Support Aeon Donate now When Halloween rolled around last year, my wife and I were prepared to be greeted by scores of eager trick-or-treaters. Guided by the thought that too much candy was better than too little, we bought entirely too much, and simply poured the excess on to a platter in our living room. I have a sweet-tooth. When I returned from work that evening, I noticed the platter was empty.
Our first task is therefore to provide a clear definition of equality in the face of widespread misconceptions about its meaning as a political idea. Thus, to say e.
Two non-identical objects are never completely equal; they are different at least in their spatiotemporal location. Here usage might vary. In the case of descriptive use of equality, the common standard is itself descriptive, e. A prescriptive use of equality is present when a prescriptive standard is applied, i.
The standards grounding prescriptive assertions of equality contain at least two components. On the one hand, there is a descriptive component, since the assertions Essays on moral principle to contain descriptive criteria, in order to identify those people to which the rule or norm applies.
The question of this identification — who belongs to which category?
On the other hand, the comparative standards contain something normative — a moral or legal rule, in the example, the U.
Such a rule constitutes the prescriptive component Westenchap. Sociological and economic analyses of in- equality mainly pose the questions of how inequalities can be determined and measured and what their causes and effects are. In contrast, social and political philosophy is in general concerned mainly with the following questions: Such is the case in this article as well.
Equality essentially consists of a tripartite relation between two or several objects or persons and one or several qualities. Two objects a and b are equal in a certain respect if, in that respect, they fall under the same general terminus. Every comparison presumes a tertium comparationis, a concrete attribute defining the respect in which the equality applies — equality thus referring to a common sharing of this comparison-determining attribute.
There is another source of diversity as well: As Temkinargues, various different standards might be used to measure inequality, with the respect in which people are compared remaining constant. The difference between a general concept and different specific conceptions Rawlsp.
For this reason, it helps to think of the idea of equality or for that matter inequality, understood as an issue of social justice, not as a single principle, but as a complex group of principles forming the basic core of today's egalitarianism.
Depending on which procedural principle one adopts, contrary answers are forthcoming. Both equality and inequality are complex and multifaceted concepts Temkinchap. In any real historical context, it is clear that no single notion of equality can sweep the field.
But they believe that there is also a common underlying strain of important moral concerns implicit in it Williams Above all it serves to remind us of our common humanity, despite various differences cf. In this sense, egalitarians tend to think of egalitarianism as a single coherent normative doctrine — but one in any case embracing a variety of principles.
Following the introduction of different principles and theories of equality, I will return in the last section of this article to the question how best to define egalitarianism and the value of equality. Principles of Equality and Justice Equality in its prescriptive usage has, of course, a close connection with morality and justice in general and distributive justice in particular.
From antiquity onward, equality has been considered a constitutive feature of justice. On the history of the concept, cf. AlbernethyBennBrownDannThomson Throughout history, people and emancipatory movements use the language of justice to pillory certain inequalities.
But what exactly is the connection between equality and justice, i. The role and correct account of equality, understood as an issue of social justice, is itself a difficult philosophical issue. To clarify this, philosophers have defended a variety of principles and conceptions of equality, many of which are mentioned in the following discussion.
This section introduces four well known principles of equality, ranging from highly general and uncontroversial to more specific and controversial.
Different interpretations of the role of equality in a theory of justice emerge according to which of the four following principles and which measure has been adopted. Through its connection with justice, equality, like justice itself, has different justitianda, i.
These are mainly actions, persons, social institutions, and circumstances e. These objects of justice stand in an internal connection and order that can here only be hinted at. Justice is hence primarily related to individual actions. Individual persons are the primary bearer of responsibilities ethical individualism.
Persons have to take responsibility for their individual actions and for circumstances they could change through such actions or omissions. Although people have responsibility for both their actions and circumstances, there is a moral difference between the two justitianda, i.Deontological moral principle is pioneered by Immanuel Kant (Singer, ).
Basically, it concerns moral rights or entitlements which functions to protect the rights of . Published: Mon, 5 Dec Ethics is supposed to provide us with “moral principles” or universal rules that tell us what to do. Moral principles focus primarily on people’s actions and doings.
This article is concerned with social and political equality. In its prescriptive usage, ‘equality’ is a loaded and ‘highly contested’ concept. January Have you ever seen an old photo of yourself and been embarrassed at the way you looked?
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