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Gerald Lang (Leeds): “Equality and Variation”

24 February 2016, 5:30 pm7:00 pm

Abstract: Egalitarians usually task themselves with answering the “equality of what?” question, having assumed that we already enjoy a status as “abstract” equals. But what is it about us which is such that we are owed an equal amount of something-or-other? This is what Jeremy Waldron calls “basic equality”.

Human beings come in all shapes and sizes, and exhibit striking differences “from weight lifting to the calculus”, as Bernard Williams puts it. These differences are not thought to undermine our status as abstract equals. But that point merely places greater demands on the question of what it is about us that qualifies us as equals in the first place.

This paper questions the need to commit deeply to the basic equality project, and attempts to pinpoint the faulty temptations that have led an increasing number of political philosophers to assume otherwise. On the view presented here, the search for basic equality reflects various confusions, the most important of them being the failure to respect the difference between the normative and the descriptive. I conclude with some thoughts about what sort of deep theorizing might fit the bill instead.




24 February 2016
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
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