Equality is one of the great issues of our age, but few people stop to wonder at its being an issue in politics at all. Yet it is surprising that a concept which has its natural habitat in the mathematical sciences should have taken root in our thinking about how we should be governed. We do not naturally think of society in terms of group theory, or rings or fields, and have long been aware of the difficulties in establishing any over-arching social or political order. But we unthinkingly assume that we can meaningfully ask, and reliably tell, whether people are, or ought to be, equal to one another even while admitting how difficult it would be to say whether they were more or less than one another. Formal logic can help. Equality is an equivalence relation, that is to say one that is transitive, symmetric and reflexive. Equivalence classes pick out classes of people or things that are the same, or similar , in some respect or other. There are many such, and we need to specify in respect of what two things are or are not equivalent before we are saying, or asking, anything definite. I can be equivalent to you in respect of age, or height, or weight, and many equivalence classes— contemporaries, co-religionists, comrades—may be of great importance socially or politically. But equality is, in its original context, more than just an expression of sameness. It suggests also a possibility of being either more than or less than. I can be the same age as you, but if I were not, I should be either older than you, or younger. This is always the case in mathematics. The law of trichotomy holds, that if two things are not equal, then one is greater, in the relevant respect, than the other, and the difference can itself be measured. With human beings, however, there are rather few respects in which we can be properly measured. Age, height and weight apart, the ascription of most numerical measures is a dubious affair. At one time psychologists were confident that they could measure intelligence, and economists still purport to measure wealth, but the ascriptions they actually make do not seem to deserve the confidence called for..
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 27,157
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
The Inegalitarian Ethos: Incentives, Respect, and Self-Respect.E. McTernan - 2013 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 12 (1):93-111.
When Are Two Algorithms the Same?Andreas Blass, Nachum Dershowitz & Yuri Gurevich - 2009 - Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 15 (2):145-168.
Classifying Positive Equivalence Relations.Claudio Bernardi & Andrea Sorbi - 1983 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 48 (3):529-538.
Sameness of Age Cohorts in the Mathematics of Population Growth.Abraham Akkerman - 1994 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45 (2):679-691.
Equality, Self‐Respect and Voluntary Separation.Michael S. Merry - 2012 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 15 (1):79-100.
Respect for Everything.David Schmidtz - 2011 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 14 (2):127 - 138.
Democratic Equality and Respect.Kenneth Baynes - 0040 - Theoria 53 (=117;User_Persona=false;ord=1234):1-25.
Toward a Practical Philosophy of Nature.Klaus M. Meyer-Abich - 1979 - Environmental Ethics 1 (4):293-308.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

9 ( #459,670 of 2,163,655 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #348,043 of 2,163,655 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums