A definition of talent

This is for use within the context of Rawls’ fair equality of opportunity principle

P=person

A=activity

P’s talent for A at time (t) = P’s capacity at t to acquire the skills required by activity A, at a certain absolute level of excellence, as standardly defined by the social practice to which S belongs, as measured by the hypothetical cost of making P acquire those skills at t,  discounting for costs deriving from the existence of social prejudices against P

With respect to A, P1 is equally talented as P2 at t <–> apart for the costs of removing the adverse effect of social prejudices, the cost of training P1 and P2 to the same level of excellence at all the skills required by A, at t, is the same

social prejudices about P =  false beliefs about P, held only in so far as P is recognized as a member of a certain social groups or community

The definition fits with current usage. Examples:

“At birth, blacks have generally the same level of talent as whites” <–> “for any human activity, apart from the cost of removing prejudice and its consequences, the average cost of training a black man or a white man from birth for the skills required by every human activity (at every level of excellence) is the same”

(some people deny this, because they believe hat blacks can be more easily be trained to become Olimpic runners)

“With respect to all intellectuctual jobs, before means of transportation and buildings are constructed, wheelchair users and normally gifted individuals have the same talents at birth” <–> “for any intellectual job, apart from the cost of removing prejudice and its consequence, and before means of transportation and buildings are constructed, wheelchair users and normally gifted individuals have the same talents at birth”

(This is one the things that disability activists claim when they claim that disability are socially constructred. It is true if building wheelchair accessible buildings and vehicles has roughly the same cost. If true, it could be used as a premise together with Rawls FEO for  claiming that a just society, when deciding to build means of transportation and buildings, ought to choose to build the wheelchair accessible ones)

Some people may believe the following:

“At birth, women and men are not equally talented as chil caretakers” <–> “the average cost of training men and women from birth to the same level of skill as child caretakers is different”

(It may be true if, suppose, women have statistically a higher amount of hormons making the acquisition of certain skills for them easier than for men)”

All reasonable people believe the following:

“at birth, deaf people are on average less talented than the rest of the population with respect to music” <–> “it is more expensive to train deaf people to acquire musical skills from birth than it is to train non deaf people”

Advertisements

2 responses to “A definition of talent

  1. Some counterintuitive consequences:
    According to
    “With respect to A, P1 is equally talented as P2 at t apart for the cost of removing prejudice and its consequences, the cost of training P1 and P2 to the same level of excellence at all the skills required by A, at t, is the same”

    Suppose that A is a kid from a socially disadvantaged background, while B is a kid from a socially advantaged background. As it happens, A and B are monozygotic twins divided at birth and given to adoption to different families. After adoption A lives in a socially disadvantaged background and B to a socially privileged background. The cost by society of training A is much higher than the cost of society of training B. The definition entails that one moment after adoption, A is less talented than B, contrary to our intuition.

  2. Reply to 1. The objection rests on an equivocation. “The cost of training P1 and P2” should be understood in terms of total cost for society (resources used), not the cost for society after discouinting the cost borne by the parents

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s