Recently there has been a facebook campaign to raise awareness of the struggle for LGBT equality, whereby facebook users change their profile pictures to an "equal" sign. This campaign seems to be successful in the sense that it communicates and determines a social consensus in favor of equality for LGBT.

This made me think of the idea of communicating and determining a social consensus more generally. In particular, I suspect that mathematical awareness at an earlier age will instill in society the idea of equality. The equality sign and its uses in mathematics are exactly the same type of social thought that can lead individuals to think in terms of equality of rights. For example, x can equal 3, even though these are different entities. x can also equal 5. It can equal many things. If children learn how to use the equality sign early, they will be able to employ the same thought process later in life when exposed to different values of "x", like LGBT, women, blacks, etc.

Are there any known philosophers who have thought in this direction?

  • Its an interesting idea. My first thoughts is that theres lots of different types of equalty in the world, and people aren't going to connect the equality in mathematics with that of equality between people. Maybe thats where education comes in. Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 3:21
  • I think that's where the education went badly, though. Instead of teaching the thought process (equality in mathematics; i.e. a binary relation satisfying commutativity, transitivity and reflection), they only teach particular examples. That's why there are many people who support equality for black but not for gays. The intuitive application of the axioms of equality, and the intuitive understanding that different things can be on the two sides of these equality, is exactly the type of thought needed to independently develop a social concept of equality of rights of various groups of people. Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 3:31
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    Your premise that social inequality or disagreement is based at all on the lack of ability to reason about equality seems highly dubious to me. There are differences between e.g. men and women which is why we can even tell them apart. Deciding which differences are relevant is a task for society, not something to be gleaned from a poorly-fitting analogy from algebra. Maybe if you'd said category theory I'd have bought it? Otherwise, I'd go with basic reasoning, not mathematical awareness. For instance, insisting on relevance seems a remarkably scarce attitude.
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 7:15
  • Category theory has nothing to do with it! A sense of proximity, e.g. a topology, or more generally a Grothendieck topology (the main impetus of the notion of abelian categories, introduced in Grothendieck's famous Tohoku paper) is irrelevant because it is embedded in the mind. What should be brought to the front is the intuition of equality. Once that is established, the kids can reason for themselves whether or not a group is deserving of equality. (For example, the idea of whether or not animals should be equal to men will be brought on by an intuitive understanding of equality. Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 7:24
  • The decision will be made by an intuitive notion of topology of social groups.) Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 7:24

2 Answers 2


Whether or not teaching mathematics to children helps to spread the idea of equality is an empirical, psychological, maybe educational question. It is not a question of philosophy.

That said, why should mathematics help with equality? There will be a whole bunch of counterexamples, crazy murderer that are genius at math, early civilizations (most notably ancient greece) that thought a lot about math while celebrating slavery.

And then, as Rex Kerr pointed out, humans are, according to all our sciences, not identical. Therefore invoking the "=" seems to be out of place.

As to your question, I don't know about any philosopher who thought about this, but maybe you will find someone in gendertheory/sociology who writes about this.


One big problem with the mathematical equal is that the frame is pure logical.

An LGBT person can marry as many people as a normal (I want to use this word) person but they don't value it the same way. No one has the right to marry someone from their own sex no matter what how you feel. I quite honestly get angry when they come out with their propaganda of equal rights like we are talking about women suffrage. The demanded thing is to extend the law so that they feel comfortable with it.

The problem is that the law would need to be adjusted for the benefits of LGBT(2.5% - 5%) against the non secular believes of a part of the population and the traditions we hold as a society..

source lgbt population

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    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 2:59

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