I was reading an essay where the author seems to define equality among people as mathematical equality. Of course, this seemed to be overly simplistic so I wanted to look for a better definition.

I am also aware that there's several trivial definitions, but at first glance most of them seem to be either baseless or statements of desire rather than fact. For example, the statement that everyone should have equal rights.

Ideally, it would be nice to have a definition of "equality" that can actually be empirically, or at least logically measured against reality.

  • depends on the person stating the claim. sometimes, it means all humans have equality of right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and not equality in the sense of identical instance.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 17:53

4 Answers 4


If we define humans by their accidents (physical features, genetics, habits etc), it is impossible to find even two equals. But in philosophy, human as a concept is abstracted from essential commonalities of human beings which include human physical organs, his natural desires, his senses and above all his faculty of reason. It is these essential commonalities that underpin the concept of equality of human beings.

  • My issue with this explanation is that those properties you described are more like the defining properties of a human being. In other words, it's like saying that all triangles have three angles, therefore they're all equal.
    – user5814
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 7:43
  • 1
    Now, where's the problem?
    – infatuated
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 7:52
  • If a number belongs to a set, it must satisfy the conditions for belonging to that set, yet satisfying those conditions does not necessitate it being equal to other numbers in the set. And in our case, satisfying the conditions of belonging to the set of humans does not necessarily make one equal to all humans.
    – user5814
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 8:00
  • Well, I already cleared that humans are diverse in their accidental features but equal in their essential properties.
    – infatuated
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 8:02
  • But that's why I was disagreeing with your answer in the first place.
    – user5814
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 8:06

You are looking for a definition that can be tested?

How about was the descendant of a human being?

We all have one mother. Some thousands of years ago. We are all children of the same mother. So we are equals in that sense. All that might be different would be the age and birth order.

Equal just means it would be to complicated to rank everything all the time so we just give everybody the same rights and only rank when there is conflict.


Personal equality is subjective and ultimately illusory without an objective reference point that places intrinsic worth and objective value on people's lives. Historically and logically, this could only come from the perception of objective values that provide an objective moral basis for the equality of human beings. The idea that we OUGHT to preserve life, as opposed to not doing so, hinges ultimately on the objective values such as it is "good" to live and therefore "right" to preserve human life. I don't want to make this a religious discussion, but historically, the basic value system of Christianity is what ultimately provided the moral framework on which we base things such as women's rights and human rights and on this alone is what we base our idea of equality. Let's observe women's rights for example. In the pre-Christian world, patriarchal societies were the norm. Women had about as much rights as cattle. They were often considered property. But, upon the explosion of Christianity onto the scene, the way women were viewed was radically changed. Why? In Roman Judea, women were considered second class. There was no such thing as equality for women of their day. But, here comes this man named Jesus. Treating them as equals, which was considered an embarrassment. Naturally, this would cause his followers to start viewing women differently since they believed Jesus to be God in the flesh and therefore the ultimate anchor of their morality into reality, granting objectivity to their moral values. Simply put, men and women began to be seen as equal because all are equal before God(initially, the Judeo-Christian God). This is the basis for human rights. Which, in turn, is the basis for equality among people. Which is why our culturally Christian nation, USA, has laws and a governing system that places so much emphasis on equality and the sacred rights of the individual. Without an ultimate, personal reference point(God) there is no real basis whatsoever for objective values and morality and, in turn, equality becomes a figment of imagination.

  • Rightly put and may be that explains why the Atheist Communist version of "equality" turned out to be such a violent atrocious destructive movement. Way more people perished in the mechanical iron-fist enforcement of Marxist equality in the former USSR than did under any religious theocracy known in history.
    – infatuated
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 16:53

Human beings are not equal. When we say Joe is equal to Smith, we mean Smith has all the qualities Joe has - this is obviously false when Joe and Smith are two. In energy and intelligence, in character and appearance, in desires and ambitions, in ability and achievement and, most important of all, in the expansiveness of feelings, no one is equal to anyone else. This is an empirical fact. The truth is, between men and apes, there is no such a thing as an impassable gulf. The Greeks, even in their most democratic period, believed in proportions; they believed that one's sphere of influence should be proportional to his abilities. Most people actually understand this when it comes to their own health - they wisely consult physicians instead of laymen - but when it comes to state affairs, everyone believes he is equal to everyone else as a physician of the state.

The US constitution is fundamentally flawed. The disastrous effect of carrying this faulty axiom to its logical conclusions is beginning to show. As a matter of fact, Americans don't need to look far to foretell their future: the world's largest democracy is only decades ahead of the US, and the US is catching up at an amazing speed.

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