“Equality — Which?” Reblog from Paradigm Library

Paradigm Library

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A recent academic debate has both disturbed and motivated me. Disturbed because of many reasons but the most relevant, intellectually, is that very smart individuals speak of equality but seem unclear as to what it means, exactly, and how it translates operationally into the various social arrangements. And it has motivated me to inquire and expound upon a concept that I think we all take for granted in thinking that we know what it means.

Let us begin with basics: denotative definitions. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines equality in several ways:

  1. The condition of being equal in quantity, amount, value, intensity, etc
  2. The exact correspondence between magnitude and number in respect of quantity, the existence of is which is sometimes expressed by the sign =
  3. The condition of having equal dignity, rank, or privileges with others
  4. The condition of being equal in power, ability, achievement, or excellence
  5. In persons

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  1. #1 by Larry on March 4, 2014 - 5:40 pm

    Thanks for reblogging this. I love the point the blogger makes regarding inaccurate use of language — people, for example, who call themselves “Christians” but ignore Jesus’s teachings. He or she makes a similar point in an earlier post called “Labor: How Private Enterprise Today Gets Capitalism Wrong” in reference to people who call themselves capitalists and wear Adam Smith neckties while ignoring much of what Adam Smith had to say.

    It’s such a common pattern: claiming to follow in the footsteps of some leading intellectual or moral figure while acting contrary to that figure’s actual teaching or example. People pick and choose something about X that suits their purposes, while claiming to be followers of X (picking and choosing passages from the Bible is, of course, one of the prime examples).

    • #2 by ausomeawestin on March 5, 2014 - 11:25 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, glad I could share this writers’ with you.

      There is certainly a renewed interest, by Amartya Sen nonetheless, in rereading Adam Smith; turns out Smith was more egalitarian than “Smithians” claim, as per your point.

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