Equality and Transparency

American Philosophical Quarterly 50 (1):51-61 (2013)
The principle of human moral equality is poorly understood. I criticize standard accounts and propose a mildly subversive alternative based in a certain view of the phenomenology of conceptual thought. First, a formulation of the principle: (E) Every person has a basic moral worth equal to that of any other. E is vague, as it should be. It is neutral regarding rival theories of the nature of the equalizing property or its value, or how we recognize either. But I impose two constraints on the principle that seem to reflect a universal consensus among its proponents: E asserts a kind of worth (or status or value) that (i) is indifferent to ordinary moral judgments of character, merit, or desert and (ii) forbids political arrangements we intuitively judge to be at odds with the spirit of basic equality. The first constraint protects against absurdity or nihilism, the second against vacuity.
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