What is Equality, What Does It Mean?June 28, 2021
Equality is often presented as a political goal or ideal worth pursuing. It is the nature of the equals.
Those who advocate any form of equality are known as “egalitarians”. The motivating influence to achieve this equality is often a moral influence. It could be the Christian morality that believes we are all equal in the eyes of God, or the Kantian belief in the rationality of treating all people equally, or a utilitarian belief that treating everyone equally is the only way to maximize happiness.
Equalists believe that governments should strive to establish some form of equality in the lives of the people they rule, starting from moral equality.
But how should we understand “equality”? Of course, it is never possible for people to be equal in all respects. Individuals; intelligence, beauty, athletic ability, height, hair color, place of birth, taste in dressing, etc. differs in many ways. It would be absurd to say that men must be absolutely equal in all respects. There is almost nothing attractive about being exactly the same. Equalists cannot afford to propose a world of clones.
However, some anti-egalitarians insist on portraying them just like that, even if we put aside the obviously absurd interpretation of equality in the sense of sameness. This is a good example of creating an easy target that can be knocked down easily, ie erecting a railing. They think they are refuting egalitarianism by pointing out the important aspects in which people differ, or by saying that if people manage to come too close to sameness, they will quickly return to the state they were in before.
However, such an attack succeeds only against a caricature of egalitarian theory and leaves many forms of egalitarianism unscathed. Equality, then, does not mean being equal in all respects, but in certain respects. So if someone considers himself an egalitarian, then it is very important to understand what they mean. In other words, “equality” used in the context of politics is almost meaningless unless it is explained what should be shared more equally and by whom. What egalitarians should be more concerned with is the equitable or more equitable distribution of money, employment, and political power. While people’s tastes vary considerably, all these things can contribute significantly to a life that can be lived and enjoyed. The equitable distribution of all these good things is one way of achieving equality in respect for all human beings.
The concept of equality has been dealt with by almost all thinkers since the ancient Greek thought, gaining more and more importance. First, Diogenes of Apollonia dealt with this concept in his work On Nature and said, “Each of the objects subject to change cannot be equal to another, because to be equal they must be the same thing as him.” Plato, in his Phaedo, concludes with the Socratic dialogues that “there can’t be two objects that fully comply with the concept of equality”. According to these dialogues, in order to make two things equal, they must first be distinguished. The German philosopher Leibniz renewed the ideas of Diogenes-Socrates-Plato with the principles of indistinguishability and identity, and in his work called Monadologie, he claimed that “There are never two things in nature that are completely equal to each other, between which no distinction can be made”.
In his letter to Coste, he says: “The universe cannot be divided into two parts that are completely equal or similar to each other. Therefore, there will never be a situation where two things will be completely equal to each other and leave an equal impression on us” (Erdmann, 19.12, 1707, p. 447). . In Islamic mysticism, natural inequality is expressed with the phrase “there is no repetition of manifestation in divinity”. The same idea was put forward by the Stoics of antiquity. In letters to Clarke, one of Newton’s students, Leibniz says, using the Stoics, that “there are no two equal monats just as there are no two perfectly equal leaves”. The concept of equality has been increasingly studied from legal, civil, political and social aspects. Metaphysical thought, especially based on Christianity, argues that equality is unethical. For example, according to the German philosopher Max Scheler, it is immoral to dream of human equality, because God has forgiven some and not forgiven others, the desire for equality is nothing but an undue envy of the valuable. Scientifically, social equality is achieved through the abolition of class differences.
What is positive discrimination?
What is democracy as a means of equality?
What is formal equality?
What is equal opportunity?
What is result equality?
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook; “Introduction to Philosophy” by Nigel Warburton