The Philosophical Notion of Equality

By Camp, I. F. C.; Gonzalez, M. R. | Ave Maria Law Review, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

The Philosophical Notion of Equality


Camp, I. F. C., Gonzalez, M. R., Ave Maria Law Review


INTRODUCTION

This article investigates the meaning of equality. This is not a historical, legal, or sociological study. It is a speculative or philosophical inquiry into the fundamental meaning of equality as it relates to society. It tries to elucidate the meaning of equality in Mulieris Dignitatem. (1) Equality is not a univocal term, and as it relates to social dealings it is essentially tied to the virtue of justice.

A. STATUS QUESTION: WHAT IS EQUALITY?

Many are familiar with the famous phrase uttered by Jesus of Nazareth to his apostles: "[W]ho do you say that I am?" (2) The answer one gives is life changing, whether one responds correctly or incorrectly. Much time has transpired since then and new messiahs have often appeared. In today's world, salvation is often reduced to the establishment of a good society, and a society built on universal equality is among the primary contenders. (3) Unfortunately, the term equality is widely used today but little understood. A cursory glance on the Internet indicates many mainstream uses: gender equality, race equality, political equality, social equality, equal opportunity, same sex equality, economic equality, equality of religions, and legal equality, to mention just a few.

In today's cultural milieu of relativistic thought, this response touches one aspect of equality. Moreover, with political correctness so embedded in Anglo-American society, these notions of equality are almost universally and unquestionably accepted. (4) Contemporary literature engaging the above-mentioned fields often assumes that the term "equality" is a synonym of "sameness" or even "identity." (5) Such language is even present in John Paul II's apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), which uses terms like identity and equality. (6)

There certainly has to be some relationship between the terms equality, identity, and sameness, otherwise their common appearance would be less than universal. At the same time, one should acknowledge that these terms can be used in different ways or used with different meanings. Is not the divergence of meaning obvious when public debate is about democracy, justice, rights, and equality?

If it is true that "being" can be said in many ways, then particular beings are in no way exempt. (7) What, then, does equality mean? If one were to ask a group of lawyers what equality meant, the response might be that "we are all the same or equal under the law." Do we all have the same intelligence, the same height, the same weight, the same hair color, make the same mistakes, pay the same taxes, and make the same money? To be the same or equal under the law does not mean, however, that we are all the same in an absolute sense. If we are not the same in an absolute sense, then in what way are we equal under the law?

If one were to ask a political philosopher what the Declaration of Independence principally means by the phrase "all men are created equal," (8) he (or, to be equal about it, she) would say it means that since every man is given the gift of intelligence and will, he can determine his future in unison with the community of men, denying, at the same time, a divine right for one man to rule over all. In other words, it is the difference between being citizens and being subjects. By personal experience, without needing to go down a whole list of professions and people who in their daily lives use the word equality, one can already see many shades and meanings.

B. THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM EQUALITY

How does one cut through this dense jungle of such diverse and rich flora and become capable of cataloging and mapping it? It is helpful to go back to the origin or origins of the word, not just philologically but also philosophically. Equality comes from equal, which comes from the Latin aequus. (9) There are various usages of this word. First, it refers to an even, flat space, which also has the connotation of favorable. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Philosophical Notion of Equality
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.