps not attain my aim after all?" So much about the origin of justice. Because man, according to his intellectual custom, has forgotten the original purpose of so-called just and reasonable actions, and particularly because for hundreds of years children have been taught to admire and imitate such actions, the idea has gradually arisen that such an action is un-egoistic ; upon this idea, however, is based the high estimation in which it is held : which, moreover, like all valuations, is constantly growing, for something that is valued highly is striven after, imitated, multiplied, and increases, because the value of the output of toil and enthusiasm of each individual is added to the value of the thing itself. How little moral would the world look without this forgetfulness! A poet might say that God had placed forgetfulness as door-keeper in the temple of human dignity.